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Our own little “Roar of the Rings”

Heather Dufault

February 1, 2021

In November of 2017, preparations were being made for the upcoming ‘Roar of the Rings’ Olympic Trials here in Ottawa–including the installation of ice at the Canadian Tire Centre.

At this time, I was skipping a women’s team playing out of the Rideau Curling Club. In addition to curling at the Granite club, I had joined the Rideau club a couple of years prior because I wanted to have a chance to form and skip my own team, with a view to perhaps entering some competitive events once we were ready. This was, to me, a big step forward for someone who had started curling at age 14…left the game once I started university and prepared myself for a career…and then returned to it after exactly 25 years away! So much had changed! But, it did not take me very long to reawaken my passion for the game; I just had to work hard with practice and playing to get my skills back!

Once the olympic  trail ice was installed, a call went out to the Ottawa curling community: sixteen curling teams were needed to volunteer to “break in the ice” for the Olympic Trials. Each team would be able to play one 6-end game on the arena ice; teams of all different makeups were invited–men, women, mixed, or junior. Anticipating that the demand would be huge, I immediately sent in my request; I did not even wait to consult with my teammates first–but I figured they would not let anything stand in their way for this amazing chance. Within the week of my application, I was informed that we were one of the sixteen chosen teams!

We were given detailed instructions on where to meet and how the games would be conducted (no time clocks, but we had to keep an eye on the time to stay to schedule). The draw as to who would play whom was completely random–as it turned out, we were drawn to play a men’s team from the Ottawa Granite, my “other” club. As I knew them all to be good players, I felt we likely had no chance of winning the game–but for probably the first time in my curling career, did I ever NOT care!! As I put it to my teammates: “Bring your phones to the ice to take as many pictures as you can, and just go out and enjoy every single moment–this will likely be the only time in our lives that we are able to curl on arena ice!”

This is, of course, exactly what we did, as my pictures will show. Everything was so different than curling at the club–the main things being that the ice was so much faster (although our ice at the Granite is close, which helped me to adjust sooner) and also the temperature at ice-level. In spite of the building being devoid of spectators, to my surprise it was still very warm; after the first end or two we had no need of jackets and gloves or mitts for the rest of the game. Our opponents also enjoyed dealing with these challenges, and in retrospect it turned out to be a real delight that we had the Granite Club connection in common, as we had a lot of fun “trash-talking” each other, taking each others’ pictures, and comparing notes on the unique characteristics of the ice and surroundings!

The time flew by…once it was all over, we posed for more pictures and then all met at a nearby restaurant for post-game drinks, snacks…and most important of all–everyone agreed that even though we would surely never again play in this unique setting, curling is curling! It really doesn’t matter where you are, or who you play with (or against, or what the rewards are at the end (if any) the game itself is a wonderful thing in how you feel it, how you study it, and how you share it with your fellow players.

I know my teammates that day (Patricia Coté, third; JoAnne LeFrank, second; and Emily Champagne, lead) were also just as grateful as I was to have our curling lives so incredibly expanded by this unforgettable experience!