2012 Scotties Canadian Women's Curling Championship: Day 1

It’s finally here. I’ve been looking forward to this for an entire year. It’s time to volunteer for the 2012 Scotties!

This volunteer experience has been different than my previous curling volunteering gigs with Canadian Curling Association (CCA) events. For the first time I’m not volunteering with the local organizing committee, and I’m not ‘local’. I’m volunteering for the CCA’s Web/IT team as opposed to the Red Deer organizing committee – and I drove the 2hrs south of Edmonton to get there. This means I didn’t attend any pre-event rallies to meet my team or get my uniform. Basically I just showed up.

This wasn’t necessarily the easiest way to volunteer. I was pretty nervous before hand because I didn’t really know what was going on. In fact, I didn’t know what I was going to be doing for the CCA until a couple days ago! My local volunteer contact was very nice though, and made it super easy to pay from afar. She also told me where to go to pick up my accreditation and uniform, so that was that. I will definitely volunteer as a non-local again, and am pretty sure I’m going to Winnipeg in 2013 for the Olympic Trials.

I wanted to get down to Red Deer on Friday to watch the Hot Shots skills competition. It was free, and would be lots of fun to watch live, as it’s not televised. Unfortunately life had other plans, and I had to stay in Edmonton until Saturday afternoon for family circumstances. I finally was able to head out on Saturday afternoon.

I got to Red Deer at about 4 o’clock, but drove right through town! I kept going south to the small town of Innisfail, about 20 minutes south of Red Deer. My awesome Team Wednesday skip has family in Innisfail, and was kind enough to hook me up with a place to stay! It was a wee bit awkward just showing up on someone’s doorstep (“Hi stranger, I’m Lisa, I’ll be sleeping here for the next week…”) but my hosts are super nice and friendly. Their house is huge, so I don’t feel like I’m imposing too much or encroaching on their space. I’m really only here to sleep and shower, plus I hate hotels, and don’t get paid to take holidays so this is a win-win situation all around!

(If any of you out there ever feel like hosting me for a week during an event – like Winnipeg in 2013 - just let me know! I’ll bring homemade cookies. And I wont complain too much about how I miss my cat. Vice versa if anyone wants a place to stay in Edmonton – I live in a shoebox sized one bedroom condo, but the couch is very comfortable if you’re ok with whole cat hair issue. Homemade cookies will be in the freezer in case you’re hungry.)

I eventually made it back to Red Deer and found the event centre. I went to the place the volunteer contact had told me to go to and picked up my uniform. What do you think?

The red jacket is great: it’s lined so it’s warm – and the long sleeve black shirt is thick so it’ll be warm too. But really, white? Who’s idea was it to supply us with see-through white shirts? Anyways, everything is very good quality and fits well so I’m pretty happy with it (and glad I brought shirts to wear under the white one!). I also got some Scotties pins to add to my slowly growing collection of curling pins.

Accreditation was another matter all together. Interestingly enough I didn’t even need to get a photo taken because thankfully I was already in the system (and pretty much look the exact same as last year). No one was sure what access to give me so they gave me green ‘R’ access. I wandered up to the volunteer lounge to see where it was (it’s huge!) and then texted the CCA Web/IT guy to see where I should meet him. First he said I had to get red ‘4’ access so I had to get my accreditation printed again, and no one there at the time knew how to change access permissions so this took awhile. Eventually I was headed to the event office. One of the accreditation volunteers needed a walk so she showed me where to go.

Except we got super lost, as neither of us had any idea where to go! Eventually he had to come find me, but I did get to hear the band in the HeartStop Lounge for a bit (St. James Gate – rockin’ bagpipes, wish I’d heard the whole set)!

My boss for the week is one of the IT guys I met last year at the Continental Cup. First he showed me where their ‘office’ was. Their ‘office’ is an electrical room tucked into the bowels of the arena basement (at ice level, under the stands). It’s a mess of boxes and wires and electrical equipment. It’s cosy. Ish.

(What you can't see is that the table where we work is one big Apple commercial!)

 Then he gave me a tour of ‘backstage’ – the media lounge, media scrum area, event office and media bench (the novelty of hanging out on the media bench and admiring their view hasn’t worn off yet). He introduced me to some of the people who work for the CCA and run the events. The CCA folks I’ve met so far are great people. Some like curling but some don’t – it is a job afterall. And yes, the novelty has worn off for them and I get the impression being on the road for so long during event season is often tiring, but they do a great job of pulling together and putting on these events. I’m so lucky to get to work and hang out with them! I learn so much about the curling world from them, and know I’ll have a great time helping them out this week.

We also talked about what my job would be this week. A few things have changed from last year – they have a new employee who films all the media scrums and tweets/facebooks interesting pieces from the website or photos from around the event, so I wont be doing any of that. If you want to see photos from around the event, be sure to follow me on twitter: @lisamchuk. I am going to live tweet the scores during tiebreakers/playoff, once we get down to 1 or 2 games at a time.

My main job though is going to being writing articles for the CCA website! I get to pretend to be a journalist again! I really enjoyed writing daily recaps during the 2011 Canadian Wheelchair Curling Championship, but this is going to be a bit different. I’m going to put together an article that includes a photo view of something, and then interview different people about their Scotties experience, so it’ll be more human-interest than sports-reporting. I’m pretty nervous, I have minimal interviewing experience (shh, don’t tell the CCA) and I really want to do an awesome job so I can come back and do this again (for like the next 30yrs!).

I took my leave of the office and went and sat in the stands for awhile, and pondered what photo views I could take and who I could interview. Any suggestions? We’re not thinking curlers (although I could if I wanted to, but that’s done properly by the real media, and believe me, there’s a fair number of them there this weekend – most I recognize from their twitter photos – I must really muster up the courage to introduce myself at some point this week!). We’re thinking icemakers, TSN tv guys (maybe the commentators!) or camera men, coaches, fans, volunteers, umpires, other behind the scenes people. Basically, I can interview whomever I want, I just need to tell my handler and he’ll get me access. Cool cool cool. I’ve already got some ideas, so I hope my writing (and more importantly interviewing – ack!) skills are up to it.

 I didn’t really watch much curling, I was mostly catching up on twitter and trying to plot out my week of article topics. I later ran my ideas past my handler, and we wandered around behind the scenes some more to try find the right people to organize Sunday’s interviews. I’ll post a link to all my articles on my blog, but check our curling.ca daily also!

I ended my day hanging around at ice level, and then watching media scrums get filmed while chatting with my handler. I also ‘rubbed shoulders’ so they say with a lot of the pro curlers, the novelty of which also hasn’t worn off yet. One of these days I might even work up the courage to talk to one of them! I made the mistake of heading home right after the draw, and got stuck in the parking lot for awhile while the thousands of other fans tried to get home. Lesson learned, my timing will be much better for the rest of the week!

Though I was only at the venue for four hours, I’ve already met many awesome people – volunteers and staff. Every single person was super nice and friendly. This is the real reason why I take unpaid holidays to go work in cold curling arenas – curling people rock! I can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings. I’m nervous to do my first interview and write up my first article, but I know something awesome will happen and it’ll be amazing.

I think I’m the luckiest curling volunteer out there. Thanks CCA – you’re too good to me!