Friday, June 30, 2006

Bringing it on home

Happy Canada Day, folks!

Well, okay, it’s actually on July 1, but what the hey.

There’s all kinds of stuff going on’ round the country, and particularly in Ottawa, and this also means it’s time once again for the oft-annoying, test-your-knowledge Canada Day trivia questions to start showing up in all the newspapers (although some stuff is quite fun).

However, a hefting of the beer mug to Osprey Media, whose 2006 round of trivia leads off with a curling query:

The Labatt Brier Tankard is the former name of the:
a) National Ringette Championships
b) hockey team of workers at Labatt breweries in Newfoundland
c) Canadian men's curling championship trophy
d) park that houses the national rugby tournaments

Now for the subject of this post: guess what... we have another Brad Gushue item today. And this one comes directly from Mr. Fun himself, lead stone Jamie Korab:

Hey All,
Our curling team has a print, Bringing it on Home, that goes on sale today. David Hoddinott (local artist) has painted a pretty cool picture of our Olympic team. The prints are a limited edition that have been numbered and hand signed by the team, all 9,990 of them. The prints are on sale right now at Canadian Tire stores in NL, but they can also be ordered through our website or through this site. Check it out!

We did, Jamie, great stuff. One question: how's your wrist, dude, after signing 9,900 prints?!

In addition:

• Ice techs from curling, hockey, figure and speed skating have been brought in to ensure the Vancouver 2010 venues have optimum ice conditions. Problem is, some of the venues aren’t planned out very well for this consideration and money is super-tight. The Vancouver Province (subscription) quotes VANOC guy Dan Moro:

[Ensuring ice quality] will cost more, in some ways. It may mean putting vestibules on our buildings, and it may mean those facilities that don't have a filtration system – if they need it – we may have to put these in our capital budget.
We're trying to keep costs down, but we are in a bottom-up budget process right now and are identifying those things that may not have been captured before and putting together our priority list.
When you walk in the Coliseum (hosting the figure-skating and short-track speed-skating events), you're right on top of the ice surface. That means that if you're maintaining a 35-per-cent humidity inside the building and all of a sudden you open the doors and let all those people in... all the air pressure pushes down... and it changes the humidity.

Don’t scrimp on the curling venue, guys. With all due respect to the other ice sports, you ain’t seen problematic sport ice until you’ve seen irate curlers... and curling fans.

• Sarnia, Ontario has been awarded the 2007 Kia Cup, the Ontario men's championship...

• Finally, appropos for Canada Day, here’s a cool story about an Italian immigrant who, like so many others, appeared to be shut out of his chosen career despite strong international – but not Canadian – work experience. Fortunately, his tale has a happy ending, with a curling twist to boot... just one question: how did this fellow get so thin on a pasta diet? Someone get him a square meal!

BTW, Donato will probably be glued to a TV today as Italy take on the Ukraine – who will be attempting to prove they are not weak! – on the footy pitch. Gooool!

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

No Gushue today

Sorry, we lied.

More Brad Gushue news today. First of all, the first phase of the new Team Gushue Highway was officially unveiled in a ceremony late last week. The squad, including Russ Howard (but not Chris Schille) were in attendance along with junior curling members from the St. John's and Bally Haly curling clubs.

A local pol gushed for The Gushues:

Naming the highway in honour of Team Gushue was an easy decision considering the exemplary manner in which they represented the province and the country in Torino. Members of Team Gushue are role models for all Newfoundland and Labrador athletes and I'm sure they've inspired the young curlers in attendance here today.

The opening phase of the highway is 2.3 kilometres in length and cost CDN$12.8 million. When completed, the expressway will stretch for a total of 9.6 kilometres with an estimated price tag of $40 million.

Meanwhile, the squad leader gets a full frontal (see photo) in a fresh round of digital wallpapers released by VANOC, the organzing committee of the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games. It's the only curling wallpaper released thus far.

In another Olympic vein, it's down to three candidates to host the following Winter Games in 2014: PyeongChang in South Korea – the surprise runner-up to Vancouver 2010 – Salzburg, Austria and Sochi, Russia. We're still trying to decipher the actual curling plans of these three, but any group which commits to a curling venue close to other major venues and within the city centre – like Vancouver but unlike any of the previous three host cities – gets our vote. Simple as that.


