Saturday, November 30, 2013

Ticket sales slow at the Roar

Sales at the a box office for the Roar of the Rings haven't exactly been purring along. As Paul Friesen points out in his story in the Winnipeg Sun, not a single draw -- not even the playoffs -- is sold out. Winnipeg fans haven't rallied to the cause to watch the best in the business but that's apparently not too much of a worry for the CCA's Warren Hansen:

“We’ve done pretty well here,” Hansen said, Thursday. 
“At the end of the day... I would guess we'll have about 150,000 to 160,000.” 
The 2008 Winnipeg Brier attracted 165,000 fans. The last Trials, in Edmonton, came in around 176,000. 
“It’s pretty hard to compare,” Hansen said. “Because things are much different than they were in 2005. Back in those days we were still selling a lot of weekly tickets. And that has diminished slowly but surely... it’s more opening and closing weekend packages and individual ticket sales. The world has changed. 
“Our demographic is getting older, people have less time and less money.” 
And those old-timers also don't necessarily want to get up out of their La-Z-Boys and traipse down to the arena when they can fire up the telly and watch Vic, Linda and Russ (as well as Ron Burgundy). When your demographic is older and continuing to age, you're not going to get people coming into the building as much. That's nothing new; it's been that way for a while now. In other words, curling is a bit of a victim of its own success, at least as far as television coverage goes.

But the Trials was always supposed to be a little different. It's the best of the best and held once every four years. You'd think there wouldn't be any difficulty in filling the arena, at the very least for the final games. Maybe the fans in Winnipeg want to see who is going to be in those games before forking over their money. Get a Stoughton or a Jones in there, and sales will probably rise.

Curling simply isn't the guaranteed sell out is once was.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Coupling up at the Roar

Paul Wiecek has a fine tale of the four couples that will be competing at the Roar of the Rings starting on Sunday. As he points out, there are four couples in the field: the Nedohins, the Middaughs, the McEwens and the Jones/Laings.

Of course as Wiecek points out, that's the four that we know about. Who knows what might happen by the end of the week. And, of course, over the course of the competition the numbers could fluctuate. You just never know what these crazy curlers are up to.

There will be at least four couples competing among the eight men's and eight women's teams at this year's Roar of the Rings -- Ontario's Wayne and Sherry Middaugh; Alberta's David and Heather Nedohin; Manitoba's Mike and Dawn McEwen (née Askin); and Manitoba's Jennifer Jones and Ontario's Brent Laing. 
We say 'at least' four curling couples because it's not like they keep track of such things in a program somewhere. And this winter has been, after all, unusually cold on the Prairies.
But of the couples who we know about, Dawn McEwen said being in the biggest event of a lifetime while your spouse is doing the same isn't easy. 
"It's hard," says Dawn McEwen, the longtime lead for Jennifer Jones who married her longtime off-ice partner earlier this year. "If this were an event that I wasn't competing in, I'd be at his beck and call -- whatever he needed to perform well. But obviously that's not going to happen. 
"We've talked about it and decided that what's best for us is for both of us to just kind of do our own things next week. We're not even going to watch each other's games at the arena. It's just added stress that neither of us needs. If Mike's game is on TV, yeah, I will watch. But I'm not going to sit in the arena and gnaw my fingers off sitting because I'm so nervous. 
"It's so stressful to watch him play. I'd rather compete myself all day long than have to watch him -- and especially at an event as important as this."

The full piece is well worth the read; it's a human story of these athletes.

Pre-qualifying format a "huge opportunity" says Hansen

The location for the 2015 Scotties Tournament of Hearts was made official this week and everyone was overjoyed to know that they'd be heading to scenic Moose Jaw, home to the Snow Birds and giant murals. 

Along with the location, the announcement included the news (at least it's still probably news for some) that this event will see the change in format for the event. For the first time, it will include a pre-qualifying where the final field will be determined. There will be 15 teams for 12 spots, including a Northern Ontario entry. 

