Monday, November 30, 2009

The Domion a HUGE hit

I got over to the finals of the Dominion Curling Club Championship yesterday and witnessed a couple of very good games, one with a rather strange conclusion.

First, the event. By all accounts – and I mean all accounts – this was a rip-roaring success. Every player I talked to simply gushed about the event, praising Dominion for its hospitality. There was wine tasting, beer tasting, a wings-and-beer night, dancing, carrying-on to the wee hours and more. It also looked as if Dominion gave every player a new broom too. Wow.

Also, host site St. George’s was done up to the hilt. They had the time clocks from the OCA above all six sheets and the rocks all had the hog line lights on the handles.
It was big time, all the way.

The finals were interesting. At first you forget these aren’t elite players as you’d expect in a national final. They’re talented club curlers and so there were some misses and some strange calls, but overall, the games were exciting.

The men’s final went to an extra end and Ontario’s Bob Stafford took the win in a close match.

The women’s was a wild affair. Ontario’s Kelly Cochrane got up 4-1, then surrendered a three when she decided not to peel off a corner guard (as I was saying about strategy). It ended up in an extra end and it was bizarre. One centre guard in play, that’s it. Cochrane throws her last rock, it looks a little hot, but it picks just as it goes over the hog line. All Manitoba’s Jackie Komyshyn has to do is find the paint.

She throws her rock and the red lights indicating hog line violation go off – even though it appeared she clearly let the stone go before the hog line (I was about 25 feet from her at the time).

In the second extra, Cochrane tries to go behind a corner with her last one but it hangs out. Komyshyn has an open hit and stick. She comes wide, it hangs and I’m thinking a hit and roll out and a third extra, but she hits it too thin and fails to remove it, rolling out her own. Ontario wins.

I suspect when all these teams head home this event will blossom. When news gets out about how well everyone was treated and great an event it was, there will be a scramble to try and get in it.

Good for Dominion for moving into the grass roots of the sport. There’s so much attention at the upper levels but this type of sponsorship is much more important these days in my opinion. A good event all around.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Do We Really Need Mixed Curling?

Mixed curling. I don’t get it.

I mean, I get the Friday night sweep-and-giggle stuff at the club. That’s fun and that’s obvious. I haven’t played mixed for some time, but I enjoyed it when I did. I even remember one guy in a league in which I once played who had a team comprised of his wife and his mistress. His wife didn’t know of course. She also didn’t know that his mistress was carrying his child. How’s that for cajones?

What I’m talking about today is the Canadian Mixed which just wrapped up a great week at the Burlington Golf and Country Club down the highway from where I live.
Former golf pro and now Timmies owner Mark Dacey skipped his Blue Nose rink to victory. By all accounts the week was a smashing success both on and off the ice. (although how someone wins the 2010 Mixed in 2009 is a bit of a mystery.)

I’m not trying to shoot down any of that, but I don’t get why we have a national mixed championship in the first place. I mean, other than those Friday night leagues at the club and some social bonspiels, no one curls mixed competitively. The only time there’s any sort of competitive mixed curling is. . . at the playdowns leading to the Canadian mixed. (I’m not including the newly created mixed doubles here which is another story -- enjoy Russia Mark and Heather!).

Every other national championship makes sense as guys and gals form competitive teams, play hard all year and then enter the playdowns. There are cash events for juniors, men’s, women’s and senior’s – but not for mixed.

I don’t want to be the bad guy who suggests this, but maybe we don’t really need a national mixed, which, by the way, hasn’t had a national sponsor since the days of the corn broom.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Globe column on Wayne Middaugh

Here’s today’s Globe column on Wayne Middaugh. I spoke to Wayne just after he won his spot in the Trials, which, by the way, marks his third trip – he was there in Brandon and Halifax and now Edmonton.

I think Wayne has mellowed slightly, not just in curling but in life. I’ve always found him to be a very accommodating guy and the odd time he’s blown by me after a big loss, he’s always come back later to talk. In some respects, I think he knew on those occasions that it would be better to say nothing than to say something out of frustration. So while it wasn’t that convenient for deadlines, it was wise.

As for that temper, well I remember something Wayne’s longtime third Graeme McCarrel said to me once: “I’d rather have a guy who gets pissed off at losing that a guy who doesn’t.”

Makes sense.

