Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Halifax ready to Roar

The excitement is palpable as the teams – and broadcasters – depart today for the Canadian Olympic Trials in Halifax, opening Saturday morning and airing on TSN later that afternoon.

Allen Cameron's preview piece appears in seven newspapers this morning, including the National Post – which is subscription-only. Fortunately, for readers of The Curling News, his expanded 1,600-word version is already in the December issue, which has been arriving this week at subscriber's homes. Yep, better not wait to catch the club copies folks, heaven knows when Canada Post will decide to deliver them. Your subscription is clearly your best option.

Joe Pavia has Ottawa's take; Tim Phillips talks Trials in Sudbury; armchair pundits are predicting, and so on. You can't escape. Curling has Olympic fever again.

David Nedohin, in the December issue's They Said It:

I'm really anxious about it. The last couple were really big events but these Trials seems to have an extra energy about them. It's just a massive event – bigger than the Olympics even for curling. But it's going to be tough because any one of the (twenty) teams there honestly has a great chance to win it.

Elsewhere, Great Britain/Scotland's defending world wheelchair champs won a major Paralympic tuneup event in Prague (Canada placed third); U.S. women's Olympians Team Johnson were featured on Voice of America; and the city of Lowell, Mass. is starting to get crazy about curling, in advance of the 2006 men's worlds coming to town in March.

That all sounds palpable.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Olympic Trials issue

The Curling News is proud to release the Roar Of The Rings December issue, featuring five full pages on next week's Olympic Trials.

Other features include:

• the world's first curling TV Guide;
• The Wrench's latest and permanent retirement, and the shame of it going unnoticed in the sporting pantheon;
• Wayne Middaugh's big win at The National;
• Jill Officer's continuing Olympic Journey 101;
• Kevin Martin's Shot of the Year (so far?);
• a special Trials edition of They Said It;
• Michelle Englot's abrupt departure from the sport;
Maxwell on Olympics and Wood on, well, everything, plus the calendar;
• Lisa Roy's courageous battle against a terrible act of ignorance, and more.

Plus, current subscribers and any new susbcribers up to December 24 receive 30% off the purchase of a popular stocking stuffer: the CBC's Canadian Curling Experience DVD. In addition, subscribers get their name tossed into a hat to win a bonanza of holiday prizes, including authentic game-worn jerseys from 2005 world champion Scott Pfeifer and 2002 Olympic Gold Medallist Pal Trulsen of Norway!

Don't delay... subscribe today.

As for the weekend: final scrambles for cash and Trials messaging are taking place here and here... the Canadian Mixed wraps up Saturday from Whitehorse... and the new half-hour TV show "CurlTV" debuts Sunday on Rogers Sportsnet, at noon Eastern and 9am Pacific.

Meanwhile, we were originally miffed at this guy, who is apparently a great U.S. sportswriter, but after dissing him accordingly, he has replied that he was just kidding, and in fact loves curling... just not writing about it. The Curling News is hereby mollified, and welcomes Atlanta legend Furman Bisher into the fold of venerable journalists who just might try to hide their affection for our sport.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Scots ready for Euros

It's an all-Scotland Blog today, as the lineups have been announced for the Scottish entries at the European Championships in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, next month.

The men's squad quite obviously favours the David Murdoch team, world runner-ups to Canada's Randy Ferbey last April, while the women's foursome is a mixed bag, featuring three skips: 2002 Olympic champ Rhona Martin, 2002 world champ Jackie Lockhart, and last year's Scottish champ Kelly Wood (photo).

So what does this mean for hopefuls like Tom Brewster, who are on the outside looking in? Does this mean Murdoch et al have the overwhelming edge to be named to the Turin Olympic team for Great Britain, or could it mean that Brewster's crew have performed well enough that the selectors want to see more of Murdoch in action before the final selection is announced on Dec. 23?

Who the heck knows?

Meanwhile, BBC Sports will air a Radio Scotland documentary on Dec. 24 -- the day after the final Olympic selections are made -- featuring those three women's skips and their efforts to qualify for Olympic glory. "On Thin Ice" is the show title.

