Saturday, March 31, 2007

The Curling News: April issue

The April issue, our last of the season, is out... got yours?

• The Brier and STOH, by Larry Wood
• Worlds in Japan
Rodger Schmidt previews the Ford Men’s Worlds
• They Said It: Brier edition
WEB SPECIAL: Ryan Durham on a CCA fear of... Toronto?
Jill Officer on the Grand Slams
• Introducing the Tylenol Players’ Championship
Doug Maxwell on the little paper that could
• 50th Anniversary Retrospective: Buckets, Matty and Woody... plus Ferb on the Jumbotron
WEB SPECIAL: Matt Hames says Brad Gushue wasn’t impatient; he was playing chess
• Eight ends or ten? Larry Wood on the return of a curling debate
• Asham Club Corner: CCA releases the ultimate curling guidebook (and it’s awesome)
• Newsdesk: the curling coin, 2010 venue breaks ground, Schmirler events and Avonlea finale
Teri Lake on the first time
• The Curling News TV Guide
• The Curling News Store

... and more!

Coming soon... the biggest gol-darn collection of curling links you've ever seen. Prepare your click finger(s)...

Farewell foto

It’s all over. And it’s a crying shame.

Thanks and kudos to Ryan for the photo, taken during the final song, played acoustic on the Massey floor amidst fans, families, and a human pyramid.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Farewell to the Rheos

There aren’t many occasions where we divert from curling onto another topic, but this is one of those times.

The Rheostatics, Canada’s most beloved and utterly unlabellable – is that even a word? – independent rock band, are calling it quits. At least, the founding lineup will end following their final club show tonight and their final concert hall gig tomorrow night.

And seeing as departing bassist/vocalist Tim Vesely (photo above, with madman guitarist Martin Tielli) is responsible for some of their biggest “hits” – see the incredibly lush Claire and the stunning sonic swoops of Bad Time To Be Poor on this page – we at The Curling News are definitely in mourning.

We invite you to read the farewells in today’s Star, today’s Torontoist, a recent Eye Weekly, in two great Blogosphere postings here and here, and cries of denial here and here.

Of note is a personal farewell from rhythm guitarist/vocalist Dave Bidini in today’s Glob and Flail. Bidini is, of course, also an accomplished author and all his books should be explored, but this one is simply a must-read.

And the beat goes on. The Rheos were recently surprised with a secret tribute album assembled by their CanRock peers; past videos are cropping up here; CBC has posted a hefty visual tribute; and now stunning rare, live shows are finding an online home.

Apart from the essentials Claire and Bad Time (above), here’s three quick vidlinks for you to get a taste of the always-changing Rheos. The Tarleks is probably their best video (and yes, that is the real Frank Bonner)... Power Ballad to Ozzy Osborne provides another hint to their humour... and the brilliant Stolen Car – performed live at CBC studios – is simply wonderous to the senses.

A few years ago, we e-mailed Bidini about the lack of a Rheos curling song. After all, if they can write a song entitled The Ballad of Wendel Clark, then how about curling?

Bidini politely demurred, but at least he replied. But we’re not bitter. Just disappointed, and not at the sporting snub.

They will be missed.

Harris picks Epping

1998 Olympian and CBC curling commentator Mike Harris (above), newly returned from Alberta, is back in Ontario and has three-quarters of his new team firmed up.

John Epping, the youthful former national mixed champ and recent third-place finisher at the Ontario TSC Stores Tankard, will play third. Harris stalwart Trevor Wall throws lead.

The Curling News can also confirm that, yes indeed, Harris and Wayne Middaugh – on-ice rivals, off-ice pals and co-inductees into the Brampton Sports Hall of Fame – were, until recently, talking about a merger.

It was Middaugh’s idea that he would throw third for Harris, but after a week of discussions, Middaugh eventually signed up Jon Mead and Graeme McCarrel instead.

“He (Middaugh) called it off, and my first thought was ‘Thank God’ ” Harris told TCN... with a grin.

“I thought I was the only one who was crazy to think about it.”

Harris’ second is expected to be confirmed next week.

The Beer Store steps up

Well, well... looks like some of the management minds at Ontario’s government-owned The Beer Store have finally realized that a celebrity actually works for them... and, hey, is getting a ton of press these days.

In all seriousness, the $5,000 donation for breast cancer awareness that Glenn Howard’s employers made yesterday in Hogtown (TBS photo above) is a fine gesture of support for Team Howard, aimed squarely at the charity of choice which the team has adopted in such brilliant fashion this season.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

M-15 wins Finnish election

Amid some fine preview stories on the imminent Ford World Men’s Curling Championships, The Curling News has learned, exclusively, that 2006 Olympic silver medallist and Finnish hero Markku Uusipaavalniemi was recently elected to Finland’s parliament.

As reported by the national daily Helsingen Sanomat:

On the other hand, the captain of the Finnish curling team in Torino 2006, Markku Uusipaavalniemi, managed to secure a Centre Party place from the Uusimaa constituency. M-15, as he is called in curling circles, should increase the average IQ of the 200-member assembly: he is said to be able to resolve the Rubik Cube puzzle in 25 seconds.

Incidentally, Makkuu has struggled on the ice this year. A fairly drab showing at December’s European Championships in Basel was followed by an almost-upset in the Finnish playdowns for next season’s Euro shootout; however, Uusipavaalniemi recovered to win the spot for Füssen.

M-15 received 2,804 votes and as a member of the “Keskusta partiet” will be one of only 200 people to make decisions for the entire country.


Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Mead on the move – to Ontario squad

Almost one year ago The Curling News, to the embarassment of the Manitoba sports media scene, broke the news of Jon Mead’s departure from the sport of curling.