Monday, November 23, 2009

49er tries his hand at curling

They are a little off on some of the facts about the sport and the rules, but give the Associated Press full marks for arranging this. San Francisco 49er tight end Vernon Davis was brought out to try his hand at curling in San Jose, Calif., and became a convert to the sport.

Friday, November 20, 2009

New CCA Commercials

Unless you were running to the fridge to replace your brew or stocking up on more chips, you probably saw the new CCA television ads during the weekend’s broadcast of the pre-Trials-roaring-road thingy.

I thought they were excellent and very catchy, something that’s been needed for a long, long time.

If you didn’t see them, you can watch here. You’ll notice a few familiar faces as they zip past, none more prominent than Paul Savage. He along with John Pineo of CMG Marketing were behind the new spots that are intended to try and re-brand the culture of the game. That’s a wise move as to outsiders, the image is still that of a sport played by old white people.

The campaign also includes a call to action at the end to go to a web site, which is also very well designed and looks like it’s intended to appeal to a younger audience.

The whole program is a huge step up from the horrid My First End campaign where a bunch of zombie-like people talk about playing for the first time. There was zero excitement in the ads and it made going curling about as attractive as getting kicked in the groin.

These new ads, however, are great. Now here’s the complaint (you knew there’d be one, right?). If you go to the CCA’s web site (, you won’t find any mention of the Start Curling campaign. There’s no link to the micro-site, no mention of the commercials, nada. In fact there’s still a link to My First End.

Here’s hoping that when the Trials get underway that’s changed. This is a great chance to get new people into the sport and every resource available should be used.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

TV numbers for the Roar

The numbers for last weekend’s Road to the Roar were solid once again, drawing substantial numbers for TSN. Saturday afternoon’s match drew an audience of 455,000 while the evening game, going head to head with Hockey Night in Canada, had 378,000.
I can only imagine what the numbers will be for the Trials in Edmonton.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Granite Club

Last weekend I went into my first bonspiel in some time. As I may have mentioned, I’ve been away from regularly playing the game until this year due to injuries and a hockey-playing son who required a chauffeur.

So our squad headed over to the Granite Club for the 53rd annual men’s invitational. That’s pretty darn impressive – 53 years. The event started in the old Granite Club, which was located at St. Clair and Yonge, and is now, of course at the new Granite Club.

Now the new Granite Club is easily, to me, the most impressive curling club in the world. There aren’t many places where you drive in and the parking lot attendant tells you: “The curling is on the third floor.” Heck, there aren’t many curling clubs that have a parking lot attendant.

But the Granite Club is about as swank as they get. It’s a massive fitness, figure skating, badminton, squash, swimming and tennis facility. I’ve probably left a few sports out too. There's also computer courses, a speaker's series, music lessons, wine-tasting and more. Just walking around the place is like being in an art gallery as there are some fabulous pieces on display.

The curling facility is on the third floor and there’s a lounge in the centre that looks out on the sheets on one side and then on other side, looks down on the figure skating ice a floor below. While we were there, the stars of Battle of the Blades were all training for the big finale.

I'm betting that a lot of the current members don't have a clue that the club's name comes from the material out of which curling rocks are made. They may not even know the grand history of the place.

Of course the Granite Club has an amazing history – it was the site of the first 13 Briers, from 1927-39 and then again in ’41, the last time it was held in Toronto. The club has done a good job at preserving that history. But the club goes back way before then. In fact, on the ice are numerous banners for winning provincial championships including one that stretches back to 1889 – wow!

The club put on a remarkable event – I think there were about five meals over three days, including a dinner-dance on Saturday night where you could bring your wife or girlfriend (but not both), lots of free drinks, and some curling. I’m not really sure how they did it all for the entry fee – good sponsors, I assume – but it was quite amazing.

Oh yes, we managed to keep our head above the water line long enough to grab the fifth event and win a nice bottle of scotch.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Trials Wrap/Two Globe stories

Before some comments on the pre-trials, here are two stories I wrote that appeared in Saturday’s Globe. My regular column featured Jennifer Jones, who passed through Toronto making an appearance for Scotties. She’s always a delight to talk to and I really respect her drive, her commitment and the way she balances here life, being one of the few world-class curlers to maintain a career (as opposed to just a job) and curling. I had to laugh -- after filing the story, I called the desk to ask if there were any questions and the editor said any time he can get a Jennifer Jones picture in the paper, he jumps at it.

