Friday, December 23, 2005

January 2006 issue

Some quick pre-holiday news follows, but first: the January issue of The Curling News is in the mail.

It features:

• a great piece from Larry Wood on the Canadian Olympic Trials, the champions and the also-rans, including brilliant action photography from TCN's Ted Richards and others;

• a delightful column from Doug Maxwell on same;

Mike Haggerty's first report of the year, direct from Germany's European Championships;

Matt Hames' first column of the season from his Living In America perch;

• a tale of a four-generation curling team;

Mark Spector's fan-tastic "confession" of curling fandom;

• the new monthly TV Guide feature;

Jill Officer's Olympic Journey 101 has finally come to a rollicking close, and she takes us through the five stages of The Grieving Process;

• Curling's Amazing Race;

Heather Rankin's stunning victory in court over the Alberta Curling Federation;

Blue Rodeo does the Brier Parti Gras;

• a special look at Lowell's upcoming men's Worldfest;

• the TCN/CBC 30% off deal on the DVD is now held over through January;

• and still more Newfie aftermaths, with a besieged Toronto Sun writer flying off to The Rock to take his lumps, and a special TCN message from the Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador, Danny Williams.

Don't delay, subscribe today.

TCN will take a much-needed holiday break for a few days, so to set you off on your Merry way, here's a quick smorgasbord of curling tales and results to click on:

• Aftermatch pieces here and here on yesterday's UK Olympic selections, not to forget the chatroom opining, and even a TV interview here;

• Provincial playdowns are underway across Canada – Stefanie Lawton is looking to regroup in Sask, Manitoba's women are off and running to Thompson, and Ontario's men and women are also done with zone play, with some big teams having close calls in the B-side;

• and finally, Hilton Hotels is a new sponsor of US Curling: wonder what Paris would say?
"That's hot."

Merry Ho Ho everyone!

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Martin, Murdoch get Olympic nod

The decision has been announced: following a scrappy tiebreaker performance at last week's European Championships, 2002 Olympic Gold Medallist Rhona Martin (photo) will skip Great Britain's Olympic curling team in Pinerolo at the Torino 2006 Olympic Winter Games.

Joining her is one teammate from '02, Debbie Knox, as well as 2002 world champion skip Jackie Lockhart, defending Scottish champion skip Kelly Wood, and Lynn Cameron.

On the men's side, 2005 world runner-up and '05 Euro bronze medallist David Murdoch made it through along with mates Euan Byers and Craig Wilson, as well as 1999 world champions Warwick Smith and Ewan MacDonald.

The highly-controversial GB selection process is sure to cause waves in the lead-up to the Games, just as it has during the fall World Curling Tour season.

Stunning is the news that Murdoch's brother Neil did not make the men's team, as is the non-presence of a single member of the Tom Brewster foursome.

Already stunning is the fact that Martin was placed on the recent Euro squad along with two rival skips – Lockhart and Wood – and is now off to Italy.

Brewster lead Colin Campbell chatted with The Curling News last weekend, and was ready for the disappointing news.

Dave (Murdoch) has done pretty well at the Europeans and won bronze, and as a result I can't see (the coaches) changing the team for the Olympics. It could be a pat on the back and better luck next time.

The first two of many news reports is here and here.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Your Pal and mine

The big Norwegian, Pal Trulsen (photo) did it again, and the imminent January issue of The Curling News will have the scoop. He is European Champion for 2005 and his sights are squarely set on scoring another Olympic gold medal just a few short weeks from now.

Sweden's Peja Lindholm lost the final – for the second year in a row – but his women's counterpart Anette Norberg has won her fifth title in a row, and sixth in the last seven years, and is so far above and beyond any team heading into Torino it's not funny. And apologies to Team Shannon Kleibrink, but you've got your work cut out for you. There is a women's dynasty in the sport of curling, and it's Swedish.

