Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Attention Campers

Awww, ain't that sweet. The photo shows Swiss Olympic silver medal skip Mirjam Ott coaching a couple of tykes.

We've been promoting various curling camps throughout the summer, and now that many of them are underway or even finished, we thought we would recap. In no particular order:

• The first of four HOT SHOTS Fantasy Camps ended on the weekend, and Texas Dan was there in all his big, friendly glory. You can read his first of what will (hopefully) be multiple HOT SHOTS posts on Dan's Bonspiel Blog.

• The 15th annual Alberta Rocks curling camp filled the Leduc Curling Club for two separate camps this month, with 288 kids taking part. Most were from Alberta, but a few travelled from British Columbia, Saskatchewan and even the Northwest Territories to try to improve their game. Celebs on hand included Olympian Amy Nixon and world junior champ Charley Thomas, both of whom graduated from such camps earlier in their careers.

• The Ol' Bear, Kevin Martin, jumped into the camp game this summer with two academies, one for adults (just finished) and juniors (now underway).

• Naturally, there's the 14th annual Trillium junior camp (two of them) in Guelph, Ontario, held just prior to the first HOT SHOTS, and not too far away down the road. 192 curlers between age 13 and 19 over a two-week span.

So... are all these camps working?

Is it worth it to plant the seed of curling growth during the lazy summer months?

Specific to the issue of kids: are they staying with the sport, and are they maximizing their potential?

Jim Waite says yes, particularly to the last query. Quote:
It's amazing how this camp is producing champions. Waite, the Canadian men's national team coach, also runs the Trillium (and Amethyst) camps and he proudly hangs a banner onsite, which features over 100 names of kids who have attended the camp and later competed in a Canadian championship.

One example is 17-year-old Jamie Parker. He attended his fifth camp last week and dreams of his name appearing on that banner. As Parker told the Guelph Mercury:

My friends made fun of me, and then I brought them out to curl and it was hilarious watching them. Now they have a huge respect for curling. Actually, three of the buddies that came out started playing and we came third at OFSAA.


• Looks like U.S. Olympic speed skating whiz Bonnie Blair went kayak curling. Yeah, that's right, kayak curling...

• 2005 STOH champion skip Jennifer Jones is an honourary chair for Winnipeg mayor Sam Katz' re-election campaign. How about that.

• OK, what the heck is this? Can somebody tell us? It's also here on YouTube, and it's quite cool, but that's all we know...

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Bits & Biters

All kinds of blurbs to pass along today...

• Paralympic golden boy Chris Daw (photo) is in The Curling Show hotseat. Meanwhile there are some disturbing rumours floating around that Daw recently turned down a 150,000-pound wheelchair job in Scotland (that's right, pounds, which would be over 300K in Canuck bucks) to stay in and show loyalty to Canada, but is now struggling to keep his head above water. Say it ain't so...

• Meanwhile, two of Daw's arch-rivals on the Scottish wheelchair squad – which earned silver in Pinerolo – have retired. One of them, skipper Frank Duffy, has been struggling with ill health... in fact, Duffy suffered a heart attack after the competition and while still in Italy...

• First, the Vancouver 2010 curling arena promised for a vacant lot in Vancouver at a price tag of $28-million will now cost $37.1 million and has been moved to a heritage ball park, which will be destroyed in the process. Now, the city of Whistler has voted against building a stadium to host Paralympic sledge hockey, which means that sport – and wheelchair curling – will now move down the hill to Vancouver. Which also means the legacy of having all Paralympic sports in one area (Whistler) for the first time is toast, and we may yet see more Paralympic sports depart the mountain city. The official news is here, with a couple of stories here and here...

• So, you're a Canadian curler and you're upset that your national association is raising competitor fees. Our take? We're of two minds. First of all, $15 per event is a joke in this underpriced sport. You’re lucky you don’t pay between $500 and $1,000 per entry, like you do for a sanctioned World Curling Tour event. So quit your whinging! Secondly, as for the principle of the thing, that seems to be another story altogether...