Incidentally, quite a good chunk of the Euro shootout will be available on Eurosport, Europe's sporting mega-channel, with production once again by Rick Davis and other Canucks who also work in curling coverage for Sportsnet, TSN, CBC et al.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Tickets claimed!

Congratulations to Team Rizzo, who were the first to claim the free pair of gold-level Trials tickets!

As such, their family/fan committments will be better met.

The seller, FYI, hailed from the Bayview Country Club in Toronto.

Free Trials tickets: $790 value

Attention all curling fans: two full-event "Gold" ticket packages can be yours, absolutely free, for the greatest show in the sport.

The Curling News has been asked to broker the giveway of two $395 "Gold" passes for the Olympic Trials Dec. 3-11 in Halifax. These are the top-tier tickets that are available at the Metro Centre for the word's greatest curling spectacle.

Simply e-mail your interest to: and we will put you into contact with the "seller".

Once again there is no cost for these tickets, but there are no transport and accommodation options, either. You must get to The Roar on your own.

In the upcoming December issue, The Curling News offers a 7-page feature on the Trials and Olympic Games, plus a look back at Trials and Games past. One anecdote noted is the memory of TSN commentator Ray Turnbull, doing the first pre-game show with Linda Moore before the first draw of Brandon '97, trembling with excitement live on camera.

This is the best,” Ray almost shouted. “It doesn’t get any better. If you’re not here, get here. Do it now. Fly in, drive in, I don’t care. You simply have to be here!

Don't miss this show, folks. E-mail today. Then grab your $117 flight (x2) via CanJet, sleep on somebody's floor, do whatever you have to do... but be there.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

CBC Curling wins Gemini

CBC Sports has won a Gemini, the major Canadian television award, in the “Best Live Sports Event” category for their production of the 2005 Tim Hortons Brier final in Edmonton.

Last week producer Don Peppin (photo) accepted the award for the CBC curling team at the annual gala ceremony in Toronto.

The win saw the curling telecast beat out Game 6 of the 2004 Stanley Cup hockey final – another CBC production – and TSN’s Wendy's Friday Night Football.

In an e-mail to fellow staffers, a delighted Peppin said that his acceptance speech showed why he works behind the scenes and “not at a microphone.”

“I attempted to stumble through my speech and make the point that I was incredibly proud to lead a group of professionals who put aside all the controversy that swirled around us and focused on what mattered – the shows, the games, the players and our jobs,” said Peppin.

“And we were ready for every draw, every week last year but no more so than the Brier final – a great game and a great production.

“It’s always nice to be recognized.”

It should be noted that the chiefs of The Curling News and CurlingZone were a part of CBC Championship Curling last season, and are back on board in 2005-06, starting next month at the Olympic Trials.

In other news, Saturday's big voting day out in Vancouver wasn't just about a new mayor. The results saw the people say yes to $170 million in new spending, including $35 million on 2010 Olympic projects including the Olympic curling facility at Riley Park, which will be transformed into an ice rink and community centre after the Games.

Only the Olympic spending generated a blip of opposition. While three questions about road, police and general community-centre improvements got around 80,000 votes in favour and about 30,000 opposed, the proposed Olympic spend saw only 65,000 yes votes with 45,000 opposed.

Friday, November 18, 2005

CurlTV... at Olympic Trials?

A feature on David Nedohin's CurlTV in today's Ottawa Sun.

The Curling News sat next to the CurlTV guys – and their mounds of equipment – at the first Slam of the season, and we also caught up with Nedohin between games. He echoed a few things mentioned in the Sun story, and more.

• They've spent an extra $20,000 on video editing suites, to meet the escalating demand for archived games. In fact, CurlTV initially thought the live broadcasts would be the main driver of business; turns out it is the on-demand aspect. Customers even want archived games burned to DVD and mailed to them.

• The half-hour TV magazine show airs its first episode on Sportsnet Nov. 27, and offers a sneak peek at Newfie hero Brad Gushue.

