The fate of Team Galusha was very much up in the air at the end of last season.
Shona Barbour announced she was stepping away from curling following the completion of the Scotties Tournament of Hearts to take a break and focus on the personal side of life, leaving a gaping hole at the lead position.
That problem was solved on April 30.
The team announced on Facebook that they are a team once again as Margot Flemming was introduced as the new lead. Flemming will be making her way to Yellowknife from Ontario as soon as she’s able to do so.
Kerry Galusha, the team’s skip, said she and the other two team members, Sarah Koltun and Jo-Ann Rizzo, wanted to stick together and take a shot at this season.
“We all get along really well and we decided to stick it out for this season,” she said.
The search began in March with the team advertising for a new lead and there were plenty of responses, said Galusha.
The big job was going through the field of candidates.
“It definitely took some time to figure out,” said Galusha. “Our team has name value attached to it so it’s a great opportunity for the right player. One of the big positives is that you have a good chance of getting to the Scotties by going through less teams so people knew it was a good set-up for them.”
In Flemming, the team will be getting a relatively young player who was the second for the Ontario-based rink skipped by Lauren Horton this past season.
Galusha said she also knew what her team was getting in Flemming as the ladies saw her in action last season at a World Curling Tour stop.
“We played against her last year (at the Canad Inns Women’s Classic) in Portage la Prairie (Man.) so we’ve seen what she’s capable of,” she said. “Sarah also curled with her in university so they already knew each other.”
The big thing was getting whoever they chose to commit to moving to the North in order to satisfy Curling Canada’s residency rule for out-of-jurisdiction players. Each rink is allowed one player to be from outside the province/territory they represent and with Rizzo being the current non-NWT player on the team (she lives in Ontario), Flemming had to agree to make her home in the territory.
She did just that and it works out perfectly for Flemming as she’s currently studying for her PhD with a focus on geo-statistical techniques to monitor snow accumulation.
“She picked the perfect spot to come and do it,” said Galusha. “There’s a lab here in Yellowknife, though, so she can continue to study.”
Whether there will be a season in 2020-2021 is still a matter of some conjecture as the COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on sports around the world, including curling. One spot Galusha and company won’t be going to is Portage la Prairie as that stop, which was scheduled for October, has already been cancelled.
Galusha said the lion’s share of events on the tour happen in September and October and she wouldn’t be surprised if everything was canned altogether.
“There’s the (Shorty Jenkins Memorial) in Kingston we’d be missing out on in September and that’s a big one because we had a spot in the tournament already,” she said. “They may cancel everything because the playdowns for the provinces start in December so I wouldn’t be surprised if there was nothing at all this season.”
The exception, she added, would probably be the Grand Slam of Curling events, which are the richest of the bunch and could be played behind closed doors.
“Curling isn’t exactly a sport where you can socially distance,” she said. “If someone gets sick, it can spread like crazy. It’s happened to me in the past so I know what that’s like. The U.S. Club Championships had so many people test positive for COVID-19 so you just don’t know. It’s all wait-and-see right now.”
The good thing is that if curling doesn’t happen for 2020-2021, this will be the line-up for 2021-2022 as all four will be together then as well.
“Margot wanted to make sure of that and we’re in,” said Galusha.