• More Buckets tales following Monday's funeral, from Terry Jones and ex-Journal and The Curling News scribe Ray Turchansky. Finally, a service wrapup from the Con Man...

• Scottish national team members are now in dry-land training...

• As expected, Winnipeg's fire-razed Thistle club may not survive...

• A tale of McGill students charging forward with University curling...

• And finally, a great outdoor curling/activity piece, and in a New Zealand newspaper to boot!

Friday, August 18, 2006

Goodbye Sportsnet curling

A shocker this week that the Rogers Sportsnet era of curling is over... but first, a pink brush update!

The BalancePlus breast cancer campaign is almost – but not quite – over. The limited-edition batch of 100 pink-handled brushes sold out quickly, and $10,000 has been raised for breast cancer research, but you still have a 1 in 8 chance of scoring one of these babies. And, these last eight sticks shall be autographed by two BalancePlus curling squads: Team Anette Norberg and Team Glenn Howard.

Simply head to this special BP page and fill out your entry ballot to win... and start crossing fingers and toes. And congrats to BalancePlus on a successful pre-season campaign to boost a worthy charity.

Now... just a couple of months following the upheaval in curling’s traditional CBC/TSN landscape (effective fall 2008, of course) word has finally broken that Sportsnet’s coverage of high-performance curling is over and out. And the beleaguered CBC may be back in the game... the Grand Slam game, that is.

Debuting with GMC World Curling Tour coverage back in 1999, the network then known as CTV Sportsnet debuted an all-new talent lineup of play-by-play man Rob Faulds and colour commentators Ed Lukowich and Marilyn Bodogh, both world champion skips in 1986 (and Bodogh again in ‘96). Curtis Saville, the son of Edmonton-based hockey and curling supporter Bruce Saville, produced the shows and recent years saw Rick Davis in the director’s chair.

The decision came down a while ago, and according to workhorse newsbreaker Al Cameron of The Curling News (naturally) and the CanWest news chain (subscription only), Sportsnet has dropped curling as part of a “revamped programming lineup aimed at attracting younger viewers. Ratings – Slam finals generally attracted respectable numbers – were not an issue, but the older demographic of the viewership was.”

World Curling Tour honcho Paul Boutilier was reportedly advised of the planned departure, thus freeing him up to deal with other networks. Cameron reports that the rumour mill is talking about CBC, but Boutilier refused to confirm.

“I think, from our perspective, you'll see a certain recognition of the series at a very high level,” was all Boutilier would tell Cameron. “Certainly, as a series, it's a big step.”

Such a deal would mark a huge boost to CBC Sports, and allow the national broadcaster to maintain its association with the sport it has pioneered on TV since the 1960s.


It's part of the new direction we're heading here. It's a programming decision, and it (curling) doesn't really fit in with our plans as far as programming goes. We had an excellent relationship with them, and we wish them all the luck in finding another partner to air this product. It's a great product, and we're sure they'll find somebody.
Andy Shapiera, Sportsnet communications officer

We're disappointed to lose a partner who's been involved in the Grand Slam from the very start. But, in that industry, you could be right back on the network within a few years.
– WCPA President Paul Boutilier

I'm kind of unhappy about it but, on the other hand, my winters have been so busy, so I can kind of concentrate on my U.S. curling stuff. Sportsnet has been great for the sport; I've enjoyed working with them, it was a great association. I have nothing but good things to say about them.
Ed Lukowich, former Sportsnet curling analyst


• This news, of course, would mean that the Grand Slam of Curling is back for a sixth season. Perhaps not uncoincidentally, a Halifax paper ran a piece this week on the Slam returning to tiny Port Hawkesbury, Nova Scotia, with a date to be confirmed...

• Word that Brandon’s Wheat City Classic WCT spiel has been cancelled may be just the tip of the iceberg, as the “leasing arrangements for the Golf and Curling Club have been terminated effective September 30, 2006 and the operation of our facility is being returned to the City of Brandon”...

