Few spare moments for Ontario's fifth

BARRE CAMPBELL -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 8:48 AM ET

ST. JOHN'S -- Joelle Sabourin, the spare player for Jenn Hanna's squad, carries a toy blue train in the left pocket of her red and black Team Ontario jacket.

As a ritual before each game, she makes sure the replica locomotive touches each of the Ontario players for good luck.

After earning the provincial title last month by winning eight straight games after an awful start, Hanna got to comparing her team to the Little Engine That Could.

For Sabourin, that pre-game routine is one of many duties she handles as the team's spare at the Scott Tournament of Hearts.

She sits beside the team's coach, Bob Hanna, father of the skip and lead Stephanie Hanna, behind the scoreboard at the end of the sheet and takes notes on the happenings in her team's games. She also prepares scouting reports on other teams.

Sabourin, an Aylmer resident, threw vice rocks for Hanna last season but made a difficult decision last September to move away from competitive curling because she couldn't commit the time required for high-performance curling because of work commitments.

And she became pregnant and is expecting her first child in May.

Hanna considers Sabourin the best team player she's ever been associated with. "As disappointed as she was and as hard as it was for her to say, 'I can't do it,' she knew that she had to step back and give us a chance to find someone else to replace her without doing it last-minute," said Hanna.

Hanna recruited Pascale Letendre to come on board as vice.

Sabourin calls herself a "curling freak." She has competed at the Scott for Quebec with skips Chantal Osborne and Janique Berthelot, and won the 2001 Canadian mixed title with Guy Hemmings.

She admits not being able to compete in the Scott and watching the action instead of playing is annoying. "The hardest part is when I can't help them," she said.

Even with a baby on the way, Sabourin thinks she'd be able to step in if needed.

"I have to keep on curling because I have a little curler in here," she said while rubbing her belly.


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