Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Heroes and Hyperlinks

Many thanks to all for the positive comments – here on The Blog and via email – on our efforts during Torino 2006. Please keep the subscription orders coming: the printed version of The Curling News is still our lifeblood, and a successful TCN allows us to add value via Blogging and other initiatives.

A pile of stuff to wade through today, simply because we're not sure how much Blogging we can do over the next week... we have two days to crank out the March issue of TCN, before heading to the STOH for both CBC and the National Post. We need an assistant!

Before we begin, a shout out to an old public school chum, David Naylor, whom we caught up with in Turin, as well as additional thanks and cheers to Naylor's colleague Christie Blatchford, who wrote that TCN is a lyrical and literate little jewel.

Grazie, signora.

Triumphant airport returns for Canadian curlers: the men here in the Big Smoke (Brad Gushue in photo) and then, oh yes, in St. John’s, where the party is probably still going on... plus the women here... and down south in “Curling Capital USA” where newly-bronzed Pete Fenson will no doubt be slinging pizzas at the parlour tonight... and even in Finland, where an unbelievable 30,000 people want to learn the sport. Like, wow.

Hey, did you know that no less than three Canadian talismans were buried in, under or adjacent to the ice as the playoffs approached? Yeah, we did, but we didn’t want to say anything.

Did you also know that Cindy Klassen, Canada’s Olympic superwoman, has just signed a $1 million sponsorship deal? Her agent is Elliott Kerr of the Landmark Group, who has also been representing Russ Howard since the dark days (now most certainly forgotten) of the infamous legal action against the Canadian Curling Association, circa the early 1990s... what’s next, Elliott? A new deal for The Wounded Moose, perhaps? But with or without the Gushies?

It could take forever to wrap up Turin... so let's get cracking, and prepare your fingers to hyperlink away!

• Here's a look at the microcosm of curling within the spectrum of the Winter Games themselves... the Italians are still hot on the sport... and here's the view from Spain...

Mass U.S. interest and commentary continues, in Rapid City, SD; via letter defense in San Antonio; the venerable NY Times reports on 1,000 people showing up at Broomstones for an open house; here's Lebanon (er, not the Middle East, just Pennsylvania): Charlotte chants “Om” to curling... Dulltooth (just kidding!) is predicatably all over the curling craze... San Jose lists Gushue’s win as one of the top five Games moments... Arizona feels the buzz... here's some thoughts on the "whiteness" of the Winter Olys and curling as a sport in "technical terms"... This Red Sox outfielder, a Canadian, has never tried curling... here's a Dallas writer's take on the bronze game... a solid U.S. curling wrapup with questions about the fallen CurlGirls... too funny: here's how AP described that Fenson bent the winning rock into the target area...meanwhile, Cleveland described how Fenson curved his stone around a block to nudge another Great Britain stone out of scoring range... look, we've discovered the amusing Michael Hunt in Milwaukee, also with an earlier curling piece here.

• Indeed, the curlers were the Rock Stars of Italy, even if some high-profile Sports Illustrated type needed to experience it firsthand in order to change his mind, after first writing something mildly nasty (if funny)... ditto for the odd radio jock as well, crow thus eaten and lessons well learned...

• Okay, so it was Mark who streaked during the men’s bronze match. Commentary continues, seemingly nonstop, even in India (?!), but we’ll say this once again... thanks for not stepping on the ice surface!

• Internationally speaking, the Finns have a lot to say, about curling (and hockey) of course, including wondering if Gushue's missed seven-ender was just him being "polite"... Andrew Baker of Britain's The Telegraph is brilliant:

The top three are awarded medals. Fourth prize at the Olympics is a kick in the teeth, a crock of manure or any other metaphor you prefer for sporting despair. It is far better to finish fifth, and dead last has its attractions. Fourth stinks.

And another Baker gem, about the streaker:

Indeed, one member of the audience became quite carried away, divesting himself of all clothing and racing around the arena with only a rubber chicken to protect his modesty. This being an ice rink, there wasn't much to cover up.

Speaking of the Brits... er, Scots... there's a great zinger from a UK journo here and, back on ice, the U.K. supersquads have returned to their old rivalries with their national championship starting today... there's also some grumping in NZ as winless Becker carried the flag in the closing ceremonies, as well as the opening.

• More funnies: this guy made a curling song, and these guys loved the sport as well as the calendar (in addition to this guy)...

• Last but not least, and away from the Olympics for a moment, The Kids Are Alright (once again) at the STOH, which is doing well on many fronts... and which features a birth-control edict for one team!... and Team Ferbey reminded everyone just how good they still are – had you forgotten? – by winning the third Grand Slam of the year...

Friday, February 24, 2006

Olympic Curling M Final: Canada!

What an incredible 2006 Olympic Winter Games... for the sport of curling.

• It was an unprecedented curling love-in between curling and the world and U.S. media from the first rock onward, and it only grew with each passing day. The onslaught of interest and commentary didn’t even waver when the U.S. CurlGirls did, quickly plummeting to the bottom of the standings.

• There was on-ice controversy over playing conditions and off-ice mayhem involving illness and team dynamics... mostly with Team Canada (x2) but on other squads as well.

• The Kiwis debuted, the Japanese made a remarkable mid-week recovery to challenge (as did the equally surprising Russians) and three legends may have finally bowed out with illustrious careers at their backs: Pal Trulsen, Dordi Nordby and Peja Lindholm.