• The cavalry are riding to the rescue in Saskatchewan... we hope. The CCA’s Business of Curling symposium rolls into the wheat province next month, aiming to streamline and professionalize the business model of struggling curling clubs. And not a moment too soon: 10 years ago the Saskatchewan Curling Association boasted 250 curling clubs: now they count under 200 and the numbers continue to decline...

• New Zealand curling sees a new face at men’s skip position. Dan Mustapic, one of the expat Canadians who played second for homegrown Sean Becker at the Turin Olympics, skipped his new-look squad to victory over Becker at the recent NZ national championship. The team now heads to Japan for the Pacific Championships later this fall in an attempt to qualify for the Ford Worlds in Edmonton. This was the first real national championship as the NZ Curling Association moves away from team selection criteria in favour of on-ice performance. Bridget Becker won the women’s title...

• According to this MacLean’s story, Winnipeg’s Granite CC gets a cameo appearance in the new 2007 film Blue State...

• The PNE (Pacific National Exhibition) is underway in Vancouver, and today’s sport-themed parade includes “human curling rocks”...

Great Goodbyes: a while ago we detailed the breakup of Team Ralph Stoeckli, and a new lineup – complete with Italian flavour – for former third Claudio Pescia. Well, the new Team Stoeckli website isn't quite up and running yet, but the old lineup that entertained worldwide fans for six-odd years has posted a fond farewell to its fans, check it out...

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

R.I.P. Buckets

Before we begin, another photo of the Olympic and world champion Team Anette Norberg from this past weekend's rock-n'-roll gig... this one from backstage with loveable rivetheads and co-conspirators Hammerfall. We just can't get enough.

Just a year or so removed from his enshrinement in the Canadian Curling Hall of Fame, curling journalist Don "Buckets" Fleming has passed away. The legend, whose writing for both the Edmonton Journal and Canadian Curling News (the predecessor to The Curling News, from which this Blog derives) was also accompanied by a career covering the racetracks, is fondly remembered in various news stories this week, including a great piece from Journal writer Jim Matheson (subscription only). An excerpt:

Don Fleming, who became forever known as Buckets when he cavalierly phoned down to the front desk for a bucket of ice while playing cards as his hotel was going up in flames, passed away Saturday night at the Grey Nuns Hospital.

The former Journal sportswriter was one of the city's most colourful personalities, talking about friends White Shirt Munro and Blackjack Milne in his horse-racing columns. He also spent decades covering Briers and world curling championships, along the way getting chummy with the infamous German playgirl and alleged spy Gerda Munsinger, who caused a scandal in the Canadian government in the late 1960s.

"He was the last of the characters," said Canadian Curling Association events manager Warren Hansen.

The stories about Fleming, who also covered hockey in his early Journal days, were legendary and always a hoot. He loved being at the track and the curling rink and he could spin a tale of hard luck better than anybody else. But nobody was funnier or more oustpoken than Fleming, who went to work for Northlands when his Journal days ended in the early 1980s.

"At the '72 Silver Broom (worlds) in Garmisch (Germany), all of sudden, Gerda Munsinger was sitting with Buckets at the media bench. Nobody could figure out how or why he knew her. But the people from Air Canada (the sponsors) wanted to get her the hell out of there, I know that. Buckets... he was a real sweet talker," said Hansen.

"After the '77 Silver Broom in Sweden, a bunch of Canadian writers went to Copenhagen for a few days and I remember Buckets playing gin rummy with another reporter from Calgary named Al Dahl for two days. He thought he'd taken all of Al's money. Trouble is, Al didn't have any. When Buckets found out, he threw Al's typewriter out the window from the 15th floor.

"He'd sit there for 15 hours a day, watching the Alberta rinks play from start to finish and he'd keep track of all their shots. He got mad when the Canadian Curling Association brought in their own scorers (for percentages)," said Hansen, laughing softly.

