Women's curling star tours area clubs

MORRIS DALLA COSTA -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 7:52 AM ET

Jenn Hanna is becoming one of the new faces of women's curling.

And that's placed the sport in pretty good shape.

The defending Ontario champion and Ottawa Curling Club skip jumped into the national curling spotlight last year by making a run to the final of the Scott Tournament of Hearts.

She was one shot away from winning the national championship when Manitoba's Jennifer Jones made a long-to-be-talked-about shot to score four and snatch the title from Hanna.

The hope is when the Scott is held in London, Feb. 25 to March 5, Hanna will be here. As defending champion, Jones is guaranteed a spot.

Hanna and Jones are the next generation of high-profile curler. Hanna is 25, aggressive, eloquent and able to sell a sport that for years has had few identifiable female stars.

She's touring area curling clubs and schools over the next few days, promoting the sport for the Canadian Curling Association.

She joins Guy Hemmings, who came out of Quebec to shake up the Canadian curling scene with his aggressive play, looks and pleasant demeanour, as part of his Rockin' the House Tour. Fans loved him.

Hemmings isn't going to bother trying to qualify for the Brier this year.

"We haven't been playing well as a team," Hemmings said. "Around the time of the Brier, I'm going to be in Torino as a commentator for curling in the Winter Olympics, and that's going to be a good opportunity as well."

Hanna begins her quest to get back to the Tournament of Hearts this weekend with zone qualifying play in Ottawa. She knows it won't be easy.

"We'd love to get back and we'd love it to be in London," Hanna said at the London Curling Club.

"But if it isn't this year, it may be next year. A lot of people have said to me, 'You must feel so much pressure.' Why feel pressure? We curled really well, we had some luck, some things went for us. We'll try hard, but why feel pressure to go back and do it again right away?

"It's a huge accomplishment representing Ontario. A lot of teams never get there and probably deserve a shot because they are good enough. Now that we've been there, the goal is winning it. It's changed a little bit. By one shot, maybe."

Ah yes, The Shot. Last year, Hanna was leading 6-4 with shot rock and a pile of rocks in front of the house. Jones had last rock, having only an in off a rock outside the house. Jones made the shot to score four. That shot will be discussed for a long time.

"It was an amazing shot. You'd like a guard that's four-feet wide," Hanna said.

"I looked at the tapes and thought, 'Should I have done something different?' But what?

"Sure, if I had drawn into the house and made the shot perfect, great. But in a situation where your knees are shaking so bad . . . I was never nervous until that shot. I had trusted my gut all week, how could I not trust it then? My gut told me throw the guard.

"If I turn around, throw a draw, miss it and leave an open hit, then how silly do I look? Sometimes it's about the odds. The odds were in our favour and she made it. Good on her."

Hanna is living her dream. As a youngster, she used to carry placards leading the teams onto the ice during ceremonies and before each draw. In 1993, she led Russ and Glen Howard onto the ice.

"(Last year's) Tournament of Hearts was proof hard work can pay off," she said. "As a little girl growing up, my dream was to make the Tournament of Hearts."

Promoting her sport has now become an obligation.

"I looked up to curlers like Anne Merklinger, Sandra Schmirler, Colleen Jones for what they did for our sport," Hanna said.

"Now that we did what we did, kids look up to us. We have to promote it. I love to see the sport grow.

"When I was young in elementary school, I never talked about curling, never told anyone I curled because I would be made fun of. I don't want kids to feel like that. I love my sport and I don't want kids to be shot down for playing it."


Videos

Photos