Today, the Winnipeg Sun has the scoop that Mead (photo) is on his way back to the sport, on a three-year plan to win the Olympic Trials with... guess who...

Wayne Middaugh.

Yep, no playdowns for Mead, and no physical upheaval from his Winnipeg base; just an eye on buckets of cash and CTRS points en route to Vancouver 2010. Via the province of Ontario, that is.

Welcome back Jonny. It’s not the first time you were considered for a spot on an Ontario team (any guesses folks?) but this full-time commitment is another matter.

Welcome back to Graeme “Crackers” McCarrel too, although it’s really no surprise.

Next up... who Middaugh might have played with next year, had the deal gone through. And if you thought today’s news is pretty wild, just wait until you read this.

But you’ll have to wait a bit for that.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

World champs at only “80-85 per cent”

AOMORI, Japan – A morning earthquake here in northern Japan – centered just a few hundred miles away and registering 7.1 on the Richter scale – was a prelude to Canada’s thunderous power on the curling ice.

Canada’s Kelly Scott beat back a revitalized Denmark squad to win the 2007 World Women’s Curling Championship by an 8-4 score, the first adult worlds event ever held in Asia.

“We were on a mission today,” said Scott. “The curling girls were on a mission.”

It marked Canada’s 14th world women’s title, and Scott becomes the only skip in history to win both the world championship and world junior championship. As Kelly Mackenzie, the diminutive skip also won the 1995 junior championship in Perth, Scotland.

Big winners not once but twice against the Danes earlier in the week, the Canadians were in for an early nailbiter as Denmark – comeback winners in the bronze medal game the previous night – came out blazing. Skip rocker Madeleine Dupont was clocking 87 per cent in shooting performance, almost a full 20 points higher than her cumulative average.

Up 4-3 at the halfway point, the Canadians turned it up a notch. Lead Renee Simons buried a stone in the sixth end and it held up for a steal. In the seventh, second Sasha Carter and third Jeanna Schraeder executed brilliantly, and their high-pressure tactics opened an even bigger lead with a steal of two.

The Danes, led by skip Angelina Jensen, could only score a single point through the final four ends, and conceded after Canada scored another in the ninth.

One year ago, Canadian curling fans were calling for Scott’s head on a platter. The team stumbled through the worlds on home ice in Grande Prairie, managing a bronze medal but undergoing withering criticism for aimless strategy and poor shot execution.

Today, following a run of 24-3 in their last two tournaments, Team Scott are clearly the most efficient women’s curling machine in the world.

“So many things happened to this team (in the last year),” said coach Gerry Richard.

“If you count the Olympic trials, we had three major events in three months. We learned a lot, and we went to work on improvements.”

Richard said the team broke down their deliveries and reworked their releases to find the most optimum way to throw the stone. It’s a story to inspire any curler, whether a high-performance athlete or a rookie struggling with the basics.

“Look at Tiger Woods,” said Richard. “He himself reworks things, he adjusts his swing all the time. If it’s good enough for him, it’s good enough for us, and it’s good enough for everybody.”

And in an ominous note to their challengers, the new champions are prepared to continue improving.

“We’re at about 80-85 per cent of our potential right now,” said Richard.

“We can produce a little more.”

Canada would have earned 14 Olympic points toward qualifying status for the 2010 Olympic Winter Games, but are pre-qualified as host nation. Denmark received 12 Olympic points, while bronze-medallists Scotland – skipped by Kelly Wood – grabbed 10 points.

Other nations impressing with a head start on Olympic qualifying included Debbie McCormick of the United States (7-4 round-robin record for nine Olympic points), Switzerland’s Silvana Tirinzoni (6-5 for eight points), Sweden’s disappointing Anette Norberg, the 2006 Olympic champions (6-5 for seven points) and Japan, Russia and Germany, who all tied at 4-7 to earn four Olympic points each.

Italy and the Czech Republic, making their world debut, both took 1.5 Olympic points for their 2-9 won/loss record.

The next global championship for women, the 2008 Ford World Women’s Curling Championships, takes place next year in Vernon, Canada, not far from Scott’s home base of Kelowna.

Next week, the 2007 Ford World Men’s Curling Championship gets underway in Edmonton, Canada, with the finals ending April 8. Over 170,000 tickets have been pre-sold for the event.

Dane’t count them out

AOMORI – Don’t count the Danes (photo from the third end by CurlingZone) out quite yet.

They’re playing well – better than any previous efforts against Canada – and moreover, the normally rock-solid middle lineup of Team Canada, Sasha Carter and Jeanna Schraeder, are struggling a tad.

Frost warning in Japan?

AOMORI – Just a few minutes before game time, and head ice tech Hans Wuthrich is fretting about frost. It’s a gorgeous day outside – 13 degrees C – and it’s never been as warm inside as it is today.

Also, Richard Hart just called from Port Hawkesbury, where it’s gawd-knows-what time in the morning, to check in on proceedings. We suggested he and the boys film more of Craig Savill’s moves for another YouTube moment ...

Saturday, March 24, 2007

All-Alberta... plus one Lotus-lander

by Teri Lake

PORT HAWKESBURY, N.S. – Getting to The Hawk was just as much about having a beer as it was hitting the arena. Mind you, the bartender at dinner asking me if I wanted a glass – or not – with my Keith’s draught order sort of threw me... but I did get my beer!

And Port Hawkesbury is indeed pumped for curling! With hardly an empty seat in the Civic Centre, and lots more filling out the standing room areas, great curling is not going unnoticed in this small Capre Breton town. Perennial fan favourite, Brad Gushue, has his own cheering section of giggly girlies, and the more experienced cougs have an eye for this guy.

