Jesse Wallin has curling in his blood.
Or at least in his bloodlines.
The Red Deer Rebels GM/head coach, while glancing at the on-ice action at the Centrium this week, casually acknowledged that his grandmother, Darlene Hill, is a member of the Canadian Curling Hall of Fame. Hill, a three-time national mixed champion in the early ‘70s, was inducted in 1987.
“So curling runs in my family,” said Wallin, who’s taken in a few ends of the Scotties Tournament of Hearts.
The Rebels bench boss admitted that he did not inherit his grandmother’s curling skills.
“I didn’t. I’ve taken to the curling ice a few times in my life but I certainly didn’t fare as well as grandma did. I stuck to hockey.”
Due to the Scotties, the Rebels haven’t played a home game for almost two weeks and were forced to practice in Penhold this week before departing for Saskatchewan on a four-game trip. But Wallin is anything but sour about being ousted by the Canadian women’s’ curling championship.
On the contrary . . .
“It’s been kind of neat for us,” he admitted.
“We get here in the morning and get some work done and then we’re able to pop upstairs and take in a little bit of curling. It’s kind of nice to have it right outside of the office door. It’s been neat that way.
“And the city seems to have really embraced it. There is a buzz here for sure and the crowds seem to get a little bigger every day, and I’m sure that by the weekend the Centrium will be a pretty happening place.”
Wallin, as he suggested, hasn’t been alone as a Rebels viewer.
Several players have been spotted on the concourse, watching the female curlers as much out of curiosity as pure interest.
“This is obviously a good thing,” said third-year forward Turner Elson, who understands the financial benefits of hosting a national championship.
“A lot of fans come to this event. It’s a big sport in Alberta and hopefully Alberta wins it. But it’s a good thing and we don’t mind going to other places to practise.”
Teammate Marc Mackenzie admitted he’s never set foot on curling ice, and probably never will. At the same time, he’s convinced that Elson would make a fine competitive curler.
“I think he could huck that rock pretty far. I think he’d be a phenomenal curler,” said Mackenzie.
The Edmonton-born and Kelowna-raised forward admitted he’s enjoyed taking in at least some of the sights this week.
“I like the girls who are walking around in those little tight pants. I’m OK with that,” he explained.
When told that Mackenzie had him tabbed as the Rebel most likely to succeed on a sheet of curling ice, Elson understood. Sort of.
“I like to glide so maybe I’d glide all the way through a game because I’m a lazy player,” he offered.
Elson insisted that he really isn’t that much of a curling fan.
His knowledge of the game is limited, at best, and he’s never participated in the sport.
“I’ve never played or even watched it much. I was more or less focused on hockey while growing up,” he said. “But if my parents had put me into a curling game I would have started getting into it because you don’t use much effort.
“And maybe I would be good at it. I think I’d have a smooth toss to the little circle . . . even get it in the middle maybe.”
While Mackenzie identified Elson as a potential curler, Elson turned around and suggested that Chad Robinson would be a likely candidate to nominate as the team’s No. 1 fan of the sport.
“Definitely Robo, just because he’s from Manitoba and he’s a little bit of a lazy guy,” said Elson.
“He likes to sit down and watch curling whenever he can.”
Elson, it was noted, used the term ‘lazy’ more than once when speaking of the sport. Is he suggesting that curling is a lazy-man’s . . . er, lazy-women’s game?
“Oh no,” he insisted.
“You can tell it’s not, you have those big things and you have to slide up and down the ice with one foot. It’s probably a tough sport with a lot of skill involved.”
Rebels netminder Patrik Bartosak tweeted earlier in the week something to the effect of curling being the worst sport he’s ever viewed.
Again, Elson was understanding of Bartosak’s view, given that he hails from the Czech Republic.
“Guaranteed Johny’s the same way,” said Elson, in reference to Rebels Swedish power forward John Persson.
“Those Euros don’t know much about any sport but hockey and soccer, any maybe cricket. But that’s OK.”