Saturday, December 29, 2012

What are your resolutions for 2013?

I've never been good at writing down my resolutions and so perhaps that's why I've never been very good at keeping them. So here are my 10 on-ice resolutions for the coming year:

1. Practice
2. Replace the brushing head on my broom
3. Keep a record of the rocks at my club or at least tell myself that it's me, not the rocks, that are inconsistent
4. Practice
5. Work on that soft in-turn
6. Find time to enter a few club events
7. Spare once in a while
8. New gripper pads on my non-sliding shoe will make icemakers happy
9. Take some non-curling friends out to try the game
10. Did I mention practice?

How about yours?

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Russians in the spotlight after Euro win

The Russian women's team that won the European Championships recently has been thrust into the spotlight as that country counts down to the 2014 Olympics in Sochi. The focus has been intensified on Anna Sidorova but also on the coach, Thomas Lips from Switzlerland who talked about the dynamic between coach and curlers.

“At the beginning they had to learn from my side what a game should be. But also I had to learn what kind of people these girls are. We spoke a lot together and I think we found a way how to work together. The main point was the confidence in each other,” the Zurich-born coach says.
Sounding remarkably like a guy who has read Coaching Psychology for Dummies, Lips said that the victory at the Euros won't add any pressure to the team heading into Sochi because pressure is just a bad word.

“Pressure is the wrong word, because it means that one would be afraid to execute,” he notes, adding that even if the girls don’t win any medals but finish fourth it will be regarded as progress.
You can read the entire article here. 

Monday, December 24, 2012

A Northern view of relegation

Danielle Inglis pens a nice story on Thomas Scoffin, the Whitehorse skip who has made a regular trip to the Canadian Junior since he was 12 back in 2007. He's become a seasoned curler these days and that's the reason he was profiled on the CCA's web site. 

He's quite different from the 12-year-old I interviewed for the Globe and Mail back at that Canadian Junior in St. Catharines, Ont. At that time, he was a shy young guy who didn't say too much. He was a delightful story, however, and it's nice to see his passion for curling has remained. 

The article does offer up one glaring quote from Scoffin, concerning the relegation system that's in place for the Junior and will be for all events in 2014. 
“From personal experience, if that rule was in effect when I was first starting [competitive curling], I don’t think I would have had any opportunities, as our team wouldn’t have been strong enough to qualify,” says Scoffin. “I recognize that it’s tough to find an inclusive format for everybody, but I would be concerned that it would deter [young curlers in the north] from starting to curling competitively.”
And that's the problem with relegation, especially so for an event such as the Junior. Teams in the Territories don't have that much opportunity to play competitively against their peers without huge financial and travel sacrifices. It's possible that when a curler such as Scoffin finishes up his junior career and a younger, inexperienced team from the Yukon arrives on the scene, it may never make the national final. Scoffin pointed that out to Inglis. 

“Recreational curling is alive and well, however [not being guaranteed a spot to compete at nationals each year] could be a deterrent for up-and-coming competitive teams. They can choose to switch to any other sport. It would really hurt junior curling in the north.”

The complete article is here.  

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The passing of Wheels

There was some sad news yesterday when the curling world learned of the passing of Keith “Wheels” Reilly. He'd been in the hospital for some time.

Reilly did just about everything there is to do in curling. He was part of the Alf Phillips Jr., rink that won the Brier in 1967. And, of course, he was part of one of the most infamous incidents in international curling when they played in the world championships that year. Here’s how it was recalled in my book The Brier:

 Near the end of the round robin, the Canadian team was in the running along with Scotland and the United States. Despite a late-night sampling of the sponsor Scottish Whiskey Association’s products, Phillips hammered a hapless Norwegian team in an early morning contest. In the afternoon, a showdown for first place was looming between Canada and the United States, and the Phillips team decided to return to the hotel for a short nap. They emerged from the rink and found two buses waiting to transport the teams but no driver. Phillips boarded one, and, finding it running, summoned Reilly to join him. The skip then began a short tour of Perth that ended when he parked the bus on top of a guardrail. “Originally we had intended to just hide it,” remembered Reilly. “But we got stuck on a roundabout and couldn’t get off. We tried to pick up some passengers to help us, but once they got a look at who was driving, no one wanted to get on.”

