Jill Officer swaps broom for mic as she embarks upon life after curling

So many of Jill Officer’s greatest moments in life have come on a pebbled sheet of ice, surrounded by 16 granite stones and one of her best friends, Jennifer Jones. 

For 23 years the two curled together, won together and lost together. They’re also in an elite league of their own together with six national championships, Olympic gold and two world titles. 

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CBC’s Devin Heroux talks mixed doubles curling with Jill Officer.

But more than a year ago, the 42-year-old Officer began to ponder life without curling. Soon after, she let her teammates know she was thinking about leaving the game.

“The decision was a long time coming,” she said. “I spoke with the girls about it briefly last summer and gave them the heads up that it was coming to an end for me.”

In January, she made her final decision. 

“I looked them in the eyes and told them they needed to find a new player. It was really emotional for me to verbalize it and say it to them even though we had been talking about it,” Officer said.

“There were a lot of tears. And tears for being grateful for all that we had been through.”

Officer says she just couldn’t wrap her head around going through another four-year cycle knowing what level of sacrifice and dedication there now is in the game of curling. She needed a break from it all, and she’s ready to spend more time with her six-year-old daughter Camryn and husband Devlin.

“My family has been great,” she said. “It’s going to be a transition for them to have me around. My daughter has a great relationship with my husband I think because of that.”

Officer speaks candidly about how the game has evolved from when she first started. It’s a full-time commitment and a grind. 

“Curling seasons are so long now and there’s so much commitment. I’m no spring chicken anymore. I just needed to do this for my emotional, mental and physical well-being.”

Officer isn’t going too far from the game. Just days after winning another world title she’s heading into the broadcast booth to provide analysis on CBC Sports’ coverage of the mixed doubles curling nationals in Leduc, Alta., this week. 

In a way, she’s getting back to her roots. Officer is a journalism major from the creative communications program at Red River College. She was an anchor and host in Brandon, Man., in the early 2000s. 

“It’s always been in the back of my mind to combine curling and broadcasting so I’m really excited to be doing this. I hope I can provide some insight into the game.”

Going out in style

Officer’s curling finish couldn’t have gone any better. In February she won another Scotties title and then just last week another world title — wearing the maple leaf one last time on home soil in North Bay.

“I had forgotten how much fun it was to represent Canada in Canada. That crowd was amazing,” Officer said. “I felt I could go out there and play freely, soak up the moment and have fun. 

When Officer reflects back on her career eyes light up and smile grows across her face when she thinks back to winning Olympic gold in 2014. 

“Being able to share that medal with people was so special to me,” she said. “The medal has a life of its own. People are happy to meet Jill Officer but when you pull out that medal it’s a whole different level. People are mesmerized by what it represents.”

The Winnipeg native always dreamed of being a great curler, but she never imagined enjoying this level of success.

“It’s given me so many friends, so many great relationships and the opportunity to travel the world to places I never thought I would go,” Officer said. “It’s given me the ability to be a rockstar to some degree.”

Curling dream sparked by Sandra Schmirler

Officer will never forget her first international curling trip. It was January 1995 when Officer and her team traveled to Switzerland with Sandra Schmirler’s rink to the junior and world championships. 

“They took us under their wing and mentored us,” Officer recalls. “It was our first time traveling. They invited us to dinner. We got to know them and that was before curling was an Olympic sport.”

Just years later, Schmirler’s rink would become the first-ever women’s team to win Olympic curling gold. Officer watched  every moment and thought that was exactly what she wanted for her life. 

“To think we were able to follow in their footsteps is really special. They inspired me and so many more,” she said. 

It’s all over now for Officer. She says she is leaving the ice, but won’t be leaving the sport community she loves so much.

She’s still adjusting to the idea of not playing curling next year, but says she can look back on it all with a lot of pride and great memories. 

“Truthfully in my heart I know this is the right now choice, but this will continue to be a process. September is going to roll around and I’m not getting on a plane to go to the first event of the season.”

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