Speaking of Brad and the boys, they couldn’t be in Winterpeg for this announcement, but still more congrats are in order. Here’s a photo (above) of Brad straining his hand muscles, courtesy of the local blat.

Crowd-pleasing in the pseudo-Patch was traditional Maritimers McGuinty and they are straight from the Hali pub circuit. They put on a great show and the dance floor was overtaken by local ladies looking to impress the sharp shooters (one even rocked a shirt from… here, yikes). As the night wore on, the party moved to a local bar/Chinese buffet combo… seriously!

It’s playoff time already in this third of four Grand Slam events for 06/07. No real surprises in the teams making the quarters and victories by Kevin Martin over Shawn Adams, Randy Ferbey over Scotland’s Tom Brewster and Kevin Koe over Gushue will ensure a great finish here in the Hawk. Brier champ Glenn Howard got sent packing with Team Don Walchuk’s upset victory – with Vancouverite Brent Pierce guesting for Don – and complete the roster for an all-Alberta semi round.

Speaking of those semis, time to go …

Canada versus Denmark

AOMORI – It’s Canada versus Denmark for the world curling championship. Again.

Canada’s Kelly Scott will seek her third win of the week over Denmark’s Angelina Jensen in Sunday’s final of the 2007 World Women’s Championship.

On Saturday, Scott methodically picked apart the Danish team 11-3 to advance directly to the final, after having also beaten the Danes 8-1 in just seven ends during the round-robin.

Denmark then made a stunning comeback from both the loss to Canada and a 5-1 deficit to Scotland in Saturday night’s bronze medal game. The Danes scored steals in the eighth end (for two), the ninth end, and also the tenth (another two) for a 9-6 triumph in the de facto semi-final.

A disappointed Kelly Wood settled for bronze, the first medal of her international career.

The fun-loving Danes lept into each others’ arms following the improbable win. Madeleine Dupont, who throws skip stones for Jensen, admitted she though they had lost after the first five ends.

“It was really tough in the beginning,” said Dupont.

“I said, ‘let’s give up, we don’t believe in it… f**k it,’ actually,” Dupont giggled. “The others really thought we could do it.”

And what did her teammates say to her after the game?

“I told you so!” said Dupont.

Denmark also solved the Scots in the round-robin, winning that game by the same 9-6 linescore. Against Canada, the Danes know they will have to do something different.

“We have to be a little more aggressive,” said Dupont.

“Try and put a little more pressure on them than we did in the morning.”

Scott’s Canadian champions have rarely looked beatable in Aomori, and Scott is clearly focused on Sunday’s task.

“This year we’re not going to be satisfied unless we cap it off with a win,” said Scott, the 2006 third-place finisher.

“There’s no better time to go out and grab it.”

Against Denmark, the Canadian champions scored a deuce in the third end, followed by a steal of two in the fourth and another single in the fifth to build another 5-1 lead on their opponents.

In the seventh, the wheels fell off for the Danes as a cacophony of throwing and sweeping errors led to an enormous steal of five points. After going through the motions in the eighth, Jensen managed a point and promptly conceded.

“We expected a much tighter game but we’ll take ’em and run,” said Scott.

The Danes wrecked repeatedly on guards, missing the shots they had made earlier in the week.

The loss was their third in a row following an 8-1 start, but they managed a shocking regroup against the Scots.

The lineup is also quite different, as Jensen threw second stones (up from lead) and alternate Ane Hanson is seeing action. Jensen’s sister Camilla, the regular second, had to leave Japan on Friday to write a university exam in Copenhagen.

It was the biggest playoff trouncing at the women’s worlds since Canada’s Cathy Borst stomped Norway’s Dordi Nordby 10-2 in the 1988 bronze medal game.

The championship final marks only the second meeting between the countries in major international women’s finals. In 1998, just a few hours away in Karuizawa, Japan, Canada’s Sandra Schmirler defeated Denmark’s Helena Blach Lavrsen 7-5 to win Olympic gold.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Scotland moves past U.S.

AOMORI – It was a single errant 42-pound hunk of granite that spoiled Debbie McCormick’s day.

The U.S. champion missed a crucial but routine draw in the third end of the Page 3/4 Playoff match, handed four stolen points to Scotland’s Kelly Wood and spiralled out of the 2007 World Women’s Curling Championships.

The final score was 11-5 in nine ends.

“It was a little heavy, but I guess I was just wide,” said McCormick, the 2006 finalist and 2003 champion (photo by CurlingZone).

“It’s very disappointing after getting so close last year. They (Scotland) played well.”

The beginning of the end started innocently enough. The Americans missed repeated efforts to draw behind cover, and the Scots knocked the U.S. rocks clear. On McCormick’s last stone, there were four Scottish rocks in the rings but the path was wide-open for a simple draw to the rings for a point.

However, McCormick was a touch wide, the rock ran straight and crashed on a guard, and the U.S. suddenly trailed 5-0.

“There’s no way you would imagine that,” said Wood, who will face the loser of Saturday’s Page 1/2 game between Canada and Denmark. The winner of that match is into Sunday’s final.

“There was so much ice, it was a bit of a shock. It was strange, but nice.”

Wood is guaranteed a bronze medal.

“It’s my first medal in six or seven (international) championships,” said the enthused skip. “I’ve never been this far into the playoffs. I’m just going to enjoy the games the rest of the way.”

Prior to the game, the final four teams enjoyed a practice day, followed by a demonstration of Mixed Doubles curling, the new discipline being promoted by the World Curling Federation.

Numerous teams, coaches and curious spectators attended the four-end exhibition, which featured a Danish pair – Denise Dupont and coach Ulrik Damm – versus an American twosome (alternate Maureen Brunt and coach Rob Meakin) and American pairs throwing five rocks each, and with two extra stones placed in strategic positions before each end.