Reilly also became an exceptional coach, guiding many top teams. He led Alison Goring’s rink to the 1990 Scotties Tournament of Hearts title.

And made his mark as an umpire, where he was on the scene at Briers, Scotties, world championships and just about every other major event you can name.

Reilly also was a champion of change. I remember him telling me how the governing bodies weren't giving any opportunity to new officials to break into the game. The OCA would put people through courses, charging them for that, but then just use the same people time and time again.

 I had many great chats with Reilly over the years, usually at big events where he would give me many great scoops that became stories. He also just loved to talk about the game and would tell you why certain players weren’t performing well technically or why events weren’t running well. He just seemed to have his finger on the pulse of everything.

 Deep down, it was very obvious that Reilly loved the game, loved being a part of it and loved giving back to it. I will truly miss his friendship.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Who is the best curling analyst on TV?

Who is the best curling analyst on TV? free polls 

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Richie takes to the mike

Richard Hart debuted as an analyst in the afternoon draw of this week’s Grand Slam of Curling in Kelowna and, by my measure, did a solid job.

Hart, of course, played for many years for Mike Harris and then Glenn Howard. He retired two years ago to spend more time at work and with his family.

Last year, he sat in on a few of the broadcasts of The Dominion Tankard Ontario final on community television and was very good. Sportsnet made an easy choice when it invited him to sit in alongside Harris and Rob Faulds.

I did find it interesting that off the top of the broadcast, there was no mention of regular Joan McCusker. Faulds introduced Hart as the new guy, so not sure if this is a trial and Joan is out or if Hart is just filling in. (Update: Hart will be working this event and the next one in Port Hawkesbury. McCusker will return for the Players, when there are women's teams as well). 

Speaking from experience, being an analyst isn’t that easy. You have to watch the game off the monitor rather than down on the ice so you know what the viewer is seeing. Then you have to listen to a guy from the truck talking in your ear, telling you what to do and you have to know when to talk and when to shut up.

With curling, the less said is often better since the players are mic’ed up and can carry the conversation alone.

Then there’s the mistake of telling people what they’re seeing rather than why they’re seeing it. As the legendary golf announcer Henry Longhurst once said, broadcasters should be caption writers.

Hart, by my measure, was a natural right away. He made his knowledge show in the first end when Craig Savill’s second shot – a come-around attempt – clipped the guard and rolled behind the corner guard.

“Better than the called shot,” he said. There were chuckles from Harris and Faulds, but it turned out to be prescient as Howard ended up with a deuce.

And later he explained how the Howard front end of Savill and Laing communicate with the skip or third about the weight. It was something that only a player who had been on that team would now and it was revealing.

In the evening game between John Epping and Kevin Kow, he pointed out why the Epping team sweepers were carrying an intended draw to the button to the back rings.

“Sweepers on that last one were careful not to leave it directly back button. They didn’t want to get caught leaving a freeze on the button.” Smart stuff.

Later the same end he called out the Koe front end for a sweeping mistake, as they overswept a stone that put the Albertans in big trouble. In the same end, he criticized Epping for a poor guard. 

On it went throughout the broadcasts as Hart showed his experience with not only the game but also the players in the game.

Harris was his usual self, not afraid to call out what he believed to be a bad call or an interesting strategic move. He also offers up the odd laugher, which is needed from time to time. If there’s any issue I have with Mike it’s not about the curling talk but that once in a while he does Faulds’ job and does play-by-play instead of analysis. That’s really a minor quibble however. As far as I'm concerned, he's solid. 

Faulds might be the smartest guy in the booth and he didn’t say much, being the perfect traffic cop. He lobbed them up to Harris and Hart and stayed out of the way.

Overall, I enjoyed the debut. It really was fun to watch and listen. 

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Martin: "Like getting kicked in the nuts, only super hard."

First it was Glenn Howard. Now Kevin Martin.

These old guys are really, well, um, getting old.

