Krista McCarville ready to take on Scotties Tournament of Hearts in her hometown of Thunder Bay, Ont.
Northern Ontario curler says restrictions take away from event, which begins Friday night against Sask. team
The Scotties Tournament of Hearts is finally getting underway in Thunder Bay, Ont., tonight after a weeks of uncertainty due to the changing COVID-19 situation in Canada.
The national women's curling championship is shaping up to look different than what skip Krista McCarville was hoping for in her northwestern Ontario hometown, but she still believes her team is ready to give the tournament their all.
"Finally, I feel like, 'OK, this is really happening,' and we're getting very excited," said McCarville.
Due to provincial COVID-19 restrictions and concerns surrounding the Omicron variant, the stands at the Fort Williams Gardens will remain empty when McCarville's northern Ontario team steps on the ice for its first game Friday night, against Chelsey Carey's Wild Card 2 team from Regina.
The decision to keep the tournament within a bubble became final just last week. However, Curling Canada said there's a possibility for a modified ticket plan once COVID-19 restrictions ease up in Ontario as of Monday.
"Curling Canada, in consultation with local health authorities, is looking into the possibility of a modified ticket plan for the final three days of the event, which could coincide with a playoff push," reads a media release from Wednesday.
That's a scenario McCarville said she's crossing her fingers for. She said having the tournament in her hometown under the current restrictions is disappointing, but once the games begin, it's all about staying focused.
On home ice
"I always feel like once we're out on the ice, we don't really think about the crowd. We don't think about the cameras. We think about our shots," McCarville said.
This will be the first experience of a strict bubble for the competitor and her rink of third Kendra Lilly, second Ashley Sippala and lead Sarah Potts.
She said teams that have played in a bubble before might be at an advantage.
"I think everyone's almost in the same situation, except for maybe the people that were in the bubble last year — like they might have a little upper hand on the teams that weren't in the bubble because we don't really know exactly what to expect.
"So I feel like there's not really a hometown advantage this year," she continued.
When it comes to playing on home ice, McCarville frequents Fort William Gardens to cheer on her kids at hockey games. But being on the other side of the glass for a tournament at this level still gives her chills, she said.
The carpets are in and the ice is shaping up! Competition kicks off Friday! <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/STOH2022?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#STOH2022</a> <a href="https://t.co/yRnXZcwYRx">pic.twitter.com/yRnXZcwYRx</a>—@CurlingCanada
Being close to home is something that has remained key to McCarville's team throughout the years, and something she attributes some of their success to.
She said the team is often faced with questions about pursuing curling on a full-time basis, leaving behind "day jobs," but for now, that's not in the cards.
"So I get this question all the time, you know, people asking why don't we travel more. Well, travelling more might not be the ideal situation for our team. And you know, teaching is a big part of my life, and I love it and it's a passion of mine," McCarville said.
"We don't want to be away from our families as much as some of the other teams do."
With files from Jeff Walters