Subscriptions, while growing, have been slower than expected. This prompted The Curling News to commiserate, and rail on about the inherent "cheapness" of curling fans, and their unwillingness to shell out to support their sport's trade. For example, their willingness to spend endless thousands of dollars on a sport like golf while refusing to buy a new pair of curling shoes, a broom, a subscription, or even pay their annual dues without first flipping out over a 2% increase. Seems like the only thing people are interested in this fall is... controversial athlete fundraising calendars.

Yeah: we're talking to you, curling cheapo. Any comments?

• Nedohin confirmed a proposal has gone to CCA about CurlTV streaming morning-draw action live from Halifax. Of course, the decision rests with the rights-holder, CBC... the association is merely forwarding the ask. CBC were the ones who allowed TSN back into the broadcast fold this fall; will they be similarly magnanimous for CurlTV?

In other Friday news, the CCA replaced their departed Brier hotelier with a new sponsor; the forgotten Canadian championship, The Mixed, starts tomorrow in Whitehorse; and Quebec's unstoppable Camille Villeneuve is at it again (see the January 2004 issue of The Curling News for Adam Daifallah's feature story). Amazing.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Ice Ice baby

While Canadian Olympic Trials fever peaks on CBC Dec. 10 and 11, Americans will get a curling fix via the ICE 2005 show on NBC.

The four-hour, two-day broadcast on the U.S. Olympic network airs that weekend from 4-6 pm eastern each day, and also features two two other sports, luge and bobsled/skeleton.

This is the third time that the three sports have come together for a pre-packaged showpiece, and ratings have been solid with 6.5 million unique viewers tuning in.

The curling segment was filmed in Duluth, and will feature the two U.S. Olympic reps for Torino, the Cassie Johnson and Pete Fenson teams.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Between The Sheets

That's not just the name of a cool Blog post, it's also the title of a new book on the mental aspects of curling.

Officially announced yesterday and available by internet pre-order now, Between The Sheets was written by Guy Scholz, the Rockin' Reverend from Calgary, who also wrote this, and the gorgeous Cheryl Bernard (see retro photo). Hmm... Calendar 2007 anyone?

BTS is written in an informal style and is chock-full of anecdotes from almost a hundred world-class athletes. Not just curlers either: a Roughies coach and an Olympic synchro swimmer have reviewed the tome and recommend it to anyone who is seeking "the competitive edge."

It's aimed at curlers who want to learn the secrets of the big name players, and to devoted curling fans as well.

The Curling News has had a quick gander at the galleys and it's a fun and fascinating read. We'll probably have a book review in an upcoming issue, but why wait... you know you want it now.

Between TCN, the little Black Book and BTS, curlers are going to have very large heads this season. Bring it on, Einstein.

Between The Sheets is available here and also, as of Dec. 5 or so, through bookstores, curling pro shops, the CCA and Asham. In addition, $1.00 from every purchase will go towards Calgary’s Curl for a Cure event in support of the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation, and $1.00 from every book purchased through the CCA website will go to The Sandra Schmirler Foundation.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Gotta fly

Not much time for today's Friday Media Roundup, as The Curling News needs to jet to the airport to meet WCF veep Les Harrison shortly. Speaking of others jetting about:

• Well, okay, we'll get to jetting in a moment. Here's a newser on the meat behind the CBC-TSN TV curling contract... no, not the financials, just a rough skeleton, listing 217 hours of SoC coverage over seven events: 168 hours on TSN (150 of them live) and another 49 hours on CBC. More deets can surely be found in your local listings and also here and here, and we won't even preview these links, that's how confident we are in the networks and their websites. Right, guys?

• Lots of quality teams in New Yawk as we speak, for the second-year World Curling Tour stop now called the New York Curling Open. Gotta tell you, we liked the old name better.

Jennifer Jones is also competing down south, in Duluth, against a pile of strong Yankee gals...

• And there's still another U.S. tourney this weekend, way up in Alaska, featuring some squads from the Pacific rim.

• Canada? One of the east coast's most popular events is the Sobey's... and there's also the venerable Wayside Classic in Lloydminster. Interestingly, Peja Lindholm stayed over from The Hawk and is in Lloyd, and not competing here. Wonder how that will go over back home...?

