Fleury fired up to play close to home at GSOC Masters in North Bay

Tracy Fleury in action during the 2019 Players' Championship in Toronto at Ryerson's Mattamy Athletic Centre. (Anil Mungal)

Don’t let the buffalo patch on her jacket fool you, Tracy Fleury is still repping Northern Ontario at heart.

The Sudbury skip said she’s excited to play in her home region for the Masters, which starts Tuesday evening at Memorial Gardens in North Bay, Ont.

Fleury, who now plays out of Manitoba, is counting on her family and friends for support during the Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling event.

“We don’t get many opportunities to play close to home so I’m really looking forward to it,” Fleury said last month during the Shorty Jenkins Classic in Cornwall, Ont. “It’s only an hour-and-a-half drive from Sudbury so it’ll be nice to have some friends and family be able to make the trip to watch.”

Fleury and the Manitoba-based trio of third Selena Njegovan, second Liz Fyfe and lead Kristin MacCuish are aiming to build upon their first season together that saw them pull off a shocking come-from-behind win in the provincial playdowns final against Kerri Einarson’s powerhouse squad and represent Manitoba at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts.

“I think we learned a lot last season,” said Fleury, who has also skipped Ontario once and Northern Ontario twice at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts. “Last year was more of a development year and now we have a lot more systems in place, getting more comfortable with each other, so we’re looking forward to year two.”

There’s no sophomore slump here. Team Fleury had a busy start to the season but it’s paid off as they’re currently ranked No. 1 on the World Curling Tour’s year-to-date charts and No. 6 on the Order of Merit. Team Fleury captured the title at the Cargill Curling Training Centre Icebreaker and finished runner-up at the Shorty Jenkins Classic and Colonial Square Ladies Classic events.

Former Team Jones second Jill Officer has subbed in a couple of those events with Fyfe taking some time off after giving birth to her second daughter during the off-season. Officer, who stepped back from competitive curling a year ago, is also MacCuish’s aunt and the 2014 Olympic gold medallist said it was pretty special playing with her niece.

“I was 17 when she was born — I hate to say that — but I think we played one league game together when she was like 12 years old and other than that we’ve never played a game together,” Officer said. “That’s partly why I’m here for them is that opportunity to play with Kristin and maybe help them out a little bit with some of their stuff. It’s pretty cool.”

Fyfe is expected to rejoin the lineup when Team Fleury begins play at the Masters in Draw 2 Wednesday morning against Elena Stern’s Swiss team.

NOTES: The Masters is the first of six Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling events on the season and one of four majors in the series. … The total prize purse is $300,000 and is split evenly between the men’s and women’s divisions. Winners receive the lion’s share plus berths towards the season-ending Humpty’s Champions Cup taking place April 29 to May 3, 2020, in Olds, Alta. … Also up for grabs at the Masters are Pinty’s Cup bonus points. The leaders following the conclusion of the Players’ Championship will capture the Pinty’s Cup with additional prize money awarded.

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