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.