• What the heck is going on Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan? We've been watching the death knell of the only curling venue in town (now only golf is mentioned on the website) for well over a year now, and city politicians are still going back and forth over a new venue. Come on, councillors, git'er done...

• Some U.S. open house success stories from the weekend: here’s the Lone Star CC in Austin, Texas (which includes a 1:47 video report); here’s sunny SoCal (subscription only); and hey, Team Pete Fenson... what’s the Tortellini Story...?

• A familiar face on Canada's curling media bench, Perry Lefko – who also authored one of the two best-selling books on Sandra Schmirler – has left the house and hacks (and the Toronto Sun) to become the new communications director of the Canadian Football League...

Friday, June 23, 2006

More Gushue, U.S. curling and ice tech egos

Olympic golden guy Brad Gushue plays rock star to a sea of kids (photo) as his community tour of Newfoundland & Labrador continues.

Down south, those crazy Americans just can't seem to stop curling. Californians are “stoked” about their new summer curling league in the Simi Valley, while there’s just plain lots of curling going in... Texas!

The brand spankin’ new Lone Star Curling Club is ready to rock in Austin, and they have an open house cooking this Sunday; Houston now hosts a drop-in curling session every two weeks (and here's the sked, next clinic is June 30); and over in San Antonio, the wonderfully-named Armadillo Curling Club has a Learn to Curl program running every Monday night from June 26 through August 14.

What else is goin' on?

• Bloggers are funny: here they make fun of Canadians and “The Great Curling”, while others debate curling as a sport (as usual). Meanwhile, Dan’s Blog reminds us that Western Canada’s biggest summer spiel kicks off July 3 in Nelson, BC...

• DID YOU KNOW: that Scottish ice technicians (don’t call them icemakers) have banded together on their own website to discuss their craft, with a new report on “Pebble” just issued? Should Canadian ice techs do the same? Of course. Will it happen? Never, due mainly to stubborness and somewhat mammoth egos...

• Could the Soo (that's Sault Ste. Marie in northern Ontario) be ready to host a big curling event again? You won’t see the Brier return – The Wrench won his second there back in 1990 – but an upgraded venue with 5,000 seats sounds mighty good for a World women’s or juniors... or a Continental Cup... or even a Grand Slam...

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Roethlisberger goes curling

Okay, so NFL quarterback Big Ben Roethlisberger has had some problems lately.

Things were so much easier – and fun – a month ago, when he tried curling (photo) for the first time.

This was during a trip to Switzerland, where he and family members checked out their ancestral history. Ben's team, the Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers, even sent a photographer along for the ride.

Oddly enough, yesterday's Detroit Free Press had a comment on curling's eye-popping future TV plans – links are here and here, for those still stuck under a rock – and when the very next Freep item mentioned Ben's woes, TCN honcho George Karrys pointed out this continuing curling theme... which the newspaper acknowledged today.

Speaking of the TV deal, some naysayers are starting to crop up in online forums. Even hockey bloggers have opinions, too. But the loudest voice so far has been InTheHack's Mike Potter, who is interpreting the stunning deal as an admission of failure by the Canadian Curling Association:

The CCA essentially has admitted that it has no plans to grow the sport and that the experiment with (CBC) was a complete disaster. Its now time for the CCA to also admit that it's lost touch with the curling fans, and show some real leadership... let's get rid of Dave Parkes and the CCA Board members, institute a proper Board of Directors (not *only* people who have been curling volunteers) and move this sport forward.



• Winnipeg police have laid arson charges in last week's shameful torching of the Thistle club, and the accused's mom is proclaiming her son's innocence...

• Last weekend's open house in Vacaville, CA got some good press...

• Ex-Martinite Carter Rycroft is on The Curling Show hotseat, and there are rumours of an imminent appearance by Canadian Paralympic gold medal skip Chris Daw...

• Seven UK curlers will receive much-needed funding in the post-Torino 2006 era...

• And, uh, guys, shouldn’t the webcam be turned off for a couple of months, or at least until the arena floor gets rented for a wedding or something?

Just asking.