The CCA's Warren Hansen gushed about the format change to the Moose Jaw Times-Herald: 

"I think the change that we are actually going to see 15 teams eligible to participate in the Scotties is a huge milestone," Hansen stated. "It has been discussed for years and we had long, serious discussions two or three years ago and now we can bring it to fruition."The fact that every province and territory, including Northern Ontario, will have an opportunity to participate is a huge breakthrough."

Which I'm sure is exactly what they're thinking in Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador.

Starting in 2015, the last-place finisher from 2014 will go into a pre-event qualifier along with Northern Ontario and two Territories entries. They'll play for the last spot into the 2015 field. The other three teams will be given a bag full of tokens for the Heart Stop Lounge. 

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Ron Burgundy ditches Veronica Corningstone for Jennifer Jones

A few members of the Jennifer Jones rink out of Horseshoe Valley  Winnipeg stepped up and sung the praises of Ron Burgundy who will be calling the women's draw from the Roar of the Rings on Sunday.

The Winnipeg Sun caught up with the Jones team as it practised prior to the start of the trials. The skipper was all excited that the Anchorman was coming to Winnipeg, Jill Officer felt it might be good for drawing in a younger demographic and Kaitlyn Lawes professed here undying love for the Channel 4 star. You can watch them gush and laugh here. 

Beating the legends

You might think that a guy like Mike McEwen would be happy if the likes of Howard, Stoughton and Martin were already out in the pasture, retired and just sitting back counting their Purple Hearts. That might be especially so as the rinks head into the Roar of the Rings. 

But not so. The talented Manitoba skip told Jim Bender that he'd prefer to win the right to wear Canadian colours at Sochi by beating the best. 

"I'd like to win right now while the legends are arguably still in the game," McEwen said during a practice at the Fort Rouge Curling Club on Monday. "Who knows how long Stoughton, Martin, Howard are going to be here? Maybe not that much longer, so I'd like to win while they're still kickin' it at the top of their game. So, we're going to work our butts off next week."

Meanwhile, Bender has a story on one of those legends, Stoughton who knows that this is likely his last hurrah, a final attempt to go to the Olympics after being oh-so-close before.

Stoughton, 50, will be making his fifth consecutive trials appearance at the Tim Hortons Roar of the Rings that start at the MTS Centre on Sunday. And, barring some unforeseen circumstances, this will be his last shot at earning a trip to the Winter Olympics — the only thing missing on his glorious hall-of-fame resume. 
"It's do-or-die," Stoughton declared Tuesday. "I mean, this is it. The team has put in the effort and the commitment — as have I — knowing that this is my last chance to get there — unless something happens in four years. But I can't see it right now. So, it's exciting and lots of pressure, and we're looking forward to it."

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The pre-amble to the Roar

As we get close to the first rocks of the Olympic Trials, aka the Roar of the Rings (really, do they roar? I mean really?) the stories about the athletes getting uptight or nervous or anxious or excited are starting to come fast and furious. 

Joe Pavia of the Ottawa Sun details the sentiments of the curlers from the capital who will be vying for medals in Winnipeg and, as usual, comes up with a solid lead to his story:

MTS may stand for Much Too Stressful. 
The Ottawa area athletes competing in Winnipeg at the MTS Center in the Tim Hortons Roar of the Rings Olympic trials next week believe that how teams handle pressure will go a long way in determining the winners. 
“I firmly believe that the team that wins will be the one who embraces the pressure of the trials and uses it to fuel their performance,” said Lee Merklinger, Sherry Middaugh’s second, 
Team Middaugh is eliminating as many outside distractions as possible. 
“It’s important that we control what texts/messages/emails we receive. Husbands and boyfriends are great but they can sometimes be critical too,” said the Merlinger. As of Sunday, the phones get shut off. 
Craig Savill of Glenn Howard’s rink said, “I think the team that stays the most level headed is going to come out on top. If we do that we have a great chance.”Rachel Homan, however, feels “It‘s just like any other tournament we prepare for.”
More to come, I can guarantee you!

