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.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Stu Sells, Gerry Broadcasts

Yesterday I had a chance to sit in with Gerry Geurtz on one of the live streaming games from the Stu Sells Toronto Tankard being played this weekend at Toronto’s High Park Curling Club.

We were covering the game between Joe Fans and the short-handed Glenn Howard team and it was certainly a fun opportunity. I know there are lots of folks who have watched the games on line and Gerry’s done a good job bringing them to viewers.

What most folks don’t know is just how he does that. It’s really quite amazing to sit and watch him work the computer and the audio and the graphics and the camera switching all while still commentating. He’s a one-man technical crew with a touch of Vic Rauter all wrapped up in one. It almost reminds me of one of those one-man band guys who used to play five or six instruments at once.
Sitting down behind the sheet, there are a couple of computers open and one has the program that runs the camera shot as well as the graphics. Gerry punches up the proper assortment of shots (I believe there were four different cameras being used) and graphics (such as the name of the player throwing). 

On the audio end, he has four wireless mics worn by the players and depending on who is shooting, he brings up the levels of that particular team. And as opposed to the TSN broadcasts, the curlers sometimes forget they have mics – or possibly don’t care. It’s definitely not family listening!

On a second computer, he tracks comments coming in from viewers as well as following scores from other events.

The end result is a really professional looking show that streams out across the Internet. It’s very impressive what Gerry has brought to curling and his commitment to raising the awareness of the sport is second to none.


The Stu Sells Toronto Tankard has become a very popular event, drawing bigger and bigger names each time out. This year that included Brad Gushue, Jeff Stoughton and Mike McEwen, as well as Ontario squads such as Glenn Howard, John Epping and Brad Jacobs. The women’s side also had some strong entrants with Colleen Jones being the only out-of-Ontario rink.

It’s the one significant cash event in Toronto (although there will be a Slam here later in the season) and it certainly has been a success on many levels. Congrats to all the organizers for continuing with this event.

Most of the curlers I spoke to yesterday at High Park weren’t raving over the ice conditions. It wasn’t that they were bad by any means, but they certainly were tricky. Although there was a nice curl, the ice was never exceptionally fast and it tended to get slower as the game went on, more than one player told me. It was also a bit patchy with different speeds across different paths. That made it difficult to build any confidence.

The other negative I heard was about the late draws. There was a 10 p.m. draw Sunday and it made for a late night followed by an early morning for a few. But as Gerry Guertz said, it’s something to hopefully keep people at the club until later in the night, spending money at the bar. Not sure if that works on the Sunday of the long weekend and I didn’t stay around to see but there were a few mumbled comments about the late timing.

Still, it doesn’t matter what you organize, set-up or plan, there will always be some grumblers.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Mixed Doubles 'Trials' misses the mark

As discussed earlier, the Canadian Curling Association announced the creation of a national mixed doubles competition to determine this country’s rep for the world championship.

Except it’s not calling it a championship. Instead it’s the Mixed Doubles Trials. I’m not sure if that means trials as in trial run or if it means trials as in Olympic curling trials.

Whatever, it sounds just a wee bit pretentious and only adds to the silliness of mixed doubles.

And to add to the silliness, this Canadian Press story byDonna Spencer quotes CCA head honcho Greg Stremlaw as referring to the Canadian Mixed as the “Canadian mixed fours.”
Mixed fours? Really? Is this where we're going now? 

The reason for creating this national championship was to allow a proper mixed doubles team to advance to the world championships. This year, the worlds are being held in Fredericton, April 13-20. Previously, two members of the Canadian mixed champs went on to the doubles competition and it was always tough to decide which two. But it should be noted that whichever team wins the Canadian mixed will get two spots in the Canadian mixed doubles, splitting the team in two.

Those two entries will be part of a 32-team competition at the national finals and this is where it gets even more odd. There will be one representative from each province and territory (14) and then 16 open invitations being decided by the Canadian Team Ranking System. No residency rule will be in place.

So potentially Cheryl Bernard could team up with Wayne Middaugh and likely get an entry. Not because they’ve ever played mixed doubles before but because the regular (i.e. four-person) teams they play on have fared well over the last few years.

So you create a national championship because you have difficulty with two members of a four-player team being chosen to represent the country, and then half your field is selected based on play in four-person team competition.

You're trying to legitimize a new format to get it into the Olympics, and then you treat the national qualifier like some half-assed Friday night mixed league. 

Sorry but this is messed up. Either establish a mixed doubles competition or don’t. A half-way, part-qualifier, part-invitational, party-mixed-double, part-not isn’t the way to go. This system is ridiculous and seems to indicate a lack of serious intent to the format.