Top curlers at Canadian trials in Saskatoon hope to inspire others to try the sport

Jennifer Jones is hoping to inspire the next generation of curlers.

Curling needs to become more inclusive, says Métis curler Colin Hodgson

Manitoba skip Jennifer Jones, centre, and her teammate Jocelyn Peterman are competing at the 2021 Canadian Curling Trials in Saskatoon. 'There's a youth bonspiel here, so you're seeing a lot of young teams,' she says. (Peter Mills/CBC)

Jennifer Jones hopes to inspire the next generation of curlers.

The 2014 Olympic gold medallist is currently competing with her rink at the Canadian curling trials in Saskatoon, trying to qualify for the 2022 Beijing Winter Games.

Getting more children into curling is a goal as important as winning an Olympic medal, the Manitoba curler said.

"I remember going to the Scotties [tournament] in Brandon when I was younger and just thinking, wow, I just hope one day I can play in one of these events," said Jones.

"Here we are, a few Scotties later."

Jones said she loves seeing young people come out to the curling trials.

"There's a youth bonspiel here, so you're seeing a lot of young teams," said Jones. "If we had any part in any player playing this game, it makes it all worthwhile."

With the men's and women's playoff games happening Saturday and Sunday, Jones will be back on the ice this weekend.

She'll face the winner of a Saturday afternoon tiebreaker in Saturday evening's semifinal.

Curling needs to be more welcoming: Hodgson

For Métis curler Colin Hodgson, the goal is not only to inspire more young people to get into the sport, but also to see more diverse representation.

At the opening ceremony of the curling trials last week, the Saskatoon Tribal Council led a grand entry at SaskTel Centre, officially welcoming the 18 teams to the competition.

"I was very proud and grateful for the opportunity to be a part of it and receive the star blanket," said Hodgson, who curls with Mike McEwen's Manitoba team.

"That's a moment I'll forever remember and something our sport dearly needed."

He also notes "there are other Métis curlers in the event, there are other Indigenous curlers in the event" in Saskatoon.

"That's something that I hardly knew."

Hodgson is also the co-owner of an apparel business called Dynasty Curling, which teamed up with a two-spirit Ojibway artist to design Canada's latest curling jerseys.

Regardless of their background, he has some advice for anyone interested in getting involved in curling.

"Make it what you want it to be," he said. "You don't have to play curling in the traditional way."

Colin Hodgson from Manitoba's Team McEwen at the 2021 Canadian curling trials in Saskatoon. (Peter Mills/CBC)

Winnipeg, for example, has a craft beer league, Hodgson said.

Doubles is also a great game, or playing with three people, he said.

Generally, though, curling needs to become more inclusive, said the Team McEwen lead.

"Let's change it up and have fun.… We need to get more international and be more welcoming, without a doubt."

Bring a friend when learning, says Gushue

Brad Gushue, a 2006 Olympic gold medallist, encourages anybody who wants to start curling to go out with a friend and give it a try.

"I think it's easier when you got someone with you that you know," said the skip from Newfoundland and Labrador.

"You're going to make friends. But once you have someone there, it gives you a little bit of a comfort level."

'First time you see a shot that you make perfectly, you get hooked,' says Brad Gushue, a 2006 Olympic gold medallist. (Liam Richards/The Canadian Press)

When he started out, Gushue had a buddy who began the sport with him. Even adults should bring someone along when trying out curling.

Learning to stay on your feet while playing is one of the hardest things in the beginning, said Gushue.

"I'd just go out there and enjoy it," he said. "First time you see a shot that you make perfectly, you get hooked."

The men's semifinal is scheduled for Saturday at 7 p.m. CT, with Kevin Koe facing Brad Jacobs. Gushue's rink will take on the winner in Sunday's final.

With files from The Afternoon Edition and Peter Mills