Ridiculously huge TV ratings swept the world – over 20 per cent of the entire nation of Finland watched their team's men's semi-final victory, and 12 million Japanese watched their team's upset of Canada – steered by the single greatest team of Canadian curling TV experts ever assembled, from three networks: CBC, TSN and Sportsnet. And the return of the track-cam for the semis, bronze games and golden finals was merely the icing on the cake... and on that latter note, a great big SCREW YOU to the Canadian boo-birds who chased it away to begin with.

• Curling had its first streaker. Coupled with the fuss over Playboy and the calendar, it made for a head-shaking week.

• The Swedes proved their vaunted status as number one in women's play, with the Swiss continuing their strong Olympic legacy of medalling every time... including demonstration years. And Canada's women once again recovered from disappointment to grab a spot on the podium, for the second Games in a row.

• Bronze for the U.S. – finally, the desperately sought podium spot – as Pete Fenson may have just saved the sport in the lower 48.

• Finally, the men's gold medal final.

Two incredible stories to tell. The first is of a giant tree of a guy from faraway Finland, who grew up throwing rocks on ice about as good as asphalt. He eventually built a curling club – Finland's first and only – using his own money plus grants from the World Curling Federation, and quit his career job to manage the facility... and throw practice rocks.

Two years ago he was down and out: no more touring and spieling in Canada for a month on end, as his funding had run out. Split from his longtime third and buried deep in the miserable B-pool of the European Championships. His team won the B-pool round-robin, then a semi and final, and then lost a World challenge game to Russia... but it was a best two-out-of three, and he won the next two games to scrape into the 2005 Worlds.

At those Worlds he appeared – with just one set of team jackets, re-used from earlier competitions – down and out again, early in the week, but reeled off a whack of consecutive wins to finish in that heinous six-way tie for first at 8-3. That got his team in to the Olympic Winter Games, where they started the week at 2-2... before rolling yet again to a stunning finish at the top of the table, and beating Great Britain in the semi for a guaranteed Olympic medal... now gleaming silver in the cold Finnish night.

Said Markku Uusipavalniemi after the semi:

This result will improve our marketing strategy. It will generate more enthusiasm for our supporters.

Gee... do ya think?

Now for Team Canada.

Down and out with a missed shot to win the Canadian Juniors quite a few years ago, a young and very green Brad Gushue (photo) was comforted in the hallway by some guy named Russ Howard, merely a Hall of Fame Brier skip who had lost out in no less than three Olympic Trials events (including 1987 in Calgary). TCN remembers well the gesture Russ and his brother Glenn made in 1997... while spiriting out of the hotel in the early morning after Mike Harris' improbable Trials win, the Howards slipped a note under Harris' door, congratulating his team on their win and wishing them the very best in Japan. The Howards, you see, had defeated Harris in back-to-back Ontario championship finals in 1992 and '93.

Redemption for Gushue with world junior gold, followed by a spate of Brier appearances and a reputation as a great shooter, possibly the best that Atlantic Canada has ever produced. But a raunchy fall start to the 2005/06 season led to discussions about the team lineup, and fifth man Howard – recruited earlier at the Edmonton Brier on the recommendation of either/or both coach Toby MacDonald and CBC commentator Harris (the story varies) – was pulled into regular duty, a duty made seamless by the selfless act of lead/fifth Mike Adam.

The rest is well-known. Amazing play – a throwback to that unexpected '97 Harris year – in Halifax for the Trials title and then poor play and visible discontent in the first week of Torino 2006. But the gut was checked and the team sprang to life just in time to cement a playoff berth, and then overwhelmed both the USA and Finland in the semi and final.

Gushue on the cell phone just seconds after the game had ended... some U.S. journo will give him flack for that, to be sure, but we know he was calling his mom, who has been battling cancer all season, and who could not be here in Italy to see it all in person. Talking to his mom about his Olympic dream, which has possessed him since his junior days, and how he would soon wear Canada's first-ever men's curling gold around his neck.

Arrivaderci, Italia. We're off for a few days of well-earned rest, and will be back early next week. By then the 25th anniversary Scott will be in full roar – heck, it starts tomorrow – and there will be lots to talk about. As usual.

Thanks for reading.

USA wins first Olympic curling medal

Despite the unexpected arrival of the infamous GoldenPalace.com streaker (photo) – certainly doesn't look like the legend, though, does it? – the USA was the real story at Pinerolo today, winning that country's first-ever curling medal.

Bronze to Pete Fenson and his team from Bemidji, Minn., after they defeated David Murdoch of Great Britain 8-6 for the second time in the tournament – and fourth time in Fenson's career, against no losses.

Third Shawn Rojeski after the semi-final loss to Canada:

Our first medal will mean a lot. If somebody had told us at the beginning of the week that we would play for bronze I wouldn't have believed him. Now we'll just step back a little and see what we can do.

Thanks to Bram Weinstein, radio host of Sportstalk 980 in Washington, D.C., who caught the streaker on camera and shared his photo with The Curling News. Incidentally, that's a rubber chicken hanging between the streaker's legs, and he never did step onto the sheet in play (thanks, dude). He got the loudest guffaws for making a sweeping motion to the Yanks, before head official Keith Wendorf bundled him into a jacket and escorted him from the ice.

There was only one other fellow trying to corner him before Keith arrived, and no sign of the incredible security presence which has done a great job of hassling photographers and journalists all week. Remarkable.


Nike has been getting requests for the U.S. curling unis...

• You are aware there's a Grand Slam going on, right? The Masters is underway in curling-crazed St. John's right now, with the semis and finals on Rogers Sportsnet...