Ah, Olympic funding. It's there to be spent.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Midweek madness

After a couple of well-earned days off in Halifax, we're back with a ton of stuff.

• Last night the new Canadian Olympic uniforms were unveiled (photo). The venerable Hudson's Bay Company, Canada's first-ever corporate entity, upstaged Roots for the contract back in March – for a deal extending right through Vancouver 2010 – and the Torino 2006 designs have now received their big splash.

Relax... this is non-competition outerwear... not the on-ice gear our curling teams will wear. Those will be supplied by Mondetta... and more on that in the near future.

The Curling News got a first look at the designs in an April 2005 focus group, and the athletes present were impressed. Ditto for Georgina Wheatcroft of Vancou... er, Winnipeg... who said she was "hugely and pleasantly surprised."

"All of us going in there were kinda going 'Okay, we are going from Roots to HBC.' You're a bit, 'Oh it doesn't seem as cool,' and we were all a bit frightened."

Read some journo-takes on the gear here and here. Of course, the famous poor-boy hat is gone... but that was to be expected.

• There's still a buzz over Kevin Martin's big shot at The National last Friday. In today's Edmonton Journal (sub only), victim John Morris offers this:

"I really don't think he was going for two when he threw it. There was so much granite moving, I could barely follow it. Obviously, it was a killer. I don't think it was a fluke; when Kevin's involved, it's not a fluke."

• The calendar? Oh yes, it's still selling. And over the weekend out east, they finally called. Yes, it was them. And we didn't call or e-mail them... they tracked us down. Apparently there will be a blurb and photo in next week's issue. Better go print some more.

As for calendar media, there's too much out there to track, but some highlights include this guy from down south, who can't resist curling commentary that borders on the ridiculous. Stand by for Black Lab Five, aka The Curling Show, to blow his top.

There's also this from the U.K., which also manages to discuss Great Britain's controversial team selection process for Torino 2006 in the same story.

• And speaking of the Brits – of course they're the Scots, but in the Olympics they must compete for the Brits – they now have a magic broom, or something like that. Fascinating.

• Back to that Oliver guy for a second. Or specifically, other Americans who make us laugh when they try to talk about curling. Here's the most hilarious description of the sport seen in a long time. Oh, and the team they're talking about is from London, Ontario – not Vancouver. And here's an amusing story about Brock students going one up on their Yankee trivia opponents whenever the sliding sport comes up. Not surprising.

• Finally, everybody's favourite movie star curler is finally getting his ultimate pet project up and running – and congratulations to him. Of course, those who still wonder about an MWB sequel will have to keep waiting and hoping...

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Port Hawkesbury

What a fine event, held in one of the coziest (read: smallest) towns imagineable.

The population here in this Cape Breton community is only 3,500 or so... and their 2,000 seat arena – technically it's about 1,800 but they added as much as they could for The National – saw all the tickets sold.

The hospitality was terrific, as evidenced by the glowing words from both climactic combatants, the victorious Wayne Middaugh and the vanquished Pat Simmons, on the podium afterwards. Both declared they would return to the event in a heartbeat, and indeed, there are rumours of The Hawk's continuing Grand Slam interest that could very well turn out to be true.


Well done, Capers.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

They're baaaaack

Wayne and Pete, that is.

Middaugh and Corner. The names were synonymous with domination in Ontario junior curling in the 1980s, then again in the early 1990s as they teamed at front end for Russ and Glenn Howard.

Then both found success as skips -- Middaugh (photo) overwhelmingly (1998 Brier and World championships and numerous Players' Championships and skins games) and Corner in a couple of brilliant seasons, including 2000 when he beat Middaugh in the Ontario final and made tiebreakers at the Brier -- before reuniting this spring.

Two straight wins on Tour turned uggy last weekend, in Portage, as they failed to qualify... but they meet ol' friend and teammate Glenn Howard in Sunday's semifinal of The National, live on Sportsnet at 12:oo noon eastern.

