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The Eh Game

Scotties 2013: Saskatchewan’s Jill Shumay aims to make a name for herself. And meet an idol.

Don Landry
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Jill Shumay will represent Saskatchewan at The Scotties.

There will be at least a couple of Scotties moments when Saskatchewan skip Jill Shumay feels a little bit like a kid. However, make no mistake, she's in it to win it.

“I certainly would like to make playoffs. Certainly," she reiterates. "And then you reassess after you make playoffs and anything can happen."

Shumay's win in Saskatchewan is characterized as a surprise by many. When you consider that her team beat Stefanie Lawton, Michelle Englot and Amber Holland (twice) on the way to the top of the podium, perhaps we might not be so surprised if she gets that playoff spot at the upcoming Scotties, in Kingston, Ontario.

That's the business end of things. The fun stuff? Slipping on provincial colours and meeting a curling hero.

“It’s still very surreal," Shumay said of her win over Stefanie Lawton in the Sakatchewan women's final. "All the attention and stuff has just been amazing. I don’t know if it’ll actually sink in until we get there and I get that green jacket that says ‘Shumay’ on the back."

"No, I can’t imagine," she chuckled, when asked if she can form a picture of what that moment might be like.

Then there's Draw 9. Tuesday night, February 19th. Saskatchewan versus Nova Scotia.

"I’m really looking forward to meeting Colleen Jones," said Shumay of the legendary former skip who's back playing second for Mary-Anne Arsenault. "She’s amazing. I can’t wait to be on the same sheet of ice as her."

If the name Jill Shumay is not one you've heard before, then you haven't been living and/or curling in northern Saskatchewan. A highly regarded young skip, Shumay decided to step out of the spotlight after, as a 23 year old, she led a team to a 1-6 record at the 1998 Saskatchewan Championship. She played a little front end and a lot at vice, including six years at third for Patty Hersikorn. (Hersikorn will be the team's alternate player at The Scotties)

"I took ten years off skipping and so people forget who you are, right?” she asked rhetorically.

“I just wasn’t in the right mindset to skip any more," Shumay says of her sabbatical from throwing fourth rocks. "Because you’re either the hero or the goat and there’s no in between. I just couldn’t handle it anymore. So I just needed to take a step back. You know, it’s a game and if you’re not having fun, what’s the point?”

In her first year back at skip last season, Shumay took her team of lead Jinaye Ayrey, second Taryn Holtby and vice Kara Johnston to provincials and collected bronze.

“We really surprised ourselves getting third last year," she said. "We thought ‘wow, let’s put a little more work in this season and let’s improve on that."

They did put in a little extra work, hooking up with coach Gene Friesen and getting advice on nutrition and conditioning. If the seventh-seed winners of the 2013 Saskatchewan Scotties raised the eyebrows of many, don't count Shumay and her team among that number.

“We knew," she said confidently. "We knew we could win provincials and that was our goal going into this year. I’m sure that a lot of fans had no idea who were were when we showed up. But, I guess they know us now," she added with a laugh.

So how is it that a woman who'd decided she didn't need the pressure and hassle of being either the 'goat or the hero' become one who's fine with taking that on her shoulders now? Why her re-emergence as a skip?

“I’m more mature," said the 38 year old native of Maidstone, Saskatchewan. "I’ve put it in perspective. I have kids. You know, I have more important things than curling. I love the game, don’t get me wrong. But you have to put everything into perspective and now, if I miss that last one? Oh well, I’ll wake up tomorrow healthy, happy and with a wonderful family. So, you can deal with it."

It's not as though Shumay doesn't feel the pressure now and again. Take her winning shot against Lawton in the final, a hit and stick for one and an 8-7 win.

“Sitting in the hack and the game is in your hands, you’re doing everything you can not to think about that carrot at the end of the stick and to just throw it like another shot. But you know in the very back of your mind that if you miss, people are gonna remember that.”

Shumay didn't miss, although she thought she had.

"I quit watching because as soon as I let go I thought I hadn’t thrown it well. Then I heard Kara yell ‘it’s fine, clean.’ I looked up and thought ‘oh, we’re gonna nose it!"

“It was the most elated feeling ever," she said. "I was kind of in disbelief actually."

That disbelief may vanish - if it hasn't already - the moment Shumay slips on that Saskatchewan green jacket at The Scotties.

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