It was announced that Martin underwent surgery yesterday for a hernia. It’s the ailment that prevented him from playing well at the recent Canada Cup. He Tweeted that the operation, done in New Westminster by Dr. Konkin, went well.

Howard had a similar operation over a year ago, although he managed to have his during the off-season.

I’m sure the old dogs were comparing notes and groins in the locker rooms in Moose Jaw (OK, maybe not groins).

In any case, Martin, who will sit out this week’s Grand Slam in Kelowna (he’d being replaced by Joe Frans), described – in detail – to the Edmonton Journal how it felt to play with the problem.

Hmmm. . . great. Your intestines popping out during your slide. I’d say this falls under the definition of TMI. And getting kicked in the nuts really hard? I wonder how many times John Morris has actually thought about doing that over the years?

In any case, as far as surgeries go, this one isn’t that major and Martin says he’ll be back on the ice in January, in time for the Continental Cup. 

Friday, December 7, 2012

Olympic curling facility behind schedule

Hmmm. . . this doesn't sound good now does it?

The arena that will host the curling competition at the 2014 Olympics is behind schedule. How far? Well, organizers cancelled the Cup of Russia slated for the end of the month. However, Dmitry Svishchev, the president of the Russian Curling Federation, said there's nothing to worry about. Yet.

There's no need to panic," Svishchev said. "The arena is Sochi is technically ready. All that is left to do is a technical examination."

Technically ready. Right. And technically, I'm eligible to compete in the Brier. But that's a long way from happening.

The Ice Cube Curling Centre is slated to host two big events next year. The World Wheelchair championships go Feb. 14 and the World Junior Feb. 26. The president said that the arena will be ready and not only that but that it will be the best curling facility anywhere in the whole wide world.

"I didn't imagine that a curling venue could be so fantastically well-equipped with first-class facilities."

Apparently that means it will have ice and everything!

The full story is here.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Protecting your head from a curling concussion

I have to admit it: the first time I saw someone wearing one of those protective headgear pieces at a curling club, I had no idea what it was. I thought maybe it was a head warmer or something.

But these days, the Ice Halo and Sport Band may not be exactly commonplace, but it certainly is more usual than unusual.

And now, the inventor of the Ice Halo is being recognized. Barbara Armstrong of Barrie won a Barrie Business Award for her invention which is sold in 15 countries. Armstrong came up with the idea out of necessity, as explained:

I have seen scores of people slip and fall over the years but I hadn’t seen anyone hurt their head until playing in a bonspiel a few years ago at a Toronto club. A hard takeout from another sheet just ticked a rock and shot over to another sheet where a sweeper preparing to slide out alongside the next stone had his feet taken out from under him. He landed hard, hit his head and blood started coming out. 
Thankfully, the gentleman turned out to be OK, but just seeing the blood on the ice and him being carted off on a stretcher by the paramedics was enough to shake me up.

Of course it wasn’t enough to get me to wear the Ice Halo. I guess like a lot of curlers, my ego is bigger than my sensibility.

For those in Ontario reading this, there’s also a great article by Rory Munro in the Ontario Curling Report this month on a team of London women who have embraced the Ice Halo and even started dressing them up, adding decorations to them.

The team is headed up by Dr. Shannon Venance, a neurologist and Associate Professor of Clinical Neurological Sciences at Western University. She noted the increasing number of falls in her league.

“Last year we had three or four women we curl with take unexpected falls on the ice with significant whacks to the back of their heads. It’s just such a horrifying sound when you hear it,” Venance told Munro. “There were goose eggs, concussions; two of them were out of curling for two to three weeks,” said the fifth-year curler.
“Part of what I do as a neurologist is thinking about the brain and the safety of the brain. Concussion in sport is really in the news these days and a concussion can be debilitating. Some people don’t ever recover,” said the doctor.

That’s scary stuff, to be sure. But will it drive more people to wear the Ice Halos? It’s an interesting and increasingly important question that curlers need to ask.

