Full house sure sign of season for Brown

RYAN PYETTE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 11:01 AM ET

Strategically, a full house presents a daunting task for any curling skip.

So many rocks in play. Too many shot options to consider. So much potential danger.

But for veteran Erika Brown, a packed house-- at least at her home in Oakville -- has become a necessary tool of the ice trade.

The five-time American women's champ has been bringing in her entire team -- Wisconsin's Nina Spatola, Nina Reiniger and Laura Hallisey -- to stay with her while playing all the top Canadian tournaments, including the 12th annual Southwestern Ontario women's charity cashspiel which wraps up today (semis at 9 a.m., final at 1 p.m.) at London's Highland Country Club.

"Sometimes, I feel like we're running the Brown-Tetley hotel," quipped the 35-year-old Brown. "When the girls come in, they all have their own room to stay in. We meet there and then go to the tournaments.

"It's really something when they all show up. That's when you know it's curling season."

The "Tetley" part of the household, of course, comes from Brown's husband, Ian Tetley, the longtime Ontario curler and former Brier champ who is playing for Peter Corner this year.

Brown hails from Madison, Wis., and claims her own impressive curling heritage south of the border.

She comes from a prominent American curling family and has already participated in two Olympics -- once as a 15-year-old when it was a demonstration sport in Calgary 20 years ago, and a decade later in Nagano, Japan.

"I haven't been back in 10 years so it's time (to shoot for Vancouver 2010) again," she said. "I think the Olympics, which are the ultimate, have had a huge impact on the sport in our country. I think it's the reason we're seeing so much good competition emerging. Everyone knows about the sport in the U.S. now and you're going to see six to eight teams at nationals that can all win it."

Brown plans to be among them. She put together a young but talented squad that includes 20-year-old third Spatola, who skipped the 2008 U.S. national junior women's winners. She also won in '06.

"I give it four months for the team to come together," Brown said.

"There's a little bit of time to jell but after that, you need to be ready," Brown said

At the start of the month, Brown and Co. won an Ontario Curling Tour event in Ingersoll. They're one of a handful of American squads who took a crack at the London and area breast cancer fundraiser's top prize of $11,000 from the $35,000 purse this week -- big money for a team with so many travel costs.

"You have to play in these events against this kind of competition," Brown said. "We're seeing more and more American teams coming in. It's what you have to do to win on the national stage. If you don't, you don't know where you stand."

The U.S. Olympic trials go in February of 2010 in Broomfield, Col. Brown thinks her team has the ability to win a spot.

The U.S. nationals are going to be a big test. The qualifications don't work the same as in Canada's provincial setup.

"There are four regionals and we'll go to the one that's closest to us," Brown said. "It'll probably be a different one than Madison's Debbie (McCormick, who has won this London tournament twice in 2002 and '05) but Patti Lank could very well be at ours."

Brown, of course, used to play third for Lank. She and McCormick both skipped their teams in London this weekend.

The quarter-finals went late last night at Highland. Brown booked herself a final eight berth against Newfoundland's Shelley Nichols.

No doubt the Brown-Tetley house will be lively once again this week.


Videos

Photos