Friday, June 16, 2006

TV curling deal: the pundits weigh in

Here we go again!

For the third off-season in a row, there's much mainstream media ballyhoo about curling TV coverage, thanks to the news of yesterday's bombshell TSN/CCA agreement.

The newser can be seen here on the CCA's site in it's entirety, which includes selected sponsor quotes. It's also on two TV industry sites, Broadcaster Magazine and Channel Canada.

Of course, CBC – now headed off into the coverage sunset with just two years left on its CCA contract – has also weighed in.

As for the aforementioned media ballyhooers, we'll start with two pieces from CP's indefatigable Bill Graveland: his first draft and then his follow-up, which includes quotes from both CCA's Dave Parkes and TSN's Phil King. Graveland also surprised world champion skip (er, now third) and CBC employee Colleen Jones, too.

Next up is Ottawa sports media pundit Rob “Excuse me while I give my head a shake” Brodie, who simply marvels at the long-running soap opera.

Star man Chris Zelkovich has a quick-and-dirty summary; could there be more from him in the near future? Zelk does highlight last year's succesful Vancouver 2010 Olympic broadcast rights bid – made by CTV, TSN, Sportsnet, Rogers TV and radio, OmniTV and Everybody-But-CBC – as the major reason this whole thing went down.

Now for the subscription-only stuff.

Cal Herald/TCN scribe Al Cameron got ahold of veteran CBC curling commentator Don Wittman, who said: Obviously, I'm disappointed. We've been involved since 1961, and now we're out of it. However, I suppose times change. That's the nature of the beast.

Cameron also got a quote from bubbly TSN counterpart Vic Rauter (left in photo), who reportedly ran from the combined TSN/Sportsnet World Cup control centre into King's office when he heard the news. Said Rauter: Thrilled to death, absolutely. It's going to be very special, because it will give us the opportunity to take the two Olympic teams from the '09 trials to Vancouver.

Kevin Mitchell of the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix says that in Dave Parkes’ eyes, it’s all about stability:

We learned from experience. On this one, (there's) predictability of coverage and the stability of a long-term partner that can provide the kind of hours this agreement encompasses. It brings back morning draws, it increases the hours of coverage for the Canada Cup and Continental Cup, it does all the things that provide us with stability.

The National Post weighed in with scribe Aaron Wherry, who quoted TSN's King on the then-and-now between last September and today:

I think all of you know our love and passion for the sport of curling. It's funny, we sat out the one year, two years ago – we won't mention how that happened – [but] with that it really came to light how much the network missed the sport, and the people that work here want to get back involved.

But the Globe and Mail's William Houston was the only one to mention (unofficial) financial terms.

Houston calls the deal a “precedent” and says “the agreement involves TSN giving the CCA air time for sponsors and is worth close to $15 million.”

He also reports Parkes saying the CBC was denied a bid because they “couldn’t match the number of hours of programming promised by TSN or provide the promotional opportunites offered by CTV.”

So far, everyone has mentioned the long-standing concern that TSN couldn't match CBC's audience reach, and Parkes' reply:

Our sense is and our research suggests to us that the numbers that we can deliver on TSN in the current environment are every bit as good as the numbers we've been delivering on CBC over the past few years. The proliferation of TSN into households in this country is such that we don't anticipate any decreases at all. As a matter of fact, we may anticipate some increases.

On a final note, CurlingZone is of course the place to visit for all matter of armchair punditry on this topic. Moreover, just about all the conversations at this time of posting seemed to be civil.

Can this mean the CCA is indeed ready to rush headlong into all aspects of the online world? With TSN on board and pitching exactly that, they no longer have any choice.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

TSN locks in curling through 2014

OTTAWA – Stunning news today from the Canadian Curling Association (CCA) and The Sports Network (TSN) as a new TV curling broadcast deal has been signed.

TSN will replace the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) as exclusive TV rights holder for CCA properties from 2008 through to the 2013-14 season.

CBC is the present rights holder and currently subcontracts TSN for round-robin coverage of the "Big Three" Canadian events: the Tim Hortons Brier, the Scotties Tournament of Hearts and the Ford World Championships (alternating men's and women's championships in Canada).