Friday, November 30, 2012

New TV Commercials need to get creative

Here's the latest installment of the CCA's new TV commercials. It's another light-hearted look at the game that should ring well with younger viewers. I like these commercials and am glad to see the Johnny "The Hammer" Chow has made a return in one.

If I have an issue with these, it's that the CCA has never utilized them beyond a curling audience. I asked Danny Lamoureux where these would be shown and the told me on curling broadcasts on both TSN and RDS as well as on the CCA's YouTube Channel.

Now in the past, I've asked the CCA's CEO Greg Stremlaw why only show these on curling broadcasts. His response was that figures show there are a great many non-curlers watching events such as this weeks Canada Cup.

But I think the CCA should get a little smarter with its marketing. I think it needs to expand beyond the safe audience. As an example, look at how a number of golf companies have advertised on curling broadcasts. Would it not make sense to look at doing the reverse? How about getting these spots on to early year golf coverage?

Or how about inquiring with other sports federations to do a trade of commercials? It's no secret that many of the curling broadcasts aren't sold out so why not work a trade? Curling shows a Go Skiing commercial and vice versa.

And perhaps there needs to be some of these commercials done in a language other than Canada's two main ones. Why not a version that would appeal to the growing communities who have come from other parts of the world and now call Canada home? A Mandarin or Hindi version just as a test. You never know what you might result.

Jones ready to return

More today on babies, as Perry Lefko of spoke with new mom Jennifer Jones. The curling star said she was taken aback by all the well-wishers who sent her and partner Brent Laing congrats:

Baby Isabella showed up a little earlier than expected but without any problems. And Jones is on schedule to be back on the ice for the Continental Cup in early January.

 Meanwhile the rest of the team along with spare Kirsten Wall have been playing well this year and stayed alive at the Canada Cup with a 9-8 victory over Sherry Middaugh on Friday morning.

The rink has the benefit of going easy this year, having already wrapped up a Trials spot. It could mess up the hopes of other teams this week, however if it were to win. That would throw the spot available for the Trials at the Canada Cup back into the CTRS pool.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Babies and Brooms

There are a lot of things that separate men’s and women’s curling – sweeping and the ability to throw the high, hard one come to mind immediately – but nothing can compare to motherhood.

As this article from the Moose Jaw Times-Herald discusses, trying to balance babies and brooms is like juggling six balls. It relates the current situation of Sasky players Stefanie Lawton and Marliese Kasner who welcomed kids into the world last year. Lawton’s team is playing in the Canada Cup this week in the Saskatchewan city and it means another week of balance.

“With a lot of support from our families, husbands, grandmas and mother-in-laws,” stated Kasner of the help they receive. “There is a lot of time management. My husband is at home with my boy. But, my mother-in-law came and watched because she wanted the break and to watch good curling.”

Of course there was another high-profile birth in the curling world recently, that of Jennifer Jones and Brent Laing. Jones is not back to playing with her squad yet, Kaitlyn Lawes still manning the tee for the rink.

Perhaps the best motherhood-curling story was that of the late Sandra Schmirler, who once breast fed her newborn in a media scrum.

’ve always admired the women who can manage to play at an elite level and still change diapers and get up for the 3 a.m. feeding. It’s nothing short of amazing.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

More scoops for the rest of us

Al Cameron is going over to the other side.

The curling writer for the Calgary Herald and the guy who has probably broken more curling stories in the last decade than anyone else, is leaving his job as a reporter with the Calgary Herald to become the Director, Communications and Media Relations for the CCA.

Cameron takes over his new duties on Jan. 2, 2013.

It's a big move for Cameron but he's the perfect guy to take over this role. He's been in the trenches, worked all the big events and has the respect of the curlers and the media.

Cameron has been covering the game for a long time and been to Briers, Scotties, Worlds and the Olympics. He's been a past president of the Canadian Curling Reporters (that's a biggie, I know) and in his spare time covers the Calgary Stampeders. He's in Toronto this week at the Grey Cup.

For the CCA, it's a great step too. While the media has been well supported over the years by Warren Hansen who looked after media requests in between running Briers and other championships, and by Jeff Timson at the actual events, there always seemed to be a need for a full time person to do this job.

