Learning experience for curlers at junior nationals


photo courtesy of Curling Canada Enterprise's Katherine Lenoir, left, and Hay River's Kaitlyn Ring of the NWT's junior women's team sweep a shot at the Canadian Junior Curling Championships.

photo courtesy of Curling Canada
Enterprise’s Katherine Lenoir, left, and Hay River’s Kaitlyn Ring of the NWT’s junior women’s team sweep a shot at the Canadian Junior Curling Championships.

Nothing could prevent a team from the Hay River Curling Club enjoying the experience of competing at the Canadian Junior Curling Championships.

“It was really great,” said skip Zoey Walsh of representing the NWT in the junior women’s side of the national event. “We had a lot of fun and we learned a lot.”

The team maintained that positive attitude despite the fact that it lost all of its nine matches at the tournament, held from Jan. 23 to 31 in Stratford, Ont.

“I was worried they would be getting down after losing, sometimes a little more lopsided than others, but they had great attitudes about it and there wasn’t a ride back to the hotel that they weren’t singing and goofing off and having a great time,” said coach Chad Orr. “So it was a lot of fun.”

Orr pointed out the Hay River team – Walsh, third Julie Squires-Rowe, second Kaitlyn Ring and lead Katherine Lenoir of Enterprise – is also much younger than most of the other teams at the championships.

“This is three 13-year-olds and a 15-year-old – Kaitlyn just turned 14 while we were here this week – playing against 21-and-20-year-old women that are in university programs, in high-performance clinics,” he said. “These are the cream of the crop of curlers in the entire country 21 and under, and they’re playing against a bunch of 13 year olds.”

Walsh, who was at her first national tournament, said the team learned things like new techniques and strategies, and how to keep calm.

Along with that, the team met many other young curlers from across Canada and made new friends.

“We went to the tournament just going to have fun and learn as much as we could, and just have a good time, a good experience,” said Walsh, who called it an honour to represent the NWT.

The stand-out game for Walsh was against Prince Edward Island in which that team won 7-6 because of a last-shot draw by its skip.

“We played really well and it was a lot of fun,” said Walsh.

Orr agreed one of the highlights was the game against P.E.I., a team made up of three 20-year-olds and one 19-year-old.

“The best game they had by far was against Prince Edward Island, where it was tied 6-6 in the 10th end and Zoey, our skip, made their skip draw against three to win the game by one point,” he said. “It was a great game.”

Orr also mentioned matches against Manitoba and Alberta.

“That was pretty amazing, because you can imagine the quality of curlers coming out of those provinces,” he said, “And the girls did well playing against them.”

Orr also described the championships as an excellent learning opportunity for the Hay River team.

“They got exposed to some of the best curlers aged 21 and under in the country, and they got to play with them,” he said. “They got to see a lot. They learned a ton about the game and how it’s played and sportsmanship.”

Orr said the sky’s the limit for the team.

“They’ve got, depending on who it is, anywhere from six to eight years that they could potentially be going to this event,” he said by telephone from Stratford. “A lot of the coaches and officials that I’ve been talking to are really looking forward to seeing them come back again and develop over the years. They feel that they’ll be contenders in time.”

On the junior men’s side of the championships, the NWT was represented by a team registered at the Inuvik Curling Club.

However, one of the players – Logan Gagnier – lives in Hay River.

That junior men’s team finished with a record of one win and eight losses. The sole win came against the Yukon.

The 10-day event brought together 14 junior men’s and 14 junior women’s teams from each province and territory across Canada.

Manitoba won among the junior men, while Nova Scotia claimed gold among the junior women.

The winning teams will represent Canada at the 2016 World Junior Curling Championships in Denmark.

-Paul Bickford