• We haven't seen this guy and we also thought 1998 U.S. Olympic skip Lisa Schoeneberg was the one in charge here in Pin, but whatever...

This U.K. story published before the bronze match wins our Headline of the Day award...

Hey, look! A new Mr. Grumpypants – sorry, Ms. Grumpypants – has dared to be different and scathes the sport...

Well, okay, this one is really today's Headline award winner...

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Olympic Curling W Final: Sverige!

Team Anette Norberg of Sweden, heavy-metal queens (photo) and now Queens of Curling, received flowers tonight and will receive Olympic gold medals tomorrow night at Medals Plaza in nearby downtown Turin.

Hammerfall will be pleased.

It was tough battle against Switzerland's Mirjam Ott, who scores Olympic silver for the second Games in a row (she played third for Luzia Ebnother in Salt Lake City).

The see-saw clash saw Ott suffer a bad pick on her last rock of the seventh end to trail 5-2. But she made a great angle-tap for a deuce in the eighth – mysteriously left for her by Norberg – and she did a great job of forcing the Swedes to a single in the ninth. Then came a classic deuce for the tie in ten, and an extra-end.

The Swiss threatened yet again, but Norberg chose a double-takeout – a hit and roll would have done it – on her last puck to claim glory.

Tomorrow sees the USA and Brits battle for bronze, and then Canada's Russ Howard/Brad Gushue meets the amazing Finns, skipped by U-15, for gold. Back on The Rock, the provincial government has offically closed all schools tomorrow so kids can watch the Gushies in action... and we have our eyes peeled for the Premier, who is rumoured to be considering a late flight in for the match.


Today’s edition of the BBC’s Ask Anna features curling;

Relax, Kiwis... there's no way your Olympic curlers dislike each other, they’re far too friendly at the core;

The Curling News had an interesting run-in with some U.S. journos, and while it's not precisely what was said, it's close enough;

• Americans are still buzzing about the sport, in Colorado... and in Wayland, Mass. (is that near Lowell, anyone?)... of course in Minny, the heartland of the U.S. Olympic teams... in Laurel, Maryland... in Fargo (yah)... and even Super Bowl City, Pittsburgh...

Bronze for Canada


One day after the Canadian men put it all together on the ice for – really – the first time since the Trials, Canada's women's team did same in defeating Norway's Dordi Nordby for the Torino 2006 Olympic bronze medal.

Quote of the day from Amy Nixon, third for Team Canada's Shannon Kleibrink, from this AP story:

Dude, I thought I wasn't going to make it through the week. I thought I'd be IVed, so I'm happy.

Here's the view from Ingerlund, and also from... China?! ... not to mention Australia, which also offers the best headline seen in a while.

Sweden versus Switzerland for gold tonight...

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Shot of the day

Not from the ice... but through a camera lens.

This shot of Canadian second Glenys Bakker was taken just five minutes before her march onto the carpet for the Olympic women's semi-final. She was sitting in a stairwell, alone with her thoughts before the big game.

It's tough to come back from such disappointment to challenge for bronze. Kelley Law and co. did it for Canada four years ago, and now it's up to the Calgarians here in Italy. Game time 1:00pm (or it 1:30?) local time... early AM in North America.

A humdinger of a golden final

This one, to be contested Friday, should be a humdinger.

The Canadians finally fired on all cylinders here tonight, reminding one and all just how they steamrolled their way to the Olympic Trials championship back in December. A stubborn Pete Fenson hung in as long as he could, but was already overwhelmed by the time the five-ender was even a reality. 11-5 Canada and a date in the final... and another chance for Canada's first-ever men's gold.

In the other semi, Great Britain's David Murdoch faced off against Finland. Markku Uusipaavalniemi (photo) is indeed a blur as he and his mates love to throw it high and hard, and this ice is perfect for them. But today they mixed their gunfire with a calm, unflappable draw game, and when Markku dropped a steal in the ninth for a 3-3 tie, one got the distinct impression he wasn't too rankled.

Indeed, after a nifty hit and freeze by Murdoch in the 10th, Markku couldn't throw his favoured hit to win the game, and instead covered the pin – almost nonchalalantly – with his final shot. It was a victory which no one would have ever predicted in the years, weeks and days leading up to now.

The Finns are for real; Canada is now for real, and the stage is set for a real showpiece. But first, there's tomorrow's bronze and gold medal women's games.

Until then...

Canada vanquished, Norberg on track

Agony for Canada as Shannon Kleibrink's Calgary foursome lose emphatically to an extremely effective Swiss squad skipped by 2002 Olympic silver medallist Mirjam Ott.

The weight of carrying Team Canada on her shoulders all week might have finally worn Kleibrink down. She shot only 66 per cent – to Ott's well-earned 88 – and she faced tough situations – as usual – much of the time.

In the end, it was a missed guard that burned Kleibrink in the eighth. Instead of a strong steal opportunity she opened the door to a Swiss deuce... and it was all her doing. Unfair, to be sure, but this is sport.

On to the bronze medal game for the Canadians. There's little time to grieve over what might have been.

Sweden's Anette Norberg will meet the Swiss for Olympic gold. Norberg defeated Norway's Dordi Nordby by a close 5-4 count in an enthralling match, and will look to cement her team's place as one of the greatest to ever play the game. Move over Elisabet Gustafson – who is here with Swedish TV, by the way – there could be a new sheriff in town.

The men take to the ice tonight... and the first song the deejay is spinning on the in-house system right now is London Calling by The Clash. A sign of things to come for Great Britain's David Murdoch, perhaps? He and his lads take on Markku Uussipaavalniemi and the streaking Finns, while Team Canada's Russ Howard et al battle the USA's Pete Fenson.

