Thursday, October 30, 2014

Outdoor curling ice in Toronto could be a reality -- with your vote

So this is one of the coolest initiatives I've seen in quite a while. The Toronto Curling Association is working with the City of Toronto parks department to have them set up curling ice in various spots around the city. Parks is onside and this can be a reality if Toronto can get some funding.

Right now, it's working to try and get a grant through Game On Toronto, which is a Pan Am Games initiative. To do that, curlers have to vote for curling. To do that, you have to go here: 

You need to register and then you can vote once a day to help out curling. 

Hugh Murphy, the TCA's president, told me that the idea behind this is to take curling to the people. Instead of folks wondering how they would curl, how they would join a club, and whether folks other than rich old white people can play the sport, they will have ice pads out there ready for some demonstrations and games. 

So go and vote folks!!! We need your help. 

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Grand Slam gets title sponsor -- finally!

The Grand Slam of Curling is no more.

Now it's the Pinty's Grand Slam of Curling. Rogers made the announcement this afternoon on the eve of another season of the top-calibre curling events which get underway in Selkirk, Man.

Pinty's, of course, has been involved in curling sponsorship for some time with the TSN Skins Game as well as with the Rachel Homan team. The deal has a three-year term and involves the following, which was presented in a Sportsnet release:

Details of the sponsorship deal include:

·         Title sponsor of Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling
·         In-venue sponsorship including rinkboards, in-ice logos and on-site activations
·         Broadcast commercial spots, sponsor billboards and verbal on-air mentions
·         Integration across Sportsnet’s platforms including digital and magazine

In addition, the deal includes the creation of the Pinty’s Pub and Grill Zone, an in-venue ice-level VIP lounge area at all Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling events. The area will be made available to VIP’s, curlers as well as curling fans, allowing them to get up-close and personal with the game and their favourite curling stars.

This is the third year of operation of the Grand Slam under Rogers which had been hoping to find a title since it took over the series. Can't really be anything but good news for the Slam. Chicken wings for everyone! 

Friday, October 24, 2014

Ovechkin rips pants while curling

As many hockey teams have done over the years, the Washington Capitals held a team building outing at a curling club. This time, it was the Calgary Curling Club. All the players survived the outing. Alexander Ovechkin's pants, however, did not.

The blog Russian Machine Never Breaks, reported on the casualty.

The Caps held what I can only describe as an “intense team building event” at the Calgary Curling Club and I’m sad to report there was one casualty: Alex Ovechkin‘s pants. Let us have a moment of silence for #OviPants.

You can see lots of video and pictures at the site, including many of coach Barry Trotz, who reportedly organized the affair.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Vancouver club given membership deadline or faces being turned into a hockey rink

The North Shore Winter Club is facing a deadline. It needs to sign up 360 members by Nov. 15 or face being turned into a hockey rink, says this article in the North Shore News. 

Now the club is a full athletic facility and therefore the curling membership can be a bit steep to a stand-alone club. There's a $900 initiation fee and then monthly dues of $113. So that works out to about $2,250 to curl (as well as enjoy a limited selection of the rest of the club's offerings).

That's a pretty tall order to try and get that many curlers in that short a period.

What's worse is that it cuts short an agreement the club made with the local recreation association.

The decision seemingly puts an end to an agreement hatched in the late 1990s between the Winter Club and the North Vancouver Recreation Commission to provide a space for public curling following the rec commission's decision to replace the curling rink at Harry Jerome Recreation Centre with the Flicka Gymnastics Club. 

The club's past president, Kevin Dancs, seemed to indicate that having a hockey rink would be beneficial financially for the club. 
If they don't reach the goal of signing up 360 new curling members, the club will start the process to transform the rink from curling into hockey, said Dancs, adding that the club must work to keep member satisfaction high while also considering revenue streams. Only 25 members of the club take part in curling, and the revenue from that ranges from negligible to negative, he said. 
"If it was converted to a hockey rink, then we know that projections are the revenue streams are going to be quite high, plus we have a big component of our membership who are hockey members. They're going to be very happy that they have more ice time for the kids."
You wonder if this is a scene that may continue to be played out in many parts of the country. There are a number of clubs in metropolitan centres that are looking at their curling operation -- which makes up just part of the overall facility -- and wondering if it should continue.

Certainly there can be lots of benefits. If it's a golf club, it allows the facility to keep staff year-round. As well, many players join as curlers and then add additional benefits such as golf or gym use.

