MOOSE JAW, Sask. – It took some extra drama, but Val Sweeting has finally reached the top of the Canadian curling mountain.
The vice for Kerri Einarson’s Manitoba rink captured her first Scotties Tournament of Hearts championship Sunday night with an 8-7 extra ends victory over Rachel Homan’s Ontario foursome.
“I’ve had quite a few heartbreaking final losses, so I definitely needed that,” an emotional Sweeting said after the game. “It’s hard to get back up, but we did and got back to that final.
“I’m so proud of us.”
Einarson, who also won her first Scotties on Sunday after dropping the 2018 final to Jennifer Jones in Penticton, B.C., says she couldn’t be happier for Sweeting.
“Val is such a wonderful player. So smart and talented. Her and I together, I think work really well,” said Einarson. “We’ve come a long way. We really focused on the little things that matter.”
The 32-year-old Sweeting has had her fair share of heartbreak at the Canadian championship in the past. Sweeting skipped Alberta to back-to-back national finals in 2014 and 2015, losing both times to Homan and Jones respectively, with the latter final happening right here at Mosaic Place. Those Moose Jaw Scotties were the last Sweeting competed in until this week.
Sweeting lost in the next two Alberta provincial finals (2016 and 2017) before dropping the page playoff 3 vs. 4 game in 2018. Her heartbreak wasn’t restricted to just traditional curling either. Sweeting and teammate Brad Gushue made it all the way to the 2018 Canadian Olympic Mixed Double trials finals before losing to John Morris and Kaitlyn Lawes. That tandem would go on to win the first ever gold medal in that discipline in Pyeongchang, South Korea a few months later.
“It was heartbreaking for sure. I didn’t know how many times I could get back up,” said Sweeting of all those losses. “It just shows that you have to and I’m so honoured to get that Maple Leaf.”
At one point Sunday it seemed it was going down the same nightmarish route once again.
Manitoba held a four-point lead with two ends to play. Homan put up a deuce in the ninth before Einarson was heavy on her last throw in the 10th, giving Ontario a steal of two and a tie game.
Sweeting says she didn’t let her mind go to a dark place.
“Maybe for a second,” said Sweeting, who shot 83 per cent in the final. “I just thought ‘oh that sucks.’ I knew that we would regroup and have a really strong 11 and ultimately just leave the skip the four-foot. Kerri played amazing all week. Especially through playoffs and our last games.”
Einarson executed on a similar shot in the 11th end to win the Canadian title.
“What an emotional roller coaster,” said Einarson. “This is so amazing. I’m so incredibly proud of my teammates and they played so well all week. If it wasn’t for them I don’t know where I’d be today.”
Shannon Birchard, the second on the team, said they won this one for Sweeting and their skipper.
“We said before the game ‘we’re doing these for Val and we’re doing this for Kerri,’” said Birchard, who was on that Jones’ 2018 Scotties team as a replacement for Lawes. “For those two, losing the national final, it must have been heartbreaking. We just really wanted to do it for them this week.”
Sweeting’s first national championship came in her home province as she was born in Redvers, Sask., and has lived in Edmonton for many years as the team’s lone out-of-province curler. Sweeting says she could feel the support from multiple parts of Canada despite wearing the buffalo.
“Although I had the Manitoba logo on, I felt like I was representing everybody and I felt that support from everybody,” she said.
This rink out of the Gimli Curling Club made headlines when they formed prior to last season as Einarson, Sweeting, Birchard and lead Briane Meilleur were all skips of their own teams prior to coming together.
Birchard and Meilleur weren’t major contenders on the elite curling level circuit, so their moves weren’t shockers, but Sweeting’s swap to the third position was surprising. Could all these skips work together? Were there too many cooks in the kitchen?
“I think we all really owned our positions,” said Sweeting. “We really bought in and learned what we needed to do in each of our roles.”
In their first campaign together 2018-19, Team Einarson won multiple times on the World Curling Tour, but lost to Team Tracy Fleury in the Manitoba final and then lost the Scotties Wild Card game to Team Casey Scheidegger in Sydney, N.S. A good first season, but Sweeting knew they could reach another level.
“I think we really identified a lot of little things this season that we wanted to work on and I think we just owned them,” she said.
Birchard says all four teammates having a skip mentality can be an advantage.