The game was filmed by World Curling Television to help the sport’s 46 member nations develop the discipline in their countries.

The first World Mixed Doubles Curling Championship takes place in Vierumäki, Finland in conjunction with the 2008 World Seniors, March 9-15 next year.

Mmmm... curling snacks

AOMORI – Just a wee photo to whet your curling appetite.

Yes, we’re still here in Japan, while Teri is in Atlantic Canada at The National.

More soon ...

TeriHawk Curling

by Teri Lake

HALIFAX – What the Hawk?

My bags are packed and I’m ready to go. And if it wasn’t for this day-job thingy holding me back, I’d be there already.

I’m heading to the epicentre-du-jour of curling… Port Hawkesbury, NS! (Ahem, epicentre of “men’s” curling this weekend… sorry Aomori).

Whaaaa? I’m going where, you ask?

Port Hawkesbury, Nova Scotia is the unlikely host to one of the cornerstone events on the (men’s) Asham World Curling Tour circuit: The National. A Grand Slam event, no less. For the second consecutive year, The Hawk’s Civic Centre will welcome 16 of the best teams “in the world,” according to the PHCC website. Hey, I agree!

Recent Brier top dawg Glenn Howard’s marathon rolls on as he says hello in the Hawk before jetting to Edmonton for a little event called the Ford Worlds in early April.

Tankard trophy runner-up Brad Gushue will be in town along with the veteran/young pup combo of Team Kevin Martin. Speaking of Martin, his former third Don Walchuk’s new squad is on the roster as well. Also, lycra-lovin’ Pete Fenson’s Olympic bronzers headline the international contingent. And never forget about the Ferbster and team.

Scotian entry Shawn Adams will likely be excited to get back to playin’ with the big boys after narrowly missing this year’s Brier, ‘Toban Kerry Burtnyk along with fellow flatlanders Pat Simmons and Kevin Koe up the ante as serious Slam contenders, and Scotland’s Tom Brewster will be Hammying it up on this side of the pond.

Unfortunately for me, the battle got underway earlier today and I’m still home, but staying entertained, as the work week winds down. Getting a hotel room was a heckuva task so if that’s any indication, Port Hawkesbury is pumped for curling! Looking forward to sharing the excitement with you, live from The National, when I finally get there, on Friday. And with no national television scheduled for this one, you’ve only got online options to follow along: CurlTV (subscription only), the good old boys at CurlingZone’s scoring pages, and... me!

Friday, March 16, 2007

That’s Aomori

AOMORI, JAPAN – Yep, we’re here. You didn’t doubt us, did you?

Japanese curling has changed a lot since Nagano 1998. More people speak fractured English, more people are curling, and their women’s team are demigods with TV endorsements, souvenir merchandise and their own pack of 100-or-so reporters (see photo) handled by, of all things, a “Japanese Media Control Officer.”

Team Sweden, the mighty 2006 Olympic champion Anette Norberg and Co., drew about 15 media members to their opening news conference. Japan’s Moe Meguro and troops – three of whom finished seventh in Turin last year – attracted about 75 media buzzards.

Action gets underway tomorrow with results here and here, and CP’s Donna Spencer has previewed Asia’s first-ever adult world shootout here, with team capsules here. AP is also on the scene, and this fellow seems to have provided the first look at the ice surface... but the real score seems to be live streaming content on the Eurosport curling page, check back often to see what is online ...

• The Strauss Canada Cup is on right now in Kamloops, viewable at CurlTV and this weekend on CBC-TV …

• DID YOU KNOW? ... that Canadian Curling Association competitions guy Neil Houston, himself a World champion (with Ed Lukowich) and World Junior champion (with Paul Gowsell) from days gone by, is leaving the CCA to manage the curling venue at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games? Word came down today, and Houston leaves for B.C. in a month ...

• DID YOU KNOW II? ... that the Brier was picketed by protestors in front of Copps Coliseum? Apparently they had concerns with Brier sponsor Monsanto’s products ...

• Here’s an interesting piece in the Hamilton Spectator by Barry Macklin, who is with the Ontario Curling Association. Macklin takes aim at whinging about ice conditions and attendance, declaring that “people like me don't really care why you missed your shot” and “no city has better media coverage of curling than Hamilton” ...

• And Spec curling guy Steve Buist weighs in with his wrapup, stating that, among other things:

– the ice conditions are the athletes’ fault;
Russ Howard just might have image problems;
– and Brad Gushue’s “woe-is-me act is wearing thin” …

That’s all for now, but there is so much going on out there, we just might be posting tomorrow. Stay tuned ...

What is this? ... It’s art!

Congratulations to London, Ontario’s Peter McKinley , aka Listen to ME!!, who correctly identified the our running What is this? query. Some of our favourite – but incorrect – answers were “a refrigeration unit for cooling the TSN commentators’ wine” and “a personal memory disk from TRON.” Another offered that “if there was curling on 24 it would look like this.”

However, the answer is much cooler: it’s a work of art, by Canadian visual artist Jason Young.

Young works mostly in sculpture and has long been fascinated by the design qualities of the curling stone. The New-York based artist moved beyond his usual media and worked with a filmmaker to create the 10-minute short entitled The Curling Stones, which has played at various film festivals around the world, and which is available for viewing here and here.

TCN contacted Young just before we launched What is this? and Young has another curling project in development: one that will knock your rocks off. Guaranteed.

