Alison Griffin has been curling regularly for 14 years, but had periodically curled before then and grew up watching her mother curl.
But the West Prince native never thought she would one day have the opportunity to curl in the Scotties Tournament of Hearts.
“It wasn’t even a dream because it wasn’t even on my radar,” she said.
Ms Griffin will be representing Nunavut as one of 16 teams competing in this year’s Scotties championship from Feb. 14-23 in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan.
She has been living the last two years in Iqaluit, Nunavut. This will be her second time representing the Canadian territory at the Scotties.
The 2019 Scotties in Sydney, Cape Breton was her first time competing at the national event, Ms Griffin calling the experience ‘surreal’.
“It’s hard to describe the feeling,” she said. “Being on the ice and playing against people like Rachel Homan and Chelsea Carey, who I watched on TV and sort of idolized, and then actually played against them at the Scotties, it was hard to believe I was actually there.”
Team Nunavut managed to win their first game ever during the official round-robin at last year’s Scotties by beating Team Quebec.
“That was amazing,” said Ms Griffin. “We had a lot of support from people in Nunavut and from Prince Edward Island. Lot’s of messages. People were pretty excited for us. We only had the one win, but we had some competitive games. We were pretty happy with our performance considering for three of us it was our first time ever playing in the Scotties.”
Ms Griffin’s team was unchallenged in Nunavut to secure their place at this year’s Scotties.
Skipping Team Nunavut this year is Lori Eddy. The Hamilton, Ont. resident returns to the national women’s curling championship for the first time since representing Ontario back in 1997. Her team reached the final that year in Vancouver, but lost the game to curling legend Sandra Schmirler.
“You’re allowed to have one person on your team that doesn’t live in the province or territory that you are representing and so I reached out to Lori to see if she would be interested and she was,” said Ms Griffin, who’s been with friends with Ms Eddy for a number of years.
With Ms Griffin as the team’s second, rounding out the Nunavut lineup is teammates Kaitlin MacDonald and Sadie Pinksen as lead and third respectively. Both women are university students and former junior curlers.
Scheduling training sessions as a team has been a challenge, with Ms Eddy living in Ontario, the two other women attending university in the same province and with Ms Griffin back in Nunavut.
“We sort of had to figure out the logistics of how we were going to train together and get some playtime in,” explained Ms Griffin.
The team decided the best was to train in Ontario. Since September the women have had four training weekends and curled in local events. One training camp was with Hall of Fame coach Earle Morris.
“We’re working really hard because we want to be competitive at the Scotties,” said Ms Griffin. With her two teammates Ms MacDonald and Ms Pinksen being young, Ms Griffin says the women are probably going to be the future of curling in Nunavut. “I think it’s really great we have Lori who is a seasoned player and been around and kind knows the drill and she can kind of mentor them.”
All members of the team will have family travelling to Moose Jaw to cheer them on during the Scotties. Ms Griffin’s mother and aunt will be there to watch her play.
“Even though I’m living in Nunavut and I’m representing Nunavut, my heart is in PEI and I just really appreciate the support that I get from everyone in Prince Edward Island,” she said.
This is the third year Nunavut will be part of the main draw at the Scotties. And despite financial and geographically barriers facing the teammates, Ms Griffin said her team is doing all they can to be at their very best in order to be competitive at the Scotties.
But she added the team does have realistic expectations going into the tournament.
“It’s pretty difficult to go there and expect to win a lot of games, but we want to be competitive in our games,” she said. “We obviously want to make people proud of us and we want to prove that Nunavut does deserve to be at a national championship and that we are working hard to do our best.”