Should be fun to watch. Either Randy Ferbey, another non-qualifier last weekend, or Pat Simmons will meet the victors in the final, Sunday night.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Shot of the year

It happened on the last rock of Day 3 at The National, the first Grand Slam of this glorious Olympic season.

And it sounded an ominous note to all those plotting to take the Roar of The Rings crown away from Kevin Martin.

Calgary's John Morris had control of the B-side battle with the 2002 Olympic silver medallists, and lay three in the four-foot on Martin's last rock. Morris led 9-8.

Martin merely shrugged at third Don Walchuk, illustrated how his raised stone would fly through the cluster – presumably spraying the near-parallel Morris rocks out of the house – and carry through to a fourth Morris stone in the back twelve. Martin lay fourth shot.

Surprisingly, Martin didn't let fly with his maximum heat... a simple peel-weight bullet flew down the sheet, did exactly what he suggested it would do and Martin had scored two, won the game out of nowhere and added $7,000 and a Slam quarter-final berth to his fall record.

The crowd at Port Hawkesbury Civic Centre exploded, cheered and murmured for a few long minutes before shuffling off to the Grand Slam Pub.

Just another day in Kevin Martinland. No biggee.

Slamming in The Hawk

Greetings from The Hawk.

Perfect ice, occasionally perfect curling competition and great crowds mark this first Grand Slam of Curling event.

Hijinks off the ice in the Tour Tavern, when CurlingZone's Dallas Bittle waltzed up to Randy Ferbey, presented an autographed copy of The Black Book of Curling, and said "I have some bathroom reading material for you." Hearty laughs all around, and Scott Pfiefer's quip: "If I slam your book in the national press, do I get a free copy too?"

As we observe this morning's AM draw, Calgary's John Morris has mistakenly blanked the 10th end against Scotland's Tom Brewster. Whoops. He got the job done in the extra frame, however. Meanwhile, a pile of teams including three-time world champion Peja Lindholm of Sweden and Bridgewater hero Shawn Adams are down to their last life in the C-side... check out all the live scoring results here.

More later.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

More gals, Brier tix, Maine and Slam

Well, we figure it's almost time to move on from the calendar story, but the media just don't seem to want to let it go. Now the Americans are interested, but we have to ask if certain media commentators should really be ones to comment on people who choose to appear in a published product...? Sorry if that seems a little harsh.

Through all this, Pat Ryan's daughter Lynsay has remained out of the spotlight... or her photo has, anyway. However, this Friday she will appear coast-to-coast in Canada on TSN.

Not sure why the news isn't up on the website (yet), but the Tim Hortons Brier in Saskatoon (March 11-19) released a mini-pack ticket option yesterday, and has also added temporary capacity to the host Brandt Centre, which means 7,048 seats are now available for every draw. And heaven knows how many more are available in the Keith's Brier Patch.

Here's a fun one for the curious down in the USA... the annual Maine Games will feature curling this coming February, and spots are limited to 48 players: sign up here pronto.

Finally, the first Grand Slam of Curling is underway tonight in Port Hawkesbury, Nova Scotia. The National features a world field and the semis and final are televised Sunday on Rogers Sportsnet.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Calendar Grrrlz cause ruckus

It's not every day that one gets saturation coverage from a simple news release. But that's what happened yesterday when The Curling News announced the launch of the Ana Arce Team Sponsorship Calendar 2006.

In addition to tens of web postings, on-camera stories were broadcast by TSN's popular SportCentre show and also by CTV Winnipeg. Even my one-time Ryerson professor's outfit, CBC's The National, called to inquire... though we don't think they bit.

Bill Graveland's Canadian Press story was picked up across Canada and can be read in its entirety here, while fresh approaches come from the Ottawa Citizen; the innovative Barre Campbell at the Ottawa Sun; the brilliant Terry Jones in the Edmonton Sun, the relentless Al Cameron at the Herald, and the only media outlet to actually subscribe to TCN, Angela MacIssac's Calgary Sun, where Team Kleibrink lead Christine Keshen gamely says "bring it on."

There's even a brief photo-story in the main section of the Toronto Star. But no word yet from these guys.