SYDNEY, N.S. — Since the beginning, it's always been about rocks and rings for Northern Ontario curling royalty Lorraine and Rick Lang.
It was 1981 when the soon-to-be-married couple were on the ice together, capturing the Canadian mixed championship in Winnipeg. Almost 40 years later, they're still sharing their love of curling and each other.
Here this week, the two are back together again at a national championship, this time coaching Northern Ontario's rink at the Scotties. Rick is the coach. Lorraine the team's alternate. Together, the two sit behind the sheet, noticing every twist and turn of the rock while debating every shot.
"When I first started the coaching gig with this crew years ago, Lorraine was on the team so that was a real challenge. She was playing with young girls and kind of mentoring them and I was the coach," Lang said. "We had some situations."
Rick had to step away from the teams for years because of his work with Curling Canada. He's since left that post and immediately rejoined the McCarville rink in advance of this year's Scotties.
Lorraine has been part of this team for years. In fact, Lorraine was playing with McCarville's rink in 2009 when they came within a couple of games of winning the Olympic trials.
"They're used to me. I think that's a big comfort to them that I've been here before," Lorraine said.
The curling couple has watched countless games together over the years and they relish the opportunity to flex their granite knowledge while doing so.
"We don't always agree but that's OK," Lorraine said. "We love the game. And we love to watch the game. Even though we've been around for a long time we're such students of the game. So it keeps it interesting for us."
Rick recalls a time during the 2009 Olympic trials when he left the bench during a timeout with a clear vision for what shot his wife and the team should throw — that changed in a hurry.
"I was just absolutely convinced of what I was going to tell the team and they all nodded except Lorraine. She said 'nope, we're going to draw. And I said I think we should hit,'" Rick recalls. "And they threw the draw and it all worked out."
Canadian curling success
The two have been fixtures in the curling landscape for decades.
Rick has curled in 11 Canadian men's championships, winning it all on three different occasions. He also won two world championships with Al Hackner. Add his 1981 mixed title along with a 2006 Canadian Senior title and Rick has won three different national curling championships.
Rick Lang, second from right, celebrates his 1982 Brier win with Al Hackner, far right, and his Northern Ontario rink. Also pictured, from left, are Bruce Kennedy and Bob Nicol. (Bill Grimshaw/The Canadian Press)
Lorraine has curled in eight Scotties, winning the women's national title twice as a third on Heather Houston's teams in 1988 and 1989. They also captured a world championship in 1989.
The two have done a lot of winning and their passion for the sport has caught on with their daughter, Sarah Potts.
Potts is the lead for Krista McCarville's Northern Ontario team — three of the four members of the Lang family are within a stones throw of each other for countless hours of curling during the women's national championship.
"We just have this opportunity with our daughter. It's amazing. It's almost just an extension of our career being with her," Rick said.
And while Rick is able to manage his nerves on the bench, Lorraine admits it's not always easy being in pressure situations with her family.
"I'm not going to say it isn't stressful," Lorraine said. "You put your heart and soul into this."
Northern Ontario pride
One thing that became evident very quickly is how much Rick and Lorraine still appreciate the opportunity to walk out on the ice with Northern Ontario at a national championship. They're all business before, during and after the game.
"We have a long history of winners and like any province there are parents and grandparents and people who have been successful. There's a sense of pride. We want that continue," Lorraine said.
And for Rick, the rush of the bright lights and big stage has never become old.
"I walked in here tonight, nobody in the arena yet, under the bright lights on that blue carpet. When I finished my career I thought I'd never be able to do this again," he said. "To walk out there, my heart still beats hard for that."
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