Indeed. Fleming deserves a spot in the statistics hall if fame, too, as Matheson learned from his own father – another Canadian Curling News legend – for the story:

"Buckets started the scoring system (percentages) for curlers at the Brier," said another Canadian Curling Association Hall of Famer Jack Matheson.

Former TCN publisher and current Editor Emeritus Doug Maxwell also pays homage to the Buckets legacy in a chapter of his new book, Tales of a Curling Hack, coming out this fall:

I first learned about shooting percentages in my rookie years at the Brier. Buckets Fleming – Donald Schubert Fleming to quote the name on his birth certificate – was the learned and fun-loving curling writer for the Edmonton Journal when I first met him, and I was fascinated to watch him score a game. He had a pad of newsprint and a stub of a pencil, and before each game he’d rule off a scoring grid so he could do his math work. I don’t know how he managed to see everything that was going on in the arena, carry on a conversation with whoever was seated next to him, and still manage to score every shot of every Alberta player. He didn’t worry about the other games. After all, he was writing about his beloved Albertans and, of course, his stats efforts would aid in his subsequent analysis and coverage of the game.

Later, I tried to emulate Buckets and score a game myself, and discovered it definitely wasn’t easy. It did have one unassailable advantage, though; it forced you to watch every shot of the game.

R.I.P. Buckets. Another loss from a time when The Roaring Game was breaking new ground – and some of the rules ;) – with each passing day.


• Scotland's world men's champion David Murdoch has a team change heading into the 2006-07 season. Second stone (and former skip) Warwick Smith has left to return to the tee, and will compete with former world champion skip David Smith (no relation) at third, and front-enders Craig Wilson and Ross Hepburn. Murdoch has slipped Lowell alternate Peter Smith into the lineup as a replacement (P. Smith actually played some of the '06 WCC early rounds when Warwick – again, no relation, but Peter and David are brothers: confused yet? – went down with a back injury).

And if that's not baffling enough, Team Tom Brewster has a humungous change for next season: third Graeme Connal has left to play with Peter Loudon and will be replaced by – wait for it – Hammy McMillan. COME ONNNN!...

• There's lots of European events underway early this fall – next month in fact – starting with Switzerland's Baden Masters, which features returning Canuck champ Kerry Burtnyk. Norway gets underway shortly thereafter with the Bompi Cup, and while Bern's venerable Bund Trophy tournament is sadly no more, the World Curling Tour Europe has stepped up with the host club to create a new event, and they've already got 26 teams signed up. Where, oh where, is that kind of take-charge action on this side of the pond... eh?

• $134,000 in grants for curling clubs have been announced by the Canadian Curling Association, as part of the 2006 Curling Development Fund. Something tells us, however, that Gravenhurst will be using their $3,000 stipend towards the cost of a new roof, not a scraper...

• And finally, an irritated Sports Guy North has now officially put our sport – and TCN – on notice. Hmm. This is a full-fledged PR disaster! Sitting in the penalty box alongside Kelly Hrudey and mosquitoes (not from Winnipeg?!) simply won’t do. Perhaps a free copy of the 2007 calendar (when printed) and a couple of free Keiths’ at the Brier Patch in Hamilton will change SGN’s mind and bring ye olde TCN back into the good books...

Friday, August 11, 2006

Norberg Rocks Out – Again

It's true. Tens of thousands of screaming rock fans, bright lights and a huge stage... and there are the Anette Norberg team members, onstage with Gates of Metal festival-closers Hammerfall, rocking out to the now-ubiquitous curling/metal anthem “Hearts on Fire”.

Some Swedish media reports mentioning the team's appearance – on backing vocals – are located here and here.

Another photo and the team's thoughts on their appearance are now posted on their Blog, which also details other appearances they've been doing; a recent foot injury to second Cathrine Lindahl; and also the low-key but important announcement that they do intend to defend their Olympic gold medal at Vancouver 2010.