Stay tuned.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Canadian women through to semis


A scary win for Canada in women's play, a 9-8 win over an inspired Dorte Holm of Denmark. Glenys Bakker shooting 58% at third is not going to cut the mustard, but a persistent – and unsettling – listlessness still plagues the entire Calgary foursome.

One sheet over, Switzerland ended the Japanese dream with an emphatic 11-5 win, while Great Britain thumped the USA 10-4. In addition, the resurgent Russians took Norway's Dordi Nordby out by a 10-8 final count.

As such... no tiebreakers. Canada (3) meets Switzerland (2) in one semi, while Sweden (1) battles Norway (4) in the other.

And a day off for The Curling News here in Italy... woo-hoo! We'll be back on Wednesday... for now, the calendars are back on sale, and a couple of random ink spills, until we meet again...

• a story on a meaningful Feb. 24 for the U.S. men’s third;

• and this guy is convinced that curling is a sport and figure skating... is not.

Canadian men through, Swedish rumours

It started badly... well before the match, in fact, with word that Team Canada men’s lead Jamie Korab was sick – up all night with flu-like symptoms – as well as Canadian women’s third Amy Nixon, the latest to fall to a carnival of Italian bugs.

But fifth man Mike Adam (at right in photo) was steady, Russ Howard (throwing) overcame a rough start, Mark Nichols (brushing) threw countless bullet bailouts – overcoming a couple of clunkers – and Brad Gushue established himself as a playoff curler as Canada defeated Pete Fenson’s Americanos 6-3 to claim a playoff spot at 6-3... and a repeat match with the USA (also 6-3) in Wednesday’s semi-final.

In the other semi, first-place Finland (7-2) will battle Great Britain (6-3). Watching today’s match with keen interest were tiebreaker hopefuls Pal Trulsen and Switzerland’s Ralph Stoeckli, both out of the running at 5-4.

It doesn't matter to us who we play, Fenson said afterwards. I think everyone who is in the semifinals is playing well. No one snuck in the back door.

All it takes is for somebody to get hot for a day or two and the gold is theirs, said U.S. third Shawn Rojeski.

So the Gushies have done their part in trying to give Pinerolo a full Tuesday off. Meanwhile, Shannon Kleibrink’s Canuck girls did have Nixon in the lineup tonight until just five minutes before game time, but she had to bail and Sandra Jenkins is in action for tonight’s critical match with Denmark. The good news is that Dordi Nordby won her morning game against Denmark, it’s all in Canada’s hands, once again. A Canuck win, over Denmark, puts them through to the semis at 6-3 along with Sweden (first at 7-2) and Norway and Switzerland.

How's this for a vicious rumour... it says that Sweden's Anette Norberg threw her final game this morning against the Russians, allowing Norway or Switzerland (both in action tonight) to finish first, thus dodging a particular team in the semis.

True or false?

Also in conclusive women’s action tonight are three tiebreaker hopefuls: the remarkable Japanese, the surprising Russians and the reeling Britons.

In addition:

George Bush watched curling... a Newsday writer finally acknowledged enjoyment of curling, and further inquires about a curling club on Long Island – anyone?... a TV Blog has a discussion on American curling TV coverage, with TCN weighing in (naturally). The original poster, a negative kind of guy, was shouted down by positive Blogtorts, although he was bang on with this earlier posting...

Speaking of TV, more ratings numbers on Olympic curling – numbers which would make Statman slather... the GB vs Japan game yesterday drew over 2 million Brits... and about 12 million Japanese. The squad skipped by Ayumi Onadero is still winning and their exploits have captured the imagination of their results-starved nation... and puts this Mainichi story from two days ago into the “premature” pile...

Here's an interesting story logging Olympic excuses, incl some curlers... a comparison of the two GB teams, and Rhona Martin’s comments on her last hopes tonight versus the USA... ya just gotta love a curling story – plus photo – appearing in a paper called The Desert Sun. Why can’t we have a Winter Olympics every two years? ... here's an amusing one from Aspen, including axes for brooms and severed heads for rocks... this senior ESPN writer is now a fan... and finally, the call for LOC volunteers has gone out for Bahstahn and all areas near Lowell, Mass...

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Olympic Curling, W Session 10/M Session 11

After a few chat sessions during their Saturday night off – perhaps mediated by a CCA rep? – Shannon Kleibrink's Team Canada mates were a very different squad today. More aggressive and somewhat confident, a new civility was also on display... and a solid result achieved. An important win for them, and here – just as we did for the men – is the scoop for tomorrow's final day:

If Canada wins twice, as do the Swiss, and Norway wins one of their two, there will be no tiebreakers. At least, that's what tired TV crews are praying for... and nailbiting Canadian fans prolly wouldn't argue.

The evening men's draw featured a potential – we repeat, potential – couple of milestones. Peja Lindholm lost again, defending champ Pal Trulsen won... and both might have thrown the final curling stones of their career. Trulsen, it should be mentioned, made not one but two perfect freezes on his final two deliveries. If true, a poignant moment for lucky fans in attendance in Italy tonight.

PS: more curling nudity... or partial nudity, anyway. Will it ever stop?

Hope not.

Olympic Curling, M Session 10

Last night over gourmet pizza and beer, a TV executive suggested that Sweden's Peja Lindholm (photo) would win all his remaining games, clamber into the playoff tiebreakers and go on to win gold.