“I know that Briane and I are always thinking about strategy. We’re always keeping everything in check and Val as well. It just helps. It’s definitely a team effort out there,” explained Birchard.
Now, Team Einarson will trade in the yellow and black for red and white as they will represent Canada at the world women’s curling championships next month in Prince George, B.C.
“We’ve got some work to do,” said Sweeting. “There’s so many good teams there and we’ll draw on players who have had experiences there and good coaching. We’ll just work really hard and do everything we can to bring a medal back to Canada.”
Hockey Canada's strategy of deflecting serves no one but its disgraced leadership – The Globe and Mail
A while back, I had a job in a movie theatre. The theatre at the foot of an atrium in an open-plan tower. We plebs could look up at the offices and hallways above, where the corporation’s big wigs worked.
The biggest wig in our world would often lean over a balcony and stare down at us, like a gargoyle in pinstripes. If you were caught loafing, a call would be made and you’d hear about it.
One day, there was a commotion from several floors above – a lot of screaming and banging. The biggest wig had been fired. His reaction was to go back to his office and barricade himself inside it.
The banging was security kicking in the door. The screaming was him being dragged to the elevators. It was a different time.
But the lesson therein is timeless. Nobody likes being canned. But people in charge take it particularly hard.
Right now, 2½ months into Hockey Canada’s sex-abuse scandal, we’re at the barricade stage.
In any other country, this would be over now. Through a combination of popular outrage and political panic, the Hockey Canada edifice would have been burned to the ground.
But in this country we continue to believe shame will do the job for us. That the people in charge of this world-class gong show will get the message and slink off home.
But Hockey Canada’s leadership is not operating on Canadian rules. They’re pulling from the American handbook on how to survive a scandal. Shamelessness is a prerequisite.
Their first job was deflecting.
In terms of an absolute defence, the deflecting’s gone about as well as a guy trying to push off bullets by waving his hands around. But it bought time. The men in charge knew they could count on Ottawa to a) quickly promise to take decisive action and b) take absolutely forever to decide what that decisive action looks like.
Deflecting has another virtue – it dilutes outrage. No matter how awful, people can only read about a story for so long without becoming bored. And there’s always a fresh outrage to divert us.
This week, Hockey Canada hired someone to head an investigation into the workings of Hockey Canada. You could’ve written out this person’s CV long before the name was made public – retired judge, history of public service, member of the new Family Compact, etc.
Finding people is not hard. There are a whole bunch of them out there twiddling their thumbs, itching for someone to stick a microphone in front of them.
But after two months of withering pressure, Hockey Canada is just now figuring out who will set up the Slack group to discuss how to begin discussing their problems. Let me guess that if they’d been bleeding cash instead, organizing some sort of working committee would have taken two hours.
But this is how you do it, American-style. Pretend it’s a live broadcast with screen time to fill before commercials – stretch. Continue talking about nothing. Don’t stop speaking. It’s the silence that kills.
While you’re stretching, keep your eye on the horizon. That’s where the sports are. If you can make it to sports, you might be okay. The same people who wanted your head paraded in the town square yesterday might be distracted by a waving flag.
On Tuesday, the world junior hockey championship begins in Edmonton. Over the weekend, there will be a barrage of publicity about the tournament that launched a thousand official denials. We’ll rehash the particulars of this ugly affair and assess where we’re at. This column is part of that.
By Tuesday, the usual outlets will be talking about hockey. How’s Canada’s top line measuring up? Where’s the United States at? Whither the Olympic team?
This is how you erect a modern, media barricade.
Having seen a million of these things go down in recent years, you know you’re not going to talk your way out of your problem.
Bottom-line: You were in positions of authority at a public institution when something abhorrent happened. The integrity of that institution cannot be maintained if you continue to lead it.
This is obvious. But in our rush to definitively nail someone, anyone, we have skidded past the obvious. Now we’re all deep in the weeds, hacking away.
Uncovering the minutiae about who said what to whom at what board meeting may absorb reporters and politicians, but it only serves Hockey Canada’s current leadership.
While we’re Inspector Clouseau-ing this thing, we’re also avoiding the clear end point. The longer we spend doing that, the more likely it is that these fish all get off the hook.
This was the goal all along. Deflect, get to the world juniors, hope that Team Canada wins and that everyone is too exhausted by the end of it to keep taking pops at you. By the time your judge wraps up his report – let me guess ‘Mistakes were made but there is a clear plan forward’ – maybe you’ll have successfully run your gauntlet.