Check out the upcoming April print issue of The Curling News for an interview with Young and the inside scoop on his next curling film. And with some curling clubs set to close by the end of March, you’d best become a subscriber to ensure you get this issue.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

TYLENOL* joins curling sponsor ranks

TYLENOL* Announced as Title Sponsor For Grand Slam of Curling Players’ Championship

CALGARY – Insight Sports Ltd. of Toronto has introduced TYLENOL* as the title sponsor of the Grand Slam of Curling Players’ Championship. The season-ending event will be known as the TYLENOL* Players’ Championship.

The TYLENOL* Players’ Championship, for both men and women, closes out the 2006-2007 season at the Calgary Corral, April 10-15 with a total prize purse of $200,000.

The championship is part of the Asham World Curling Tour’s Grand Slam of Curling series.

The women’s final will air on CBC Sports on Saturday, April 14 at 3:00pm ET, with the men’s final airing Sunday April 15 at 2:00pm ET.

“TYLENOL* is proud to support the Players’ Championship,” said Jennifer Williams, Product Director of McNeil Consumer Healthcare, the manufacturer of TYLENOL*.

“This event brings together Canada’s best curlers – they’re committed to their dreams, and engaged in a sport they love. We support that and wish them all the best in the competition.”

The TYLENOL* Players’ Championship for both women and men will include the top 16 CTRS (Canadian Team Ranking System) teams as of March 26, 2007. This is one of the premier events in curling, featuring the top squads in high-performance competition, and marks an important step within Canada’s Olympic qualification process for the 2010 Olympic Winter Games.

Draw times at the Corral are:

April 10 – 5:30pm and 8:30pm
April 11 – 8:30am, 11:00am, 2:00pm, 5:30pm and 8:30pm
April 12 – 8:30am, 11:00am, 2:15pm and 5:15pm
April 13 – 11:00am, 2:00pm, 5:30pm and 8:30pm
April 14 – 1:00pm women’s final, 4:30pm men’s QF, 7:30pm men’s SF
April 15 – 12 noon men’s final.

“Calgary will be witness again to the greatest combined fields ever assembled under one roof,” said Paul Boutilier, Executive Director of the Grand Slam of Curling and the World Curling Players’ Association.

“Winning the TYLENOL* Players’ Championship means so much to the teams.”

“I have been fortunate enough to win the Players’ Championship four times, and yet I still remember that first victory in 1994,” said Alberta skip Kevin Martin.

“It is truly a player’s favourite when you bring the very best teams in our sport together for head-to-head competition.”

Tickets for the TYLENOL* Players’ Championship are on sale now in the Calgary area, and are available by calling TicketMaster at 403-777-0000 (or 1-888-833-4447 outside Calgary) or by purchasing online.

For more information and updates, visit the AWCT or CurlTV websites.

Insight Sports Ltd. owns and operates the Grand Slam of Curling, the most prestigious event series on the Asham World Curling Tour. The series is highlighted by the TYLENOL* Players’ Championship, one of the most important curling events on the AWCT schedule.

The world’s best curling teams, including those skipped by Glenn Howard, Randy Ferbey, Brad Gushue, Kevin Martin, Jeff Stoughton, Wayne Middaugh, Jean-Michel Menard, Kerry Burtnyk and many more, compete in the world’s only true “best-on-best” curling events.

The Grand Slam of Curling series also sees the competitors battle for valuable points on the Order of Merit List which not only determines the world’s best curling teams, but also contributes to the race to represent Canada at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games.

Events include the Home Hardware Masters of Curling (Kitchener-Waterloo ON), the BDO Classic Canadian Open of Curling (Winnipeg MB), The National (Port Hawkesbury NS), and the TYLENOL* Players’ Championship (Calgary AB).

Insight Sports Ltd. is a leading sports media and entertainment company operating three specialty television networks: CGTV, Casino and Gaming Television; GOLTV Canada, a 24-hour soccer network; and WFN: World Fishing Network, North America's only network devoted entirely to fishing. The company also holds a significant interest in the NHL Network, a 24-hour hockey channel. Insight Sports creates and distributes sports and entertainment content across multiple platforms, including broadcast television, DVD, on-line, mobile, in-arena and video on-demand. Aquila Productions Inc., a leader in sports television production, is a wholly owned subsidiary of Insight Sports.

Insight Sports also owns and operates the Grand Slam of Curling, the most prestigious event series on the Asham World Curling Tour.

Based in Toronto, the principal shareholders of Insight Sports include Larry Tanenbaum (Kilmer Enterprises Inc., a subsidiary of Kilmer Van Nostrand) and MWI & Partners.

What is this? – Clue #6

You thought we'd forgotten... right?

Game on, folks.


Monday, March 12, 2007

Way to go, Bro

HAMILTON – Well, here they are, ladies and gentlemen... your Canadian men’s curling champions.

At last. Now those white belts will match perfectly with Canada’s uniform colours.

Wonder if the other Team Canada, skipped by Kelly Scott – the alleged originators of the “No Pregancies” rule – will have anything to say to these victorious jokesters when they meet up at April’s Players’ Championship in Calgary?

And if you’ve still not clicked on the highlighted link in the lead sentence, we’re showing it to you again. And now for a third time. In other words, WATCH THIS NOW. Great stuff.

The photo above – by TCN Photo Editor Anil Mungal – shows Olympian Russ Howard congratulating his brother Glenn. And if you look carefully, you can see a good chunk of the Howard family clan beaming in the background. Nice touch with the trigger, Anil.

But did any photog catch Russ pumping his fist for Glenn during the final? The Wounded Moose chose to cheer for family over his former Olympic teammates, declaring that “blood is thicker than Screech.” No real surprise there.

There’s lots to read on the Brier in today’s media, so we’ll leave the bulk of the curling surfing to you, save for a couple of standouts that caught our eye. Specifically:

• Who’s the best ever? Sun Media took a quick crop poll on the Hamilton media bench but, of course, real curling fans have been there and debated that already... and they’ve even mulled over the best to never win a Brier ...

