Team Alberta skip Laura Walker, left, laughs with third Kate Cameron at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Calgary, Alta., Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

Team Alberta skip Laura Walker, left, laughs with third Kate Cameron at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Calgary, Alta., Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

Chelsea Carey finding Hearts success with yet another new team

Carey was initially recruited as Tracy Fleury’s alternate

CALGARY — A Chelsea Carey seven-degrees-of-separation chart might come close to connecting the skip to every curler at the Canadian women’s curling championship.

The two-time national champion has played with a plethora of teammates in recent years. Seven former teammates — six curlers and a coach — are with other teams in Calgary’s curling bubble.

When Tracy Fleury opted not to skip the Wild Card One team at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts, Carey took over a lineup previously skipped by defending national champion Kerri Einarson from 2014 to 2018.

Carey was initially recruited as Fleury’s alternate until asked in January to call the shots for Selena Njegovan, Liz Fyfe and Kristin MacCuish in Calgary.

Carey moved to Alberta in 2015 to form a new team after finishing third with Manitoba in the 2014 Tournament of Hearts.

Not only did Carey win a national title for Alberta with different teams in 2016 and 2019, those teams were newly formed rinks both times.

Fleury’s team is the fourth different roster Carey’s skipped since moving to Alberta.

Curlers switching teams is common, but Carey is a high-calibre skip who has experienced more teammate turnover than six-time Hearts champion Jennifer Jones and two-time winner Rachel Homan.

“It’s worked out pretty good for me,” Carey said. “I’m not super-unhappy about it.”

Carey points out she had the same team for four years, and the same front end for eight, when she curled out of Manitoba.

“You move to a province and you don’t know the people and you try it out and maybe it doesn’t work, so then you have to start again,” Carey said.

“It’s a bit experimental. I played with some players who were close to the end of their careers. If someone retires, that’s not necessarily in my control. That’s just kind of how it’s worked out.”

The Fleury team out of Winnipeg’s East St. Paul Curling Club earned a wild-card entry into this year’s Hearts as the No. 2 team in the Canadian Team Ranking System (CTRS).

So the 36-year-old Carey has Manitoba’s buffalo on her back again at the national championship.

“Manitoba and Alberta are both my homes now, so it feels really cool to wear the bison again,” Carey said.

Carey is proving anew how adaptable she is to new team permutations by skipping Fleury’s rink to three straight wins to start the Hearts.

“You definitely learn to adapt and you also learn different things from different teammates,” Carey said.

“By changing teams a bunch, you learn to get comfortable with new teammates pretty quickly.”

Carey topped Pool B at 3-0 on Sunday. Sarah Hill of Newfoundland and Labrador was 2-0.

Manitoba’s Jones, Quebec’s Laurie St-Georges and Prince Edward Island’s Suzanne Birt were all 2-1. Saskatchewan’s Sherry Anderson was 1-1.

British Columbia’s Corryn Brown, New Brunswick’s Melissa Adams and Nunavut’s Lori Eddy were winless.

Alberta’s Laura Walker was also 3-0 heading into Sunday night’s Pool A draw, but her team lost 6-5 to Ontario’s Rachel Homan.

Team Canada’s Kerri Einarson defeated Northern Ontario’s Krysta Burns 12-4 late Sunday. Einarson and Homan are the only undefeated teams left in Pool A at 3-0.

Nova Scotia’s Jill Brothers defeated Wild Card Three’s Beth Peterson 8-5 to improve to 2-2, while Peterson has fallen to 1-3.

Wild Card Two’s Mackenzie Zacharias earned their first win after defeating Yukon’s Laura Eby 15-3. Yukon now falls to 0-4 while Wild Card Two improved to 1-2.

Kerry Galusha of Northwest Territories is at 1-1.

Before her first game in Calgary, Carey hadn’t thrown a competitive rock since last year’s Hearts in Moose Jaw, Sask.

She was without a team when hers disbanded following a 5-6 run as Team Canada in Moose Jaw.

Her former third Sarah Wilkes is curling for Homan in Calgary, while front end Rachel Brown and Dana Ferguson are Walker’s lead and alternate respectively.

The combination of the COVID-19 pandemic and a seven-month-old daughter with a medical condition prompted Fleury to sit out this championship.

“We’re so fortunate that Chelsea was available with her experience and her availability,” said Fleury’s coach Sherry Middaugh. “It’s such an unusual situation with Tracy’s daughter’s health issues.

“We’re very fortunate that Chelsea is able to come on and lead the team — knowing that it’s still Tracy’s team.”

— With files from Gregory Strong

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 21, 2022.

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