King's crew primed

CON GRIWKOWSKY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 11:14 AM ET

WAINWRIGHT -- There's something about playing in a provincial championship that brings out the best in Cathy King.

No matter how many teams in the field did better on the World Curling Tour season and no matter who's in her supporting cast, King has always fielded a contending foursome.

It's been a decade since King became the first Alberta team since 1981 to win the Scott Tournament of Hearts.

Nobody else has done it since.

This is the fourth year King has had her current lineup of third Lori Olson, second Raylene Rocque and lead Tracy Bush.

Like many of the other teams in the expanded 12-team format, King's squad drove here two hours through a blinding snowstorm for a shot at the top prize in Alberta women's curling.

After winning the province in 2005-06, King made it three finals in a row but lost in the final at Grande Prairie last year.

"We were on a great roll, then came up against a hot Cheryl Bernard," said King.

"Sure, it was disappointing. You never want to lose a provincial final. But, you know what? You lose a game and you move on."

After a hectic cashspiel schedule when the team played nine of 12 weekends,they've taken nearly a month off since their flat outing at the Canada Cup qualifier at the Saville Centre.

"It's been a good break," said King, whose team sits No. 7 on the CTRS list. "We've had a really long, hard fall. It was go, go, go. Two of these girls are working full time, so it's hard on them. We would have liked to qualify in some of the bigger ones."

Olson has roots here. Her grandmother taught high school locally for nearly a quarter-century and it's the place where both her parents grew up.

Two of Olson's three uncles who still live here are on the organizing committee and there are plenty of cousins and extended family who will cheer the team on.

"That's right," said Olson. "We're ready and we like it. My parents both grew up here. My family are sponsors of the event and my cousins will fill up the stands. It's cool."

There are plenty of changes at this provincial. It's the first women's arena event, the field's been expanded from eight to 12 teams and a triple knockout replaces the round-robin.

Those were changes King worked on with Bernard in the off-season and King is anxious to see how the makeover to women's curling will be accepted.

"Saskatchewan and Manitoba have played in arenas for several years now," said King. "It's good for whoever wins to get experience in an arena and it's great for the fans to be closer to the action."

King pre-qualified as the current season CTRS leader, a provision the men may adopt next season.

"I really like the way we worked it out with the Alberta Curling Federation," said King.

"We looked to see what was the best for everybody involved. It's good to have more teams, so fans can see that there are other good teams in Alberta other than the five or six that seem to make it back year after year."

King has mixed feelings about the triple knockout format, which is more like what curlers are used to on the Tour.

"I've always enjoyed the round-robin, but I still think you're going to get the strongest teams coming into this format."

King's team is one of four of the seeded teams that got the bye in last night's opening draw.

THE CONMAN'S FEARLESS ODDS

SCOTTIES TOURNAMENT OF HEARTS

AT WAINWRIGHT

- 3-2: CHERYL BERNARD, Calgary -- Still the champ

- 3-2: SHANNON KLEIBRINK, Airdrie -- Always tough

- 2-1: CATHY KING, Edmonton -- Always in the mix

- 2-1: HEATHER RANKIN, Calgary -- Good cashspiel team

- 4-1: MEGAN KIRK, Lethbridge -- Will youth be served?

- 5-1: RENEE SONNENBERG, Sexsmith -- Solid lineup

- 5-1: DEB SANTOS, Edmonton -- Better this year

- 10-1: GLENYS BAKKER, Calgary -- Could surprise

- 10-1: KAREN POWELL, Grande Prairie -- Good support

- 15-1: FAYE WHITE, Edmonton -- Overmatched

- 20-1: TIFFANY ODEGARD, Edmonton -- Lacks experience

- 25-1: CHANA MARTINEAU, Edmonton -- Health issues


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