Here's the text of the release sent out to the rest of us stiffs still working in the media:

OTTAWA, ON, November 22, 2012….The Canadian Curling Association (CCA) has created a new Senior Management Team position which will be part of a new communications department within the national governing sport body.  As the organization continues its strategic growth as a business, the CCA has signaled the importance of communication to both its internal and external stakeholders.

As part of the process, a communications department has been established with a new Senior Management Team position to lead this department going forward.  The senior staff position leading this area will be the Director, Communication & Media Relations.

The CCA conducted a nation-wide recruitment search over the last two months that has resulted in the formal hiring of Al Cameron to fulfill this role.  Cameron joins the CCA after spending the past 26 years as a sports writer.  For the last 12 years, Cameron has been with the Calgary Herald.  Cameron is a passionate curling enthusiast and has covered six Briers, nine Tournament of Hearts, seven World Championships, twelve Alberta Men’s and Women’s Championships and the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver.

In addition to his curling coverage, Cameron has been the Calgary Herald’s beat writer for the Calgary Stampeders for the past five seasons. 

“The CCA is extremely proud to have Al join our Senior Management Team.  He brings sound experience and knowledge of communication best practices and extensive media relations experience to our organization”, stated the CCA’s Chief Executive Officer, Greg Stremlaw.

Raised in Kamloops, British Columbia, Cameron is married to his wife Corinne and has two sons, Ethan (17) and Isaac (14).

“I don’t think it is a secret that covering curling as a journalist has been a passion for as long as I can remember.  The opportunity to not only be around the sport on a full-time basis, but also contribute to its continued growth and excellence, through the efforts of the Canadian Curling Association, is very exciting”, commented Cameron.

Cameron’s official start date is January 2nd, 2013, but he will also be in attendance at next week’s Capital One Canada Cup in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

From Hay River to Scarborough

There may be no better national championship in curling than the one going on this week at the Scarboro G&CC in Toronto. It's the Dominion Curling Club Championship that pits club champions against club champions. It's an event that gives the ordinary guy a chance to experience a big time event and although it's only been around for a few years, it's been a huge hit.
While there has been grumbling over the years about just what constitutes a club curler and some semi-competitive players have advanced, it's stories like this one from Hay River, NWT, that really make this all worthwhile. Paul Delorey and his team from Hay River, NWT made the 3,000-km trek to compete. That was after the team had to go to Yellowknife for the regional playdowns and after they suffered a setback at their own club, thanks to Mother Nature. 

The curling club initially experienced some setbacks, including a leaky roof from the heavy snow storms earlier on in the season, making practices a challenge.
“We were on the verge of losing the ice because of the roof leaking,” said Delorey. “That took a lot of volunteer hours hauling water and took away a bit of ice time. It was kind of a worry leading up to this Dominion playdown.”

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Alberta field taking shape

Playdown season is upon us and in Alberta, the field for the provincial final is taking shape. Four teams have already qualified as ConGrikowsky details.

One of those squads, the Jamiei King foursome, by the way, is a rink that was really just looking to have fun and throw a few rocks in between golf games.
“When we got back together, this wasn’t what we were thinking about,” said King. “Even though we said we wouldn’t be scoreboard watching, we did. Then, we realized we had a chance to get a spot.”

If you’ve been to oh, let’s say the last 40 Briers or so, you probably ran into Bobby Corman, the Saskatchewan legend who was a fixture at the national championship (as well as world championships). As the Star-Phoenix relates, the legend passed away recently. 
As well as a curling fan, he was also a die-hard Roughriders fan. It was at a football game late last year that news leaked that Corman was seriously ill. 
He first became a subscriber in 1948 — the year in which the Regina Roughriders were renamed with a provincial emphasis — and remained a fixture at Mosaic Stadium through the final home game of the 2012 Canadian Football League campaign.
Following that contest, won 31-26 by the Toronto Argonauts on Oct. 27, Corman chatted with two volunteer ushers — Jeff Sastaunik and Jeff Kozack — who man the aisle between Sections 26 and 27.
“Bobby used to call us his bodyguards,’’ Sastaunik recalls. “After the game, he said, ‘I want a picture with my two bodyguards.’ ’’
A typically cordial conversation ensued. Sastaunik said he looked forward to seeing Corman again when the 2013 season began.
“He said, ‘I don’t think I’ll be back next year,’ ’’ Sastaunik says. “I asked him why. He said, ‘I’m battling cancer, and it’s not looking good.’ It hit us like a ton of bricks.’’

