Over her career, Chelsea Carey has had plenty of good fortunes with first year teams.
In 2016, the skip won her first Scotties Tournament of Hearts title during her first season with the Alberta-based rink of Amy Nixon, Jocelyn Peterman and Laine Peters.
Fast forward three years later, Carey captured her second Canadian championship and once again it was during her first year with a new foursome as Sarah Wilkes, Dana Ferguson and Rachel Brown joined Carey atop the podium in Sydney, N.S., after a thrilling extra end victory over Team Rachel Homan.
Now in 2021, the 36-year-old is competing at her sixth career Scotties with an entirely new rink. Carey was a free agent this season after her team disbanded following last year's Scotties in Moose Jaw, Sask. However, Tracy Fleury's rink, who are representing Wild Card 1, were in need of a shot caller in Calgary after Fleury made the decision to stay home with her young daughter, Nina, who is receiving treatment for a medical condition.
Carey got the call and is skipping Team Fleury of East St. Paul, Man., at this year's Scotties despite having no game action and very little practice time with her new team.
The two-time Scotties champion and her foursome of third Selena Njegovan, second Liz Fyfe and lead Kristin MacCuish got off on the right foot Saturday morning with a 6-3 win over Nunavut and then a 9-2 rout of Manitoba's Jennifer Jones in the evening.
Carey says she was "chomping at the bit" to get back onto the ice after such a long layoff.
"I'm excited as I've been in a long time because of the long break and everything. So that's nice because it can get to the point of burnout when you're playing as much as we normally do in a season. We didn't have that this year. Everyone is chomping at the bit to get going and get on the ice," Carey told the media over Zoom following her opening win.
Njegovan was satisfied with how her team played in their first game with their new skipper.
"We've had a lot of Zoom calls and we've chatted about a lot of different things. Communication," she said. "So we've felt pretty prepared coming in. Obviously things will be different once you're on the ice. I thought it was a pretty good first game."
As for why Carey has so much success with first-year teams, the Winnipeg native isn't sure of the answer, but says attempting to repeat as Team Canada the following year does comes with its own set of challenges.
"I don't know. I think it's a little bit of the honeymoon phase. When I was with my second year with any team I went to the Scotties with, we were Team Canada. And it can be hard to win as Team Canada because you don't get to play in provincials," explained Carey. "So you don't get to come in on a high and you don't get that momentum coming into the event. So I think it has more to do with the second year versus the first year. I think if I had gone back with one of those teams to a third Scotties a couple years later than it might not be the case."
Weagle fitting right in
Jennifer Jones, 46, is back at the Tournament of Hearts for the 16th time and is searching for the seventh Canadian championship of her career, which would surpass Colleen Jones for the most all time.
However, for the first time since 2007, Jones is playing at the national championship without her trusted lead Dawn McEwen, who is pregnant and elected to stay home.
"We do feel like Dawn is with us. Every time we do something funny, we think of Dawn. I feel like Dawn is apart of our team regardless if she's on the ice or not," Jones told the media.
In her place, is three-time Scotties champ Lisa Weagle, who joined Team Jones this off-season after parting ways with Team Homan.
"It feels like we've played with her for years," Jones said of Weagle. "It's really easy. I feel like we communicate really well. There's a level of trust that has already built up."