Diehard fans put heart in Scott

STEVE COAD -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 8:17 AM ET

Barb Fotheringham is hard to miss.

It's the bright yellow lid she's sporting at this week's Scott Tournament of Hearts, the one that says "Official Nova Scotia sou'wester" in big black letters across the front and tells one and all that the Presbyterian minister from Pictou County is firmly in the corner of Colleen Jones of Halifax.

"I've cheered for Colleen Jones for a long time," Fotheringham said yesterday as she watched the six-time Canadian women's curling champion from Halifax during a 7-6 victory over Team Canada's Jennifer Jones in yesterday's morning draw. Both are 4-2.

"I love her dedication to the sport," said Fotheringham, a native of Durham, Ont., now living in Durham, N.S., where she's in charge of a rural three-point charge that includes churches in Durham, Saltsprings and Green Hill.

"I think it must be hard to keep up her level of competition. She doesn't rest on her laurels. She represents Nova Scotia well."

Once a curler, Fotheringham said she's now too busy.

Her trip to London for the Scott is all about curling and family.

"The curling is first, family is a bonus," Fotheringham said through a laugh. She's attending the championship with her sister, Margaret Campbell of Hanover, and London nieces and nephew Lisa Teeple, Mary Anderson and Rob Campbell.

"It's been wonderful. The setup (in the John Labatt Centre) is really nice and the hospitality all over the city is exceptional."

It's characters such as Fotheringham that give the Hearts extra heart.

Then there's the Quebec boyfriends -- Kevin LeCouffe (the partner of Quebec third Pamela Nugent), Benoit LaLiberte (second Martine Comeau) and Christian Bouchard (skip Eve Belisle).

They're here to cheer, for sure. But there's more to it, the Montrealers insist.

"We're the best fans," said Bouchard, his tone more fun than boastful. "We have the best hair (it was blue and white on Monday) and Quebec flags. People honk at us. It's fun."

LaLiberte agrees.

"We're enjoying the night life. We don't know the city but if we need to know something, we just ask. People here are great.

"And the arena is great for curling," LaLiberte added, even though the Quebec rink was in the throes of bowing 10-8 to Cathy King's Alberta foursome, a setback that dropped Belisle and Co. to 4-2, the same record as King.

Meanwhile, Helen Nichols's longtime involvement in curling has taught her she "was never cut out to be a spectator."

Helen, who calls Holyrood, Nfld., home after living many years in Labrador City, is the mother of curling prodigies Shelley Nichols, the third on Heather Strong's rink at the Scott, and -- oh yes -- Olympic gold medallist Mark Nichols, who was a shining star for Canada in Turin.

"I came here for her," Nichols said of her daughter's rink, which improved to 3-3 yesterday morning with a 7-6 win over the Northwest Territories.

"I knew it was her first Scott," said Helen Nichols who curled on Sue Anne Bartlett's Newfoundland and Labrador rink that competed in the 1992 Scott in Halifax. "I'm thoroughly enjoying being in London. It's bringing back a lot of (Scott) memories and I'm seeing a lot of people."

Of Mark Nichols's Turin success, Helen said: "I gave birth to him, introduced him to curling, but what he's done with it since is absolutely amazing."

Meanwhile, curling fans across Canada and beyond know Jack Cox of Haliburton as "Mr. Ontario" for his, uh, loud support of his provincial rink.

He's waved the province's flag and let out elongated versions of "Ontarrrrrrrio," at 13 Canadian men's championships, four world championships and, now, a Tournament of Hearts.

Last seen yesterday morning, the 74-year-old Cox was inciting a group of London school kids to cheer up a storm for Krista Scharf's Ontario rink.


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