Not going to happen, as the twice world champions are now at five losses following Andy Kapp's 7-5 win this morning. The disappointed skip also lost his national final for the second year in a row – to another Carlsen brother, this time Nils – and will not be in Lowell for April's men's worlds.

USA's Pete Fenson took another giant step this morning, beating former frontrunner David Murdoch of Great Britain 9-8 to grab a share of first place. One sheet over, Italy's amazing run of wins hit a wall – a 6 ft. 4 inch wall named Markku – as Finland won the match 7-4... and U-15 is now 6-2 as well. Norway's Pal Trulsen beat the Kiwis 9-6 to hang tough with four losses, along with Italy and Switzerland. Canada, at 4-3, was idle.

Hold on to your seats folks, as The Curling News paints the picture for you.

If Canada defeats New Zealand tonight, it will all come down to their last match against the USA on Monday afternoon. If Canada wins that, they are into the semi-finals along with USA, GBR and the Finns. If the USA beats Canada – and the teams with four losses keep on winning – we'll have a mess of tiebreakers, with Canada involved.

But tonight's match with winless New Zealand is key for the Canadians. It's time for them to jump back onto the tracks, and make it a happy 50th birthday for the veteran, Russ Howard.

Some media reports:

• the shocking Canjun losses yesterday;
• the mesmerizing and hypnotizing sport of curling;
• Canada's focus on medal count versus the colour of gold;
Rumours that Canada may finally start rewarding Olympians with cash for medals;
• a quick feature on Marco Polo;
• and this arse from New Yawk, who may not even be factually correct. We hear that CNBC's audience numbers for curling are up 300 hundred per cent from Salt Lake (we also heard that TSN had 350,000 watching a 3:00am ET game earlier in the competition). Not a sport, eh chump? Somebody had better tell the Russian girls, who are on something like their 40th lap around the arena right now... a full hour before their next match.


Final thought: Canada's Christine Keshen ate some bad food and missed yesterday's loss to Japan. We don't know what to eat anymore, said third Amy Nixon. However, Keshen was feeling well enough to attend the curling reception at Canada Olympic House last night, so she should be back in action this afternoon. Meanwhile, there's chatroom hysteria back in Canuckistan over all this. No surprise there...

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Olympic Curling: WTF Is Going On?

We had no plans for three posts in one Olympic day (see below, and then below that, obviously) but the Japanese women, fresh off their huge upset of Canada in the early AM, just barely missed a tricky draw for two and the win over the best team in the world, Sweden's Anette Norberg, and fell 8-7 in an extra-end.

Their colourful fans (photo) did their best to help, but it was still a tremendous day for Japanese curling here in Pinerolo.

We're off to bed immediately. Perhaps when we wake up tomorrow, the curling world might have decided to return to normal.

But what fun would that be, eh?


Italians Stun Curling World

The beat goes on for Canada's teams here at Torino 2006, as the previously unheralded but rapidly steamrolling Italian men's team (photo) fended off a ferocious comeback by Gushue/Howard et al to win 7-6 in an extra-end. The Canucks are tied with the Italians – and their delirious, shrieking fans – for third spot at 4-3.

Great Britain, who got admittedly lucky in beating Switzerland's Ralph Stoeckli on a last-rock steal this aft, are in first at 6-1... and are thus proving that their previously derided team selection process might have some merit to it after all. Meanwhile, America's Pete Fenson is tied for second with the Flying Finns at 5-2.

Tell you this. There's a party for the Canadian teams at Canada Olympic House in Turin tonight... but it might not be the jolly affair it could have been. It won't help that Canada's ballyhooed men's hockey team were also stunned today by a minnow team... the Swiss, who shut them out 2-0, no less.


Betcha the Gretzkys didn't wager on that.

• Here was the TorStar take – back from Feb. 16 – on the rift between the Gushies and their new skip/second, FYI;

• A great Newfie zinger by the master of self-depreciation, Canuck men's coach Toby MacDonald, in this Terry Jones column;

• The ever-increasing bundle of U.S. newbie-curling stories continued today, seemingly endless, in both big media markets and tiny outposts, some winding their way far overseas and others getting all homey with food and whatnot, some calling us really, really nice, and others going further in an unabashed love-in...

This one is similar, and funny, but best of all it spotlights two killer chants we've been hearing here in the arena... one of the them the best in curling history, and the other the absolute worst. You pick 'em, which is which:


We're not cowards because we're hot for Howard!
If you're pissed and you know it, clap your hands... (etc)

Bonus marks to anyone who guesses which is Canajun and which is Scottish... sorry, British. Boy, tough one.

Here's another Olympic quote we like, from one of two U.S. snowboard wackos who finished 1/2 for gold and silver:

I can't even comprehend the coolness factor of what we just achieved

• We'll close with BlogCritics, a venerable online machine and their rapidly increasing curling content. This FAQ should help curling newbies immeasurably, and one might also want to check out this previous entry, which pokes fun as the U.S. curling commentators – veteran Canucks Don Duguid and Don Chevrier – for completely dodging the pronounciation of Markku Uusipaavalniemi's last name. In the words of BlogCritics' resident curling contributor, Matthew T. Sussman:

They'd either say 'Markku' or 'the Finnish skip.'

Say it with me:


That's only 22 points in Scrabble, mind you.

Olympic Curling, W Session 8


A stunning loss for Shannon Kleibrink's Team Canada to Japan (photo) this morning... according to some. But not according to The Curling News.


• Japan's Ayumi Onadero had already beaten Kleibrink 6-4 at a World Curling Tour event in Red Deer this past fall. She also beat two other Calgary teams, skipped by Renelle Bryden and Cheryl Bernard, in the same event and eventually lost the semi.

