Veteran skip Heather Strong says the Newfoundland and Labrador Curling Association (NLCA) is doing a “relatively good job” with developing the sport.
Others may disagree considering there are very few elite men’s and women’s team in the province these days, but Strong feels the association is doing its best considering the circumstances.
“That’s considering it’s comprised completely of volunteers,” she noted, “where most, if not all other provincial associations across Canada have funding.”
Strong, who finished 4-7 at the 2014 Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Montreal, pointed out the Scotties came to St. John’s in 2005 and there is talk of the Brier coming to the province in the future.
“These types of initiatives,” Strong says, “help feed interest in the sport from a youth and grass roots perspective.”
By the way, if Strong wins the provincial title next year, she’ll tie Sue Anne Bartlett with 12 championships.
Bartlett, a native of Grand Falls-Windsor who moved to Labrador City in 1963, has 12 national Scotties Tournament of Hearts appearances to her credit.
The amazing thing about that record is that Bartlett won her first provincial title in 1971 and her last in 1992.
Like many Newfoundlanders, Laura Strong has been forced to leave the province due to provincial government cuts.
The third on her older sister Heather’s rink, is heading shortly to Regina, Sask., after losing a job she said she “dearly loved” with the John Howard Society .
She said she hasn’t secured anything in Saskatchewan yet, “but their economy is very vibrant and I have already interviewed for several positions.”
Laura said she plans to continue curling in her new province but admitted, “I’m very conflicted about it as I’ve loved representing my great province and have always dreamed of bringing home the first Canadian championship with my sister.”
Laura pointed out she’s curled with her sister since she became old enough to enter the ladies’ competition in 2001. They also played together in Heather’s last year of juniors in 1997. Laura, who began curling at age 11, went to her first nationals with Heather that year.
She said she was always proud to represent Newfoundland and competing for another province will be “weird,” even on the curling tour.
“But,” she added, “It’s a great game that our entire country is passionate about, so I will welcome the opportunity to continue to play it with other great Canadians and friends.”
She said she will also miss the “great friendships” she’s made with teammates over the years.
There is close team camaraderie and then there’s sisters close and it’s obvious the sisters are going to miss each another. That’s a bond, though soon stretched miles apart, that won’t change.
“Of course, what I will miss most of all is playing with my sister…having her to share the great accomplishments with and having her to support and be supported in our devastating losses as well,” said Laura.
And it’s not just the games but the practices, the chats and the laughs they shared.
She said the other thing is not seeing her parents who took great pride in cheering for two daughters on the same team all of these years.
Laura said she is confident Heather will continue to excel at curling “despite my absence.”
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She said Heather is hugely respected in the sport, “and rightfully so. She’s one of the best skips in the country and I’m sure will continue to put together championship teams.”
Meanwhile, Heather said it won’t hit her that Laura’s moved on until “I step on the ice in October and she’s not there. That’s when it will hit me.
“I knew this was coming down the pipe before we won provincials,” Heather noted.
Heather said she was grateful to have the opportunity to represent the province with her sister one last time “and really cherish all the moments together that I took for granted in our seven prior Scotties provincial championships.
“We've been blessed with a lot of quality time together and share a ton of the same memories and life experiences. It’s been a great ride and of course, selfishly, I wish she wasn’t leaving. But I’m happy and excited for her to be starting this new chapter.”
As far as how Heather’s rink will look next season, she said Stephanie Korab, who was on the sidelines due to maternity leave this season, will return to throw third stones and will join returnees second Jessica Cunningham and lead Kathryn Cooper.