CurlTV has followed up their surprise Olympic Trials coverage with the big news that they have secured the rights to morning draw games and other action throughout the CCA's entire Season of Champions roster: the 2006 M&M Meat Shops Canadian Junior Championships, the 2006 Strauss Canada Cup, the 2006 Scott Tournament of Hearts, the 2006 Tim Hortons Brier, the 2006 Ford World Women’s Championship and the 2006 World Men’s Championship.

This in addition to the next Grand Slam of Curling shootout, the BDO Classic Canadian Open, Jan. 5-8... which includes an Olympic exhibition match (Team Kleibrink versus whom?)... and a new junior development initiative in Winnipeg.

You've really gotta sign up for CurlTV, folks. What the heck are you waiting for?

In other news, all of Team Howard are going to Italy for the Russ show; the Scots are under fire from the Dutch over the "magic broom"; the decisions are surely made but Thursday is the announcement day for the British Olympic curling team selection; and the NBC Olympic website is now up, including a decent curling page...

Friday, December 16, 2005

Catching up, and in mourning

After a few days of rest, we're back... and it's true. The Brad Gushue and Shannon Kleibrink teams won the Trials, and Ferbey, Martin, Jones, The Other Jones, Stoughton, and The Other Howard... didn't.

Gushue leads the media impressions report by a 2-1 margin, but that doesn't mean Calgary isn't going ga-ga over their new Olympians. In fact, other western provs like Saskatchewan are in on the fun, as the third-coach tandem of Amy and Daryl Nixon hail from The Gap, and only left for Cowtown in 1995.

Something didn't ring right when, at the athlete reception in Halifax, CCA brass talked about shipping Kleibrink and Gushue to Scotland and then Italy in early January. Let's see... for Team Kleibrink, the skip has two kids and a husband transferred to the U.S., the second is nursing a three-month old, and the third and second both work for a law firm.

On the Gush side, there's the mammoth BDO Classic Canadian Open in Winnipeg, one of the Grand Slams, hitting the ice in early Jan.

Kudos then to CCA for listening to the players. Gushue is now headed to the Peg, while there are rumours of a special Team Kleibrink appearance on the final Slam Sunday as well. Stay tuned for more.

On the press watch these days, there is a minor furor over a Toronto sports columnist – sorry, satiristtaking shots at Newfoundlanders. A day later he has clarified his intentions of satire, claiming that:

There is nothing in my columns that readers don't see every week on the CBC's This Hour Has 22 Minutes. And, while I'm no Shaun Majumder, the tenor (if not the quality of humour) of my columns is no different than anything written for his show -- and most of that stuff is written by Easterners.

Is he right? Check out Majumder's "Raj Binder At Curling" segement right now on the 22 Minutes website.

Not to be outdone is the bad boy of Halifax, Jeff Stoughton, who of course noted that Gushue had "no chance" of winning the event. This week it emerged that he's often misunderstood, and that he also likes to have fun with ink-stained wretches. Heck, we could have told you that. And as if to confirm this, here's what the 'Toban had to say after the final:

Anyone who goes through here (the Trials) and plays as well as they did and beats everybody who's here, they're more than great representatives for us to bring back the gold medal.

Overseas, the European Championships wrap up Saturday, and Scotland's highly-controversial women's team has crashed out in the tiebreakers. Meanwhile, the men's squad is in first place and through to the semifinals, which means it may well be that David Murdoch is off to Torino with certainty. Rhona Martin's status (photo) on the women's side, of that we're not so sure.

Finally, the Canadian sports world is mourning the death of TSN's Paul McLean, who succumbed to cancer Wednesday night at only 39 years of age. Booted upstairs into management the past few years, "Mac" was a long-time curling producer, delivering the shows which inspired a curling nation, and during the Trials he was still on the phone with friends.

His hijinks and humour in the Dome truck, as well as his solid professionalism, will be sorely missed.

Monday, December 12, 2005

The Veteran Youths

Well. Transport yourself back nine days, and we’ll bet you’d never have expected this.

After a week-long display of youthful exuberance, the young turks from Newfoundland and Labrador came through in the clutch. They did it in front of a record Olympic Trials crowd, many of them clad in bright orange, and a high number – as yet undetermined – of TV eyeballs.