Monday, November 25, 2013

“Don’t act like you’re not impressed.” Ron Burgundy to call curling

The news has been out for a bit now, but in case you haven't heard, Ron Burgundy is coming to the Roar of the Rings. The famed Channel 4 newsman will join Vic, Russ and Linda in the booth for a game in Winnipeg and also to promote the upcoming Anchorman 2 movie.

Here's the release from TSN on what should be a memorable appearance in the booth.

TSN and the Canadian Curling Association confirmed Sunday that new TSN sportscaster Ron Burgundy will make his Canadian broadcasting debut during the opening day of the Tim Hortons Roar of the Rings on Sunday, Dec. 1 beginning at 2pm et/11am pt. The announcement was made during TSN's broadcast of the 101st Grey Cup. 
Live from Winnipeg, Burgundy will join TSN's fellow "legendary" curling broadcaster Vic Rauter to call live game action during the network's coverage of the Tim Hortons Roar of the Rings opening draw.    
"Marked by the gods of broadcasting and placed into this shimmering green sphere like a golden egg in hay, chosen like an unclean jackal by Noah himself, I accept your hallowed task and sing out with a battle cry worthy of your love and your wisdom," said Burgundy. "And that song is, 'Winnipeg, get ready to paint the town Burgundy!'"  
"It's an honour to work with such an esteemed colleague," said Rauter. "I'm a huge fan of his work. Who are we talking about again?"  
One of the biggest events in Canadian curling, Tim Hortons Roar of the Rings determines which team will represent Canada at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games. TSN has complete coverage of Tim Hortons Roar of the Rings from December 1 through to the finals on December 7 and 8. Ron Burgundy is featured in Paramount Pictures' Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues, opening in theatres everywhere on Dec. 20.

As well, in honour of Ron's Canadian debut, here are the 25 best lines from Anchorman 1:

25. “He had a voice that could make a wolverine purr and suits so fine they made Sinatra look like a hobo.” — Narrator
24. “I immediately regret this decision.” — Ron Burgundy
23. “I’ll have a Manhattan. And kick the vermouth to the side with a pair of steel-toed boots.” — Veronica Corningstone
22. “I love scotch. Scotchy scotch scotch. Here it goes down, down into my belly.” — Ron Burgundy
21. “Oh, I can barely lift my right arm ’cause I did so many. I don’t know if you heard me counting. I did over a thousand.” — Ron Burgundy
20. “Discovered by the Germans in 1904, they named it San Diego, which of course in German means ‘a whale’s vagina.’” — Ron Burgundy
19. “It’s terrible. She has beautiful eyes, and her hair smells like cinnamon!” — Ron Burgundy
18. “Baxter, is that you? Baxter! Bark twice if you’re in Milwaukee.” — Ron Burgundy
17. ” There were horses, and a man on fire, and I killed a guy with a trident.” — Brick Tamland
16. “You are a smelly pirate hooker. Why don’t you go back to your home on Whore Island?” — Ron Burgundy
15. “I read somewhere their periods attract bears. Bears can smell the menstruation.” — Brick Tamland
14. “Well if you were a man, I’d punch you. Punch you right in the mouth.” — Ron Burgundy
13. “I’m very important. I have many leather-bound books and my apartment smells of rich mahogany.” — Ron Burgundy
12. “You look like a blueberry.” — Veronica Corningstone
11. “The human torch was denied a bank loan.” — Ron Burgundy
10. “It is anchorman, not anchorlady. And that is a scientific fact.” — Champ Kind
9. “I would like to extend to you an invitation to the pants party.” — Brick Tamland
8. “[I'll] take your mother, Dorothy Mantooth, out for a nice seafood dinner and never call her again.” — Champ Kind
7. “It’s so damn hot. Milk was a bad choice.” — Ron Burgundy
6. “What? You pooped in the refrigerator? And you ate the whole wheel of cheese? How’d you do that? Heck, I’m not even mad; that’s amazing.” — Ron Burgundy
 5. “Don’t act like you’re not impressed.” — Ron Burgundy
4. “They’ve done studies, you know. 60 percent of the time, it works every time.” — Brian Fantana
3. “I’m in a glass case of emotion!” — Ron Burgundy
2. “You know I don’t speak Spanish.” — Ron Burgundy
1. “I love lamp.” — Brick Tamland

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Anybody want to buy an island?