The Canadian mixed is on at the Town of Mount Royal Curling Club (where I threw my very first curling stone). Once again, I ask: “Why?”

Thursday, November 15, 2012

A Million Dollar Sweep

As Dr. Evil liked to say “One Million Dollars!!!”

That’s the bonus money Sportsnet is putting up for any team that can sweep the four Grand Slam events.

Now that’s a pretty good payday, although it’s nothing compared to the salaries Rogers will be paying a few new Blue Jays. But for curlers, that’s the richest prize in the history of the game.

If one team fails to win the four events, the top teams will get to share $100,000 -- $50,000, $30,000 and $20,000.

The women, with only two slams, don’t get quite the bonus. If one team wins both events, it will earn $100,000.

Overall, this is a pretty solid payday but even better as a marketing tool. And in my book, it’s not out of the realm of possibilities that a team might do it. No one has managed it so far in the brief history of the Grand Slams, and it would be a remarkable feat of talent coupled with luck and breaks, but I can see it happening.

Even it someone wins the first two or even three events, the attention it would bring would be massive. I remember covering Tiger Woods when he was looking to get his fourth consecutive (although not in the same year) at The Masters. The attention was huge, almost crushing. Media from all over came out (much like his return to Augusta after his infidelities, but I digress).

For Rogers, it’s not that expensive a proposition either. This would be covered off by insurance and the cost chalked up as a marketing expense.

Certainly, no one can say that Rogers Sportsnet isn’t committed to its Grand Slam investment. 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Jones, Laing three-quarters of the way to a mixed team

Jennifer Jones and Brent Laing celebrated the birth of their daughter yesterday, weeks earlier than expected.

Isabella Ann arrived on Tuesday and everyone is doing well, according to this story in the Winnipeg Free Press. The precious bundle was expected to show up some time in December.

Jones has not curled yet this year due both to her pregnancy and knee surgery. She's expected to hit the ice again in the new year. Meanwhile, her team has been doing fine without here, earning more than $15,000.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Faulds, Harris and McCusker

Unless I missed it, the announcement of the new broadcast team for Rogers Sportsnet was named yesterday, tucked into the third paragraph of a release for this week’s Grand Slam event in Brantford.
The team will be Rob Faulds on play-by-play and Mike Harris and Joan McCusker. The latter two, of course were front and centre with the CBC for the last few years.

I thought this may have been bigger news than the third graph, but perhaps Sportsnet sees it differently.
It’s interesting that Sportsnet didn’t bring in anyone new. Not that there’s anything wrong with this trio, but there was certainly an opportunity to change it up and perhaps give the network it’s own look.

I like Rob Faulds and he is an avid curler, which I think adds to his credibility as a broadcaster. He knows the game but understands his place is to lob it up for the other two. He’s stellar at doing that.

Mike Harris, to me, is tremendous, especially with his foresight in seeing an end develop and the fact that he isn’t afraid to criticize when he deems it appropriate.

Joan has improved over the years but I would love to hear her challenge Mike more and also be critical when the situation deserves it. 

So the question I pose is: if you could pick your broadcast team, who would be on it?

Monday, November 12, 2012

And The Hack Came Back

The Hack has still got it apparently. Or else the Great Manitou is still looking down on the two-time world champion.

Al Hackner won the Courtesy Freight Superspiel with a tremendous last shot, as detailed in John Cameron’s story in the Chronicle-Journal.

Hackner, who is 57, doesn’t seem ready to slow down. And apparently he still has all the shots as he leads the Great Lakes Curling Tour money list.

On the women’s side, Krista McCarville took top spot, defending the title the team won last year. 