• Onodero also travelled to the Strauss Crown of Curling in Kamloops, and lost the final to B.C.'s Toni Wells. The squad finished in 22nd place on the Tour with over $7,000 in winnings.

• The ice conditions are, in a word, controversial. Sometimes straight and extremely quick, the ice has frustrated many teams here, both male and female. The conditions on Sheet D, where both Canadian teams have played 75 per cent of their games – can you believe that? – created a more even playing field between the relatively inexperienced Japanese and the frustrated Canadians.

• There's something going on with Team Canada. We're not spotlighting the absence of Christine Keshen, who is apparently ill, nor the poor performance of alternate Sandra Jenkins. The squad seems listless, and not at all poised to rush headlong onto the medal podium. There might even be some dissention in the ranks, on a far less loud and obvious level than that of Brad Gushue's men's squad.

Speaking of, it's a full house in Pinerolo for Men's Session 9 and this place is rocking. The Italians are screaming and chanting as if it was a soccer match, and they were even booing Great Britain's Rhona Martin and bursting balloons during her delivery in GB's match against Italy's Diana Gaspari. Imagine the bedlam when the Italian men went up 3-0 on Canada's Gushue/Howard combo... it's now 5-1 for Italy at the break – the Italians have stolen twice – with the Canucks just trying to stay calm...

Friday, February 17, 2006

Olympic Curling, M Session 8

Quite a day.

The CurlGirls are out and the American men are very much in.

The Canadian men lose to U-15, the Flying Finn, who remarkably shoots 59 per cent (zero on two draws and just 65 on 18 hits) compared to Brad Gushue's 75. The Finns look an awful lot like the same squad that went on a wild tear at the Ford Worlds last April to qualify for these Games (yes, that was them too).

Peja Lindholm, seeking the only championship title he hasn't won, is crushed by GB and sits in eighth place.

And Italy wins again, to explosions of screaming and chanting. Bravo, prego.

And ciao, until tomorrow.

Olympic Slumber Party

Well, we told you the Olympics are kinda wacky.

Congrats to Vicki Hall of the Edmonton Journal, the only journo – other than The Curling News, natch – to pick up on Christine Keshen’s appearance in the third end of Canada’s win last night. Eurosport has a wee bit as well, but Hall’s piece is all over the CanWest media family today, including the National Post (subscription only).

Yup, she slept in and missed the start of the game.

According to Keshen: Honestly, I fell asleep. Fell asleep, didn't set an alarm and thought somebody would wake me up, but it just didn't happen.

It's not like Canadian assistant coach Paul Webster didn't try. He rang the door bell. He pounded on the door. He phoned over and over again. Nothing worked.

Keshen felt sluggish in the 6-5 morning loss to Switzerland, so she dozed off after lunch.

This is the first time ever in my life that I have slept with ear plugs in. There were cleaners in the apartment and they were making so much noise. So I thought, 'I'll try the earplugs.' They worked awesome.

Her teammates:

It's kind of like losing your kid in the mall, said Amy Nixon. You're happy they're there, but you're kind of mad at them for leaving.

We're just happy, said skipper Shannon Kleibrink, that she's in one piece.

TCN hears that sleeping has been a challenge for athletes this year. The Canadians are in special apartments booked years in advance by the Canadian Curling Association, and Keshen has been struggling to catch up on rest. These things happen, folks. Even at the Olympics.

A huge win for the girls today in round 7, 9-3 over defending Olympic champ Rhona Martin. Canada now holds second place at 5-2, with only Sweden ahead at 6-1 (winners over the Swiss by a 9-7 count).

Meanwhile, Cassie Johnson’s U.S. squad lost a wacky game to Russia (photo). The Russians had the game in hand until the Yanks scored three in the last end to tie. However, Johnson appeared to run out of time in throwing her last one, but the officials did nothing. Johnson missed numerous opportunities to bury the steal stone in the extra frame, and the Russians didn’t have to throw their last rock. 1-5.

In men’s play, Canada and Great Britain top the standings at 4-1, while no less than five teams have three wins. Can you say tiebreakers?


• there are tons of international curling What is this, anyway? stories floating about, including this from the U.S.; this from a North American writer working for a Greek newspaper; and this other mildly annoying one again from the States (note the shuffleboard reference, again. Grrrr)...

• Why is Canada’s national newspaper running U.S. wire content on the subject of Canada’s national sport (oops, sorry hockey)...

• Nearly 5 million Italians tuned in to see their men’s curling team stun the U.S. the other night. Five million. "Curling had a bigger audience than figure skating," said an Italian ice sports bigwig, who is now frantically trying to take advantage of a once-in-a-lifetime promotional opportunity. Five million. Bigger numbers than the sensationalized Juventus vs. Inter Milan footy match the same night. More on that in a humourous vein here, which includes a good zinger: There's really no explaining the Italians' sudden fixation with curling. The entire nation has been sent to doping control...

• If they gave out gold medals for Quadrennial Hand-Wringing, Canada would win hands down every single Olympic year. Is this year’s session over yet..?

• Finally... it started first with Rosie DiManno, then good ol' Bill Graveland, and wound it's way to Arizona and then to here and then to there (plus video) and the point is that the calendar story has exploded yet again, and all product is temporarily sold out. Yowza.

Boys on ice now. More later.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Olympic Curling, W Session 6

A quick one tonight: first of all, here's the gold (and silver and bronze) that awaits at the end of the rainbow.

Second of all: yes, she missed the start of the game.