It's a six-year broadcast and multimedia deal, crossing platforms such as broadband, mobile, video-on-demand, interactive television, podcasts and even rights for radio broadcasts. TSN "intends to fully leverage these rights to continue in its efforts to build and grow Canada's curling audiences, reaching out for the first time to new and existing fans on multi-platforms."

The deal also includes – as of 2008 – the return of morning draw action. In addition, TSN's parent network, CTV, may carry selected matches.

Phil King, TSN President:

TSN has always been a staunch supporter of curling in Canada, and this deal further establishes curling as a cornerstone of the network's programming leading up to the 2010 Olympic Games and beyond. TSN's commitment to the sport for the past two decades has been paramount in making curling the TV-friendly broadcast it is today and helped put curling on the map in Canada.

Dave Parkes, Canadian Curling Association CEO:

Unprecedented coverage and the return of morning draws will be embraced by our fans and viewers across the country and around the world. This agreement and a strengthened relationship with TSN ensures a positive, exciting and long-term future for our sport.

Other partners, from the CCA's Season of Champions sponsor family to the World Curling Players' Association, have weighed in with words of media support.

Les Harrison, World Curling Federation President:

The World Curling Federation recognizes the value of securing long-term predictability in a broadcast partner and is very pleased that the CCA's agreement with TSN will span two Winter Olympic Games.

Paul Boutilier, WCPA President:

When a major national broadcaster like TSN commits to a 50 per cent increase in the amount of live curling coverage, it's clear that the players are extremely happy.

Unhappy is the CBC, which apparently received a "perfunctory courtesy call" on Thursday morning, and was not involved in any negotiating processes. CBC was Canadian curling's first broadcaster, and has been involved in the sport for 40 years. Meanwhile, TSN has been involved in the sport since 1984, with the current (and continuing) broadcast tandem of Vic Rauter, Linda Moore and Ray Turnbull developing a devoted following.

Let the debates begin anew!

Lindholm makes curling history

Yes, it's true.

For the first time in 400 years, Swedish ace Peja Lindholm (photo) has a brand-new curling team.

Okay, enough exaggeration. But a team of four individuals that has been together for more than 20 years...? That is truly a lifetime in this fickle world of curling.

Longtime friends Tomas Nordin (third), Magnus Swartling (second) and lead Peter Narup have reportedly lost the drive and determination that helped fuel the three-time world champions squad, and they will not compete next year.

Lindholm, whose team finished a disappointing eighth in Turin – they lost the bronze-medal game to finish fourth in 2002 – is still gunning for Olympic glory in 2010. He's lined up James Dryburgh, Anders Eriksson and Viktor Kjall for the run. Dryburgh?! Yes, that's the two-time world junior champ out of Scotland who ended up marrying former Swedish junior whiz Margaretha Lindahl. The Scot has been in country for six years now, speaks very good Swedish and even handles occasional curling commentatary – in Swedish – for the Eurosport TV channel.

Lindholm, who finished runner-up at the previous two European Championships, first announced his curling presence by winning the 1986 World Juniors in Markham, Ontario. Nordin was ill all week and didn't play, which saw Swartling move to third and alternate Uwe Ljungdahl take over second position. The Swedes defeated Canada's Mike Wood in the final, and Lindholm's charisma – and sharp future – was apparent to one and all.

In Canada, Olympic gold medallists Brad Gushue and Mark Nichols continue their Newfoundland school/youth tour and Gushue has spoken more about his own team changes, which feature new Alberta import Chris Schille (see recent posts).

Gushue told The Western Star that Schille is 23 years of age and they were hoping to get somebody closer to their age as they move towards defending their title at Vancouver 2010.

While not too many people out this way have heard much about Chris, he is a good up and coming player. Out west he is well known and well respected. I got to know Chris a little bit when I spent time with him recently. He's an easy going guy, we're (team members without Russ Howard) all of a similar age, have the same goals and Chris will bring enthusiasm to the team.

Gushue also said that Schille will want to go out and prove himself, adding that Mike Adam will remain with the team as alternate and they are excited he is staying on.

I think we've found a formula that works for us in picking up Chris, and Mike is good in the role of fifth, and it will work for all of us.


