June 25th, 2024

Jones says goodbye, Homan looks to cap dominant season in style at Grand Slam finale

By Gregory Strong, The Canadian Press on April 8, 2024.

Team Manitoba-Jones skip Jennifer Jones, right, gestures to her teammates as Team Ontario—Homan skip Rachel Homan looks on at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Calgary, Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024. Jones will soon call time on one of the best careers in curling history. Rachel Homan is set to put a bow on one of the best seasons ever played. Two of Canada’s best skips will be in the spotlight this week as the Grand Slam of Curling circuit concludes with the Princess Auto Players' Championship at the Mattamy Athletic Centre in Toronto. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

TORONTO – Jennifer Jones will soon call time on one of the best careers in curling history. Rachel Homan is set to put a bow on one of the best seasons ever played.

Two of Canada’s best skips will be in the spotlight this week as the Grand Slam of Curling circuit concludes with the Princess Auto Players’ Championship at the Mattamy Athletic Centre.

It will be the final team event for Jones, who announced her retirement plans for the four-player game earlier this season.

“She’s the best strategist the women’s game has known,” said longtime curling commentator Mike Harris. “I don’t think that’s a secret to anyone. That’s why she’s been able to maintain that high level of play.

“She just finds ways to play the right shot at the right time. She has that ability to make clutch shots under pressure.”

Jones, a six-time national champion, lost to Homan in the Scotties Tournament of Hearts final last February in Calgary. Homan ran the table at that event and lost only one game en route to winning a world title last month in Sydney, N.S.

Homan’s top-ranked Ottawa-based side enters round-robin play with an incredible 62-6 record this season.

“They’re putting together probably one of the best seasons in history – men or women,” Harris said.

In fact, Homan has a chance to become the first team to post a winning percentage of .900 or better in the 24 years that official statistics have been recorded by CurlingZone, the official provider of the World Curling Federation’s world team rankings.

Scotland’s Bruce Mouat set the best men’s record of 61-9 (. 871) in 2020-21, per the CurlingZone website, while Sweden’s Anna Hasselborg had a 53-9 mark (. 855) in the pandemic-interrupted 2019-20 season.

Homan’s side won the WFG Masters and Co-op Canadian Open on the Grand Slam circuit earlier this season.

“They really have figured out how to manage the hammer and limit scoring,” said CurlingZone president Gerry Geurts. “That creates a ton of opportunities for them to score at the same time.

“It’s just mind-blowing how good they have become.”

There are 12 teams entered in the women’s draw and 12 rinks in the men’s competition. Round-robin play begins Tuesday morning and continues through Friday night.

If necessary, tiebreaker games would be played Saturday. Finals are set for Sunday.

It will be a short turnaround for the men’s teams that competed at the world championship in Schaffhausen, Switzerland, some 6,465 kilometres away from the Ontario capital. That nine-day competition wrapped on Sunday.

Jones will begin play Tuesday morning against Sweden’s Isabella Wrana. Her Winnipeg-based rink will also play Italy’s Stefania Constantini, Japan’s Satsuki Fujisawa and Homan before wrapping up her round-robin schedule against Hasselborg on Friday night.

“(She was) such a good competitor for so long,” said Canadian national team coach Viktor Kjell, who worked with Jones at the 2022 Beijing Olympics. “She raised the level for women’s curling, not only for Canada but in the world.”

Canadian entries in the men’s draw include teams skipped by Brad Gushue, Reid Carruthers, Brendan Bottcher, Matt Dunstone, Kevin Koe and Mike McEwen.

Joining Homan and Jones in the women’s field are Canadian teams skipped by Kerri Einarson and Kaitlyn Lawes. Einarson lead Briane Harris will not be available due to suspension.

Harris tested positive for trace amounts of the banned anabolic agent Ligandrol, her lawyer said last month. The Switzerland-based Court of Arbitration for Sport will hear Harris’s appeal but a date has not been set.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 8, 2024.

Follow @GregoryStrongCP on X.

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