Team Norberg's Blog has also shown an increase of English-language postings in recent months. Great move, ladies, as your international fan base – including metalheads – continues to grow.

Canuck curling fans can catch Team Norberg in action live in Chilliwack, BC (and/or on CBC-TV) at the Continental Cup of Curling in November. The event will mark the squad's only North American appearance this season.


• Aberdeen, Scotland has been awarded hosting rights for the 2009 European Championships, and here's the media reports from The Beeb and The Scotsman. It's a major coup for the Scots as the event will be the last major international tourney before the 2010 Olympic Winter Games... and it also provides an opportunity to improve upon their hosting of the controversial 2005 women's worlds.

Julia Bracewell, Chair of sportscotland said:

Curling is an important sport to Scotland and we are delighted that the 2009 European Curling Championships have been awarded to Aberdeen. sportscotland invested £800,000 of Lottery funding towards the development of the Curl Aberdeen facility, to support the development of the sport in the North East and it is great news that it is to stage this prestigious event, showcasing some of the world’s top curlers immediately prior to the 2010 Olympic Winter Games.

Scotland last won the European title in 2003, when current world men's champ David Murdoch announced his arrival on the international scene by winning his first major title. Murdoch won bronze at last year's Euro titleshoot in Garmsich-Partenkirchen, Germany, which hosted 29 men's and 23 women's squads. The 2006 Europeans take place in December in Basel, Switzerland.

The last European Championship to be held in Scotland were at the Dewars Centre, Perth in 1992. Perth also welcomed them in 1988, whilst Aviemore hosted in 1978...

• Interesting that Manitoba's Jennifer Jones would be invited to golf in the Pro-Am of Canada's national women's (LPGA) golf championship. Yes, it's underway in London, home of the recent 2006 Scotties Tournament of Hearts, where Jones competed as Team Canada. But BC's Kelly Scott was the eventual champion, after all...

• Finally, here's a cute news feature on the only all-curling supply shop in British Columbia's Lower Mainland. Who cares if it's the middle of summer? As we've already pointed out, the sport is already underway in various pockets around the world...

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Think Pink

BalancePlus, the Science of Curling, are longtime supporters of The Curling News. But they could be complete strangers and we'd still put their latest innovation front and centre in today's post.

Hot on the heels of an Olympic fundraiser which benefitted Canadian and international teams in Torino 2006 (which you can read about in the upcoming November issue of TCN), BP are at it again. This time they've thrown their hat – er, products – into the charity ring.

Purchase a shocking pink-handled BP carbon-fibre brush and a whopping $100 from each purchase goes to help the fight against breast cancer. This is a limited-time promotion, so head to their website right away.

Team Glenn Howard, also sponsored by BalancePlus, will be using the pink brushes when curling roars into gear next month. Coupled with the wide, white belts they debuted last season, it should be quite a display.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Curling in Africa

We recently stumbled across this ancient story – okay, 1982 isn't that long ago, but ours is a pretty old sport, right? – describing a curling experience in the Ivory Coast, some 24 years ago (photo).

And in true curling fashion, it has an amusing twist – er, rip – at the end. Great stuff.

Meanwhile, one of the worst-kept secrets in curling is about to be officially revealed... next month, that is. That's when a news conference is planned to announce that Winnipeg will host the Brier in March 2008, their first Tim Hortons hosting gig since the 1998 event, won by Ontario's Wayne Middaugh over Quebec's Guy Hemmings.

In revealing the news, Winnipeg Free Press writer Paul Wiecek states that “The last major curling event held in the city was the 2003 world curling championship.”

Eh? Whaa..?

What about the Grand Slam of Curling, which has found a comfortable home at Winnipeg's new MTS Centre the last two years? With big-name teams, national TV and record World Curling Tour crowds to boot?