• The fiery death of Winnipeg's Thistle club is blamed on arson. Disappointment is the order of the day as club members don't think they can rebuild. The Freep's Paul Wiecek goes through the memories here (subscription only) but reports the club was struggling financially, and the surviving assets could be given to the Manitoba Curling Association, which is listed as the club's designated charity. Meanwhile, curling builder Arnold Asham, who will receive a community award this fall, has offered his Asham Arena – just six blocks away from the Thistle's graveyard – as a new home for the Thistle's 400 members...

• On to some (potentially) good facility news: the city council in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan have received a MultiPlex update, while early plans for a similar complex in Caledon, Ontario include a “possible” six-sheet curling rink. Also, British Columbia's Port Moody CC is celebrating a $25,000 contribution to their facility...

• And you thought we were done with U.S. open houses? Not on your life. Olympic bronze heroes Team Pete Fenson will appear at the Evergreen CC in Vancouver (that’s Washington, not B.C.) this Saturday for a clinic/meet-and-greet; cost is only $10...

• Speaking of 2010, this Globe story provides an update on Vancouver planning, and also reminds us that curling's pitch for a new Olympic discipline – singles play – is very much alive and in the mix for medal consideration...

Friday, June 09, 2006

CTRS deadline September 30

First of all, here's a look at the newest member of Team Gushue (see previous post), Chris Schille (photo). Someone send the lad a T-shirt, willya?

Secondly: earlier this week we mentioned July 1 as a deadline for teams to register with the CCA if they, and we quote: "want to compete in Canada’s next Olympic Trials for 2010? Er... want to try, anyway?"

We should clarify: this is to register your squad to collect CTRS points as one way of – hopefully – qualifying for the Trials. Oh, and the deadline isn't July 1, it's actually September 30.

That's also the deadline for events, as well... so cashspiel organizers, go ahead and submit your tournament for CTRS consideration. It's free, so what're you waiting for? Eh?

Finally, some stuff for your weekend absorption...

• Remember those Swedish heavy-metal curling wannabees? Well, Hammerfall are at it again, this time shooting a video with other Swedish athletes...

• More U.S. open houses going on this weekend, in Brainerd, Minn. on Saturday. Kind of odd Brainerd has been going so loco for curling as of late, as their Minnesota location means they aren't exactly rookies to the sport...

• Looks like Canada's The Sports Network – currently embroiled in a footy frenzy, as are we – are regular readers of this blog!

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Schille joins Gushue

After lengthy online rumours, some media confirmation today – courtesy of the Calgary Herald and The Curling News wizard Allen Cameron – that Red Deer's somewhat unheralded Chris Schille, the 2004 Alberta junior champion skip, has joined Brad Gushue's Newfoundland team for their dash to defend the Olympic gold medal at Vancouver 2010.

The story is available via subscription only, but here are a few essential points:

Russ Howard, the veteran skip who joined Gushue at second stone for their '06 Olympic run, will play a handful of events with the squad in the near future – such as November's Continental Cup – but is not in the running for 2010. Factors cited are his age (he's 50) and his desire to qualify for the Brier with his son Stephen, out of New Brunswick.

Mike Adam, the fifth man who originally stepped aside for Howard to join the team, remains as fifth (or is that sixth?) man. Apparently Adam indicated to Gushue that he might not be available for a full run to 2010, which sparked the player search.

• Schille had no idea he was under consideration until Gushue third Mark Nichols approached him at the Players' Championship in April.

• Schille has spoken: I've worked hard for something like this and, hopefully, I can make the best of it. I'm really excited. I wish we were starting right away.

• So has Gushue:
I did a lot of research before I made the decision. I talked to a lot of people about him, and everything was very positive. There were other players that we talked about, but Chris was the easiest fit for the team.

We were looking for somebody younger, closer to our age. We wanted somebody who was eager and would have the intensity and will to win that we all have. It could be real easy for our team to get a little bit complacent, and I think bringing in new blood like Chris and his enthusiasm is not going to allow us to get complacent.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Curling in June

Meet Bruce Folkard, folks.

