The Shelley Nichols rink makes its first appearance at the Canada Cup of Curling this morning, and the Labrador City skip says the timing of the event couldn’t be better.
In past years, the Canada Cup was one of the last stops in the Canadian Curling Association’s Season of Champions, taking place in early to mid-March. But this year, the CCA decided to move it to December.
“At the Canada Cup, they play 10 ends like we do in our provincials and at the Scotties (Tournament of Hearts),” Nichols explains from Medicine Hat, Alta., where the Canada Cup begins today.
“At all the other spiels we’ve been to this year, we’ve only played eight ends because the World Curling Tour is gone that way.
“So it’s good to get a couple of 10-end games under the belt before provincials.”
This is the final scheduled travel event of the season for Nichols, lead Colette Lemon, second Rhonda Rogers and third Stephanie Ledrew.
But at the beginning of the year, it wasn’t even on their schedule.
The team had planned just three stops on the World Curling Tour (WCT), starting with October’s Southwestern Ontario Charity Cashspiel in London, Ont., where they claimed first place by beating Ottawa’s Rachel Homan 7-6.
The victory earned the rink a $32,000 pay day and a berth in Canada Cup, where the competition will be the best Canada has to offer. Other rinks in Medicine Hat include those skipped by three-time defending Canadian women’s champion and former world champ Jennifer Jones, 2006 Canadian women’s champion Kelly Scott, 2006 Olympic bronze-medallist Shannon Kleibrink, 2010 Olympic silver medallist Cheryl Bernard, Heather Nedohin, Stefanie Lawton and Amber Holland.
“Getting to play against reigning women’s world champions, Olympic silver and bronze medallists, you cannot ask for better competition,” says Nichols.
“It’s a bonus we couldn’t turn down.”
She and her rinkmates also competed at two other WCT events this fall, — the Sobeys Slam in New Glasgow, N.S., finishing 2-3, and the Sun Life Classic in Brantford, Ont., where they posted a 1-4 record.
“A lot of game could have been won had I made very key draws,” says Nichols, who began skipping teams after taking the reigns of the Stacie Devereaux rink prior to provincials in 2008.
Nichols maintains she’s become a smarter, more confident skip in the last two years, learning “it’s not about what curling dictates you should do, it’s about what your players can do.
“Finally, we know each other inside out and we know all our strengths and weaknesses and how to help each other out.”
Nichols and Co.’s first game is against Lawton — “I played her in 2001, the year she won the Canadian juniors. She killed us,” Nichols recalls — before an evening match against Jones, the WCT women’s money.
“Faceless opponents,” insists Nichols.
“You’ve got to forget who you’re playing and just throw your rocks. They’re not throwing them for you.”
The Canada Cup, which uses a page playoff system, has a $25,000 winner’s share, with the champs earning a berth into next year’s event in Cranbrook, B.C., and the 2012 World Financial Group Continental Cup in Langley, B.C.
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