But clearly, there seems to be a shake out coming in curling (as it is in golf). There simply don't seem to be the number of players to support as many clubs as we have in places such as Toronto.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Weekend roundup: Koe gets lucky in win, Jones beats Homan

The competitive season is in full swing and some of the big guns notched wins over the weekend, in between turkey dinners.

In Calgary, the new-look Kevin Koe team took top spot at the Crestwood Fall Classic, knocking off Steve Laycock in the final. Koe has an interesting rotation with third Marc Kennedy still sweeping skip rocks with Ben Hebert while second Brent Laing holds the broom for skip stones. While unusual, it certainly makes sense, keeping two of the best sweepers in the game together.

Norm Cowley has all the details on what Kennedy called a lucky win. 

"That game, for sure, we were a little fortunate,” said Koe. “We were in big trouble the first half of the game. We got a good break there to steal two. After that, we played pretty good.”
Meanwhile, what many would view as the top two women's teams in the game met in the final of the Calgary Autumn Gold spiel. This has always been one of the majors in the game and so no surprise that these two made it to the final. 
Jones ended up winning the event but was full of praise for her opponents in this Calgary Sun story by Daniel Austin. 

"They’re a tremendous team and I’m sure,hopefully, we’ll play them a couple more times,” Jones said. “They’re an amazing team, everybody knows that, and we know we always have to play our best to beat them … it worked out well for us today.”

Before the game, the Jones team took in a little Thanksgiving turkey at some of the skip's relatives, posting this great shot on the team's official Facebook page. Love the hats ladies. 

Friday, October 10, 2014

Checking out the groceries and other gold medal experiences

Team Jennifer Jones returned to the ice this week at the Calgary Autumn Gold Classic and, as befits the gold medal winners, the team members were the centre of attention.

Most wanted to know how it was living a summer as an Olympic champion, which brought up some great responses in this Canadian Press article by Donna "Spinner" Spencer.

Some check out what groceries the curlers are buying. Others just kind of melt down, said Kaitlyn Lawes:

"It's interesting because even some people just come up and start crying. We've never met them before, but they had an emotional connection to what we did."

Meanwhile, after taking the summer off to enjoy all the bells and whistles that come from winning the Olympics, the team is back at it. There really is no time to rest, said Jones. 

"The way the system is set up for qualifying for the next Olympics is we're kind of required to start from scratch and start right away," she explained. "We're trying to defend our title in South Korea." 
"We had to get right back at it this season. Normally we'd be training hard in the summer, but we took the summer off. It was a great way to recover and we're anxious to get back on the ice."

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Virtue working on in-turns, out-turns and emotions

When we last saw Brock Virtue, he was snapping his broom before being ejected from the final game of the Saskatchewan men's final. The emotional but very talented curler had to sit on the sidelines for the final two ends of the provincial championship contest, having been thrown out by officials.

It was one of rather significant stories of the playdowns last year, with no one remembering a player getting the heave-ho from such a big match.

Well Vitrue is now back in Alberta and curling for Charley Thomas, and in this Calgary Herald story from Jeff Mackinnon, he says he knows things have to change.

“I certainly have room to improve in terms of withholding some emotions at certain times and I’m definitely trying to work on that this season,” the 28-year-old told the Herald.

Thomas things that having Virtue on board is a good fit and will help his new-look rink.

I think part of the reason we are going to work well together is that we complement each other very well,” Thomas said.
“Brock is a pretty emotional player and I like to think I’m pretty even-keeled so us playing together is going to bring out the best in him and hopefully bring out the best in me as well.” 

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Koreans trying to learn fast ahead of Olympics

The Korean curling program is in full gear and its top-ranked teams are knocking rocks with the best in the game, jetting from spiel to spiel -- literally -- in hopes of improving. 
As this Vernon Morning Star story details, the women's rink skipped by Eun Jung Kim flew from a bonspiel in Sweden to Vernon, B.C., arriving just in time for its first game. It managed to win that contest as well as the next two. 
The Koreans are trying prep for the next Winter Games, which will be in their home country. Although resources aren't exactly plentiful! 

With the 2018 Winter Olympics coming to Pyeongchang, Korea is looking to boost its curling portfolio. With just one club and two rinks throughout the entire country, they have some serious work ahead of them. 
Kim entered the sport eight years ago through a high school curling program. She and her teammates have been touring World Curling Tour events the past three seasons, including a 2012 entry in the Vernon spiel, to get playing time against world-calibre rinks.