The other feature was for the Globe’s Fully Focused feature, which is a section that profiles athletes going to the Olympics and Paralympics. It’s on Jim Armstrong, who is also a wonderful guy and back enjoying curling.


An interesting wrap-up to the pre-trials in Prince George, B.C. I think it’s fair to say that on both men’s and women’s sides of the draw, there were some favourites who made it through and a few surprises too. About what you’d expect in something like this.

First the women: Crystal Webster – surprised me, but in a good way; Krista McCarville – what I expected; Kelly Scott – only surprise was that she needed a C-side berth; Amber Holland – didn’t have her in my picks but she was impressive.

The men: Jeff Stoughton – no surprise at all; Pat Simmons – ditto; Jason Gunnlaugson – will play the role of Mike Harris at this Trials; Wayne Middaugh – still has all the shots.

So of all eight of these teams, which has the best chance of actually winning the Trials? I’d say it would be Stoughton, who has experience, talent and is obviously playing well.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Another day at the Roar

Two days down and lots of great possibilities at the Road to Roar. Top seeds were getting dusted – but that’s no surprise as the seeding was way off to begin with based on recent performance.

Same sort of thing on the men’s side. In C, there’s Jordison, Gunnlaugson, Burtnyk and McAuley. A lot of cashspiel organzers wouldn’t mind those teams as the final four.

I thought Burtnyk might fare better but again, is it a real surprise that these teams are here? This is a tough, tough field and the one in Edmonton will be even tougher.

Sort of goes to prove that the method of selecting the teams is probably pretty good.

So today’s A finals: Kelly Scott vs. Crystal Webster. I’m going with Scott because she’s got more experience.

On the men’s half, I’ll take Stoughton although this one is very evenly matched.

The game that I think is most interesting today is Middaugh vs. Ursel. That will be a barn-burner.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Day 1 at the Pre-Trials

Day 1 of the Pre-Trials is over and there were a few surprises, I’d say.

On the men’s side, I’d say the biggest surprise was McEwan beating Burtnyk. Now it’s not a jaw-dropping shock (I'm not sure anything can be with this field), but it was still somewhat of an upset, I’d say

The other games went pretty much to form – I’d say the Ursel-Stoughton match could have gone either way with those two squads among the hottest of any going in.

Another interesting development is the possible A final between Stoughton and Gushue. Stoughton, who has a great sense of humour, quipped to the Calgary Herald's Al Cameron “Of COURSE (Gushue) has a chance.” You can read Cameron's full piece which focuses on Brad Gushue here.

What’s also interesting is that lower bracket on the B side which has Ursel, Burtnyk, McAuley and Middaugh all grouped. I will be interesting to see who comes out of that quadrant

On the women’s side, The Scott and Anderson teams are about what most expected although I thought Heather Rankin might advance there too. One the bottom half, those crazy kids, Team Homan are pretty amazing. I’d LOVE to see them make it to the Trials and I’m sure the CCA would too.

Today should be another interesting day.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Pre-Trials (Ugh!)

The Pre-Trials get underway today in beautiful downtown Prince George and it’s the last chance for the 12 teams on each side of the draw to make it to the Roar of the

This qualifying system was put into place for this Olympic period after a lot of consultation with all stakeholders, but the loudest voice was obviously the players themselves. It gave the curlers a second chance to make it to the Trials just a few weeks before the event, which means a team can get on a roll heading to Edmonton.

That’s opposed to a team that might have qualified a year prior and gone flat in the

Of course if you are a conspiracy theorist, there’s also a monetary reason here. The Pre-Trials (which just sounds very strange, doesn’t it?) is another event at which the Canadian Curling Association can make money – hopefully. When this was planned out, don’t forget, the national body was looking for dough, big time.

So once we get past that, we can look on the ice. This is being run like a big cashspiel with a triple KO format. A and B winners and the C finalists all get to go to Edmonton.

The major difference between this and a cashspiel is that there’s a heck of a lot more on the line than a cheque.

I think the women’s side is a lot harder to handicap than the men’s. My thinking is that Kelly Scott, Cathy King and Sherry Middaugh will make it through with the final spot going to either Krista McCarville or Eve Belisle. The dark horse would be the junior team of Rachel Homan.