And the changing of curling’s guard is not fully complete, thanks to the stunning presence of legend Russ Howard. Added to the lineup at the first Slam of the year, with the gracious Mike Adam willingly stepping back to fifth man (surely a candidate for Most Selfless Act in Canadian sports history), the new Team Brad Gushue (photo) rocked its way through curling’s strongest teams in three different events, the last being the Roar of The Rings.

9-1 in that one, against the (alleged) best of the best.

Newfoundland and Labrador is in hysterics. Watch for Premier Danny Williams to announce a national day of celebration, at which Howard will be declared an official, not just honourary, Newfoundlander. We’ll bet the Prem was Blackberrying his staff as soon as the last-rock measurement was confirmed, followed by the explosion of cheering, yelling and crying.

After the required hour of media probing and postulating, the winning squad enjoyed their first doping test. For the record, lead Jamie Korab emerged first, with his skipper coming in last. Awaiting the squad were more HBC gear to wear, an Ana Arce Calendar prominently on display (there was much attention paid to this) and a quick meeting with the CCA.

When the vetern Howard strode in, he saw us and shook his head, giggling. Who knew? Russ said. Do I have to get a tattoo on my ass now?

Later on, coach Toby MacDonald played the harmonica at the Athletes’ Reception, which included yesterday's women's champs (see yesterday's Blogpost) and cracked jokes about being single for that night only, and Korab being single all the time. As our friend Terry Jones wrote, this really is a remake of the famous Jack McDuff story.

Team Stoughton, meanwhile, partied it up at the Patch and then The Lower Deck until the wee hours, alongside some of the Gushies. Calm and professional as ever.

Speaking of Stoughton... there’s already some calls for third Jon Mead’s head because of a missed line call in the 10th end. Such logic defies a few things, namely that the shooter had to roll away and absolutely could not stick; that the match result certainly did not hinge on the execution of that single shot; and also that Jon Mead’s shooting was of peak performance through the entire week, including the final.

Should a high-performance curler’s net worth to a team be judged a single line call alone? We don’t think so. But that’s our opinion.

Mead spoke quietly with us between dances with his wife at the Patch.

We left it all out there. It’s not so bad if you can honestly say that. I can tell you there is not one thing we would change. I’d never prepared for anything so much in my life.

Second stone Garry VanDenBerghe, almost jovial, at the Patch:

I told Jonny that if he gets down on himself for this I’ll kick his ass. Nobody played better than him. Nobody.

Some of the best reads today include Jim Bender, who points out that Mead may retire before some fans get their wish to see him fired, Bender again, Jonesy, then twice, and finally thrice, Bender’s opponent Paul Wiecek in Winnipeg (subscription only), Toronto’s Dave Perkins, Robin Short of St. John’s, who broke the story of Maureen Gushue’s battle with cancer, and who also arranged an e-mail address where fans can send congratulations to the champs: ... and finally Calgary’s Al Cameron (subscription only) who has a nice piece on the tattoo dilemma of Team Kleibrink and who also quotes Russ as such:

I can't imagine there's too many (Olympians) older than me. Hopefully they're curling against us if there are.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Eight years later

For Calgary's Shannon Kleibrink and proud new mom Glenys Bakker, the wounds of 1997 are healed. And for pixie Amy Nixon and wild woman Christine Keshen, a dream that's barely started is already in full swing.

Giving the new curling Olympians jackets and scarves adorned with the Canadian Olympic Team logo (photo) was a nice touch. More than one observer noticed the presence of blue with the red and white – also in the ribbon attached to the medal – but what the hey, Americans are our friends, right?


The Curling News celebrates with the victors, who won their seventh match in a row, showed true grit in overcoming back-to-back opposing steals in the eighth and ninth frames, and won it on a nifty highlight-reel shot, thus guaranteeing extra news impressions tonight and tomorrow (always an eye on marketing, yep, that's us).

We also sympathize with Team Kelly Scott, who played so well today and all week, improving their offensive game some twenty percentage points in the ten months between the STOH and these Trials, only to lose it in the very last 15 minutes.

