Sunday, October 30, 2011

Who's a club curler?

The Ontario rep for the Dominion championship was declared over the weekend and it’s a name you might recognize – Greg Balsdon, the same guy who lost the Ontario men’s final to Glenn Howard last February.

Understandably, that’s created some uproar. How can a guy get to the Ontario final and still play in the Dominion, a competition that’s supposed to be for the club curler?

The answer might be contained in a post on by one of the players on Balsdon’s team, Jordon Keon. He points out that the team easily meets the rules of the competition which state that no more than one player on the team can have been to a provincial final or played in a Grand Slam in the last four years. Yes, Balsdon plays at a higher level but the other three are club curlers, albeit very good club curlers. They also won the Energizer, the big city of Toronto event for club curlers.

But as Keon points out, a year earlier, the same team lost out early on in the zone playdown (we happened to be one of the teams that beat them). I was in the zone playdowns again this year and I heard some grumbling from other players in the playdowns about Balsdon being there (actually Sunday morning he was only half there -- he slept in and missed the first few ends of his game!). One chap suggested that Balsdon should “know better” and should never have entered. Hmmmm. I think there was a full vine of sour grapes in the Granite Club by Sunday for some folks.

But it’s hard to fault him (or any of the other competitive players who entered; Balsdon wasn’t the only notable competitive curler in the event in Ontario) when his team meets the qualifications. I had no problem with them being there.

So really, if there’s an issue here, it’s in the Dominion’s definition of a club curler as Keon also points out. I don’t know how you make a rule that clearly defines the difference between a club curler and an elite curler as long as a player such as Balsdon plays in a club. Do you want to rule out every competitive curler instead of making an allowance for one? That might be the only alternative.

For now, some people really need to relax. It’s just a game. Balsdon met the rules of the competition, he and his team won the playdown. Good luck to Team Balsdon at the Canadian final. 

Friday, October 28, 2011

More on the rules

I heard back from Doug Bakes, the head of the Ontario Curling Association, in response to the blog I posted last week about the Rules problem we experienced playing The Dominion. You can read about the problems here.

Here's what Bakes told me:
 " . .. . . let's quickly visit the rule that you have made mention of that states " . . . teams will conduct a coin toss to determine choice of stone colour or first practice." The OCA Rules Committee meets annually to consider all the rule suggestions that we get over the course of a curling season. This particular section was put into place for the coming season as a result of a number of requests from players of all skill levels that preferred the skill based opportunity to decide last stone advantage as opposed to the traditional coin flip. As the OCA does not have on ice officials at zone, region and some provincial events, the OCA Executive passed the guidelines mentioned in # 3 under Pre-Game Team Meeting & Practice section in the OCA Rules Supplement that would have the players do the measuring.  "If the Rules Committee considers the guidelines currently in place to be a wording error, then they can quickly make a recommendation to the OCA Board and Executive to consider approval of an adjustment such as " . . . choice of stone colour or choice of practice." A change could potentially be in place prior to the start of zone playdowns for a number of events in November. The Dominion Curling Club Provincial event  to be played this weekend is not effected as colour is pre-determined for the round robin pool games."

As I mentioned, it wasn't that big a deal with us knee-sliders in the zones, but it's obviously an error, one the OCA should deal with quickly in the manner Bakes describes. 

Anyone have any similar wacky Rules experiences out there? And what rule would you change if you could?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Slam heads to PEI for rich finale

The official announcement of the Grand Slam’s Players Championship heading to Summerside, PEI, was made yesterday, with the city putting up $100,000 to get the event.

In the Summerside Journal-Pioneer (the story is here), Kevin Albrecht, the  president and CEO of iSport Media and Management which operates the event, and a guy who has done a lot for curling over the years, says this will be the largest cash haul in in the game.

“This is the largest prize purse in the history of curling. This is $370,000 on the line,” added Albrecht.

OK, so technically he’s right (as far as my memory serves me), but then his argument kind of falls away with the next line in the story.

Prize money includes a $100,000 purse for the men, a $100,000 purse for the women pluse $170,000 for the season-ending Capital One Cup.

OK, so I quibble a bit with the math and whether it’s a record but in any event, it’s still a boot full of money. And all the lobster you could want to eat! Woot, woot!


Another year and another calendar with the girls of curling. 

Paul Wiecek has a nice story on Kaitlyn Lawes and her decision to pose.

"This isdefinitely out of my comfort zone," said Lawes, who was photographedwearing a cocktail dress. "But I like how you can choose your own photosand how you want to be represented. And it's all for a good cause."

Nice that they're all classy these days and everything, but is it just me or does it seem as if the calendar has Jumped The Shark? Yawn. 

Oh, and have we ever seen a number that's been raised for charity through the calendar sales? Just asking. 


 Wiecek also has a great story on the logjam that’s building up in Manitoba women’s curling. Three great teams, one berth in the nationals. 