We're not sure if Don, Joan and Mike over at CBC spilled the news, or how they spilled it, but Canadian women's lead Christine Keshen did indeed unintentionally miss the start of their eventual and critical 10-8 win over Norway. She entered the game in the third end, after an admirable opening four rocks from alternate Sandra Jenkins.

The Curling News believes there are extenuating circumstances at play here, and we will delve further into this tomorrow... after, of course, we've all had a chance to vent our own thoughts and devour the newspapers and generally work ourselves into a lather.

Stay tuned. And take another look at the previous post, and consider thinking twice about passing judgement on people who are undergoing the moments of their lives, in full public view of a billion humans. Moments that 99 per cent of you, dear readers, cannot possibly relate to.

The Olympic Games: Weirdness and Poignance

Wacky stuff in Pinerolo today. First up are the Swiss men (photo) in their pre-game footyfest – a typical sight outside European curling venues – before this afternoon's match against the Kiwis.

First, lead/alternate Simon Struebin lunged a bit too far for the ball and almost sprained his ankle – but no harm done. Then, just a few minutes after this photo was taken, Swiss Assistant Team Leader Pierre-Yves Grivel (not shown) plowed facefirst into a concrete pillar in an attempt to prevent the ball from getting away. He went to hospital on a stretcher, but the squad insists that he is okay and the Italians are just taking precautions.

In fact, Ralph Stoeckli's boys can't wait for the guy known affectionately as Jimmy Connors to hurry back, so they can commence making fun of him.

A great story from one of the TV guys. A co-worker was in Turin (about 40 minutes away from the venue in Pinerolo) and went to use a pay-toilet. Oh yes. A pay-toilet. Anyway, his two "squares" of paper were dispensed – oh yes, only two squares – and all appeared normal until... well, let's just say that some pay-per-use toilets in Italy have an automated cleaning system, which apparently gives you only 15 seconds to get the heck out of there after flushing. Said the storyteller:

So if you see a guy walking down the street on a clear sunny day in Italy who looks like a popsicle... you know he didn't make it.

A couple of Kanada facts, definitely weird: both teams have broken off keys in their apartment doors; and men's lead Jamie Korab has displayed some disturbing shopoholic tendencies... apparently he may go home with up to six enormous bags of... stuff.

FYI, following their weird and wild 6-5 win over Pal Trulsen this aft, the boys are off to the Canadian men's hockey game in Turin tonight. Meanwhile, the girls lost to Switzerland in the wee hours and have a big match in about 90 minutes against the wily veteran Dordi Nordby.

Switch gears: a poignant anecdote to leave you with. Japanese skip Ayumi Onodera – now a bonafide movie star back home – lost 9-5 to Denmark this morning, dropping Japan to 1-3. The tiny athlete was in tears throughout most of her lengthy media scrum in the mixed zone afterward, but she bravely stood her ground and never once broke down. Her faint voice only quavered, and her eyes flicked down to her feet as she wiping the tears and answered the swarm of reporters.

This is only day four of 12.

Near the end of the ordeal, tireless Japanese curling booster Hiroshi Kobayashi barged through the scrum and embraced Onodero in a bear hug, and the skip's shoulders seemed to sag just for a moment. Hiro punched her in the arm before for departing, and wiped away tears of his own.

She takes it very hard, Hiro explained. She has to figure things out for herself. This is her challenge and it is for her and no one else.

These and countless other anecdotes summarize the stunning variety of emotional power the Olympic Games reveal. And once in a while, through all the scandals, the fingerpointing and the overwhelming politics often on display, we can spotlight this and simply say: shame on you... you who scoffs nonstop at absolutely everything the Olympic Games offers.

To hell with you.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Playboy loves the curling calendar

What do Playboy mag and U.S. skier Bode Miller have to do with the calendar? Read on...

TURIN, ITALY – Weeks after its loud debut, curling's infamous athlete fundraising calendar is back in the spotlight... and in Playboy magazine.

The March 2006 issue (photo) of the American magazine – on sale today – includes a brief feature on the 2006 Ana Arce Team Sponsorship Calendar, which features 12 strong-willed female athletes representing curling teams from around the world. Participating athlete nations include Italy, Denmark, Spain, England, Poland, Germany, Austria and Canada.

Playboy editor Josh Robertson: If men learned one thing from the most recent summer Olympics, it's that female beach volleyballers are really hot. When we saw these photographs, it became clear that the lady curlers are the beauties to beat in Torino. Move over, figure skaters.

Originally released in November 2005, the calendar is produced in black and white and printed on high-quality oversize art paper. Each calendar weighs over one imperial pound and was created and photographed by national team curler – and calendar model – Ana Arce, who represented Spain at the 2005 European Championships.

This is a tasteful, artistic product that will help the athletes raise much needed funds for training and competition, said Arce. This proves that curlers are athletes. Strong but graceful, and of course very beautiful.

Austrian skip Claudia Toth – whose image graces the cover – is the former girlfriend of U.S. Olympic skier Bode Miller. The pair split up a year ago and Toth, at that time, refused an invitation to pose nude from the Playboy's German edition.

Toth also appears in an upcoming issue of the Austrian men's magazine Wiener. Austrian media recently broke the news of her previous relationship with Miller.

I would have prefered to keep Bode out of the whole curling thing but I also knew how unrealistic that was, Toth told The Curling News. People are just interested in gossip like that, but I don't want to comment on anything concerning our relationship.

Toth knows firsthand the challenges facing curlers in every world market outside of Canada, which boasts approximately 90 per cent of both the world's curling facilities and its recreational participants and high-performance competitors.