• Here’s one who is now out of that club: Richard Hart waxed philisophical about the 1998 Olympics after yesterday’s big win ...

• Interesting that a Brier media sponsor – we are assuming, of course – would publish a feature like this just as the event starts to climax... thoughts anyone?

• And in today’s same publication, an interesting opinion from Steve Milton: crazy as it sounds, he says the Brier needs to come back to Hamilton within five years ...

• Torstar’s Chris Zelkovitch seems to write a curling “appeal” column like this every year ’round this time, but we enjoy each one nonetheless ...

• And then there’s poor Gary Washburn; he’s simply baffled by the Brier as he visited from Seattle. Hamilton versus Newfoundland..? Hmm.

Too bad that Gary, like other media types, rarely gets the chance to just sit in front of a TV and watch (and hear) curling unfold before his very eyes. These guys, you see, are always working.

Take Mike, for example.

He’s not a journalist and he just plain loves curling. Not only has he never thrown a rock – like many U.S. scribes – he actually has “no f**king idea what’s going on”... and he loves it. There are lots out there just like Mike.

And speaking of The Blogosphere, there’s a goodly amount of curling commentary out there, so why not browse and compare these amateurs (below) with those professionals (above)?

In no particular order, we have JetBoots and his personal Brier wrap; followed by this far-out discussion on the “Canadadian sport of Moose Curling” ... and of course there’s Matt, who also scribbles for The Curling News, who posted a post about posting at the Brier. Er, sort of. Anyway, we like the Johnny Mac photo.

There’s also Townie Bastard who thinks Brier finalist Brad Gushue was a tad lucky heading into the final (but obviously not yesterday)... Jessmo who opines about Gushue’s search for respect... and finally, how about curling as a tactical engagement? And discussed as such amongst military afficionados? Check out this posting and feel free to jump in; ’tis an interesting concept that sadly seems in need of a kick-start.

That’s all for now, almost...

• DID YOU KNOW? ... that Canada and Scotland won the junior worlds?

• DID YOU KNOW II? ... that will provide live webstreaming of Team USA curling games from the imminent Aomori and upcoming Edmonton world championships? This is pretty big news, if you think about it...

Friday, March 09, 2007

Calendar girl sings at Brier

HAMILTON – Guess who is singing the national anthem for both tomorrow's semi-final and Sunday's final games?

She made her debut Friday night at the opening ceremonies, and they've asked her back for more. It's none other than Lynsay Ryan (photo), daughter of two-time world champion Pat Ryan and herself a two-time Ana Arce calendar girl!

A suggestion for the final three: keep your mind on the game, boys...

And why not pay a visit to TCN's calendar page, dear reader, where – looky-looky! – a spring discount is in effect...!

The 2007 calendar features 17 curling athletes/models from around the world, strutting their stuff for much-needed funding (each earns a portion from the proceeds).

Support them today!

Stoughty Spinerama

HAMILTON – He did it again last night... here's the Jeff Stoughton showcase move, captured at Copps Coliseum. But will he (get to) do it on CBC-TV this weekend?

TCN photo by Anil Mungal

Down but not out

HAMILTON – Northern Ontario lead Lee Toner lost it in this game last night, but was still determined to keep the brush head going. Attaboy!

TCN photo by Anil Mungal

Thursday, March 08, 2007

What the... ?

EVELETH, Minnesota – No less than four such “What the...?” items for today. What the... is going on these days?!

• This Globe and Mail column focussed on Manitoba’s Jeff Stoughton and the rapidly-disappearing “tuck-style” slide he uses to deliver the rock. Now look very carefully at this World Juniors photo at left (courtesy of Jim Law) . What do you see?

Tell ya what we see... a Scotsman using the tuck-slide. What the...? This is none other than young Glen Muirhead, son of the prrrrroudly Scottish skip who lost the 1995 Ford Worlds final to Kerry Burtnyk in Brandon.

This is how Burtnyk, Stoughton and a few other ’Tobans slide... so we must simply ask young Muirhead: What The...? is up with that? Eh?

• Exploding rocks. Which go “Poof”. That’s right. That’s what K-Mart thinks he’s discovered at the Brier. Although it sounds like he’s stealing Mark Nichols’ thunder. Mull this one over for yourself, courtesy of Terry Jones of the Edmonton Sun ...

• Now you, lucky reader, can have your very own desktop version of the “Stoughty Spinerama” and the “Fry Handstand”, courtesy of this Hamilton Spectator Brier page (click on Curling trick shots). What the... ?

• Finally... we knew Ontario’s Craig Savill, like all good lead stoners, is there to be mocked (usually by teammates only). But it sure didn’t take long for yesterday’s pratfall to show up on YouTube, did it?

What the... ?

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Wayne, Yoni and Stephen Harper

Did you catch Wayne Middaugh on TSN’s Off The Record yesterday?

He swore he’d be up north snowmobiling for all 10 days of the Brier, but there he was, in TSN’s Toronto studio, babbling about the Brier, men’s versus women’s curling (hello!) and so on.

You can catch the show on the TSN broadband webpage, via the show link, but there’s more coming up. It’s Brier week on OTR as Mr. Hurry Hard, aka the Wounded Bull Moose (er, that would be Russ Howard) is on today’s afternoon show. Tomorrow, it’s the somewhat quieter (and other) Moose, aka Moosie, TSN commentator Ray Turnbull.

Big events like the Brier bring out all types. There’s really good journos, like the Globe’s Stephen Brunt, who when not crafting quality pieces like this is pretending – rather poorly, we might add – to know nothing about curling on The Bobcat’s incendiary FAN 590 radio/Sportsnet TV talk show.

