Scotties Tournament of Hearts: 98-year-old curling fan thrilled to attend first Scotties

The Eh Game

Viola Braden isn't your typical curling fan. At 98 years old, she isn't even your typical senior citizen.

Braden was in the crowd Tuesday in Kingston, watching her first Scotties Tournament of Hearts.

She loved every minute of it, from the moment the piper escorted the teams on the ice until the final rock was thrown. A particular highlight was watching the rink from Nova Scotia, with her favourite player Colleen Jones playing second, win their first game of the tournament.

Braden had attended several Briers, but had never been to a Scotties before. She made the trip to Kingston from her home in Keene, Ont., along with friends Betty Kichler and Lynda Bolton.

She paid close attention to the draw, casting an experienced eye over the action on all four sheets of ice.

"I have been watching all the different rinks," she said. "I just like to see them make a good shot.

"I think they are doing a super job. It's very nice to be here."

Braden knows a little bit about the sport, having played 54 years herself.

"I loved it when I was playing," she said. "I always liked going to bonspiels, everything pertaining to curling."

Braden began curling in 1950 when the first curling rink was built in Keene, which is near Peterborough, Ont.

"They have a lot better ice (now) than they we used to have," she said. "We used to have natural ice. You had to deal with the weather."

A warm day outside made "the ice tougher," she said. "You welcomed cold weather."

Braden skipped her own rink, taking it to the Southern Ontario Ladies Curling Association playdowns at Sarnia in 1974.

"I was a long time ago," she said with a smile.

When she turned 90 Braden retired from curling but was asked to return to skip at a local bonspiel. Her rink won.

Two years ago the Keene Curling Club celebrated its 150th anniversary with an outdoor bonspiel played on the Indian River. Braden had a starring role.

"They asked me to throw the opening rock," she said. "They named me skip for the day. It was a fun day."

Jones, who is making her 21st appearance at this week's Canadian women's curling championship, has always been one of Braden's favourite.

"It's nice to see her back," said Braden. "I always liked watching Colleen. At first it was because it was nice to see somebody from Eastern Canada win."

Jones, who is 53, was astonished to learn she had a fan almost twice her age.

"That's awesome," Jones said after Nova Scotia defeated the N.W.T/Yukon 10-7. "I hope when I'm 98 I'm going to a Scotties and watching. I think that's terrific somebody would take the time.

"I just love seeing that kind of spirit, of just wanting to keep going out and living life."

Bolton purchased the Scotties tickets as a Christmas present for Braden. Kichler remembers Braden's reaction when told she was going to see her first Scotties.

"She jumped up and said 'awesome.' "

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