There has perhaps never been the kind of depth in Manitoba women's curling that we see today, and the current situation is reminiscent of the days when Manitoba men's curling was dominated by the Big Three of Kerry Burtnyk, Jeff Stoughton and Vic Peters.
The provincial final might be as good as the Scotties. Heck, it might be better. Cathy O, Jennifer Jones and Chelsea Carey are all playing well, with Cathy's team really in high speed at the moment.


The Cactus Pheasant spiel starts today in Brooks, Alta. Break out the nose plugs. A story on the field from the local bugle. 

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Team Martin: Up Against The Wall

In the old days when someone told you your picture was on a wall, it used to mean you were wanted, as in your pic on the post office wall.
But Kevin Martin’s team has been immortalized on the walls of the Avonair Curling Club in murals commissioned by the city of Edmonton. It’s a very nice honour for the boys, and for Martin especially as this CTV story points out:
Martin said it was especially touching because he got his start at the curling club."I made ice here. My dad made ice here. My great grandfather made ice here," he said, "It's pretty cool."
You can see the murals by clicking here. And maybe I’m crazy, but in the one with the medal presentation, doesn’t Johnny Mo look a little like Pauly D?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Who's No. 1?

So which is the best curling team in all the land? It's the Mike McEwen rink, according to the the World Curling Tour money list and the Canadian Team Ranking System. McEwen passed Kevin Martin for top spot with a win at the Canad Inns Prairie Classic. The Winnipeg Free Press eventually gets around to talking about this achievement.

"We were talking after and this is our fifth year as a team. We've had some big mountains to climb but we just realized that we're now the No. 1 ranked team in the world," McEwen said, noting the Portage win put the team at the top of the World Curling Tour money list, the Order of Merit list and the Canadian Team Ranking System. "We've come a long way and, even though we still haven't been able to get that Manitoba championship, we're pretty happy with the direction the team is going."

So how long do you think the team can stay there?


In case you hadn't heard (OK, I think everyone has already heard) Wayne Middaugh is  playing third for Glenn Howard this year. Turns out he hasn't spent much time at third. I simply can't believe that he never let Sherry skip in any of those mixed events they played in!

"For me, I've only played four spiels at third in my life, so I'm still going through a learning curve and trying to catch up to where these guys already are."


Wow. Renee Sonnenberg is 40? I feel really old this morning (Sorry, Renee). The veteran skip won a biggie and is feeling sharp once again, she says.

Sonnenberg won the 1999 and 2001 Alberta titles, but had lost five finals since then.“That’s a long time now and it’s time to go back,” said Sonnenberg, 40. “So, this was a good thing for us to feel like we might break through and give us the confidence that we can play with all the big teams again.”

Monday, October 24, 2011

Team Martin at the Granite Club

So this is pretty cool. The Granite Club, the home of the first 13 Briers and 14 in all, is going all out for its Men's invitational spiel. It's bringing in Team Martin for the event. 

Now all you who regularly play in that shouldn't worry -- they're not playing, they're just doing an up close and personal session one night. I say just, but really, how many men's spiels would go to this extent and, presumably, expense to bring them in. Last year, they brought in Ray Turnbull, Terry Braunstein and had Vic Rauter serve as MC and host. It was a huge success. This has the makings of another great evening. 

And it's actually open to anyone who wants to attend. The details are on the poster below but realizing it's a bit small, the event is Nov. 10 at the Granite Club starting at 6:15. Dress code is smart casual and tickets are $35 which includes parking and a drink. Call 416-446-4462 for details. 

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Rules and how to interpret them

OK a short blog here and for which I’m looking for feedback. This weekend, I’ve been playing in the Dominion Regional playdowns (yes, your humble servant is a club champion!). One of the new rules introduced this year for any competition leading to a national championship is that you flip a coin before the game with the winner of the flip getting choice of rocks or practice.
At least, that’s what I’m sure it was supposed to be.

Here’s what the rule reads: “. . . teams will conduct a coin toss to determine choice of stone colour or first practice.”

Now what we were told was that the winner of the toss gets a pick of either rock colour or first practice. And the loser gets what’s left.

So let’s say Team A wins the toss. It chooses red rocks and therefore automatically gets second practice (which I believe is preferable). The loser of the toss, Team B, gets no say in anything (unless, of course, the winner of the toss picks first practice) and has to take first practice. Whoever wins the toss also can’t select second practice.

Does that seem right? Shouldn’t the scenario be winner of the toss gets choice of rocks or practice the loser gets choice of what the winner doesn’t select.

I tried to argue this with the volunteer official but she said, no, the loser of the toss gets no selection.

What do you think? Is this a misinterpretation of the rule? Or is the rule just stupid?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Middaugh on a roll

Sherry Middaugh and her team are on a roll like no other squad -- men or women -- in the land. The rink already has three big wins this young year, with the third coming at the Southwestern Ontario Women's Spiel.

