Lang brings the experience

STEVE GREEN -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 2:21 PM ET

It lasted 16 years, but the wait is finally over -- Lorraine Lang is back at the Scott Tournament of Hearts.

Now playing lead for Ontario's Krista Scharf, Lang was the third for Heather Houston when the Thunder Bay rink won national championships in 1988 and 1989, a world title in '89 and finished third at the 1990 Hearts.

While standing with her current team on the John Labatt Centre ice during the opening ceremonies, Lang saw her former skip introduced as one of the province's former national champions.

"Originally we were going to have a get-together here this week, but our team was still going well in playdowns. Next thing I know, we're here playing," Lang said yesterday after a 10-2 morning-draw loss to Cathy King of Alberta.

Lang, 49, has been playing with current teammates Tara George and Tiffany Stubbings for three years. Scharf was drafted this season.

"I was playing club with Tara and Tiffany, rotating in and out, when they lost their (competitive) lead. They asked me to play and I thought I'd get back into it slowly, but I found I really liked it.

"We all get along well and there's a great team spirit on the ice. My biggest challenge is working out with Tiffany when there's such an age difference."

By far the most experienced member of the rink, Lang tries to bring that to her team.

"All you can do is remember that the round-robin is a very long week and you have to be patient with yourself and your teammates," she said. "You can't get too up or too down."

As for the change in position, Lang said: "It was a little strange when I first started playing lead because you're not hitting as much and you don't feel as good about your hitting game. But I kind of like it because it definitely puts you in touch with your draw game."

Over the last decade and a half, Lang has witnessed first-hand curling's evolution.

"I think the biggest thing was the rule change; going to the four-rock rule has raised the bar. You have to be able to play a wider range of shots and you have to have a good bail shot when you're in trouble.

"The shots being made today are much more difficult, but they're being made more consistently, too. Then again, the ice is so much better these days."

The Hearts is the only national curling championship where Northern Ontario doesn't get its own entry -- Scott Paper initialized the Team Canada concept when it took over as title sponsor in 1982 to bring the field to 12 teams.

"It would have brought me here a few more times," Lang said of having a Northern Ontario entry, "but the Team Canada idea has worked well for the sponsors and for the championship."

Despite coming from one of the farthest points in the province, the rink is still getting home-team support from the JLC crowds, which Lang appreciates. "We just didn't give them enough to cheer about today," she said.

But at least one of husband Rick's teams has already won in London. The third for Al Hackner on his 1982 and 1985 Brier and world championship teams he was no doubt happy to see the Lakehead Thunderwolves eliminate the Western Mustangs in university hockey Saturday night.

Now it's up to Lorraine and her teammates.


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