The kids are alright

The Britney Malette rink are major-league rookies playing for fun and experience. Jaimie Sinclair and Karli Hicklin, back, stand alongside Britney Malette and Maddy Hollins, front.

Local curlers will have to wait at least two more weeks to get back on the ice to play the game they love, however they will get a chance to watch curling live on television this weekend.

Curling clubs remained closed as the pandemic lockdown continues here with Thunder Bay district moving into the red zone as of Tuesday. With that said, the Sioux Lookout Curling Club and Fort Frances Curling Club have reopened with that area in the yellow zone.

The rules for the red zone do not allow for games to be played with a maximum of 10 people allowed in a facility. The local curling clubs are looking into an option that may allow curlers to practice individually if allowed access to the curling ice.

Meanwhile, curling is back as of Friday night with TSN broadcasting the Scotties Tournament of Hearts from Calgary. Eighteen teams are playing for the Canadian women’s championship, the first of six events to be held in the curling bubble at Calgary Olympic Park.

There will be an air of disappointment for Thunder Bay curlers and fans watching the action as they had expected to be catching games live from Fort William Gardens with the event originally scheduled to be hosted here in Thunder Bay before the pandemic hit.

Fans will have to wait one more year to watch live Scotties action with the 2022 Scotties coming to Thunder Bay, Jan. 28-Feb. 6. On Tuesday, Curling Canada announced fans who had originally purchased tickets for the 2021 Scotties in Thunder Bay have opted to hang on to them for next year. A limited number of seats for full event or championship weekend packages are still available. Visit www. curling.ca/2022scotties/tickets or call the Fort William Gardens box office.

The Krista McCarville opted not to accept an invite to represent Northern Ontario as the defending champions, citing the risks with the pandemic around family and work commitments due to travel and time off to quarantine.

Krysta Burns’ Sudbury rink will wear the green and gold as an alternate selection for being runner-up to McCarville as the provincials last year.

Another Thunder Bay team who will be watching the Scotties with interest is the young Britney Malette rink with aspirations that they can get to a national championship one day.

Malette and her teammates Maddy Hollins, Karli Hicklin and Jaimie Sinclair, are in their second year together with their goal to represent Northern Ontario at U18 nationals next year in Timmins.

The Malette rink are one of three junior teams playing in the Tbaytel Major League of Curling this season. When play was suspended back in December, the young rookie team had yet to win a game sitting at the bottom of the standings at 0-8.

“We decided to play in the major league to gain experience playing competitive teams and learning from competitive game situations,” said Malette, the 17-year-old skip who attends St. Ignatius High School.

They knew they would pressed to challenge their more seasoned opponents. However, the team is hoping league play resumes so they can shoot for that inclusive first win.

Their remaining games are against Mike Pozihun, Dallas Burgess, Frank Morissette and Trevor Bonot to complete the round-robin schedule.

According to their veteran coach Paul Carr, the goal was to learn from the other major league teams and gain knowledge as to how to become a better team.

“I would say they’ve met and exceeded our goals,” said Carr, who has been mentoring young curlers at the junior, college and university levels for years.

“The experience playing competitive games has allowed the girls to gain knowledge on different aspects of the game, and ways to better our game as a team. We’ve also come a long way from our first major league game. At first, we were off the ice after five ends and now we have played a few full eight-end games,” added Carr, noting that as major league rookies they will ecstatic to secure that first win.

Team Malette would like to thank all of their sponsors as well as their parents for the support they have received this season.

Britney Malette, skip

Malette, in her fifth year curling, says she started curling because her step dad Tyler Oinonen was a curler and introduced her to the game. Oinonen knows a bit about game as he was the lead on the Jeff Currie rink who won the Canadian junior men’s Championship in 1996. The Port Arthur Curling Club rink included Greg Given and Andrew Mikkelsen.

“The friendships I make on the ice during competitions or even the bonds made with my teammates is definitely what I enjoy most about curling,” said Malette, who looks at Krista McCarville as one of the top-ranked teams in the major league.

Maddy Hollins, third

Maddy Hollins has been involved in the game for 13 years starting when she was four.

The 17-year-old Hollins, a student at St. Ignatius High School, started curling because many of her family members curl. Her dad Greg is the lead on the Bryan Burgess rink while her brother and grandmother are also curlers.

“I love the atmosphere of the curling club. Everyone is always so nice and everyone is there to have fun. I also love that I get to play the sport with some of my closest friends,” said Hollins.

She lists her favourite curler as Anna Hasselborg. However, when asked what team she would like to beat most in the Major League this year, she replied: “I would like to beat team Bryan Burgess because my dad is on that team.”

Karli Hicklin, second

Karli Hicklin who started in little rocks at Fort William Curling Club and has curled for nine years.

The 16-year-old Hammarskjold High School student says she got introduced to the game hanging around the curling club while her brother was curling pointing out that the social aspect of the game is what she enjoys the most about curling.

Like Malette, she lists her favourite team is the Rachel Homan rink with her favourite player, another second, being Joanne Courtney.

Jaimie Sinclair, lead

At age 13, lead Jaimie Sinclair is the youngest member on the team and it should be no surprise that she is a curler.

Like the other members on the team, curling runs in their families. Jaimie’s father, Rob Sinclair Jr., was one of Thunder Bay’s top competitive curlers earning a Purple Heart and representing Northern Ontario at the 1998 Brier as the third for Bruce Melville with Dale Wiersema and Larry Rathje.

Jaimie’s aunt Kathy Jackson, Rob’s sister from Fort Frances is also a renowned curler here in Northwestern Ontario as was her late grandfather Rob Sinclair, Sr.

The Pope John Paul student says she is proud of her dad and his Brier experience and admits it is the reason she started curling. She adds: “I really enjoy the sport and meeting new people.”

Jaimie would savour a victory over an Al Hackner-led team since he has won many championships.

The Malette rink are the second junior girls team to use the major league to develop their skills for a shot at representing Northern Ontario at a Canadian junior championship. The Hailey Beaudry rink from the Port Arthur Curling Club realized their goal of competing in the Canadian Juniors in 2018 in Shawinigan, Que.

John Cameron’s In the House curling column runs weekly in The Chronicle-Journal.