Ailsa Craig is well known to curlers as the place where rocks come from. At least, the best rocks in the game.

And now, if you're interested, you can own the Island. Yup, it's for sale and has been since 2010. The price has been reduced from $4 million to $2.4 million. But it has nothing of value, according to this slide show from the New York Times.

The island has no inhabitants, no electricity, no fresh water and no arable land -- nothing of value, it would seem. It has been for sale since 2010, the price reduced to $2.4 million from $4 million. 

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Poor attendance at Grand Slam: "average Joe Fan just didn’t want to go"

It wasn't hard to tell by looking at it on TV but the attendance for the latest Grand Slam event in Medicine Hat was pretty pitiful. In the Medicine Hat News, writer Darren Steinke points out that the final was up agains the CFL Western final with the Roughriders playing, but that wasn't the only reason why no one showed up. 

While you can come up with all sorts of theories of why the average attendance at (sic) might have been around 500, it seems people might just be forgetting that the average Joe Fan just didn’t want to go. 
Dating back to 2004, attendance for major curling events held at The Arena has been on a steady decline.In the 2004 Continental Cup of Curling, the 4,006 seats at The Arena were almost full for every draw with an average attendance of 3,847. The 2007 Continental Cup saw an average of 2,950 spectators attend each draw. Just three years later in 2010, the average attendance for the Canada Cup of Curling was 1,820. 
While attendance figures weren’t released for the Canadian Open, it was obvious to see it had a lower average attendance per draw than the proceeding three previous big events.

Comparing the Grand Slams to the CCA events is tough as the CCA can use advertising time on its broadcasts to cross promote. But as Steinke points out, it seems the Slams have attendance difficulties wherever they go.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Bald is beautiful on the curling ice

Let’s all admit it: we’ve thought this for a while. Being bald is advantageous to curling. Now the Medicine Hat News, which is providing coverage of the Canadian Open Grand Slam event, has put our thoughts into words with a nice nugget on the follicly challenged rock-tossers who are at the top of the game. In fact, writer Bruce Penton got Glenn Howard to admit that there’s a reason to the lack of hair:

 “It’s stress,” said Howard, the Ontario skip who has four world titles (two as skip) to his credit. “The stress we have to put up from the front end day after day is the reason has to be,” saidHoward. “It’s hard to live with that every day. And you can quote me on that.” 

Over at the Canadian Mixed (which is apparently still being held these days for what reason, I'm not sure), Joe Pavia has some notes including a good one on Quebec skip Mike Fournier and his great blog.

Just before he came to Ottawa he published 'Great and Powerful Curling Gods -- Hear my Prayer! I would offer to sacrifice a virgin in your honour but I am not likely to find one at a Mixed Nationals.' Fournier's blog can be read at

And in case you didn’t get the news yet or hear Ian Tetley yelling, Erika Brown and her rink won the U.S. Women’s trials and will represent the Americans in Sochi.

''We all wanted to get back there, that's for sure,'' Brown said. ''Everyone played so great all week, but the last three games we really played the best we could when we needed to.''

Meanwhile the men’s event will need a third game after Pete Fenson defeated John Shuster in the second match of a best-of-three final on Saturday. The two teams will meet on Sunday for all the marbles and Fenson isn’t worried.

“We’ve been through it lots of times,” Fenson said. “My team handles these big games really well. I never worry about them. I know they are going to show up, and I know they’re going to be relaxed.”

And the Tweet of the Day goes out to Brad Jacobs who got an early morning wake up call. 

Monday, November 11, 2013

U.S. curler enjoys hot sax

There are lots of great stories coming out of the U.S. Olympic Trials as they play out this week in Fargo, N.D. Here's one about Martin Sather who plays second for Heath McCormick, the 2012 U.S. champions and one of the favourites to win the trials. 