• D'OH: A lovely little tornado touched down in the Ontario cottage town of Gravenhurst this week, causing assorted mayhem. It also, rudely, tore the roof off the curling club. Which had just been replaced a couple of years earlier, naturally...

• Politicians in Moose Jaw are finally going to vote on their proposed new curling (et al) facility, but the situation still sounds a complete mess...

• It didn't take long for former Toronto Olympic/CBC curling guy Mike Harris to be labelled a local Calgary yokel. The Calgary Sun called him a “city sports star” in announcing that Harris, Calgary Stampeders quarterback Henry Burris and former NHLer Sheldon Kennedy were the honourary co-chairs of yesterday's 11th Annual Scotiabank Charity Golf Classic in support of the Calgary Women's Emergency Shelter, played at Calgary Elks Lodge & Golf Club...

The Curling Show has the one and only Kerry Burtnyk in the house. The world champion is back on the ice this fall after a one-year hiatus, and is steering a bunch of youngsters to boot. Check out Dean Gemmell’s Q&A today...

• Look, folks, we hooked another one...

• And speaking of Blogspots... Blogcritic’s resident curling expert has discovered The Curling News story about Italy’s Joel Retournaz defecting to Switzerland, and the one-liners pour forth:

Those Swiss lulled us into a belief they were this adorable little country that couldn't harm a fly, all the while feeding us Toblerone until we don't know what hit us.

Well Italy, hope you enjoyed your curling phenom while it lasted. If you need him, he's in the Alps right now with the sound of music.


Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Curling in August

Guess what: curling is back.

It’s Game On in Edmonton as the Saville Centre (photo) is open for curling business. They’ve actually had ice since last weekend, and they’ll be tinkering through this week before opening it to the public on Saturday.

They’ve got Pre-Season Leagues, a combined golf/curling day called the Sticks & Stones Classic, a new series of kid’s clinics called the Summer Sliders Camps, and also Kevin Martin’s Academy of two camps, one for adults and one for juniors. All of these can be accessed from the Centre’s page on Summer Curling.

In another week or so, both Oakville and Guelph, in Ontario, will be open for thriving summer league and bonspiel play.

Yup, it’s that time again.

And we were just getting used to summer... weren’t we?

• The fallout over the loss of Toronto’s enormous Avonlea facility seems disconcerting: there is no word of a rescue plan, no intense political lobbying – and this is a municipal election year – and no committees being struck. There may be anger, but no action. Or so it seems. Anyone... ?
Meanwhile, the Toronto Star reports that its online story, located here, was the 10th highest story viewed and forwarded on Friday. Other media reports include the Toronto Sun, the National Post, and the local North York Mirror.

• On the high-performance team front, there is big news from Atlantic Canada. On the heels of their announced induction into the PEI Sports Hall of Fame (taking place September 2), Suzanne Gaudet’s 2001 world junior champion team has now decided to reunite for the 2006/07 season...

• Despite missing curling’s medal podium at Torino 2006, UK Sport has tripled curling’s annual sport funding to 1.1 million pounds, putting traditionally well-funded sports like alpine skiing to shame and raising some eyebrows...

• It looked like a typical U.S. journalist-goes-curling story. We suppose it is typical, in terms of having a familiar start (reporter is confident), middle (reporter is in disbelief, and some degree of pain) and ending (reporter has respect). But what a great piece of writing it turned out to be... and the fellow didn’t even comment on the difficulty of sweeping. Here it is, from Sweet Home Chicago...

• The all-Olympic lineups are now confirmed for the return of the Continental Cup of Curling, this coming November in Chilliwack, BC...

• Blogspots: Camper Dan is going wild, and he doesn’t even start Hot Shotting for another five weeks... incidentally, can anyone guess who Dan is admiring in this previous photo-posting? We know who it is... but then, we know everything, right?... and this guy seems, on first glance, to be a complete arse, but hey, this was Blogpost number 38 during a 24-hour Blogathon – for charity – so maybe we’ll cut him some slack. Just this once.