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Curling in China

What do the locals in China think about our roaring game? Or more specifically what do they think about China’s chances at winning a medal in Sochi?
Here’s a story from a Chinese publication, China Daily, that details the Bingyu Wang team’s ups and downs over the last few years. Much of it surrounds the departure and return of third Liu Yin:

The article also talks about the growth – if you can call it that – of curling in general in China. It's long been hoped that there would be more curlers in China as opposed to just a selection of competitive athletes. That may be happening

If curling is to grow in any way internationally, a key must be to get the masses playing regularly in the world’s most populous country. Having a small selection of elites tossing stones might help at the Olympic level but so far there aren't many big signs that it's transferring to lower levels. 

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Mark Johnson is a busy guy

Let’s see. . . manage a curling club, coach a competitive team, play for the U.S Olympic spot and be chairman of the Tim Hortons Brier. I wonder what Mark Johnson does in his spare time?

The Edmonton curler and retired police officer has a full slate of duties and activities, as Norm Cowley relates in this profile in theEdmonton Journal.

“I went from a 40-hour-a-week job as a policeman to about a 60 as a manager, and now with the Brier and coaching, it’s probably about an 80-hour-a-week job that I’m working,” Johnson said. “My wife is telling me I need to slow down a bit in retirement.”

Johnson, who is playing for Jason Larway’s Seattle team as it makes a bid for the Olympics, is eligible for the American title by virtue of being born in Walla Walla, Wash. He’ll skip the team in three bonspiels and then play down for the U.S. men’s championship.

“There’s so many people down there who can still dream about the national championship or the Olympics, even though they haven’t been playing the game for very long.”

Ain’t that the truth. 

Friday, November 2, 2012

The Russians are coming!

Seems those pesky Russians are taking this curling thing seriously. A Russian women’s team has been hanging out in Canada of late, with the latest stop being Ottawa. Previously they were in Kamloops and Winnipeg. They’ll end up in Saskatoon.

This rink is not the one most Canadian would know from world championships and Olympics. It’s, um, the other team, you know, like there really are only two teams that have a shot at representing the country in Sochi. Or possibly only two teams in the entire country. Who knows?

In this fine Gord Holder story, he chats with skip Victoria Moiseeva, about the two squads

“We have two Russian teams: Russia No. 1 and Russia No. 2,” Antonova said this week after a practice session at the Rideau Curling Club. “For European championships, for worlds, and maybe for Olympic Games, we are (competing) with them.”

Russia 1 and Russia 2. . .  sounds either like a bobsleigh lineup or Dr. Seuss characters

The other one (or is it two?) is skipped by Anna Sidorova, at least it is this week. The Russians seem to move their lineup around almost daily.

In any case, the sports federation is pulling out all the stops to have a team ready and able for 2014.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Sportsnet goes provincial

Sportsnet is adding to its curling coverage with the announcement that it’s going to broadcast several provincial curling finals starting this year. The broadcaster will air the B.C, Alberta, Manitoba and Ontario men’s and women’s provincial finals for the next 10 years. The broadcasts, which will include semi-finals and finals, will be shown nationwide.

What’s surprising about this is that it took so long to happen. There is and always has been huge interest in these provincial finals but there never seem to have been the wherewithal to get them on the air.

Now that’s not entirely true: in Ontario, the provincial finals have been shown on Rogers Cable 10, the community channel. And for many years, this has drawn the largest single audience of anything aired on that channel.

In Ontario, at least, there have been attempts to air the men’s final on commercial television, but getting sponsors to foot the bill has been a tough nut to crack. It’s not cheap to broadcast  a curling game (or any sport for that matter) and no one was able to convince a sponsor it was worth the bucks.

Here’s the obligatory press release statement from Sportsnet about getting into the provincials.

“As curling’s popularity continues to grow at an impressiverate, Sportsnet is committed to providing curling fans with increased access tohigh-calibre events such as the Provincial Curling Championships,” said NavaidMansuri, Vice-President of Finance and Sports Programming, Sportsnet. “Bybuilding on the growing popularity of the sport, these agreements allow us to expandour curling coverage while elevating the profile of these events, as well asthe sport of curling across Canada.” 

