Thunder Bay’s Team McCarville pumped to play in hometown GSOC event

Krista McCarville (centre) shoots a stone as Ashley Sippala (left) and Sarah Potts (right) prepare to sweep during the StuSells Toronto Tankard on Oct. 6, 2018, at Royal Canadian Curling Club. (Anil Mungal)

Krista McCarville cannot wait to hear moose calls echo through Tournament Centre in Thunder Bay, Ont., next week during the Tour Challenge.


“Absolutely,” the skip said without hesitation.

It’s hard to explain the strange sound of a moose call but if you’ve heard it once, you’ll never forget it (and usually wonder if someone is having problems). The homemade concoction — usually consisting of a tin can, string and rosin or chalk — might not create the most pleasant noise, however, Northern Ontario curling teams have embraced it as their own and McCarville is no exception.

“That’s going to be exciting for sure,” said McCarville, whose team will take on the world’s best in the Tier 1 women’s division of the Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling event. “For Thunder Bay to be behind us and cheering us on, I think is really awesome.”

It’s not often Team McCarville get the opportunity to play close to home, more like never actually, with zero stops on the World Curling Tour nearby and every other event requiring at least one plane ride.

“For the event to be coming to Thunder Bay is pretty amazing,” McCarville said. “I haven’t ever really curled in an event in Thunder Bay, like a really huge event like this. … For our families to not have to travel far to come and watch us is really nice.”

Vice skip Kendra Lilly is also looking forward to playing the role of the hometown hero even if it isn’t necessarily her hometown.

“There’s going to be a lot of people there, a lot of friends and family, so it’s going to be a good event for us to go to,” said Lilly, who lives “only” 11 hours down the road in Sudbury. “We don’t get into Slams very often, so for it to be at home, too, is really special.”

Although McCarville and her crew aren’t as active on tour as their competitors, when they do show up they mean business. Team McCarville opened the season at September’s KW Fall Classic in Kitchener-Waterloo, Ont., and all they did was win rolling through the tournament undefeated at 7-0.

“We do what we can and this is what seems to work for us,” said McCarville, who earned a silver medal for Northern Ontario at the 2016 Scotties Tournament of Hearts. “We don’t go crazy because I think going crazy for us may not be our best option and we might not do what we’ve been doing the last few years. We want to keep the passion in our hearts and that’s just how we do it.”

That passion is spread across Northern Ontario with McCarville, second Ashley Sippala and lead Sarah Potts (plus Potts’ parents, world champions Rick and Lorraine Lang, helping out) based in Thunder Bay and not only Lilly but also new alternate Jen Gates residing in Sudbury.

Team McCarville employ the five-player lineup as Gates will jump in at second later this season with Sippala expecting a baby and planning to take time off. The bonus of bringing Gates on board is Lilly now has a hometown practice partner.

“I think that’s really important because I couldn’t imagine being Kendra and playing and practising on my own,” McCarville said. “I’ve always had Sarah, Ashley, Rick and Lorraine, so I’ve never had to worry about going out and shooting alone. I always have one of them holding the broom for me. So, for Kendra to have Jen now I think is really important. I’m glad they both live in Sudbury together and they have each other to practise and play games with.”

Gates previously played with Team Rocque based in Edmonton. When the club split up after last season, Gates returned home and reunited with Lilly, who welcomed the addition of her former junior teammate.

“It gets a little lonely up there sometimes so it’s nice to have a practice partner,” Lilly said. “I don’t have to drag my mom out with me all of the time. I can drag Jenny out there with me and get me in line.”

It’s not often a team 1,000 km apart all still reside within the same region but that’s Northern Ontario for you and Team McCarville wouldn’t want it any other way.

“Many teams have a player out of province, we don’t, we have Northern Ontario,” McCarville said. “We have two in Sudbury and three in Thunder Bay and we’re sticking in Northern Ontario.”

Team McCarville kick off the Tour Challenge against Edmonton’s Team Walker in the opening draw Tuesday night at 7 p.m. ET.

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