There’s also misguided political miscreants who pipe up, like Yoni Goldstein did yesterday on the Nat Post’s blogsplotch. Curling Sucks? Now there’s a header designed to bring forth fire and brimstone. To hell with you, we humbly suggest.

Must be a Liberal. Canada’s curling-mad PM, Stephen Harper, is on his way to Copps as we type this. Maybe he can help Merk with the ice conditions.

Did anyone catch Danko? Let us know how The Mango Kid did on his debut curling night on Friday. Canada’s national music pub, incidentally, picked up our story from last week, even adding a mention of Hamilton’s legendary Dik Van Dykes and their Curling song. Awesome.


• DID YOU KNOW? ... that you could win a trip to the Ford Worlds? Get clicking ...

• DID YOU KNOW II? ... that Saskatchewan women’s alternate Sherry Linton wrote a daily dairy online during the Scotties? It’s still available, in all its glory, right here at Saskcurl. But just one question: what the heck is Flippycup?

• Finally, it’s official… a pipe band does indeed blare “louder than a jet engine”. And now we wonder if the Brier committee will perch a platoon of pipers way up in the Copps rafters for their closing ceremonies, amid growing spotlights, as they did in both 1991 and 1996? The soft part of our callow heart hopes they do, as those were quite the moments ...

Monday, March 05, 2007

World Juniors

EVELETH, Minn. – Enjoy the Brier, Canada, while much of the rest of the world focusses on this Iron Range town in northern Minnesota, and the annual World Junior Championships (Scottish fans in photo).

And yes, we’re here, as well. Hamilton and Eveleth, both at once. We couldn’t really call ourselves The Curling News if we weren’t able to be everywhere in the curling world at once... agree?

The host venue is Curl Mesabi, a remarkable eight-sheeter built a few years ago as a co-op venture between four local towns. Each of their curling clubs were struggling, and now they are together as one, and doing quite well.

20 teams (10 men’s and 10 women’s) are doing battle, live on CurlTV, and you can also follow the results on the event website, via the live scoring page, and also courtesy of the World Curling Federation, which is keeping track of things on their tournament pages.

Defending women’s champ Ludmila Privivkova of Russia, who stunned the field to win December’s adult European Championship, has looked fairly human so far, as has Canada’s Newfie contingent led by Stacie Devereaux.

On the mens side, Canada’s defending world champion Charley Thomas has two new teammates and boy, they looked very ordinary today versus Norway. Thomas kept his cool – as he always seems to do – as his mates struggled, and a brilliantly quiet come-around hit for two in the ninth made all the difference.

Meanwhile, the Scottish men’s team, led by Logan Gray, is in foul trouble... rocks have been kicked, expletives uttered, and brooms have been smashed, leading to two warnings, the second of them in written format. The clock is ticking... will the lads manage to quell their squirrely behaviour?

Everybody say Zowie!

HAMILTON – “Zowie!” was a favourite saying of former Rogers Sportsnet curling commentator Ed Lukowich. Actually, he might have only said it once, but that single offering has grown a life of its own and will no doubt live forever in the minds of a few curling observers.

Think about it... who says “Zowie”? Vic doesn’t. Witt doesn’t. But Fast Eddie does (or did). Too bad Eddie’s bosses turfed curling, a charter sport since their initial CTV Sportsnet days, over the summer in favour of a new youthful re-branding. A re-branding that has delivered some lousy audience figures of late. Sorry guys. You snoozed, and you losed.

Anyway, the Brier is now officially “Zowie” thanks to some wild games. Sask’s Pat Simmons just made a beauty angle raise for three to beat Alberta’s Kevin Martin. Ontario’s Glenn Howard was up 5-1 – as he was early on in last night’s nailbiter versus Manitoba – but Olympian Brad Gushue made the Shot Of The Week(TM) in the ninth.

Here’s a descriptive attempt. Gushue threw an in-off from a stone 10 feet out and two inches from the side padding – so one of those stones would have been well out of play at any curling club – and he hit half a rock, redirecting it onto his own, which drove Howard’s shot stone out. The newfies scored two, but Gushue was actually trying to hit the stone 1/8th of an inch less and drive the second rock across to take out another Ontario stone and score four.

The Gushies than stole in the 10th frame to tie and force the extra... but Gushue tanked his final draw heavy and Howard hit – for four – and a wild 10-6 win.

Ye Gods.

Meanwhile, ace TCN Photo Editor Anil Mungal sent along this image (photo above) from last night’s wild Howard-Stoughton tilt. Another beauty.

Oh yeah... and the Territories are now 4-0.


Sunday, March 04, 2007

That’s the Brier

HAMILTON – It’s Sunday night, opening weekend of the Brier.

The afternoon draw saw a huge upset as, if you’ll mind the pun, Kevin Martin’s team was run over by Northern Ontario. That’s the Brier, the place a 53-year-old skip who went to the Seniors in 2005, can beat one of the favourites. The Brier is also why they don’t play the games on paper.

The afternoon draw also featured Jeff Stoughton and Glenn Howard (photo) in a three and-a-half-hour epic. It ended with Howard stealing the extra end to stay undefeated. Fans might be a little curled out from the afternoon draw because it’s a little less than half full for the evening draw. But the Keith’s Patch is probably full. And the Patch is something unique to the Brier. Part beer hall, all party, the Patch makes the Brier much of what it is.

One final note about the uniqueness of the Brier. Earlier this evening, the Brier honoured Ed Werenich’s 1983 Dream Team. Werenich, Paul Savage and Neil Harrison were interviewed in the Purple Heart Lounge. Among other things we learned from Harrison that Savage was a sandbagger at golf. That’s the Brier.

