As we near the end of the year, and as most mainstream media ignore curling as part of their year-end lists, I put together my top 10 curling stories of 2008:
1. CRA goes after Wayne Middaugh and friends
This one has actually been going on for some time, but it came to a head in ’08. The Canada Revenue Agency wants to tax the curling winnings of Middaugh and a number of other curlers saying they should be paying tax on the cash. Why is this the No. 1 story? Because if the gang loses, the effect on competitive curling could be devastating. Middaugh is just the test case. As one top-level curler told me: “If he loses, I’m going to have to declare bankruptcy.”
2. Kevin Martin finally wins a world title.
After all those attempts, all those misses, K-Mart finally gets his global crown. Good on him and his team.
3. China finishes second at Women’s worlds
Bingyu Wang and her team scared the heck out of Jennifer Jones and the rest of the women at the Ford World Curling Championships by rolling through the round robin before finally getting derailed in the final. While most of the top teams know how good Rockin’ Betty and her gals are (they train eight hours a day, six days a week, for crying out loud), the rest of the world had its eyes opened. China is now a force in world curling.
4. Glenn Howard wins six straight spiels to start cash season
He’s been in the Brier final the last three years and if there were any thoughts that perhaps he’d peaked, they were wiped away at the start of the ’08 Asham World Curling Tour as Howard along with Hart, Savill and Laing took top cash in six straight events. Howard missed the first one, the Shorty spiel in Brockville, due to a hernia, but Rich took over skipping duties and won.
5. Canadian Mixed held in Iqaluit
The first national sporting championship held in the northern territory, the CCA gets kudos for making the expensive trek to Nunavut. Those who played in it said it was an experience they’ll never forget.
6. CCA ends the year in the black
An impressive combination of belt-tightening and good timing allowed the national governing body of curling to wipe out the big deficit handed to it after some not-so-successful championships and legal costs. The new CEO Greg Stremlaw gets applause for putting some management to the association and Edmonton gets a bigger thanks for coughing up a $900,000 cheque for hosting the Canadian Curling Trials.
7. Passing of Don Wittman and Don Chevrier
Two legends of broadcasting left an indelible mark on the roaring game. Think back to every great championship, every great shot and the voices you hear in your memory bank are those of these two gentlemen. Not only did they put forth the true professional job in covering curling, they both truly had a passion for the sport and it showed in their work. They will be missed.
8. Return of the morning draws on TSN
Not only was this great for fans from coast to coast, but especially for the media covering the events, who could once again wake up in their hotel rooms, usually after a late night in the hostility suite, and watch the action avoiding a trip down to the rink where we spend waaaay tooo much time anyway.
9. Jennifer Jones wins the Canadian and world championship
An impressive performance by this Winnipeg team. Why do they win? Because they’re talented, they’re dedicated and they play to win, instead of not to lose.
10. Brazil announces it will challenge for the Americas spot at the WCC
Brazil? Here I thought the only Brazilian in curling was in that calendar. Now according to those who’ve seen them in action, the squad from Brazil would have a tough time winning the B flight in most steak spiels, but you have to start somewhere and these guys are going to take on the Americans for a spot at the worlds.