The curling kids are coming.
The offspring of some of the biggest names in Canadian curling have landed on the national stage, starting with Kelly Middaugh making her Scotties Tournament of Hearts debut Friday in Kamloops, B.C.
The daughter of decorated curlers Wayne and Sherry Middaugh plays lead for Quebec’s Laurie St-Georges.
Wayne is a three-time men’s world champion. Sherry skipped Ontario to Hearts semifinals four times and also reached the women’s Olympic trials final in 2013.
“I know there’s going to be a lot of people watching to see if I can live up to the family name a bit,” Kelly said. “I get that at pretty much any ‘spiel I go to or any new team I’m on.
“I’ve kind of wrapped my head around it a little bit, but this is such a huge stage. Even people who don’t really watch curling know about the Brier and the Scotties.
“I’m just very excited because going to the Scotties is pretty much any female curler’s dream.”
Six-time Canadian women’s champion Colleen Jones and three-time Hearts winner Cathy Gauthier both have sons making their Brier debuts next month in London, Ont.
Jacques Gauthier will skip B.C. and Jones’ son, Luke Saunders, plays third for Nova Scotia’s Matthew Manuel.
“It’s a new part of my curling journey I never thought I’d have,” Jones said.
Said Gauthier: “I’m still absolutely beaming with pride that he’s not just going to be at the Brier, but skipping at the Brier. It’s mind-blowing to me.”
And there are more familiar names on the horizon.
Canada’s under-18 championship field earlier this month featured the progeny of a pair of Hearts skips: Northern Ontario’s Krista McCarville’s daughter Bella and Northwest Territories’ Kerry Galusha’s daughter Sydney.
Alyssa Nedohin, daughter of national champions David and Heather, played for Alberta.
Canadian and world champion Brad Gushue’s daughter Hayley was an alternate for Newfoundland and Labrador.
“They’ve watched the work you’ve done. They understand the work,” Jones said. “They also understand some of the pain you’ve gone through with the highs and the lows you get from winning and losing.
“It’s a familiar territory and a familiar work ethic for them. I think that’s what your seeing whether it’s the Middaughs, the Nedohins or the Galushas.”
Sherry Middaugh was pregnant with Kelly when she played third for Ontario’s Kim Gellard in the 1999 Hearts in Charlottetown.
She also was pregnant with Emily, also a promising junior curler, the first time she skipped Ontario in 2001 in Sudbury.
The mother will now watch Kelly compete in an environment Sherry knows so well.
“I can tell you right now I’m welling up,” Sherry told The Canadian Press. “You want your children to be healthy, happy and content in their lives.
“Curling was huge for Wayne and I, so to see both girls take it up, and then have success at it, is everything a parent could want and everything a competitive curler could want for their child.”
Jacques Gauthier will skip a team at the national men’s curling championship at the relatively young age of 24.
Many twenty-something curlers in Canada struggle with the transition from the junior ranks to men’s and women’s competitive curling.
In addition to school, new jobs and relationships knocking curling down life’s priority list, the prospect of a lot of lopsided losses to more experienced teams for a year or two further dents motivation to continue.
A parent with a wealth of big-game experience can help bridge that gap, said Cathy Gauthier.
“The biggest quantum difference between juniors and men and women beyond shot making is the shot calling,” she said. “It’s the strategy. These kids have all watched their parents play at a really high level. These kids have all been an immersion program that maybe kids of non-competitive parents just aren’t.
“When I think about Colleen and Sherry, myself or any other top curler, the level of conversations you have with your children, it’s a unique relationship. We don’t just say ‘well, you played well hon.’ It’s ‘in the seventh, did you think about playing board weight on that shot?’ They will actually listen because they know you actually get it.”
Added Jones: “When he asks me if I can hold the broom for him, he knows he’s going to get good information he can trust.
“When you’re in a struggle with your delivery or your thought process and the mental game, that’s where I’m able to give a valuable two cents without giving a full dollar cents’ worth of information. You pick your moments.”
While her parents are synonymous with Ontario curling, Kelly Middaugh joined the St-Georges’ Quebec foursome in part because of geography, but also because she admired the young team.
Montreal is a closer commute from Pembroke, Ont., where she attends Algonquin College, than Toronto.
“My huge goal in curling is to just do better than my parents which is a huge thing to ask for, but we’re a very competitive household,” Kelly said.
“Going to the Scotties at 23, my mom didn’t go to her first until she was around 30, so that’s extra motivation to keep going.”