It’s not a plan, as such. As with Hockey Canada’s in-camera board meetings, nobody’s written it down. It’s instinctive process based on observation. In scandals as in sports, the mission is getting through today.
It’s not going to work. That’s also obvious. No matter what the eventual report says, it will reignite outrage.
The names of the players involved in the two alleged assaults will come out, probably during the NHL season. That will reignite outrage.
At any moment, the alleged victims could make fulsome public declarations. That will reignite outrage.
Any way you go, the outrage is going to leak out again. The only way to contain it is to blow this down to the foundations. Eventually, everyone’s going to realize that.
Really, all that’s being decided now is how you want to get to the elevators – walking under your own power, or being dragged there screaming by the rest of Canada.
Rafael Nadal announces he will not be playing at the Canadian Open
Nadal cited that the reason to abandon the Canadian Open was a result of an abundance of caution regarding injury concerns.
“From the vacation days and my subsequent return to training, everything has gone well these weeks. Four days ago, I also started training my serve and yesterday, after training, I had a little discomfort that was still there today.
We have decided not to travel to Montreal and continue with the training sessions without forcing ourselves. I sincerely thank the tournament director, Eugene, and his entire team for the understanding and support they have always shown me, and today was no exception.
I hope to play again in Montreal, a tournament that I love and that I have won five times in front of an audience that has always welcomed me with great affection. I have no choice but to be prudent at this point and think about health,” said the Spaniard.
Last month, Nadal was forced to withdraw from his Wimbledon semifinal against Nick Kyrgios due to an abdominal injury.
Meanwhile, Novak Djokovic has also withdrawn from the Canadian Open as his status as unvaccinated against COVID-19 means he cannot enter the country.
Djokovic is also unlikely to play at the US Open after organizers said they would respect the American government rules over travel for unvaccinated players as the United States (US) requires non-citizens to be vaccinated against COVID-19 to enter.
“Per the Grand Slam Rule Book, all eligible players are automatically entered into the men’s and women’s singles main draw fields based on ranking 42 days prior to the first Monday of the event.
The US Open does not have a vaccination mandate in place for players, but it will respect the US government’s position regarding travel into the country for unvaccinated non-US citizens,” read a statement from the US Open which is set to take place in New York from the 29th of August to the 11th of September, 2022.
Nevertheless, Novak Djokovic will be joining Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Andy Murray to play for Team Europe in the Laver Cup.
The event, which pits six European players against six from Team World over three days, will take place in London between 23 and 25 September 2022.
“It’s the only (event) where you play in a team with guys you are normally competing against. To be joining Rafa, Roger and Andy, three of my biggest all-time rivals, it’s going to be a truly unique moment in the history of our sport,” said Djokovic.
Canada beats Sweden to claim gold in Hlinka Gretzky Cup – Sportsnet.ca
RED DEER, Alta. — Canada scored early and often and also stayed out of the penalty box en route to a 4-1 victory over Sweden in the gold-medal final of the Hlinka Gretzky Cup.
Tanner Howe, Ethan Gauthier, Calum Ritchie and Brayden Yager scored for the Canadians, who held period leads of 2-1 and 3-1 at the Peavey Mart Centrium on Saturday. Riley Heidt also chipped in with two assists for the champions.
Hugo Pettersson scored for Sweden, who were outshot 36-26. Each team received eight minutes in penalties.
Canada had beaten Sweden 3-0 on Aug. 3.
“Three weeks ago, we put this roster together and I felt right away this was a tight group,” said head coach Stephane Julien. “It’s not easy when you have this much talent, but everyone accepted their role and I’m so happy for them.”
The win is Canada’s first gold medal since 2018, the last time this tournament was held in Canada.
“I’m so happy for this group,” added Julien. “They haven’t had it easy in their careers the last two years with the pandemic, but now they have this, a gold medal and something they are going to remember for the rest of their career.”
Canada advanced to the final with a 4-1 win over Finland, while Sweden defeated Czechia 6-2. Finland beat Czechia 3-1 in Saturday’s bronze-medal final.
The Hlinka Gretzky Cup will shift to Europe in 2023, returning to Breclav and Piestany, Czechia for the first time since 2021.
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