What you may not know, is that Sather is a top saxaphone player who plays with a band in a high-end bar in Manhattan. This story in USA Today profiles the second

Martin Sather finishes a solo on I've Got the World on a String and steps back from center stage. Between songs, band leader Brian Newman introduces him. "He's not only a great saxophone player, but he's an Olympic curler," Newman pauses, then adds, "No joke." The rest of the show, full of jazzy standards, goes on at the Rose Bar.With that introduction, is Sather's cover blown? His dual life -- curler by day, jazz musician by night– now revealed? "I don't think anyone paid attention so it was fine," Sather said after Tuesday night's show ended. "I don't think they processed that information at all."

Of course the bar where Sather plays isn't likely to attract many curlers -- it definitely isn't the Patch. But there are a few similarities between what he does with his Alto and his broom.

The two worlds rarely collide. Teammate Dean Gemmel describes Sather as "generally pretty quiet" and knows little about Sather's music career.As dissimilar as his two passions seem, Sather finds a common thread. Both require repetition, constant practice and focus."When you're making a shot it's kind of like playing a solo," he says. "You can't be thinking about anything. You have to trust your instinct and the process that you practice, so in that way it's really parallel." 
The story is definitely worth a read.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

U.S. men start trials but not guaranteed a spot in the Games

Can you imagine the Olympics without the Red, White and Blue men in the field? 

Well, start thinking about it because, in case you weren't aware, the American men aren't among the nations who will head to Sochi to battle in the men's curling event. 

This article from NBC Sports explains the situation currently facing the American men, who start their Olympic Trials today in Fargo, N.D.

Ten nations make up the Olympic curling field. The host nation, Russia, is automatically in. The top seven nations combining results from the last two World Championships also qualified.
The U.S. was eighth in those standings and therefore placed in the Olympic Qualification Event with seven other nations. The top two from the Olympic Qualification Event will earn the final spots at the Sochi Olympics.
The U.S. is favored to take one of those two spots given it’s the highest-ranked nation in the Olympic Qualification Event field (eighth) and has qualified into every Olympic curling tournament since the sport returned to the Games in 1998.
I can hear the folks at the WCF offices already planning some sort of intervention to make sure the Americans get in, maybe fast-tracking U.S. citizenship for the loser of the Canadian Olympic Trials or something. An Olympics without the U.S. would be a huge blow for the grass roots exposure of the sport. 

Morris, Sonnenberg move on, Fenson still making pizzas

John Morris is back in the Olympic Trials and apparently he was stunned, stunned I tell you, to learn that his old skip is there too. Yes, the Morris team’s victory over Brad Jacobs in a game that will be remembered for some positively awful shotmaking, sent the Kelowna/Calgary team on to the trials in Winnipeg, where Morris will face off against Kevin Martin as he told the London Free Press.

“Is he in that bonspiel?” Morris joked. “I’m sure we’ll have a great match against Kev. We’ll both be gunning for each other and that was a tough break at the end of last year, but it had to happen. I’m sure we’re going to have a barnburner.” 

Also advancing to the big shootout was Renne Sonnenberg, who may be the only person to state that she’s excited about going to Winnipeg in December. But she did qualify that statement in this CP story.

"Being able to go to Winnipeg is great,but just to finally put together a great game and totally enjoy the moment and be relaxed in a really high-pressure situation is what I'm most proud oft oday," said Sonnenberg, who will be making her Trials debut after representing Alberta at two Scotties Tournaments of Hearts. "I love curling in Winnipeg (she won her only Grand Slam event there in 2011), and on arena ice, in front of a huge crowd against those phenomenal teams — it's what every curler dreams of."


Meanwhile, in other curling news, Rob Schlender is back as a hired gun, according to this article in the Calgary Sun. He’s taken over skipping duties from Aaron Sluchinski in a retooling of that squad. You remember Sluchinski? He was the guy who upset Kevin Koe at the Alberta playdowns last year.

