By Jim Dolan
Curling Fans in the Ottawa and Seaway Valleys will have the opportunity to see some of the best women curlers from Russia, Sweden, and from coast to coast in Canada play 62 games over four days, not on the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field in Green Bay Wisconsin, but on the frozen sheets of ice of the North Grenville Curling Club in Kemptville, Ontario.
All twenty-four teams in the Royal LePage OVCA Women’s Fall Classic will have one goal, when they throw their first rocks on Thursday, to hoist the Fall Classic Shield and hold the $6,000 first place cheque in this $20,000 World Curling Tour Event.
Each player on each team has her own story to tell regardless of age or experience. Some players are young like the members of the Sarah Daniels team from Delta, British Columbia (the events first team from BC), the two Swedish teams skipped by Tova Sundberg and Isabella Wranå or the three young teams from the Ottawa area skipped by Emma Wallingford, Hailey Armstrong and Sierra Sutherland.
These young teams are all chasing the dream of being a National Champion and representing their country at the Olympics. Most of these players are chasing their dreams while still in school or attending university. Most of these ladies give back their time to the game of curling especially helping young kids learn the game. Some ladies have been acknowledged formally. Sarah Daniels (2017) and her sister Megan (2016) are winners of Curling Canada’s – For the Love of Curling Scholarships. Megan is also a two-time Sandra Schmirler Foundation Scholarship winner. Both sisters are currently attending Simon Fraser University.
Other teams are skipped by current or former provincial Scotties champions – 3-time Newfoundland & Labrador Champion Stacie Curtis, 8-time PEI representative Robyn MacPhee, 12-time Nova Scotia Champion, and 5-time Canadian and two-time World Champion Mary-Anne Arsenault, 3-time Quebec Champion Eve Bélisle , 3-time Manitoba representative Barb Spencer and one-time New Brunswick Champion, Kristen MacDiarmid. Several other members of the above teams have also played at the Canadian Scotties Tournament of Hearts, including former NGCC member Lauren Mann who has twice represented Quebec. These ladies have fulfilled their childhood dreams of so many years ago, but still they play the game at its most competitive level for that one more shot at Provincial glory and perhaps a National championship ring.
Rounding out the 24-team field are teams skipped by Ottawa’s Erin Morrissey, Erin Macaulay, Dawn Butler, Barb Willemsen, and Sarah Fletcher or by Ontario’s Danielle Inglis, Susan Froud, Chrissy Caadorin, Kately Wasylkiw, Hollie Duncan and Cathy Auld. Cathy Auld skipped the 2014 Fall Classic winning team. Erin Morrissey has played in more Fall Classics than any other player in the history of the event.
The favoured team at this year’s Classic has to be the Victoria Moiseeva team from Russia. At October 24 the team was ranked sixth in money winnings on the World Curling Tour. The Moiseeva team just won the right to represent Russia at the 2018 Ford World Curling Championship in North Bay in March.
It is always fun to learn a little about a team that is travelling far from home to play in the Classic. One such team is the Isabella Wranå team. The team is comprised of four young Swedish girls that were all born in 1997, two are still 19 and two are 20. All four girls have been curling since a young age. Isabella and her third Jennie Wåhlin have played together since they were 6. Lead, Fanny Sjöberg joined them when she started playing at the age of 9. Second Almida de Val has been a member of the team for two years.
Jennie, Fanny and Almida live in Stockholm. Isabella grew up in Stockholm but recently moved up north in Sweden to a place called Sundsvall. She now works for the Swedish Curling Academy as a curling teacher in Härnösand. The Swedish Curling Academy is for high school kids and it is also the same academy where Jennie, Isabella and Fanny graduated from high school in 2016. Almida graduated high school in her home town in Gothenburg.
Today Jennie works in a grocery store called Hemköp in Stockholm but later wants to become a police officer. Almida is studying design and product development to become an engineer and Fanny is studying to become a physiotherapist.
The team is currently the second ranked woman’s curling team in Sweden behind Anna Hasselborg and ranked top 32 in the World. They come to Canada like all other international teams – to get better and to climb the World rankings. The team hopes to one day represent Sweden in the World Championships and at the Olympics.
You really have to admire the dedication of these Fall Classic ladies to the game they love. Many of the young players are juggling school and competitive curling. Many of the more seasoned lady curlers are now mothers, some are grandmothers, most run the family, motivate their kids, keep their husband’s lives organized, work a day job and work out regularly to stay in shape to play the game they love. I am always amazed that the people who seem to get the most done in life are the busiest people juggling so many day-to-day activities.
If you want to pick up a few pointers on how to multitask come out to the North Grenville Curling Club from November 2 to 5 to watch these incredible athletes and say hello to the players. For draw times and a complete list of teams visit the Fall Classic website classic.ovca.com. An Event Pass costs $15, a day pass is only $10 and persons 17 and under are admitted free. If you drop by the club after 6:00 pm on Friday we will let you in for free and invite you to join us upstairs to dance to a live band, Diamond Heart, from 8:30 to 11:30 at our Rock the Classic Night. It is a night for us to say thank you to our fans, the curlers, our club members and our community for their support to make the 2017 event a success.