There will be rising stars, familiar faces and veteran curlers in the field at next month’s Scotties Tournament of Hearts.
Several top rinks recently qualified for the 12-team competition at Kingston’s K-Rock Centre. Alberta’s Heather Nedohin is back to defend her title and she’ll be challenged by Manitoba’s Jennifer Jones, B.C.’s Kelly Scott, Mary-Anne Arsenault of Nova Scotia and Suzanne Birt of Prince Edward Island.
Nedohin, who defeated Scott in last year’s final in Red Deer, Alta., said she’ll be comfortable with the additional pressure that comes with wearing the Maple Leaf jersey as the Team Canada entry.
“I know what it’s like to play against Team Canada — everybody raises their game,” Nedohin said Tuesday from Sherwood Park, Alta. “But that also raises our game.”
Ontario’s Rachel Homan has enjoyed a successful season and will get a boost from the home crowd at the Feb. 16-24 event. The Ottawa skip, who won the national junior title in 2010, will be making her second Scotties appearance.
The Northwest Territories/Yukon entry will be led by Kerry Galusha, who will be competing in her 11th Canadian championship. Kristie Moore will skip the Alberta rink and Allison Ross will guide the Quebec side.
Saskatchewan’s Jill Shumay and Newfoundland and Labrador’s Stacie Devereaux are also in the field. New Brunswick’s entry will be confirmed Sunday.
Shumay is making her tournament debut while Ross and Moore are skipping at the Scotties for the first time.
“I think it’s a really good field,” Scott said from Kelowna, B.C. “I think it’s hard to know how the teams who have never been there before, how they will adapt to that environment.
“But obviously anybody who wins their province and beats the teams within their province, certainly you know they can play.”
Jones finished first in the round robin last year but lost to Nedohin in the Page playoff and had to settle for bronze. Nedohin edged Scott 7-6 in the final.
“Once we get to the Scotties, no matter what province or territory we’re from, the game rises,” Nedohin said. “Everybody is out there to win.”
The Alberta skip went on to represent Canada at the Ford world women’s curling championship in Lethbridge. She finished third behind Sweden and champion Switzerland.
Nedohin also reached the world championships in 1998 as a third on Cathy Borst’s rink.
Jones will be making her 10th appearance at the Scotties. The 2008 world champion has won the national title on four occasions.
The Nova Scotia rink is also loaded with experience.
Arsenault will be playing in her 11th national championship. She has reunited with vice-skip Colleen Jones and second Kim Kelly, who will throw third.
They teamed with Nancy Delahunt to win five Scotties and two world championships. Jones, who will be making a record 21st appearance at the tournament, is the third but will be throwing second.
Jen Baxter is the lead and Delahunt is the fifth player.
“I think they’re going to be a hoot, they’re going to be so much fun,” Scott said. “They’ll probably lighten up the field a bit as far as their approach to the game. They’re true competitors but they’re also a lot of fun.”
The winner of the 2013 Scotties will represent Canada at the March 16-24 world playdowns in Riga, Latvia.
In men’s play, this year’s Tim Hortons Brier is scheduled for March 2-10 at Rexall Place in Edmonton. The winner of that event will represent Canada at the men’s world championship March 30-April 7 at the Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre in Victoria.