CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. -- Diamonds, cash and good old-fashioned bragging rights are on the line as our top female rock throwers exchange in-offs and tap-backs at the Canadian championship in Charlottetown this week.
But there’s something else just as important at stake, at least in our minds: their places in history.
This year’s Tournament of Hearts field is not only one of the best, ever, it boasts three skips that already have a place on our list of the greatest to ever hold a broom and scream, “Hurry, hard!”
Yet another national crown for four-time champ Jennifer Jones or two-time winner Kelly Scott, not to mention a long-awaited first for Olympic medallist Shannon Kleibrink, would no doubt propel them up the ladder.
Who’s at the top?
Read our picks of the Top-10 female skips in Canadian history, with input from three-time Hearts winner and curling broadcaster Cathy Gauthier.
10. Kelley Law
The goods: One Canadian title (2000); one world title (2000); Olympic bronze in ’02.
The rationale: This was a tough one, a pick-’em between B.C.’s Law and Calgary’s Cheryl Bernard, Olympic silver medalist in Vancouver a year ago. Gauthier actually prefers Bernard, but the lack of a Canadian title keeps her off our list.
Cathy-G says: “I debated between Kelley and Cheryl for No. 10. Kelley has won more but Cheryl is more recent and really surpassed expectations for that team.”
9. Shannon Kleibrink
The goods: Olympic bronze (’06); only woman to make three Olympic trials finals.
The rationale: Some may wonder why we rank this Alberta hotshot ahead of people who have national and world titles to their name. Legit question. We just think Kleibrink is that good, after watching her drag her team to that bronze medal. The 42-year-old accountant is also the only woman to ever skip a team to a Canadian mixed title.
Cathy-G says: “Single-handedly won more games than any woman curler.”
8. Kelly Scott
The goods: Two Canadian titles (’06, ’07); one world title (’07).
The rationale: At 33, this western Canadian isn’t done, yet. The former Winnipegger now curling out of Kelowna, B.C., also won a world junior title in ’95. And while she lost an Olympic Trials final to Kleibrink, we’re putting her one notch above the Olympian.
Cathy-G says: “She exemplified how a skip should treat their players, winning or losing. Always positive, and won her titles, too.”
7. Heather Houston
The goods: Two Canadian titles (’88, ’89); one world title (’89).
The rationale: A rare national champion from Northern Ontario. Gauthier ranked Houston one spot higher than Marilyn Bodogh, but the fact she didn’t cash in both Hearts wins for world titles leaves her a brush hair behind, in our opinion.
Cathy-G says: “Houston faced bigger odds and tougher fields, in my opinion, and had far less to work with. Defined cool.”
6. Marilyn Bodogh
The goods: Two Canadian titles (’86, ’96); two world titles (’86, ’96).
The rationale: Pretty impressive to win national championships a decade apart. Even more impressive to be perfect on the dicey world stage, as some of our Top-5 skips have found out.
Cathy-G says: “Marilyn is a business guru with lots of cash so they were able to do things that Heather could not, in terms of access to professionals.”
5. Connie Laliberte
The goods: Three Canadian titles (’84, ’92, ’95); one world title (’84).
The rationale: Gauthier actually ranked Laliberte ahead of fellow Winnipeg product Jennifer Jones, mostly because of Laliberte’s longevity: it was 15 years between her first Hearts crown and her last finals appearance. We’re keeping the original Ice Queen at No. 5, simply based on who’s collected more jewelry.
Cathy-G says: “That’s a long time to be dominant. Most consistent shooter, ever.”
4. Jennifer Jones
The goods: Four Canadian titles (’05, ’08, ’09, ’10); one world title (’08).
The rationale: Also the Canadian junior champ in ’94. The only thing holding back this 36-year-old corporate lawyer is her lack of success on the world stage and inability to crack the Olympic nut, enough for Gauthier to drop her a couple of spots. That said, she’s one Hearts win away from matching the all-time record of four straight, held by No. 2 on our list.
Cathy-G says: “She is on a roll, but it’s a tight period of time. She can only move up.”
3. Vera Pezer
The goods: Three Canadian titles (’71, ’72, ’73).
The rationale: There were no world championships or Olympics for Pezer to shoot for, but we get the feeling she’d have wound up with a medal or three, given the chance. Sandra Schmirler always held up Pezer as the standard, so who are we to argue? Besides, Pezer’s run of three straight Hearts stood up until our No. 2 came along.
Cathy-G says: “Won four Canadian championships (one as a third) when the ice in the parking lot was likely better than in the arena.”
2. Colleen Jones
The goods: Six Canadian titles (’82, ’99, ’01, ’02, ’03 and ’04); two world titles (’01, ’04).
The rationale: It wasn’t always pretty, as the gum-chewer from Halifax would prefer to play a clean end instead of mixing it up with rocks in play. She won by letting her opponents try the tough shot and capitalizing on their mistakes. But, geez, how do you argue with the results?
Cathy-G says: “Won it six times and yet still flew under the radar. Was never flashy or viewed as a huge threat. Just a very solid team.”
1. Sandra Schmirler
The goods: Three Canadian titles (’93, ’94, ’97); three world titles (’93, ’94, ’97); Olympic gold (’98).
The rationale: What’s left to be said about Schmirler the Curler, who no doubt would have added to her sparkling resume if cancer hadn’t taken her from the hack far too soon, at 36? This product of Biggar, Sask., revolutionized the game. And nobody came through better in the clutch.
Cathy-G says: “She was the most aggressive skip, ever, and forced free guard zone on everyone. She made us play a different game.”