Canada confident

TED WYMAN -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 11:35 AM ET

PAISLEY, Scotland -- It's hard not to notice that the venue for this year's world women's curling championship is somewhat smaller than the arenas Canadians use for elite events. Actually, it's somewhat smaller than the arenas Manitobans use for provincial championships.

The Lagoon Leisure Centre, home of the worlds for the next eight days, has just 850 seats despite being located in a city with a population of about 60,000.

That puts the venue for the world championship on a par with the Murray Arena in Souris, where Canada's Jennifer Jones won the Manitoba championship.

"It's beautiful," Jones said of the building where she and her Winnipeg teammates today will begin Canada's defence of the world title won by Colleen Jones in 2004.

"This is bigger than Souris." (Meanwhile, in the background, Canadian lead Cathy Gauthier chimes in with "It's so not.")

Yes, curling is a different beast on this side of the pond. Scotland is the birthplace of the game, and Paisley claims to be the location of the first curling shot (thrown by an abbot at nearby Paisley Abbey in the 15th century).

But it's not a big deal like it is in Canada, where anywhere from 5,000-17,000 fans will shell out for tickets to a single draw at national events.

About half the seats here are sold, so Gauthier expects it to be like 1992, when she played for Canada in Garmisch-Partenkirchen Germany, "home of 12 fans, all of them ours."

On another front, there could be ice problems. The playing surface is expected to be straighter and slower than what the Canadians usually compete on, and the arena is in the same facility as a swimming pool, which could create humidity issues.

"We got here three days ago and came to look at it and the roof was leaking and the rain was pouring and there were moguls on some of the sheets," Gauthier said. "It is a bit of a concern. I know they turned the temperature down in the pool, but it's still very, very damp in here."

This is, of course, the first women's curling championship since the World Curling Federation decided to split the men's and women's events, and it will take time to grow.

It's not quite at the point six-time Canadian champion Colleen Jones suggested it would reach when she said the women would have to curl naked to attract fans in Europe. But it's a long way from perfect. In fact, they don't even have time clocks for the games here, a strange omission indeed.

Still, Jones, always the diplomat, said everything will be fine.

"It's OK," Jones, a 30-year-old lawyer, who also plays with third Cathy Overton-Clapham and second Jill Officer, said of the ice surface. "It would be nice to have a little bit more movement and have it a little faster. We'll stick with what we do. It's good enough for now and if we have to change it we will, but I think so far we're OK."

Sticking with what they do means junking up the house with rocks and playing finesse shots. It's a strategy that could be difficult to pull off, but one suspects Jones will change her game plan fairly quickly if things start going wrong today.

The Manitobans certainly weren't looking worried yesterday when they got to show off their new Canadian colours to the public for the first time.

"Can't describe it," Jones said about wearing the Maple Leaf. "Words can't even begin to explain how great it feels.

"It is very different. It's definitely not the same extent as playing in Canada -- I mean, it's a much bigger event in Canada -- but everybody is very excited to be at the worlds."

Canada opens the world tournament with two games today, against Mirjam Ott of Switzerland this morning and Kirsi Nykanen of Finland tonight.


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