And now it's the Calgarians with the chance at their 15 minutes of fame and fortune. At least until public and corporate Canada packs away their flags and kazoos the day after the Torino 2006 closing ceremonies and promptly forgets about our amateur winter athletes for another four years.

Do we sound bitter? If so, so what? Prove us wrong, oh public and corporate Canuckleheads. And while you're bristling at the sudden accusatory tone we have presented, why not remember Jeff Stoughton's words earlier this week, when he rushed to the defense of a beleaguered Team Ferbey:

For some reason Canadians seem to hate a winner. The poor guy, he's out trying his best and people are cheering misses. I think that's pretty ignorant and rude of the crowd to do that to a true champion that's out there.
I don't know why. It seems the Canadian mentality is that they don't seem to love their winners and these guys are certainly big winners.

Love your winners, folks. Starting with Kleibrink and finishing with either Stoughton or Brad Gushue tomorrow.

After all... the Americans wouldn't dream of doing otherwise for their own.

M&M new CCA sponsor

A quick break from the riveting women's final of the Olympic Trials (photo from the third end) to report the breaking news that M&M Meats Shops is the new title sponsor of the Canadian Junior Championships.

With the ink still wet on the two-year deal – and still amid the fallout of the cancellation of the long-running M&M Meat Shops Skins Game – this continues M&M's committment to the sport. Also a former sponsor of the Grand Slam of Curling, M&M continues to sponsor the Wayne and Sherry Middaugh teams, as well as numerous grass roots events in the Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario area, home turf for the M&M corporate office.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Turning back the clock

Jeff Stoughton's Buffalo Boys are back in a national final, their first since the 1999 Brier. And this time they are shooting for the Olympic Games.

Stoughton climbed all over Calgary's John Morris early, then beat back a comeback attempt to slide into Sunday's final versus Newfoundland's Brad Gushue.

Morris, down 6-1 at the break, lost his last three games to finish with bronze for the week.

More on the men's final after tomorrow's women's final, live on CBC at 1:00pm ET.

Second chance

Eight years later, Shannon Kleibrink (photo) is getting a second chance.

She lost the Brandon '97 Trials to Sandra Schmirler on "The Shot" we have seen on endless highlight reels. This time, with old third Glynnis Bakker throwing second, Amy Nixon at third and calendar wannabe-girl Christine Keshen at lead, she gets another crack.

Morris versus Stoughton in the men's semi tonight. Morris holds a 7-4 won/loss record over the Winnipeggers dating back to the 2001 Trials, and also won this week's round-robin game 8-4. However, Stoughton won both of their matchups in this calendar year: 5-3 at last April's Players' Championship and 6-4 at the first Slam of this season, The National.

Oh, Sherry

Team Stefanie Lawton of Saskatoon (photo) are through to the semi – currently down 2-1 against Calgary's Shannon Kleibrink after four ends – after defeating Ontario's Sherry Middaugh 9-4 in a tiebreaker.

A big four-ender in the eighth frame ended it early, but there were other indicators of tentative play from Middaugh. In the fourth end, with her own guard in play, Middaugh elected to hit a stone in the back 12-foot rings... a call reminiscent of a long-bygone era in the sport. Or so one would think.

Yes, things tighten up in the playoffs. Emotions, for one. But must strategy also tighten up, particularly when one has been playing fairly aggressively all week?

Two exclusives, from last night in the Keith's Patch: Team Jan Betker is not entering STOH playdowns in Saskatchewan. The squad will compete in January's Strauss Canada Cup and the first-ever women's Players' Championship in April... and just might call it a career afterwards. "Joan (McCusker) and I were retiring after last season," said lead Marcia Gudereit. "Then we got this (Olympic Trials) spot. We haven't talked about it, but we may be done."

Item two: Team Glenn Howard, agonizing runner-ups in the last two Ontario championships, will not enter playdowns either. They are committing to compete in one of the Grand Slams which conflicts with their regional playdown.