Only a couple months after the biggest win of his career — a shocking defeat of Kevin Koe at the Alberta championships — the Airdrie skip decided his team needed to shake things up if it was going to take the nextstep and consistently compete with the province’s top teams.Enter Robert Schlender, a 41-year-old skip with more than 20years of World Curling Tour experience to his name.“He’s had lots of success in the past with what I consider weak teams,” said the 26-year-old Sluchinski. “I thought if we added some strength in the front we’d be pretty deadly.”

The article lists Schlender’s biggest curling moments as wins in the 2006 Shoot-Out and the ’93 Drayton Valley Classic. Hmmmm. . .


And the U.S. Pizza Making Olympic Curling Championships get under way this week with lots of eyes on the Delivery Man, Pete Fenson. The bronze medalist from 2006 Games poses as a mild-manner pizzeria owner when he’s not tossing rocks for the Red, White and Blue. There’s a nice story on this nice guy in the Minnesota StarTribune:

He looked as cool as he had the night before,when even a 500-degree pizza oven couldn’t make him sweat. Outside the rink,the Bemidji native is caretaker to a slice of hometown history, kneading dough and taking orders at 55-year-old Dave’s Pizza. This week, he will take a break to pursue another, when his team competes at the trials in Fargo, N.D., for a berth in the 2014 Olympics.

And Fenson is a local hero in his hometown. Just ask his employees.

“I like to tell people, ‘My boss is a bronze medal Olympian,’ ’’ said assistant manager Eric Sundem, who has worked atDave’s Pizza for 8½ years. “How many people can say that?’’ 
Exactly Eric. The story is a good read and a good look at how curling in the U.S. still struggles to get a toe-hold outside certain areas such as Bemidji.

Friday, November 8, 2013

The Pre-Roar Day 3 Clippings

First up, here’s the rundown from Canadian Press of what’s going on in Kitchener at the Ontario tankard pre-Roar, where John Morris and Kelly Scott have clinched spots in the Page Playoffs.

“Goal number one was to get through to that qualifying round,” added Scott about clinching a playoff spot. “You want to be in that A versusB game, but that sometimes doesn’t pan out. We couldn’t have scripted a better start to this whole event for ourselves.”

For those going through withdrawals, television coverage starts Saturday on TSN at 9 am ET.


Eve Muirhead is a talented skip with lots of credentials and her eyes on the Winter Games in Sochi. 

But, as with every curler who has ever thrown a rock over the frozen pebble, she knows what curling can do to you and how you feel after a game. And she stated that in an interview with the London Evening Standard:

“. . . at the end, your brain feels frazzled.”
I have always thought the same thing but usually "the end" means closing time at the Patch.

 The interview isn’t long but it’s well done and includes references to Muirhead’s golfing and bagpiping talents, which, in my book, makes her just about the perfect woman.


Speaking of women, there have been some reactions to the first Men of Curling calendar that’s been released this year. Christine Rivet of the K-W Record talked to a few of the gals competing at the pre-Roar and asked them what they thought. Some were OK, others were, meh!

"I'm not too surprised but I'm kind of amazed they all agreed to do it," Cheryl Bernard said.  
"I can't wait to see what the guys decided to do with their photos."  
Kelly Scott, whose team earned a trip to Saturday's marquee game, the pool A vs. pool B winner game, likes the idea. But for her, thec alendar falls into the category of Too Much Information.  
"We are married. We've got kids. We curl next to these guys all the time. Not interested," said the West Kelowna, B.C. skip.
 Of course next year, I understand there will be the Men of the Press Bench calendar, although I'm not sure how well that one would sell. 

You can order your calendar here.


 And finally, Gord Holder of the Ottawa Citizen has a neatstory on a Scottish curler now wearing Sasky colours. Kelly Wood came to the women’s world championship in Swift Current in 2010 and met a guy and, well, the rest is history. In fact, she's now married to the mayor! 

She moved to Speedy Rapids and while she can’t play in anything that leads to a world championship, she can compete in the Mixed, which is why she’s got the Green and White on this week in Ottawa.

“For me, I’m excited to play now that I’m in Saskatchewan,” Wood says. “That’s whatI have done my whole life. I’m a full-time curler. My life has been curling.It’s nice, now that I have moved to Canada, there’s an opportunity for me to have a glimpse of that (kind of) competition, related to what I’m used to.“I guess it’s now green and white colours for me, rather than blue and white. It’s my new home now, so it’s exciting for me.”