He's from Guelph, Ontario. He's a lot of fun. And he recently won the 2006 World Rotary Curling Championships in Scotland. He and his Oshawa teammates have been carting the Silver Bell trophy (photo) along to their Rotary meetings back in Canada. Why? A silver bell is rung at these meetings, and this here trophy actually has a working bell. So there you go.

By the way, Team Folkard won the final with a victory over Scotland's Matt Murdoch, the father of David Murdoch, who of course won the 2006 men's worlds in Lowell, Massachusetts. So there you go, again.

There's lots going on as this off-season churns its way into June. Don't believe us? Read on.

• First it was a ton of free beers – guesstimated to continue through life everlasting – and then it was a highway and a few city streets named after them. Now, the Gushues have been bestowed honourary university degrees. Meanwhile, back-enders Brad Gushue and Mark Nichols have been hired to visit five Newfoundland and Labrador communities this month...

• Want to compete in Canada’s next Olympic Trials for 2010? Er... want to try, anyway? You need to register your team with the governing poobahs by July 1, so get cracking!

• The timing might be odd – there hasn’t been ice for over a month now – but here’s a first-person newbie story out of Vancouver...

• Speaking of no ice...? You’re not going to let us get away with that, are you? Of course you know about summer bonspiels, which are everywhere, including one coming up in Toronto this weekend? And there’s no way you’ve forgotten that the Australasian continent is in the middle of their winter – hence, their curling season – as we speak?

And speaking of: it sounds like Bendigo, AUS will get two new curling sheets, and they're already hosting the Aussie Nationals July 22-23... meanwhile, next door in New Zealand, curling interest is booming in Aukland...

• Believe it or not, there is still curling going on the U.S. – we kid you not. The most enthusiastic club in America, the SoCal, is at it again, with an announcement of a summer league and yet another June open house... and so are those nutbars in Arizona, who will also host some August workshops...

• Speaking of America, marathon man Gordy Savela (remember him?) not only made it halfway, he then finished his 13-day, 300-mile fundraising run across Minnesota... all the while clutching a curling brush.

"Because of having to use Vaseline (for chafing), and also because of sweat, I simply could not hold onto the broom," Savela said. He eventually solved the problem by wrapping a bandana around the broom handle for a better grip. "After two days I was totally oblivious to the thing."

Savela, a member of the Itasca Curling Club, began his quest on the North Dakota border May 19 at the Fargo-Moorhead Curling Club in Fargo, Minn. He originally planned on running 340 miles, but changed his route to 300 miles after dealing with knee and hip problems and several days of hot and stormy weather. He finished his run at the steps of the Duluth Curling Club, surrounded by junior curlers.

"I'm really excited about doing this again next year," said Savela. "The sky's the limit. I'd like to involve other states, too. Next year I think we could multiply the money raised (over US $3,000) five or six times."

• Back to Lowell, site of the successful 2006 world men’s. Did you know the area recently got the heck kicked out of it by Mother Nature? Turns out an anonymous “World Curling Federation member” stepped up and donated US $10,000 to flood victims. It then turned out to be none other than legendary curling supporter – and honourary event chair – Kay Sugahara of New York City...

Did you know: that a curling term – bonspiel – tripped up one of the competitors at the world’s biggest spelling bee?

Did you know (pt. II): that freestyle motocross rider Cary Hart, also an MTV star, thinks Supercross would get better Olympic TV ratings than curling?

• Back in Canada, two notes out of Manitoba: the curling association had some new announcements, both in the media and on their website (click on the month of May); and Portage will host this fall’s MCT Championship...

• In Ontario, the minor-league Hamilton Bulldogs hockey club isn’t happy about being locked out of their arena, thanks to Disney and, of course, the Tim Hortons Brier...

• Finally, veteran TV Olympic guy Brian Williams is leaving the CBC – after 30 years! – to jump to CTV, the network best known for spending all its money on U.S. content. CTV and a consortium of others outbid CBC for two upcoming Olympic Games, the critical Vancouver 2010 and also London (Ingerlund) 2012, and now the guy who threw to Don and Don – and later Don and Mike and Joan – at the Olympic curling venue is headed out the door.

Here's two takes, both from the Glob & Flail, with Bill Houston and Al Maki, who warns of impending disaster at the Mother Corp...