Not really an exclusive: Pat Ryan is retiring from competitive play. Now living in Red Deer, Alta., Ryan plans to park it for the playdowns. That's what he is saying, anyways. His now ex-teammates have picked up Jeff Richards, son of Kelly Scott coach Gerry Richards, to replace him.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Gut check time

So Johnny Mo has seen his wish for a bye to the final vanish with a mano-a-mano loss to Brad Gushue (photo) in the battle for first place tonight at the Trials.

Team Morris must now rebound from two consecutive losses – Morris was up 5-2 in the morning game before losing, and was shooting 45 per cent halfway through tonight's match – and show up hard as nails against Winnipeg's Jeff Stoughton in Saturday night's semi.

Kelowna's Pat Ryan couldn't upend Glenn Howard, and finishes a strong fourth, just out of the playoffs.

Meanwhile, the young Gushues must wait a full two and one-half days before competing for everything they've ever dared dream of... and in front of nearly a million people on CBC. They have to check their guts, too... and they'll probably look to the veteran Russ Howard for guidance.

But the question is... who is going to check Russ' guts?

Chaos in Kelowna

That's what we're predicting Saturday when the B.C. team skipped by Kelly Scott (photo) goes for golden dreams in the women's final of the Canadian Olympic Trials. The Kelowna Curling Club should be rockin'!

The round-robin champs (8-1) are through and Calgary's Shannon Kleibrink (6-3) is also through, but not quite as far – she's in Friday afternoon's semifinal. Two other 6-3 squads will meet tomorrow morning – yes, on TSN! – in a tiebreaker for the right to battle Kleibrink: Sherry Middaugh of Coldwater, Ont. and Stefanie Lawton of Saskatoon.

Will fellow Kelownan Pat Ryan – the Hall of Fame skipper who has one foot in the door of retirement – win and get lucky in tonight's final men's draw, and squeeze into the playoffs? Stay tuned...

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

End of an era?

Like Randy Ferbey, and then Colleen Jones, "the old bear" Kevin Martin was eliminated with a loss to the rampaging Brad Gushue/Russ Howard quintet this morning.

Two Olympic Games – one of them silver-lined – and a Trials runner-up finish in 1997 are all that's left. There will be no chance for golden redemption in 2006.

Just like yesterday's UEFA Cup crashout of footie legends Manchester United, it's out with the old and in with the new. These Trials are offering up fresh faces for your cheering contention. Our first glimpse of this happened in February's STOH, where two of the Trials' leaders – Kelly Scott and Stefanie Lawton – made the playoffs.

All four atop the leaderboard – Scott and Lawton and Gushue and Calgary's John Morris – are former world junior champions. And fairly recently, not in the mid-80's like Martin.

It says here that of those four, Morris (photo) looks the most dangerous, despite this morning's loss to the vanquished Glenn Howard. What a great display of management skills he showed off yesterday in beating Martin. The young turks did three things with that match: a) guaranteed themselves something, at minimum a tiebreaker; b) gave themselves a big boost of confidence heading into all-critical Thursday; and c) showed their newfound maturity in favouring a more conservative, unflashy style of play – the opposite of the big money shotmaker from Edmonton.

In short, Johnny Mo and company look ready to become Olympians. Tonight's climactic draw will might reinforce or challenge that verdict.

The win echoed their victory over Martin in the 2004 Players' Championship final, but reversed last month's stunning loss to Martin at The National, where Martin made the Shot Of The Year (see November 4 post in the Archives).

That doesn't mean all savvy veterans are out of the picture. 1998 golden gals Team Jan Betker are hanging around, along with Shannon Kleibrink and Sherry Middaugh, as is legendary Pat Ryan (barely). The best of this group looks to be Winnipeg's Jeff Stoughton, who are starting to roll as they have so often on the Ultima World Curling Tour.

Jones vs. Jones

We're here.

First sight on the media bench is good old Harry, longtime lead player for The Wrench and a columnist for Sweep! Magazine. Last time Neil Harrison was at the Trials, in 1997, his squad turned back the clock all the way to the semi-final, before Kevin Martin detonated his arsenal of high-powered takeouts to slide into the final.