I loved the whole idea behind the calendar. It seems like one of the very few possibilities to make curling more popular in Europe – especially Austria.

Defending Olympic gold medallist Pal Trulsen of Norway welcomed the calendar when he first heard of the project. Trulsen's team was 2-1 after four men's draws at the 2006 Olympic curling competition in Pinerolo, Italy.

It's about time, Trulsen said. It's a fun thing, but we want curling to be just like other sports. We had the doping thing, now we have the calendar... all I know is, I'm buying it.

The 2006 Ana Arce Team Sponsorship Calendar sells for 39 euros (Europe) and 35.95 in U.S. dollars (North America), and is available via The Curling News website.

The March 2006 issue of Playboy – the annual music issue – also features a story on U.S. freestyle skiier Jeremy Bloom. Written by Pat Jordan, the story is titled Jeremy Bloom Can't Lose. He's a Skier. He's a Football Player. He's a Pop Idol. The Savvy Marketing of an Olympic Star.

The Curling News is a global authority on the sport of curling. Founded in Canada in 1957, it also publishes the world's most popular all-curling Blog and also supports Shoot For A Cure Curling, a fundraising and awareness program of the Canadian and American Spinal Research Organizations. Shoot For A Cure also supports wheelchair curling, an official sport at the 2006 Paralympic Winter Games in Turin.

The February issue of The Curling News is available now via subscription.

Olympic Curling, M Session 4

A TV director commented that Team Canada's big 9-5 win over Great Britain this morning puts the Canucks on a hot streak. Far from it. This game, and the result, was critical if only to shove aside the tension that had been building in the ranks... now Canada can consider the possibilities of a winning streak when they return to the Palaghiaccio tonight.

PHOTO: Mark Nichols, Russ Howard and Brad Gushue (L to R). Much, much better relationships on display this morning, and no outright sniping. And a great double by Gushue to finish off the Brits – er, Scots – on his eventual last rock; a real confidence booster looking forward.

The other big game saw your Pal and mine, Norway's Trulsen, upend tough Swede Peja Lindholm 9-4. A critical result as Sweden are knocked back and now there are no unbeaten men's teams.

Women are practicing... more later...

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Goodbye CurlGirls?

Cassie Johnson's CurlGirls are 0-3 after their 6-5 loss to Japan... the Danes made a late charge to subdue Italy and their fervent, screaming fans... Norway's Dordi Nordby went from giant-killer in the morning to a 15 per cent shooting average in the first five ends – we kid you not – tonight and lost emphatically to Switzerland's Mirjam Ott... and and Team Canada overcame the stubborn Ludmilla Privivkova of Russia to prevail 6-5.

As we observe Team Canada (men's version) head to the ice for some late-night practice before tomorrow's next match, we're off to the NBC studio for a little calendar promotion – watch for a news release tomorrow – and some much-needed shut-eye.

Tonight's first post-draw arena music choice... True Colours by the impish moppet herself, Cindy Lauper, who is – ironically – more respected now than when she was selling millions of wax records.


Olympic Curling, W Session 2/3

Team Canada roared into the winner's circle Tuesday AM (photo) with an 11-5 shellacking of winless USA, with fifth Sandra Jenkins even getting into the game. On neighbouring sheets, Rhona Martin dodged a Swiss bullet; Russia beat Japan and mighty Sweden fell to the wily vetern, Dordy Nordby of Norway.

Then came a stunning men's round – er, sorry, "Session" – number three, in which Canada were zapped by picks and, if opinion be considered, the beginnings of some intersquad tension that threatens to bubble over into plain view. Not to be outdone were the Italians, who stole back-to-back ends to subdue Germany.

Practice ice is nearly finished, and Shannon Kleibrink's Canucks face the Russians.

An offbeat note: the music played between draws and during practice ice is some of the weirdest these veteran ears have ever heard. Imagine a modern standard like Hey Ya then followed by... AC/DC's Hell's Bells... followed by Harry Belafonte's infernal Day-O song... into Zeppelin's Whole Lotta Love... and then some Eurodisco ditty. Bizarre.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Day One: Fini

Well. That was... funky.

The Gushues overcame a raunchy start for a big 10-5 win. Such a result certainly didn't appear feasible in the first half of the game, with the back end struggling – third Mark Nichols ended up with a 54 per cent average – and only lead Jamie Korab excelling. However, Canada gathered themselves while German skipper Andy Kapp stayed raunchy all game, clocking 50 on the schnozz. Ugh. And kaput.

Finland showed up this time, challenged the Americans and brought them back to earth with a 10th-end stolen 4-3 win. The Yanks – their fans, that is – are also challenging the home-crowd Italians for loudest cheering section; the din these two groups of fans make is remarkable. In the Italian's case, they went hogwild over Joel Retournaz' foursome, particularly when their tenacity was rewarded with a great touch shot for two in the eighth for a tight 5-4 deficit. Peja Lindholm and co. added another deuce in the ninth, and nursed a 7-4 lead coming home.

The Kiwis, skipped by Sean Becker, hung tight – sort of – until the end, losing to GB's David Murdoch 10-5. FYI, there's a Washington Post writer, Dan Steinberg, whose Blog shows enthrallment by curling, and particularly the New Zealanders.

A couple of final notes... the Danes skipped by Dorthe Holm have been accorded the same level of security as the American athletes (a typical thing for U.S. athletes abroad) as explained here – also including a great quote from British women's third Jackie Lockhart – and remember this guy? He just won't go away.