Monday, February 25, 2013

Homan changing the game

So just what did we witness last night? Was it a good Ontario team winning the Scotties? Perhaps the debut of a new powerhouse team?

Or was it even more than that. Was it a change in the way the women’s game is going to be played going forward?

First though, make no mistake: Rachel Homan and her rink were very, very good. Not just in the playoffs but all week. In fact, all playdowns. The team’s record in the playdown run from start to finish was a stunning 36-1. That’s not just good, that’s amazing.

But what I saw last week was something I have never witnessed in women’s curling before. It’s something I saw from Ed Werenich in his prime. From Russ Howard in his prime. And from Kevin Martin and Glenn Howard presently.

It’s the fear they strike in their opponents. Homan and her team have such great talent with every aspect of the game that when they step on the ice, their opponents know they can’t miss a shot. Not only that, but they can’t put the rock in the wrong place for fear of giving up a big end. That causes them to play with tightness, to constantly be worried not about making shots but about not missing.

The key to all this is that Homan’s rink has such a vastly superior control of throwing big weight from lead to skip that they can make just about anything go away.

There’s no team in women’s curling that can keep up with them in that department.

Anyone who wants to play in their sandbox from here on in is going to have to learn to throw it big and fast, but also have the ability to draw the button every now and then.

This is not to say they will win every game from here on in or every competition, but let’s just say if they play as they did this week, they look to be good bets to be wearing the Maple Leaf in Sochi.

The reaction to the win may not be quite as strong as mine, but clearly, Homan made a mark last night with her thrashing of the Manitoba champions. In the Globe and Mail, James Mirtle talked about the fear factor Homan has, getting the quote of the week out of Emma Miskew:

“So many people, like my boyfriend’s friends, think she’s the scariest person they’ve ever seen when they watch,” said Emma Miskew, Homan’s long-time third and close friend. “I’m always like ‘Really? But she’s so nice.’ ”No, she’s scary all right.Scary good.

Craig Homan said his daughter has a tattoo on her foot. It is dedicated to the memory of her late grandfather, Gerry. He was a long-time curler and a navigator in the Royal Canadian Air Force, and its old motto became her tattoo: “Through adversity to the stars.”Rachel Homan started curling when she was only four years old, and she had always been close with her grandfather. He had already fallen ill before she qualified to compete at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts for the first time two years ago, but he still made the trip. He died of cancer later that year, and Rachel Homan got her tattoo.“It’s always with her,” Craig Homan said.

Earle Morris, coach of the newly-crowned Canadian women's curling champions from Ontario, said it best, just moments after the 2013 Scotties Tournament of Hearts had ended.

"What a show. What a show you put on," he said as he disappeared in a sea of hugs from Rachel Homan, Emma Miskew, Alison Kreviazuk and Lisa Weagle.
They certainly did. In the process, Homan and crew have very likely changed the face of Canadian curling for the forseeable future.

In the Winnipeg Free Press, Paul Wiecek pointed out that it was Jones who was trying to capitalize on a more youthful squad when she re-organized her lineup a few years back.

The guard doesn't change very often in curling. But it sure appears like it did exactly that on the final weekend of the Canadian women's curling championship.And it wasn't the changing of the guard that Manitoba's Jennifer Jones was hoping would take place when she decided following the 2010 season to jettison veteran third Cathy Overton-Clapham in favour of a hot young shooter named Kaitlyn Lawes.The thinking by Jones, in part, was that by getting younger, the team was also getting better and improving their chances to do this December at the Roar of the Rings something no Manitoba team has done -- qualify to represent Canada in curling at the Winter Olympics.Well, youth carried the day Sunday, alright. It carried the whole final weekend, in fact. But instead of Lawes atop the gold-medal podium, it was a young Ontario foursome skipped by 23-year-old Rachel Homan that were the youth triumphant.

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