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RELEASING THE ROCK – Team Yukon skip Hailey Birniethrows a rock against Team Quebec during Draw 4 of the Scotties Jan. 30, 2022 in Thunder Bay. Photo courtesy CURLING CANADA/ANDREW KLAVER

Birnie rink going to Scotties for second year in a row

The Hailey Birnie rink is going to the Scotties Tournament of Hearts for the second year in a row.

By Morris Prokop on January 20, 2023

The Hailey Birnie rink is going to the Scotties Tournament of Hearts for the second year in a row. This year’s edition of the team is skip Birnie, third Chelsea Jarvis, (who played third with Birmie while going by Chelsea Duncan), second Kerry Campbell and throwing lead rocks, Kim Tuor. The alternate is Jenna Duncan, a Yukoner living in B.C.

The Star reached Birnie Tuesday. She said a Yukon play-down was originally scheduled for Jan 12-15.

“Just before Christmas, I got an email saying ‘It looks like nobody wants to play against you.’ There were no other women’s teams that were interested or able to compete this year, so we were appointed to go to the Scotties in Kamloops in February,” Birnie related.

“It’s quite bittersweet. We would have loved the competition. The men just played down this past weekend and it was such a great competition and the ability to have a number of games back to back throughout a few days can really help the team bond and that is a preparation step for going. And then also just the feeling that you’ve earned it, because it’s a huge deal as well.”

Birnie said the team went down to the King Cash Spiel in Maple Ridge, B.C. in early December and had “a wonderful experience, aside from everybody getting sick … it was great to be with the team. It was great to have that team bonding that you can only really get when you’re in close quarters for so long.

“And we curled really well. We ended up making the semi finals for the king cash and had a really great ‘spiel there.

“Part of the reason why we ended up choosing it is because it’s close to where Jenna is,” explained Birnie. “So it gave Jenna a chance to come out; she ended up playing a couple of games as well. It ended up working out very well.”

The Birnie rink will be busy before the Scotties kick off in Kamloops Feb. 17.

“We’ve got about a month before we head off and there’s a lot to do. There are a lot of logistics and planning and obviously practicing as well. It’s been really wonderful. We’ve had a number of people from the club step out and say, ‘Hey, if you want to have an extra game here, if you want to set this up so that we can play a few ends, a mock game or part of a game.’ Setups and scenarios. We’ve had a ton of support from a number of different people from the club, which is really helpful, especially when we don’t have a lot in terms of bonspiels or competitions to help prepare us, so really appreciate the support that we’ve had from a number of individuals and teams from the club, just kind of stepping up and saying ‘We’ll do that.’”

Birnie’s foursome plays Tuesdays in the Super League here in Whitehorse, which, according to Birnie, is “arguably the most competitive league”.

Birnie was asked to assess her team’s chances at the Scotties.

“I think this year is going to actually be really interesting, because we’ll be competing against a lot of the same curlers that we’ve competed against in previous years. And some of them are arguably the world’s best, so it’s always a little bit nerve-wracking. Throughout the Scotties experience, you’re there for a week and a half. You can’t help but become better when you’re there and when you’re playing against somebody of that calibre.

“Part of what I’m gonna find really interesting though, is a lot of the same curlers are there but a lot of the teams have changed in the last year. So in the curling world after the Olympics, a lot of the teams end up doing different switches and some people retired and some people joined their biggest competitors’ team. So I think that’ll be really interesting. We might be playing some of the same people and we’ll be playing some very different teams.”

Birnie said the ice is a little different for the Scotties.

“There are a few things that you can only get at a competition at that level. One of them is the ice. The ice is incredible. When you go to Scotties, it’s not on a typical curling ice. They actually do it on a hockey arena. So the makings of it are actually a little bit different. As a curler it’s beautiful to curl on. You can curl at a different level, just with the ice conditions. The rocks are more lively on arena ice. So if you’re doing a double or triple takeout, they might just move a little bit more easily rather than on traditional curling ice. So there’s like this little heightened ability to just do an extra cool shot, if you will.”

Birnie has set a basic goal for the team.

“What I would really like is for our team to go and just feel really great about themselves while they’re out on the ice. Feel like they’re given it their all. Feel like they’re showing up the best that they can while they’re there. As much as I’d love to say we would really love to beat Kerri Einarson, Rachel Homan or Jennifer Jones – which we could and we might – there’s not going to be a disappointment if we still show up and we give it our all and we play some really great games. We’re all naturally competitive anyway, so my goal is for everybody to genuinely enjoy themselves out there while being competitive.”

Birnie was bestowed an honour as a result of a shot at the 2022 Scotties.

“Last year at Scotties there were some difficult shots that had to be done. And one of the team shots – I happened to be throwing it but it was definitely a team shot – ended up making the honourable mentions for best shot of the year in Canada, so that kind of stuff is fun, too. It’s kind of like ‘Oh, look. We can do that too.’”

The shot can be found about 1:25 into a video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rn_QtB7K2M0

Birnie added “Going to the Scotties from the Yukon where we do have less competition up here, it’s part of the Yukon way. We like the fact that we have a smaller population; we live here for a reason.

“I think this team should be really proud of putting in the work, especially when we’re missing a few of the resources, like the competitions every weekend, like the additional women’s teams. I think this team should be really proud for still stepping up and putting in the work to the ability that we have the resources to and showing up there. I think we should be really proud.”

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