CBC reporter, curling great Colleen Jones named to Order of Canada

CBC reporter and curling great Colleen Jones has been named to the Order of Canada. (Chris Young/Canadian Press - image credit)
CBC reporter and curling great Colleen Jones has been named to the Order of Canada. (Chris Young/Canadian Press - image credit)

Whether it's been behind a microphone or behind a curling rock, Colleen Jones has always been a trailblazer.

For more than 40 years, Jones has paved a new way for women in sport and broadcasting with her ability to adapt, endure and pivot — it's allowed her to become a champion on and off the ice.

The six-time national champion and two-time world champion was announced Thursday as one of 99 new appointees to the Order of Canada, one of the country's highest civilian honours.

"I was surprised. Really surprised. Didn't see it coming," Jones said from her home in Halifax where she works as a reporter  for CBC. "I'm delighted for curling in general because I think it speaks to the power of what curling can bring to other Canadians. The power of sport. I was just doing what I was doing. It's only in hindsight that you realize you carved a small path."

Another Nova Scotia athlete — NHL star Sidney Crosby — was also named to the Order on Thursday.

Jones, 63, grew up in Halifax as one of nine children. They were a curling family and throwing stones started in early life for Jones.

In 1979, at just 19 years old, she won her first of 16 provincial titles, as well as a silver medal at that year's Canada Games.

When she was 22, Jones became the youngest skip ever to win a Scotties Tournament of Hearts title when she, alongside her sisters Barbara and Monica and Kay Smith, emerged as champions in the 1982 event in Regina.

Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press
Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press

Winning would elude Jones for nearly two decades after that first victory, mostly because she shifted her priorities from curling to career, and eventually motherhood.

Jones became a reporter and broadcaster with CBC in 1986 and two years later joined veterans Don Wittman and Don Duguid on CBC Sports curling broadcasts.

"I think you are always battling a case of nerves and confidence. And then you start learning the magic of handling those nerves in broadcasting and curling. The mic was probably shaking when I walked in to do the broadcast with Wittman and Duguid, who in my mind were legends. They were so welcoming and mentoring for me. It was so inspiring to me," Jones said.

Jones said audiences weren't as welcoming in the beginning.

"It was a real hostile environment for a woman to be on a national broadcast of curling at that time with Don and Don," Jones said. "People were on the fence about it and curlers were very passionate about the way it had always been done so when they brought me on, not in a small way either, there was pushback."

Undeterred, Jones remained on the broadcasts until 1997 and also reported on other sports as well as news. She has reported for CBC at a number of Olympic Games and also co-hosts That Curling Show alongside CBC Sports reporter Devin Heroux.

"Quite frankly the support I got from CBC to go out in the world and chase my dreams was incredible. They opened a lot of paths for me. That was huge."

WATCH | That Curling Show with Colleen Jones and Devin Heroux:

Jones has two boys, Zach and Luke, with husband Scott Saunders, and when her children were grown, she returned to curling  in a meaningful way.

"I have such a strong family support system. Scott has always had my back. Without him in my corner none of this would have happened. Same with my siblings. I curled with my sisters my whole life. And my teammates. They always raised me up no matter what. You never do any of this alone," Jones said.

In 1999, Jones teamed up with Kim Kelly, Mary-Anne Arsenault and Nancy Delahunt, and 17 years after winning her first national title, Jones led the Nova Scotia foursome to glory once again. The team went on to win five national championships in six years, including an unprecedented four straight Scotties.

The time span between national championships is a record.

"The 17-year gap between winning really gave that idea that if you persevere good things can happen," Jones said. "I think that's what our team represented — the possibility. We were never picked to win. We were older in age, I think I was 39 years old. We were career women. We were mothers. And we pulled it all together. It represented a different image of who could win and how they could win."

Jack Mikrut/AFP via Getty Images
Jack Mikrut/AFP via Getty Images

Jones added two world championship titles and also won two Canadian mixed championships and a world senior championship.

She's won some sort of curling national or world championship title in four different decades.

"I was trying to focus on the trifecta which was motherhood, career and curling and trying not to screw up any of it. I never lost that focus. Those were my three things."

Jones continues to curl, mostly competing with Luke in mixed doubles bonspiels.

"To this day people say 'if you could do it, I could do it,'" Jones said. "In everything I've done in my life there's been a critique of performance from broadcasting to curling to being a mother: What am I doing right? What can I learn? And the driver to all of this is that if you're doing what you love, it's easy."

Crosby, widely considered one of the greatest hockey players ever, has won three Stanley Cups and two Olympic gold medals as a member of Team Canada. He famously scored the OT winner at the Vancouver Olympics in 2010.

In 2018, the Cole Harbour, N.S. native was named top Nova Scotia athlete of all time by the Nova Scotia Sport Hall of Fame. Jones was immediately behind Crosby in second spot.

"He's been such an incredible role model in every facet of his life," Jones said.

"He's in a whole other class by himself. Everybody in the province respects him so much. Perfection in every area. He's given back in so many different ways. I knew Sidney from the time he was young because my son played against him. While he was setting his records as a young novice player he did it without an ego."