Just in time to see Colleen Jones defeat Jennifer Jones (photo), who also falls to 3-4. That's on the outside looking in, as Sherry Middaugh, Jan Betker and Shannon Kleibrink are all at 4-3, behind leaders Stefanie Lawton and Kelly Scott.

More later.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Boo birds haunt Ferbey

So it's come to this, says Al Cameron.

Team Randy Ferbey is reduced to receiving pity from their fellow competitors, amid hoots and catcalls from the crowd at the Metro Centre.

Jeff Stoughton said two things yesterday... We want him to get four losses and get rid of him, which could happen this morning, and possibly live on CurlTV, and he also said this:

For some reason Canadians seem to hate a winner. The poor guy, he's out trying his best and people are cheering misses. I think that's pretty ignorant and rude of the crowd to do that to a true champion that's out there.
I don't know why. It seems the Canadian mentality is that they don't seem to love their winners and these guys are certainly big winners.
I think the crowd should be a little more respectful. If a team misses a shot, let the end pass, then cheer your hearts out. But when guys are missing and they're cheering those misses, it is very disappointing as a player to see that happening, especially to such a great team.

How strange to hear this, just four years after the war of words that pitted "Slammers" like Stoughton, Martin and Middaugh versus "sellouts" like Ferbey, Russ Howard and Morris. As for the Met Centre fans, you'd think the war between the athletes and their national governing body was still ongoing, and they were choosing sides. And not the side which the majority of curling fans seemed to be on, all those years ago.

Just last February at the STOH in St. John's, fans were cheering misses – but not booing players, it should be said – and for that they received a public earful from the host skip, Heather Strong. To which the sports editor of the hometown St. John's Telegraph wrote that fans should be allowed to do whatever they want. The logic was that it's part of the show, and a show the fans have paid for.

Russ Howard: I predicted carnage here. I just didn't think it would happen to Randy. And not this quickly. You don't expect to see somebody like that 1-3. But you wouldn't expect us to be 4-0. You wouldn't have bet on that either.

There's carnage piling up on the women's side of the Trials, too, and also overseas, where a public furor is starting to brew over the controversial selection process for the U.K. Olympic teams.

2002 Olympic gold medallist Rhona Martin will skip Scotland's entry in this weekend's European Championships, with two other skips on the team as well. And it seems The Scottish Curler, another fabled tome similar to The Curling News, conducted a recent competitor poll and only 9 per cent of 77 athlete supported the selection process, with 86 per cent having reservations and 19 per cent fully believing it's a "recipe for disaster". In addition, an anonymous "but disturbingly well-informed" letter was published in the mainstream Herald, quoting data compiled on the women's candidates that shows 2002 world champion skip Jackie Lockhart ranked lower than some athletes who were passed over for the Euro team announcement. Here's a second piece on the controversy, which could get ugly.

Still with the international scene, we'll finish with something good and something baffling. On the plus side, a nice Reuters feature on the U.S. women's team was moved yesterday, and you can bet US Curling will be watching for national pickup, to go along with this weekend's broadcast of the ICE show on NBC, which features curling. Meanwhile, Japan has announced their Olympic team, which includes five curlers... but so far, we don't know who they are.


Monday, December 05, 2005

Skins toast, Gushue on fire

Things are getting wild in Halifax, but also elsewhere in the curling world.

We start with terrible news out of Waterloo, Ontario, where the sixth annual $100,000 M&M Meat Shops Skins has been cancelled. Scheduled for Dec. 27-29 with three games on Sportsnet and the best teams in the world shooting it out in the only surviving skins game, its plug has now been pulled by management company Shot Rock Curling, a division of the SCORE Golf empire. Despite lead sponsor M&M's patronage, additional sponsorship sales were too weak to sustain the event. Shot Rock rep Paul Savage, an Olympic coach/fifth with the Mike Harris team back in 1998, released the news today, and he must be unconsolable.

We are very grateful for the six years of sponsorship that M&M Meat Shops has extended to us, and again offered this year, said Savage. Curling is an invaluable Canadian sport and in no way should this cancellation be a reflection upon a decrease in support by M&M Meat Shops. They have been an outstanding partner.

