MOOSE JAW, Sask. — Jennifer Jones is two wins away making Scotties history.
And should she win both of her games on Sunday, she’ll be winningest skip in Scotties history with seven titles – currently tied with Colleen Jones with six.
But the veteran skip from Winnipeg, Team Wild Card this year, has been playing with a heavy heart.
There have been so many times throughout this year’s event Jones has looked into the stands for her father, Larry.
He’s not there.
Larry Jones died suddenly this past May. He was Jennifer’s biggest fan and sparked her interest in the game – Larry also coached Jennifer during her first Scotties win in 2005.
“It’s been tough. I’ll be honest,” Jones said. “After we won the Wild Card game I looked up for my dad and he wasn’t there. You kind of sometimes forget. I feel like he’s out there with me. Every time I curl I feel super close to my dad.”
Sitting in the stands though cheering on her daughter is Carol Jones. Larry and Carol were married for 53 years. They sat beside each other for hundreds of hours of curling.
“My husband and I traveled to all these curling events. Every event over the years,” Carol said.
“Some tearful moments. But the curling community is amazing.”
The ‘Thelma and Louise’ of curling
This year, Carol is sitting beside Cheryl Lawes at the Scotties.
The two have been seatmates at big curling events before – during the 2014 Olympics in Sochi they became good luck charms.
“No matter who was sitting in the seat beside her, I had to get them out because I needed to sit beside her,” Cheryl said. “And I did for the whole Olympics and that’s why we won.”
Now they’re reunited and have rekindled a friendship. Losing a husband and father is something Cheryl and Kaitlyn know all too well.
Keith Lawes, who like Larry Jones for Jennifer, got Kaitlyn involved in curling at a very young age. He loved curling and was so passionate about it. In 2007, when Kaitlyn was just 18 years old, Keith died.
Now all of these years later Carol and Cheryl are providing comfort for each other at the Scotties while cheering on their daughters.
“When Carol was starting to go through her journey, and you could tell Larry was ill, I tried to give her some guidance,” Cheryl said.
“And just to be there for a shoulder to cry on.”
There have been many tears and tough days for the two. But they’ve seemed to find a new energy being in each other’s company in Moose Jaw – they’re actually having the time of their lives right now.
“I’m Thelma,” says Cheryl.
“And I’m Louise,” says Carol, laughing.
The two have been dancing around the stands to music, cheering their daughters on wildly, laughing and leaning together when rocks coming sliding down the ice.
“We’ve formulated a very strong friendship and obviously a very strong support for our girls,” Carol said.
“She did grab my knee the other day. It helps to have somebody that you can lean on when there’s a big shot.”
Joy for Jennifer and Kaitlyn
Carol and Cheryl having as much fun as they are at this year’s Scotties has eased the minds of Jennifer and Kaitlyn – to know their mothers have each other while they’re playing means everything to them.
“I texted my mom last night and asked if she was having fun because I haven’t seen her that much. She said, ‘fun? I can’t stop laughing.'” Kaitlyn said.
“It makes me so happy. They have so much energy. They seem younger. They’re having a blast and that’s all I could ask for.”
Jones gets emotional when she thinks about the curling journey she’s been on with her parents and now the past decade with Kaitlyn.
“It’s my mom’s first Scotties without my dad. For her to come and see her laughing and having fun means the absolute world to me,” she said. “It’s amazing that our moms can share this together.”
Carol and Cheryl position themselves directly behind Jennifer and Kaitlyn’s sheet, watching every shot with laser like focus, hanging on every rock.
“We make rocks curl. We make rocks crash on a guard,” Cheryl says, laughing.
“Thank god for her. She’s been a great, true friend,” Carol said.
Jennifer beams when she sees her mom having as much fun as she is.
“I have a tremendous mom. She’s the best person in the world,” Jennifer said. “All I want to see is her smiling. Curling brings us so much joy in our family, but I really think it’s been an amazing healing process for my mom.”
Jones vs. Homan battle awaits
That last spot in Scotties Final on Sunday night will be decided in a semifinal game between Jones and Rachel Homan.
Homan defeated Northern Ontario’s Krista McCarville on Saturday to advance to within one game of the championship battle.
It’s been quite the last number of seasons for Homan and her team out of Ottawa. After their disappointment of the Olympics, they lost year’s Scotties final in dramatic fashion by giving up steals in the 10th end and then an extra end.
Those tough losses are valuable lessons.
“Everything you go through changes you and helps you grow as a person,” Homan said.
“We feel like we’re right there.”
Homan’s lead, Lisa Weagle, says they’ve put those losses behind them and are focused on winning a fourth Scotties title.
“The only thing you can do is learn from it. We’ve taken what we can from that and figured out how we can be stronger and better,” she said.
This iteration of Team Homan made their Scotties debut five years ago in Moose Jaw.
Homan says it’d be a fitting place for them to win again.
“We’re going to give it everything we have. If it’s good enough, awesome. If it isn’t, we didn’t leave anything behind,” she said.