Sunday, November 23, 2008

Grey Power for Players

Great news that Grey Power Insurance has assumed title of the Players Championship. This is a perfect fit for a curling event, which traditionally attracts an older demographic. In past, those out selling the sport have complained that because the demographic is so old, that it’s hard to attract sponsors. But these 50-plus folks still spend money and still need things so to me, that was always more of an excuse. Sure, it’s tougher to find the right fit, but that’s what selling is all about, right?
The funny thing about Grey Power is that about seven or eight years ago, it got into the sponsorship game and gave its money and name to several senior golfing events as well as a few curling events. Soon after, the organization was sold to ING and all the sports sponsorships were ended. Now it’s back in the game, which is good news for curling but you have to wonder what took these folks so long.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

CBC Bold?

OK, the first person to explain BOLD to me will win my undying appreciation. I missed Glenn, Gushue and my golfing pal King Korab and all the boys because a) I couldn't figure out what BOLD was and b) although said it was on the web, I couldn't find that either.
Oh, for the days when everything was simple with Country Canada.

Friday, November 14, 2008

New Globe column

My first Globe and Mail story of the year appeared this morning.
You can read it here:

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Ontario's playdown format

I’ve been working this week on a story about Ontario’s playdown system, which seems archaic by comparison with other jurisdictions.
Ontario is the only province that doesn’t give some sort of leg up for the top competitive teams. For instance, Glenn Howard goes all the way to the Brier final for the third year in a row, wins two of the four Grand Slams and banks tons o’ cash, yet he starts at the same level as the knee-sliders from the Legion.
Now some might say that’s not a bad thing, that it’s one of the pure parts about what makes the Brier (or the Scotties for that matter), the event it is.
But in this day and age when guys are grinding almost full time, it’s just plain stupid. Other provinces have altered their formats in various ways. In some cases the defending champion gets a pass, in other cases, winning certain events gets you in or if you’re the top team in the CTRS or other tour from your region.
Doug Bakes, the very capable ED of the Ontario Curling Association, said the OCA isn’t against change, it’s just that the competitive curlers haven’t made a formal presentation or request. In other words, they’re not really sure what the curlers want. Do they want a bye for the defending champ? The top Ontario team in the CTRS? The Ontario Curling Tour? I can Bakes’ side of things, but if you’re trying to run an event and ensure you have the best teams there, I would think the onus would be on the organizers rather than the participants. I mean, the folks hosting the provincial final would love to be able to have a Howard or a Middaugh in their pocket at the start of the year to boost ticket sales and marketing efforts.
At the very least, perhaps it would be worthwhile getting the OCA board, maybe Gerry Geurts from the Ontario Curling Tour and maybe a rep from a few teams such as Middaugh and Howard around a table for an hour or two to hash it out. Right now, they’re playing with fire, especially if a Howard and/or a Middaugh get stuck on some back ice in their zones and lose to the knee-sliders. Ask Glenn and Wayne – it’s happened before.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Stats update

It seems there's been a flurry of clarification and explanation and e-mails and phone calls about this Lynn Hunt stuff since my last post. I was out of the loop, having spent Thursday and Friday in New York (where I interviewed Justin Timberlake, now a Callaway Golf staffer -- he's a really good golfer).

First the clarification: The old CCA website had two different types of stats -- the records stuff where you could find out the highest score in a Brier game or who has the record for the most wins at the Scotties, etc. That stuff is apparently going back up on the site, according to an e-mail I got from Jim "Hollywood" Henderson, the president of the Canadian Curling Reporters (Yes, Virginia, there really is such an organization) who was in touch with The Boss, Greg Stremlaw.

What isn't going back up is the game/stats/shooting percentage stuff. That's the stuff CCA Director of High Performance Gerry Peckham wants to keep in the Top Secret file, lest any prying nation try to figure out how many in-turns draws Rudy Ramcharan missed in the '97 Brier. Hey, here's a thought: if you really wanted to keep all those other nations at a disadvantage, why not prohibit Canadian coaches from teaching them?

The saga continues. . . .

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Paranoia setting in for CCA web-heads

I was forwarded an e-mail train by Lynn Hunt, who wrote to the CCA to ask why the new website didn’t include the records and stats section that was on the previous site. Glenn van Gulik, the Manager of Information Technology responded as follows:
While I understand your desire to be able to view the records and statistics that we have accumulated, the decision to temporarily remove them from our website was made by our Manager of High Performance in light of the upcoming Winter Olympics in Vancouver. Access to that type of information to international competitors without our ability to access that information about their teams forced the decision to be made.

Aha! So there are spies perusing the CCA web site, looking for ways to locate the Achilles’ Heel of our as-of-yet unnamed/undecided Olympic representatives. I can’t say I was a regular viewer of the stats that appeared on the old Web site – in fact, I can’t even remember them being there. But let’s say there were the regular game reports from the national championships. They include such things as win-loss, in-turns-out-turns, etc. Perhaps there’s some things that could be gleaned from that info, but let’s be serious here: Do you really think the Chinese or the New Zealand teams are going to be pouring over year-old records to look for a weakness in Glenn Howard’s team, for example?
And if this info was of some use, wouldn’t it make more sense to buy a copy of the Black Book of Curling where it appears in far more detail? (or have they never heard of Google Cache?) I can understand trying to get an edge, but this is just pure paranoia.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

A few Sunday thoughts

Finally! After months of waiting on the edge of our collective seat, the announcement has come that Brazil and the USA will duke it out at the end of January for the right to go to the Ford World Championships.
Not a moment too soon. My fingernails were down to the quick.
The two sides will lock horns in Bismark, N.D., Jan. 30-Feb. 1. According to those who’ve seen the Brazilians (which has nothing to do with that curling calendar, btw), the Yanks have nothing to fear.
OK, so it’s easy to poke fun at the team from South America, which is reportedly not good enough for the B flight at most clubs, but kudos for them for trying. It wasn’t that long ago we were chuckling about the Aussies curling, in the same way we thought about the Jamaican bobsled team of the 1988 Olympics. Same can be said for the Japanese and the Chinese. But the sport has expanded to different parts of the world that haven’t traditionally embraced curling and the teams are good and getting better. The only disappointment is the fact that the game hasn’t developed at the grass roots level, something that would impress me a whole lot more.

* Kudos to Scott Taylor at Balance Plus, a guy who probably does more for the game in different ways than anyone. He’s once again promoting the Movember moustache-growing event among the top players in the game. It’s a way to draw attention to prostate cancer. I urge anyone who sees a curler with a moustache over the course of the next month to go here and make a donation. Even $10 would go a long way. Another great move by Scott.

*I think CurlTV is a great site and I love the coverage it provides. Evidence comes in the way of games from this week’s Cactus Pheasant Classic, where a broadcast of every draw is available. I also like the interviews with the teams (except that set makes it look a little like Wayne’s World, the Curling Edition) – informative, fun and showing another side of the top players.