Team Spencer a Scotties family affair

Skip Barb Spencer throws a rock during the 2019 Manitoba Scotties Tournament of Hearts at the Gimli Recreation Centre in Gimli, Man., on Thursday, Jan. 24, 2019. (Adam Peleshaty/Interlake Spectator/Postmedia Network)

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Three-time Manitoba women’s curling champion Barb Spencer has skipped numerous players — including her sister Darcy Robertson — over three decades at the elite level. As she stepped onto the ice in Gimli for the Manitoba Scotties Tournament of Hearts, the 52-year-old Manitoba Curling Hall of Famer was competing with three teammates she has known their entire lives.

For the second straight year at the women’s curling provincials, Spencer has teamed up with her three daughters: Katie at third, Holly at second and Allyson at lead. Unlike last year, Barb’s husband Jim, a former Brier champion, has joined the team as their coach, completing the family affair.

“It kind of just came into place,” Barb said to The Interlake Spectator after her team’s win against Joelle Brown on Jan. 24. “When Katie came up from juniors (in 2012), I asked her to come play with me. A couple of years later, Holly started playing with us because she graduated from dental hygiene and we pulled up Allyson after that.”

It will also be the final lineup she will play with.

“I’m not sure how many more years I have. The girls are playing with me until I retire,” Barb added.  “We just love playing together.”

This is the third consecutive season all four of the Spencer women have played together and at last year’s Scotties in Killarney, the team finished third in their group with a 4-3 record. This season, they have had more success, winning the Atkins Curling Supplies Classic last October and placing third at the Manitoba Curling Tour Championship last December.

“I think last year, we spent a lot of time improving. We want to build on that, this year,” Allyson added.

While curling can be business-like at times, the Spencer’s sense of family remains on the ice.

“I think the dynamic is still there a little bit. We’re sisters, this is still our mom and sometimes it is still hard to separate it on ice versus off the ice,” Allyson said. “We’ve been working together for a couple of years now and I think we’re getting better at keeping it separate.”

Barb noted that the field in this year’s event is “tough”, but the depth of the field competing in this year’s Scotties is similar to other provincial championships in year’s past. She hopes this won’t be her last.

“I’m keeping everything open right now. I’ve had some back problems and some knee problems, so I’ve been working hard to rectify those. If I can, I might play another year or two. If not, then this could be my last Scotties.”