Overton under the big top

TERRY JONES, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:31 AM ET

Doug Overton has been in the building many, many times before. Usually high in the corner of the press box as the director of pro scouting for the Dallas Stars.

He'll arrive today to sit in a seat in the stands to watch his daughter, Cathy-Overton Clapton play her first game in an NHL arena.

She has never been in the building before. And even if she had, the third for Jennifer Jones's favoured team in the Tim Hortons Roar of the Rings Olympic curling trials, says it's so different when you step out to the rings on the ice and look up and see 16,839 seats.

"I didn't know how big it was. It's pretty huge. I called my dad when we came here to take a peak after we arrived. It's pretty neat. He'll be here all week," said the 40-year-old who already owns a world championship gold medal.

Having a hockey dad is not so bad.

"I've had the Stanley Cup in my house. Drank out of it. Partied with it. The guy with the white gloves was there. Everything," said the curler who also has her 11 year-old-son Andrew and seven-year-old daughter Mackenzie skipping school to be here along with her husband Mike.

FAMILY AFFAIR

Her dad and mom were the ones who got her into curling although her grandmother Dorothy Mackenzie, who won a Canadian seniors back in the '80s curling out of Edmonton, was the real curler in her background.

Except for the opening ceremonies and the first draw, this one is for dad.

"It's just so neat to be curling in an NHL building considering he's spent a career in NHL buildings," she said.

It's like that with all of the women who have the pleasure of opening the show which has 8,336 tickets pre-sold and nobody quite sure what the walk-up might be with the weather.

A significant percentage of the men, who open their tournament with a 6 p.m. draw, have played in a Brier in Edmonton or Calgary and are familiar with the sensation of playing in an NHL arena.

One who hasn't experienced anything like this is young Jason Gunnlaugson of Winnipeg.

"I looked up and said 'Yes!' I made it!" he said.

"This is going to be a lot of fun."

For all the women this will be the biggest stage they've experienced in their careers.

Like Lorraine Lang. She's the 53-year-old lead on the Krista McCarville team who is getting a one-up on her husband Rick, the longtime third of Al Hackner's Northern Ontario team, who is here as their coach.

"I never played in a venue like this," said Rick who figures the most fans he ever experienced was in 1980 in the old Calgary Corral.

NERVE-RACKING

"You walk in and step out there with the team on the curling ice and that's impressive. The girls are going to see a crowd and hear a crowd like they've never experienced before. You can just see how excited they are walking out there. I think everyone will probably be a little bit nervous," said Rick.

Kelly Scott walked out on the ice and looked up.

"Those seats go up pretty far," she said.

"It's pretty amazing," said Shannon Kleibrink, who competed in the Olympics before crowds of about 1,000 at most draws at Torino 2006.

Amber Holland says forget being in an NHL arena.

"Every time we get to play on arena ice is special. This is where we'd like to play all the time."

But there is one woman who says she didn't even really notice.

"I spent a lot of time on the press bench writing a newspaper column at the Brier in Calgary last year, so I kind of got used to it," said Amy Nixon.

Lorraine Lang said there's more involved here than the experience it will be for the curlers.

"I think it's just great for our sport. We know from television that there are a lot of closet watchers of women's curling. Because this is to get to the Olympics a lot of them are going to be coming out of the closet and sitting in the seats here."

TERRY.JONES@SUNMEDIA.CA


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