Thursday, November 7, 2013

The Pre-Roar, Day 2 Clippings

There’s not much in the way of national media at the pre-Roar this week in Kitchener, but as he did while covering the sport last year, Sean Fitz-Gerald is providing some entertaining writing about the sport.

Yesterday, he posted a good story on Jean-Michel Menard and the paltry number of Quebec curlers these days. Quebec, despite lots of people, has never exactly been a curling hotbed. 

“It’s not a very well known sport in the province,and it’s very difficult to get sponsors,” he said. “And since there’s not a whole lot of curlers, then there’s not a whole lot of big events. So if you want to play the big events, you’ve got to travel a lot.”And travelling costs money.“It’s a vicious circle,” he said.

Menard, of course, is the only Francophone skip to ever win the Brier, which, you would think, would allow him to dine out in his home province, maybe be the Guy Lafleur of curling. Maybe if he had a Canadiens’ logo on his sweater things would be better. But even the feeder system isn’t that good. Marco “The Hack” Ferraro spelled out the situation.

According to Marco Ferraro, general manager of CurlingQuebec, there are as many as 75,000 casual curlers in the province, but onlyabout 15,000 who could be classified as regulars. Quebec is the second-mostpopulous province in Canada, with more than eight million residents.“Per capita, with eight million people, we’re not there,obviously,” Ferraro said.

In this morning’s National Post, Fitz-Gerald has a look at Brad Gushue and has a good revelation from the gold medal skip on how he took a hit when his 2006 team broke up. Apparently those fans out in N+L don't like it when outsiders infiltrate the ranks, especially those pesky Prince Edward Islanders. 

"They wanted to scale back and I can understand that now," Gushue said. "I didn't understand it very well, when you're 25 and still want to be the best. There was some tension at that time and I made a decision with Jamie to get rid of him at that time, because I didn't feel the commitment was there. And s---hit the fan." 
One reason why is that plenty of names rotated through the open spots, but they have not ended up being curlers from Newfoundland. Third Brett Gallant (Charlottetown), second Adam Casey (Seven Mile Bay, P.E.I.) and lead Geoff Walker (Beaverlodge, Alta.) live on the island, but are from elsewhere.
"Most of the curling fans were curling fans from the Olympics and they knew we were a fully Newfoundland team, with the exception of Russ," Gushue said. "And then you bring in someone else and it's kind of like, 'You're taking our team away.'"  

In the K-W Record, Christine Rivet puts together a nice story on a local curling coach Gary Crossley and his work this week with Jake Higg’s squad. Actually, calling it work isn’t right, as the coach points out in what might be one of the all-time great quotes about our sport:

"This isn't work. This is curling,"said Crossley, 57, who had three decades of coaching experience in track and field before swapping grass for ice about five years ago.

And finally, while lots of attention is being focused on the Canadian trials, Team GB has already finalized its squads. Shocker – the rinks skipped by Eve Muirhead and David Murdoch have been named. Here are some details along with some crazy overhead shots that no doubt left the icemaker screaming at the warm bodies all over the ice.

The women’s curling team of Eve Muirhead, Vicki Adams, Claire Hamilton and Anna Sloan were the first athletes to be named on the British team for Sochi 2014 on August 28 2013.The confirmation of David Murdoch, Tom Brewster, Scott Andrews, Michael Goodfellow and Greg Drummond as the men’s team for the Olympics – the second wave of athletes selected – followed just over a month later.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The Pre-Roar, Day 1

So after one day of play, here’s what we learned about the Capital One Road to the Roar.

First off, the ice.

Specifically, Sheet E.

It’s where curling rocks go to die. Or curl. Or not curl.

And so far, it’s giving the players at the Roar of the Rings some headaches. Or possibly migranes.
The ice at the Aud in Kitchener has been, um, well, active let’s say with Sheet E being the most active. It clearly troubled the teams that played on it however they muddle through, one of whom was John Morris who gave an above-the-line comment to CP after defeating Rob Rumfeldt 10-2 in eight ends.