What’s interesting in all of this, of course, is the fact that most of these championships will take place on the same day. The four men’s provincials will go on Feb. 10 and the Manitoba, Alberta and Ontario finals will be on Jan. 27 with the B.C. final on the 20th.

So I presume that means four separate broadcast teams on each of Sportsnet’s regional channels but also that there will be four men’s finals on at the same time, or at least with some overlap. Maybe they can get the timing so we can all sit on our sofas from 11 am until, say midnight Eastern and watch them all.  Not quite sure how it’s all going to get done or who is broadcasting but I’m sure it will all be straightened out in the near future.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Kamloops gets Brier Lite

Today, the Canadian Curling Association announced that it’s taking its big shoot-out to Kamloops. The Tim Hortons Brier is headed to the BC interior and the Interior Savings Centre.

While this had been rumoured for a while, the announcement is still a little surprising. It’s not that the fine folks in Kamloops won’t do a great job – they’ve hosted big curling events in the past. It’s that Kamloops would be regarded as a smaller centre for hosting the Brier. The arena only holds 6,000 spectators. By my accounting, that will make it the smallest arena to host the big rock show since, well, since Kamloops back in 1996.

It was really the following year when the Brier went to Calgary that the era of big arenas took over. Two years ago, it was held in London, which had a capacity of about 8,000 which was considered small.

So why Kamloops? A few reasons probably. First, you can only go back to the same old places time after time. After you’ve done the Calgary-Edmonton-Regina-Winnipeg circuit, those places get burned out from both a hosting and ticket sale capacity.

Second is that it helps the game to go to smaller centres once in a while, places which have supported the game. Kamloops was the longtime host of the Canada Cup and also was the site of the 1998 World Curling Championships.

Finally, with the CCA flush again these days and with an Edmonton Brier all but certain to fill the coffers to the brim, it’s possible to take a chance on a championship that might not make money. Of course using that theory, you might say it would be the right time to take a more dramatic step and host the event in a bigger centre, such as Vancouver or Toronto. Perhaps that’s down the road.

But more than likely, this will give hope to other smaller centres who’ve been interested in getting a Brier. Places such as Brandon.

I’m sure there will be a lot of eyes on the event and the bottom line in Kamloops. It might open the door to a different circuit of host sites.  

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Stoughton more laid-back than Gushue . . . and he has better hair too.

 Jim Bender talked with new Stoughton front-ender Mark Nichols who left Newfoundland and Labrador for Winnipeg. So far the move is working as the Stoughton rink captured the Stu Sells Toronto Tankard and $15,000 over the holiday weekend.
When he was asked to compare the two skips, Nichols was prepared:

“I knew that question was coming,” Nichols said with a laugh. “Both are driven. I don’t want to use the word intense, but they both expect a lot of their teammates. But Jeff’s a little more laid-back."

OK, we made up the stuff about the hair, but I’m sure that’s what he was thinking.


Middaugh rolling early

While hubby was back at home closing up the golf course, Sherry and her squad was winning out in Calgary. And, as Al Cameron notes, she’s in good shape to get to her fourth Canadian Curling Trials.

Middaugh, by the way, won the Autumn Gold for the third time, the second time as a Skip Kann


The App Man wins the Westcoast Classic

Kevin Martin, who will be in Toronto next week to roll out his new App for mobile, led his team to the Westcoast Curling Classic for the seventh time. Here are the details. 


Dolan recognized in PEI Hall of Fame

What’s that you say? Tiny PEI has a curling hall of fame? Yup, and Kim Dolan is being inducted. Good choice too. She’s done it all, from playing to organizing. And, hey, you have to love a woman who owns a pub!


You’re going to curl for how long?

I’m gonna bet this idea was hatched over a couple of beers, but 10 curlers out in Campbell River, B.C., are going to try and toss rocks continuously for something like 62 hours in an attempt to break the world record.
Of note is that they only get a five-minute bathroom break every hour. So might not be a good idea to be tipping too many ales during the contest.