Longtime curling reporter Steve Green of the London Free Press asked Middaugh the obvious question about her early success in this article:
"Never," she said if she'd ever started a season this well. "But then again, I've never played this much so early before, either. To have five events midway through October is something else; most clubs have only just got their ice in."
One of those clubs that has yet to put its ice in is the Charlottetown Curling Club, home of the runner-up rink of Suzanne Birt. Her team was 17 days between throwing rocks before it arrived in London. That's tough.

Meanwhile, over on the men's side, there are a couple of big events coming this weekend. In Kamloops, the Crown of Curling gets underway Friday and the chairman told the local media thinks his event might be the oldest going.

“This event is the longest-running curling event, we think, in Canada,” said bonspiel chairman Len Bosch.
“This is a longtime event and we want it to get better and continue.” 
I'm assuming he means longest-running cash/competitive event. Anyone know any different?

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

No surprises for Overton-Clapham

I caught up with Cathy Overton-Clapham yesterday just before she hopped on a plane to head home to Winnipeg with the hardware and cheque from the year’s first Grand Slam.

I asked Cathy O if she was surprised that her young team managed to wade through the elite field of the Curlers Corner Autumn Gold Curling Classic in Calgary.

“I don’t want to say we were surprised,” she stated. “I think we’re really pleased. Winning any Slam is a great achievement.”

Overton-Clapham has suited up this year with the youthful squad of Breanne Meakin, Jenna Loder and Ashley Howard. If nothing else, the team has good curling genes with both Meakin and Howard being the daughters of world champions Rob and Russ respectively.

But clearly they’ve found a bond early in the year that’s allowed them to win one of the biggest titles in curling.

“We made good shots all weekend,” said the veteran skip, who knocked off Shannon Kleibrink’s team in the final. (It was sans Kleibrink, who is rehabbing after kidney surgery – third Amy Nixon was calling the shots and throwing last rocks.)

Overton-Clapham was clearly reveling in the results, and beating the top teams in the world, but also in the excitement she saw in her front end.

“Everything is new to them,” she chuckled. “Ashley is in awe every time she steps on the ice and sees all these curlers she grew up watching.

“They’re going through this all for the first time so it’s fun to watch.”

Overton-Clapham, 42, said it reminded her of being on the ice with Connie Laliberte when she was starting out her competitive career. Like them, she was wide-eyed but still focused on execution. And she added that there aren’t any problems with the age difference, either on the ice or off (that was after pointing out to me that she wasn’t “that old.”)

They’re on the same page when it comes to commitment to the game and they don’t have to fight over what music is playing in the car on the way to the rink.

You can't help but like Cathy O's enthusiasm for the game and her delight for how her new team has come together so quickly. She is effervescent when she talks about their performance and of how she's excited for the year ahead. 

The team is coached by Rob Meakin and when he’s unavailable, Russ Howard steps in as he did on the weekend at the Slam. Overton-Clapham says they help build confidence with the girls, providing assistance with everything from matching rocks to post-game debriefs.

And, she added with a smile, she only had to tell the talkative Russ to stifle it once over the weekend.
Overton-Clapham is hoping to add another Manitoba title to her list of laurels – she is the defending champion, after all – and spent the summer working out as part of her goal. She stated that she is feeling no aches or pains and avoided the traditional cortisone shot that usually accompanies the start of a season.

The campaign is still young and there’s more cash on the line, but for her and her young charges, this year is all about getting back to the Scotties and a shot at another national title. So far, they’re off to a great start. 

Monday, October 10, 2011

TSN the right spot for curling

At the risk of showing some obvious bias, I thought it was great news for everyone that the Canadian Curling Association and TSN signed along-term deal for curling coverage in Canada.

The two inked a deal that will see the major curling events on TSN through the 2019-2020 season.

Now you may say what’s the big news about that? After all, we’ve come to expect curling on TSN. It goes together like pebble and ice. It would be sacrilegious to see it somewhere else.

But these days, the landscape in sports broadcasting has changed. Right now there is a battle between Sportsnet (Rogers) and TSN (Bell) as the two try to lock up rights to various sporting championships, not only for television but all media – digital, mobile and more.

Why the big battle? These days, sports broadcasting is appointment broadcasting. With the advent of DVRs, sports is one of the few things people will sit down and watch live or when it’s first aired. So sports makes money.

As far as curling goes, the guy heading up Rogers Media these days is Keith Pelley, a former producer of curling on TSN. You can be sure he knew the value of curling as a sports property. While I doubt that Sportsnet made any serious play for curling, I’m sure there was interest.

So now you can expect to see TSN roll out lots of extras in its curling coverage. First is a big beef up of the French broadcasting, with Guy Hemmings providing the analysis alongside Michel Lacroix. And look for lots more in the mobile and web areas. You’ll be able to watch the Tim Hortons Brier and Scotties Tournament of Hearts on your cel phone and on your computer. And is it possible curling play-by-play may return to the radio? TSN has radio stations in Toronto, Winnipeg and Montreal which might be good places to air a national final.

There’s lots on this deal to be finalized, I’m told, in terms of specifics of coverage but it seems that both parties – the CCA and TSN – are pretty happy with it all.