We have been proud of our involvement in this Skins Game, said Chris Styan, Director of Marketing for M&M Meat Shops. We continue to actively support curlers Sherry and Wayne Middaugh in their competitions across Canada and we will also continue to support local activities at The KW Granite Club.

In an Olympic year – the men's Trials champ was guaranteed a berth – this development is truly awful.

Things are also awful – right now – for Team Randy Ferbey, 1-2 at the Olympic Trials after last night's loss to Brad Gushue, and many are saying he should be 0-3, if not for a maddening gift from John Morris. The Ferb, who is a straight-shooter, ain't happy.

I'm not worried about Gushue's play, Ferbey said after last night's game. I'm not even commenting on that. I'm worried about my team. I'm commenting on my team. I'm not here to talk about them, okay?


Let's talk about great writing. When Terry Jones of the Edmonton Sun is on the curling beat, which isn't very often, fans benefit. At these Trials he talks about Ferbey's woes, and Colleen's determination, and of course Russ Howard playing with Gushue, including a great tale of when Russ comforted a junior-aged Gushue after losing the national junior final. Terry was also the first to notice, apart from us of course, that Saturday's Ferbey/Kevin Martin tilt featured Ferbey in black and Martin in white... shouldn't it be the other way round? He also investigates the pressure the athletes are under at these Trials, calling it curling's "Big Gulp," and the trend towards big-name players in the alternate position.

In short, we at The Curling News are big Jonesy fans. You should be, too.

Sun Media is doing quite well this week, actually. Winnipeg's Jim Bender squeezed some almost-predictions out of TSN's Cathy Gauthier and also retired legend Kerry Burtnyk, who won two Briers in that building and just missed out on a spot in this year's Trials. Bender is also the first to get the scoop on proposed changes to the Trials qualifying system for 2009 (ie. Vancouver 2010).

As for predictions, the Globe's Bob Weeks finally wrote his first curling column of the season on Saturday, and he boldly went where no one dares every four years. He is calling Sherry Anderson to beat Jennifer Jones in the women's semi, and Colleen Jones to triumph in the final. On the men's side, he sees Ferbey defeating Glenn Howard in the semi before falling to Martin in the final. Brave stuff.

For daily coverage, the Globe is using CP while the Post is using the Herald's Al Cameron and the Journal's Vicki Hall, among others. And the local Halifax media are all over this, just to state the obvious.

Two final items: history will be made during tonight's women's draw, as TSN will actually pre-empt wrestling in favour of curling, instead of the other way around. The rasslin' world must be reeling. Finally, Torino Olympic curling tickets are a hot item: they are 95 per cent sold out. Cool.

Gushue/Howard are now up 8-1 on poor Mark Dacey. Hold on folks, things are getting interesting.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Don’t miss the show

Thanks to TSN and CBC, Canadians can see much of the Tim Hortons Canadian Curling Trials on television. Thanks to CurlTV, computer viewers from anywhere in the world can catch a morning game each day.

But none of these options truly equals being there in person. Eyes on every sheet, senses primed, taking it all in live, on site.

For those still wondering just what is the big deal about this event... here’s a piece written by TCN publisher George Karrys. It’s scheduled to appear this weekend in the Morning Roar, the daily newspaper of the Trials, and a shorter version appears in the December issue of The Curling News.

Don’t miss the show, folks.


It’s that time of the quadrennial again, dear reader, and I wonder if you are aware of just how lucky you are.

You are lucky to be here, on site, for these Tim Hortons Canadian Curling Trials. For this is widely viewed as the greatest showpiece in the history of the sport of curling.

Others will worry about whether they have enough blank videotapes, burnable DVDs or recording time banked in their TV’s digital box for this one.

All you have to worry about is getting to the Metro Centre on time... and clever timing of your bathroom breaks.

I remember much of our team’s win at Brandon’s first medal-status Trials shootout, in 1997. The images are burned deep into the brain’s circuits.