On the men’s half, I think Brad Gushue, Bob Ursel and Jeff Stoughton advance with Wayne Middaugh, Mike McEwan and Kerry Burtnyk fighting it out for the third spot. The dark horse will be Ted Appelman.

One final note: I’m not sure who came up with the name Road to the Roar, but it’s positively, utterly stupid. Sort of like Pre-Trials.

Monday, November 9, 2009

A story on Shorty

On the eve of the Pre-Trials in Prince George, B.C., let’s pause a minute and take in a wonderful story in yesterday’s Toronto Star on the great Shorty Jenkins.
You can read the story here.
It’s a wonderful piece highlight the Short Man’s contributions and innovations to the sport. It also mentions Shorty’s battle with Alzheimer’s, which, according to many I know who’ve stopped in to see him, isn’t too severe.


Just a reminder that I'm selling off the last of my Brier books after recently discovering several unopened boxes. They are moving quickly but there's still some left. If you want one, just use the tool on the right side of the screen to put in your order.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The hunt for new gear

Today is a big day for me. I’m heading out to buy curling pants. Whoo-hooo.

As I mentioned in a previous blog, after a three-year absence from the ice due to injuries and driving my hockey-playing son all over Southwestern Ontario, I’m back throwing rocks. And I need new, updated gear.

At the Hershey Centre a couple of weeks back, they had a media game (only myself and Brian Mudryk showed up) and after I threw on the ice and was walking back towards the dressing room, Scott Taylor noticed my shoes and almost broke out into laughter.

“We haven’t made those in 10 years,” he said of my generation 1 Balance Plus dogs. A few years ago, Scott graciously gave me a broom but I lost that in the divorce (don’t ask). So I’m ordering up new shoes and a new broom from Balance Plus. Only the best for me.

Now also in that three-year interim, my waistline has shrunk significantly (thanks to me taking up running and laying off the wings) and so the old pants won’t stay up.

Those pants, by the way, were purchased from Earle Hushagen’s pro shop at Humber Highland, so those in Toronto have an idea of how old they are.

So. . . any recommendations on the best kind of curling pants to get?

Tuesday, November 3, 2009


Scott Taylor, curling’s busiest man, dropped me a note yesterday reminding me to help promote Movember. This is a great promotion that helps raise funds for Prostate Cancer Canada.
Prostate Cancer Canada raises funds for the development of programs related to awareness, public education, advocacy, support of those affected, and research into the prevention, detection, treatment and cure of prostate cancer.
Right now, one in six Canadian men will suffer from prostate cancer and that’s expected to grow to one in four by the end of the decade.
Please help by going here and making a donation.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Howard wins Brooks

It’s been a good couple of weeks for Glenn Howard and his team. The boys took home $22,000 for winning the Brooks Cactus Pheasant for the second straight year, knocking off Kevin Martin in the final.
This has become – in a very short time – one of the most popular stops on the Asham World Curling Tour.
However, in the release sent out last night to announce the Howard win, I noted this paragraph at the end:

For organizers, they now have to start looking at next year. It wasn’t easy getting this one off, considering the downturn in the economy. The City of Brooks, County of Newell and Alberta Government came through with grants to give the event a kick start. The success of the event also takes a strong commitment from the many local sponsors, along with a board of directors, headed up this year by Chairman Lawrence Block, and over 100 volunteers which make the Cactus Pheasant Classic a major event for the City of Brooks and the County of Newell. For the curling fraternity in Brooks, it is an important event locally , and for the curlers across Canada, they have put their names on a waiting list to get in.

I have no problem with government grants going to help an event like this, since it probably results in a great deal of money flowing back into the community through hotels, meals, drinks, etc., from the curlers. That's not to mention the excitement int he community. And since governments seem to be giving money to anyone with a hat out these days, why not an event that can help the community.
Your tax dollars at work? Sure, why not? (As long as there’s no Conservative logo on the cheque!)

Sunday, November 1, 2009

How about a Brier in Toronto?

I’m writing a column on whether or not the success of the Grand Slam event last week at the Hershey Centre means Toronto could host a Tim Hortons Brier. Plus side: great arena and facility (patch attached!) at the Ricoh Centre, media centre of Canada so lots of attention, 23 curling clubs in TCA, most of any city in the country. Negative side: Has to compete with Leafs, Raps, et al, Canada’s most culturally diverse city with lots of folks who have no clue about curling, expensive for marketing and for folks to come from out of town.
What do you think?