While NHLers may be forced to move in with their parents, sell a condo or move some stocks because of the lockout, world-class curlers like Canadian champion Heather Nedohin watch their nickels and dimes like they are pennies and going out of style.
They have to pay to play and for their $1,050 entry fee into the Prestige Hotels Curling Classic last weekend in Vernon, 32 women’s rinks were guaranteed at least three games, sunshine and a rockin’ good time at the Saturday night dance. Some ladies even got to dance with Olympic icemaker Dave Merklinger.
Nedohin won last year’s Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Red Deer so receives a free entry into the 2013 national championship in Kingston as Team Canada.
The 37-year-old mother of two daughters competes with the world’s finest skips and sweepers as she balances marriage, mothering and career out of Sherwood Park. The $9,000 she and third Beth Iskiw, second Jessica Mair, lead Laine Peters and alternate Amy Nixon earned by winning the Vernon cashspiel will not be spent on a girls weekend in Vegas.
“To maintain a high standard, you gotta play lots and you know what, it costs lots,” said Nedohin told me, moments after stopping Team Russia’s Anna Sidorova in Sunday’s final. “So this goes right back in (their travel fund). If we break even at the end of the season, we feel pretty good. That may sound surprising, but we’re not hockey players that have big contracts. We gotta compete at a high level so that means we’re travelling lots.”
Well known in curling circles for her drama-jammed body language and facial contortions, Nedohin is married to Dave Nedohin, who has been to several cashspiels here, and won four Brier titles and three world crowns throwing fourth stones for Randy Ferbey.
Heather and Dave know all the shortcuts at most airport terminals in Canada, and once in a while, they end up sharing a room while competing in the same cashpiel.
It’s all about trying to rack up World Curling Tour points which go towards the Canadian Team Ranking System which determines who is worthy of the 2014 Sochi Olympic pre-trials and main trials.
So, how does a Canadian champion married to a multiple world champion juggle what sounds like an overwhelming checklist.
“We have a really dynamic support group, whether it’s our mother-in-laws or immediate family members,” said Nedohin, in a hoarse voice, after playing 10 games in four days. “We also have a really amazing community: with the girls with their ringette, friends and coaches and everybody. It’s kind of fun to see that community pride and support. We definitely have a big realm of support to get us through the season.”
Nedohin and company will chase Continental Cup cash Jan. 10-13 in Penticton and then fly to Scotland for the Glynhill Ladies International in Glasgow.
“When everybody else is doing their provincials, we have nothing. So there’s good and bad in that. We gotta go out and play. We don’t wanna sit around while everybody else is doing their playdowns. We wanna be ready and prepared for Kingston.”
Nedohin, who eats Cadbury Mini Eggs during games, won’t have to face superstar Jennifer Jones (expecting a baby) so will be given a great chance at repeating as Canadian golden girls and advance to the worlds in Latvia. She won a bronze at the 2012 Ford Worlds in Lethbridge (Mirjam Ott of Switzerland was the winner).
For the record, Canadian women have won a leading 15 world rings, but only three in the last 10 years. (Jennifer Jones, 2008), Kelly Scott (2007) and Colleen Jones (2004).
Also hoping to reach the 2014 Olympics in the Russia resort town is Ayumi Ogasawara of Japan. She and third Yumie Funayama are in the midst of a comeback after playing in the 2006 Turin Winter Olympics.
Ogasawara, who missed qualifying for the Prestige playoffs last weekend, and Funayama are both 33 and fairly new mothers. They would love to take their kids to Sochi.
“It is difficult for us because I just came back and I keep trying to get points,” Ogasawara told me. “I got married and got pregnant. Curling is growing in Japan. There are six leagues in Sapporo (about 95 kilometres from her home of Moseushi) and they just opened a five-sheet rink in my town.”
The Japanese ladies are off to Lethbridge for a training camp and will then compete in Kamloops and Red Deer cashspiels and train in Burnaby for two months before heading home for playoffs. They will need a second-place finish or better at the Pan Pacific Games to qualify for Latvia.
It will probably be a few years before Japan joins the international women’s curling explosion which sees China, Korea and Russia as contenders to topple the Swiss, but at least they’re in the mix.