Right now, in Draw 5, Yukon/NWT is ahead 5-2 after just stealing 2. They are playing well, and with a win, would join Howard atop the leader board at 3-0. And that folks, is the Brier.

Off to the Patch.

Matt Hames

Johnny Mo and cars

HAMILTON – The Brier.

After getting hit by a car a few days ago, Alberta third John Morris (photo) makes the trip to Hamilton and wins the car in the Ford Hot Shots competition.

You can’t make this stuff up.

This will go down with one of the other classic Brier car wins, in which Ed Werenich won the very first Hot Shots without – it’s been claimed – being able to see the other end of the ice very well. At all.

Back to the Brier. When looking at the field, three teams stand out from the fray – and that ignores the Olympic Gold Medallist. It wouldn’t be a stretch to put Glenn Howard, Jeff Stoughton or Kevin Martin on your list of possible Brier winners. Brad Gushue and Pat Simmons might have something to say about that before the week is over, and there might be someone else who comes up in the cracks and pulls off “a Menard”. Perhaps even the crafty 51-year-old veteran from Quebec, Pierre Charette. But safe money is on one of these three.

This morning, cruising into the Steel City from New York, we noticed a car on fire on the Niagara-bound QEW.

We tell you that because one of the three is on fire coming into Brier play. At the Ontario provincials, the Howard team decimated the field. Going back to last year’s Brier, with the notable exception of the final-game the lost to Menard, the Howard team seems on a mission to win.

Listen to these game scores from last year’s Brier: 12-6, 9-4, 10-5, 8-5, 9-5, 74, 7-4, 10-7, 7-5, 8-2. The final they lost was one of their only close games... and that after spotting the Quebeckers a 4-0 lead. At this year’s Ontario final, they didn’t play a meaningful 10th end.

As you may have guessed, this watcher is betting on Howard. But there’s just so much more curling to come ...

Matt Hames

Thursday, March 01, 2007

The Curling News: March issue

Just a ton of links and stuff to show you good folks, but first, a quick look at this month’s issue of The Curling News, and what goodies await those who are getting it this week ...

Tim Horton’s Brier: the class of the field, 1991 memories, and how dare you, Paul Dobson!
Doug Maxwell’s all-time Brier all-stars;
They Said It: our popular collection of curling quotables;
Curling 2020: a very different demographic;
Asham Club Corner: U.S. rocks, Swift Current and Pugwash;
The Curling News TV Guide: where to get your fix in March;
• TCN’s 50th Anniversary Special: The Hackner Shot, 1993 Brier shenanigans, and the 1979 Gathering of Champions;
• TCN Newsdesk: Danko rocks, Gunnlaugson and Villard turn heads, the Juniors, Randy versus Kevin (again), the Goldline Mobile Pro Shop, and more;
• Japan goes bonkers over curling, just in time for this month’s Women’s Worlds;
Rodger Schmidt on the Universiade: the most important curling event you’ve
probably never heard of;

... and more!

And so... what else is going on?

• The oddsmakers have spoken, and have given Alberta’s Kevin Martin a 2/1 edge to win the Tim Hortons Brier, which starts Saturday on CurlTV, TSN and also on TSN Broadband (two daily draws and three draws on March 8).

Manitoba’s Jeff Stoughton carries 5/2 odds and Ontario’s Glenn Howard is 3/1.

Pinnacle Sports (who?) must have missed yesterday’s news that Alberta third John Morris was struck by a car. Literally.

Yes, Johnny Mo got hit and was sent flying about 15 feet. The young horse says he’s “OK” and is hoping to be ready for Saturday. We wish him the best, but... he’ll probably feel worse after the weekend, and of course CCES and WADA are both on the scene, so he’s got to watch what he takes for the pain and stiffness ...

• Speaking of doping control, easy there Ewan MacDonald, one shouldn’t freely discuss the “s” word in the press ...

• And speaking of Scotland, here’s a feature on the men’s victors who are headed to Hamilton, led by Warwick Smith ...

Kelly Scott is going to Japan, and while it’s nice to see that political bloggers can be curling fans too, did anyone else feel that the STOH final was a tad lacking? Weeksy sure did ...

• The World Wheelchair Championships are finished, and Canada’s Chris Daw gutted out a separated shoulder (!) to finish fourth overall ...

• It’s super-sub Steve Bice (who?) on the latest installment of The Curling Show...

• DID YOU KNOW: you can watch Canada Winter Games curling on TSN and also on APTN? The women’s Yukon team makes a great story, as does that of the reps from the town of Manotick, Ontario ...

• Back to the Brier: The Spec is making some rather bold promises about its upcoming Brier web coverage; we’ll see about that, right gang? ... and has anyone reading this ever heard of Al Harnden? We sure have. It’s great to see “Snapper” back in the show, even if it is a tad unexpected. TCN will never forget his explosive retort to his brother Eric 17 years ago at the 1990 Brier: “No bumps, we’re hitting the damn thing!” He did too, all the way to the semi-final.
One thing not mentioned in the CurlTV story is that the 21-year-old Jacobs, who throws last rocks, is Harnden’s nephew ...

• Imagine: Beerology 101 might never have happened if not for a chance meeting ’round a table after the curling game...

• Ha ha, we like this (wait for the last scene) ...

• Sadly, a group of Scottish curlers are in tough after their rink burned down ...

• Okay, so Sherry is back in the Canada Cup and the world is right again. Too bad she, and all the other teams, be competing in an empty Kamloops arena, for yet another year...

• And finally, here it is: The Shot, the ultimate horror for ice technicians everywhere ...