• My media friends rushing past us to interview opponent Kerry Burtnyk after we beat him the first draw. They didn’t get around to visiting Mike until we were 3-0. “Oho, so now you want to talk to me?” the skipper grinned.

• Dead silence in the arena after we made a great shot to take a huge lead on Jeff Stoughton. This was Manitoba, after all, and who the hell were we trying to impress, anyway?

K-Mart, still hanging around eight years later, congratulating us in the dressing room after we barely escaped K-Park in the last draw to claim the bye to the final. “That was huge,” Martin exclaimed. “Absolutely huge game!”

• Stoughton lead Steve Gould, in the bowels of the stadium tunnels, approaching as we waited for the bagpipes announcing the march to the victory podium. He had won the world championship just a year earlier, but his eyes were haunted. “This is all I wanted,” he said. “I would have given the worlds back.” He’s back again, too.

The utter exhaustion after every game, the distinct lack of partying, the overwhelming mental tapdance needed to just make it through a day of battling the Howards... and then Middaugh... followed by The Wrench... and so on. It never ended until the crowd exploded on the final Sunday and we had somehow beaten Martin for Olympic glory.

No, this is not the Brier, it’s bigger. This is, oddly, even beyond curling. And that means those lucky enough to be there live, in person, will see something to be remembered forever.

This show is so good, the players can’t keep their eyes on their own sheet. I remember a wild, see-saw morning game against Middaugh, and raging that this game should be saved somewhere, somehow, on a videotape. And the the match on the next sheet over, and the next one after that.

Finally, the following summer, I found time to check out Trials tapes my roommates had collected, and I saw Ray Turnbull’s very first intro on TSN’s opening draw of coverage. His eyes were bulging as he raved, with compatriot Linda Moore struggling to keep from laughing.

“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!”

It goes without saying that Ray and Linda, with trusty ol’ Vic, are back as well.

I’m back, too, having missed the Regina Roar four years ago, but I’m not arriving until Wednesday. And now, I’m off to the store for videotapes. Because this show simply cannot be missed.

Lucky you, dear reader.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Trials AM coverage on CurlTV

As first mentioned on this Blog, Edmonton's STATUSfirm recently approached CBC regarding the rights for CurlTV to webstream morning draws from the Olympic Trials.

Well, guess what: CBC has now gone two-for-two in granting sub-licenses – the obvious return of TSN being the other – and CurlTV is now confirmed as the morning game Trials broadcaster.

The two end sheets, A and E, will be considered each day. The action starts this Saturday at 9:30am eastern time with either Sherry Middaugh vs. Jo-Ann Rizzo or Marie-France Larouche versus Shannon Kleibrink.

On Sunday morning, at 10am eastern, you will see either Glenn Howard versus Mark Dacey or Randy Ferbey versus John Morris.

CurlTV is a subscription-only service. They are "on-air" via your computer every weekend, on the World Curling Tour and now at their first CCA Season of Champions event. The technology is great, and they will even archive games for later viewing, and burn games to DVD for members.

Sign up NOW here.

Still with the Trials, Sportsnet is sending two of their curling talent, play-by-play man Rob Faulds and colour analyst Marilyn Bodogh, to Halifax for daily reports. This is the first time Sportsnet has sent their Grand Slam game-day talent to do on-site reporting at a CCA event. What's next... Vic and Ray reporting from the BDO Classic Canadian Open in Winnipeg?

Also, the Sunday magazine TV show also labelled CurlTV (Sportsnet at noon eastern) will be taping from Halifax, and TSN morning draw gal Cathy Gauthier will indeed be a part of the TSN crew this season, handling on-ice (and off-ice) assignments such as athlete interviews etc. Gauthier told the Winnipeg Sun that it will be "bizarre" to be on the ice, virtually right next to the team she qualified for the Trials with, but not in uniform.

This will be the hardest week I've ever had to experience. This will be the first time they will be at something that I earned a spot into going after the same goal (Olympics) that I wanted to go after.

It will be just impossible to disengage. And it will be tough no matter what they do. And if they don't do well, that doesn't mean it was because I wasn't there.