“It's well-known that Sheet E is tough,"said Morris. "It's definitely playing with some more curl in interestingspots compared to the other sheets."So we're glad we got a win on that sheet,and now we can focus on whatever sheet we're on next. We can't take anythinglightly; every game you get here is going to be against some tough opponents."

In this CP story from the Hamilton Spectator, Barb Spencer echoed Morris’s comments, talking about the swingy conditions. She defeated Amber Holland 8-5 in the opening draw.

"It's tough ice to draw on because it curls so much, soyou have to be pretty consistent," Spencer said. "Amber Holland's agreat shooter. Even being up 6-2, we knew that anything can happen on this ice,and Amber can make a lot of great shots, and she did in that game. Fortunatelywe were able to come out on top this time."

Next we learned that there’s no TV coverage of the event until the weekend, something that, judging my email inbox, surprised a ton of people.  I’m not even sure if there’s live streaming but apparently not. Anybody?


And finally we learned that the CCA has put together some great AMA content. That would be Ask Me Anything, a takeoff of the popular Reddit feature, where you can ask questions of the curling stars AND see Al Cameron’s back yard all in one (at least in some of the preview ones). If you want to take one in live, you can tune in tonight at 8 ET for Jeff Stoughton.  Go to to watch. And ask. 

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Roaring into Kitchener

Shaking of the cobwebs and getting out the Pledge to dust off this blog just in time for the first leg of the Olympic playdown process. Today, in Kitchener, the awkwardly named Road to the Roar begins with 24 teams vying for the final spots in the Capital One Roar of the Rings. 

Not sure who came up with the Road to the Roar tagline but it's only slightly better than the Pre-trials, which is what this event seems to be called by most folks I talk to. 

So the basics: 12 men's teams for two spots, 12 women's teams for two spots. The men’s field includes reigning Brier winners Brad Jacobs from the Soo, who admitted in his home town paper that the rink is coming in perhaps a big fatigued from all the bench presses from a busy schedule.

We've played a lot of great teams. We've won a couple events this year, (but) we've slipped as of late. And honestly, I think we can chalk it up to fatigue lately,” Jacobs said earlier this week.Jacobs has been to five World Curling Tour events so far this season. He won the first two, finished third at the next one and was forced to settle for fifth place in the most recent events.He said the past two tournaments were a wake-up call.“We qualified for the playoffs in both of the tournaments and then lost. It was definitely a hard pill to swallow,” said the Sault skip.
I still find it a bit strange that the reigning Brier champs aren't already through to the final stage (as do the reigning Brier champs). 

There are six other teams from Ontario (including the North) in the men’s side. Also sliding into the Aud this week is a much happier John Morris and his new rink from Vernon/Kelowna/Calgary, B.C./Alta. I suspect there will be no shirt ripping this week.  

On the women’s side there is a whole bunch of Alberta teams set for a run at the two available spots. A half a dozen call Alberta home including the 2010 silver medalist Cheryl Bernard.

Laura Crocker, a transplanted Ontarian now calling Edmonton home, told Norm Cowley of the Edmonton Journal that it’s been a long wait to get to the big show.

“It feels like it’s taken forever to come, but at the same time, it’s like, ‘Wo, it’s happened so fast this year already,’ ” said Laura Crocker, 22, a two-time Canadian Interuniversity Sport champion who is the No. 2 seed at the pre-trials after ranking eighth in the Canadian Team Ranking System last season.“We’re definitely really excited to get there,” she said.“We feel really prepared, so you just want to get out and play. The longer you wait, I don’t know how to explain it, we just want to play.”

Crocker also got some ink in the Guelph Mercury, where she was lauded as a former Laurier Golden Hawk and then subjected to a bunch of bad cooking metaphors.

Crocker will have to prepare a top-two finish in Kitchener to even qualify for the Olympic trials in Winnipeg from Dec. 1-8. A half-baked effort won't cut it, she admits.

Play gets u