Tuesday, May 29, 2007

June curling with Brad Gushue

And you thought curling was over.

The June 9-10 weekend will actually see not one but two curling events in Toronto. There’s the perennial East York Summer Spiel, which you never hear about because the following year’s event is always near-full by the time the current tourney ends. No need to advertise!

But the big news is yet another charity event, this time benefitting the world-famous Hospital for Sick Children, which gives Toronto curling fans a chance to raise money for one of the city’s great causes and rub elbows with some celebs, like Mike Harris and Jenn Hanna.

The big score the fledgling Curl For SickKids event has produced is the participation of Newfoundland’s Brad Gushue, who will be making his first appearance at a celeb-charity event in four years.

There are some spots available but curlers and fans are urged to visit the website, send an email or phone call soon to get in on the action. The top five fundraisers, naturally, get to select their skip ...

Friday, May 25, 2007

Scottish curling online

We at The Curling News are honoured to spotlight The Scottish Curler, a glossy mag that is actually a wee bit older than us (shhhh!) and which is also chock full of great currrrrrling news from Scoootland every month.

The Scottish Curler now has an online weblog, Curling Today, and we are also honoured to have been the first out there to spot it, and post its first comment.

So there you be. Check in often and read up on all things Scoootish and currrrrrling via your desktop.

Elsewhere:

• Great news from the European curling world as Le Gruy√®re AOC has renewed its title sponsorship of the European Curling Championships for another two-year term ...

• The Canadian Curling Association has a selection committee currently out west, checking out sites for the 2009 Scotties Tournament of Hearts. The choice is down to Kelowna or Victoria in B.C.

Steering said committee are the CCA’s Warren Hansen and Jack Bowman, as well as veteran STOH chief Robin Wilson.

The final decision, which will be announced this fall, will be a tough one. Victoria has a strong event pedigree with the lucrative 2005 Ford World Men’s still fresh in memory. Kelowna, however, is currently the talk of curling in B.C. as it is home to world champion Kelly Scott.

Kelowna has also hosted the Scotties, in 1989, and other Season of Champion events like the World Women’s (1986), the Canadian Juniors (1999), and the World Juniors (2002)... and the mammoth Kelowna Curling Club is a very sleek operation, headed by 2007 provincial Mixed champ Jock Tyre.

As for the two arenas in the running, there appears to be little to choose from between Kelowna’s Prospera Place – built in 1999 – with seating for 6,007, and the Save on Foods Memorial Centre in Victoria – still with some fresh drywall during the 05 Worlds – and its capacity of 7, 400.

Nearby Vernon, of course, is hosting the coming 2008 Ford World Women’s Championship, which just scored a $50,000 grant... and the Vernon Curling Club recently hired Dave Merklinger – he of the criticized Tim Horton’s Brier and very much uncriticized Ford Worlds in Edmonton – as ice technician and general manager, who makes the move from Vancouver’s Royal City CC.

• Still in British Columbia, 2006 Paralympic wheelchair champion team member Sonja Gaudet is in the running for Vernon Business Woman of the Year award. The gala takes place tomorrow at the Best Western Vernon Lodge.

Gaudet’s bio reads as follows:

Sonja Gaudet is a dedicated wife and mother, as well as a volunteer, ambassador, motivational speaker and highly accomplished athlete. She was a key member of the Canadian Paralympic Curling Team that won gold at the 2006 Torino Paralympic Games. Her life is an example of grace and achievement as well as selfless determination to make her community a better place. She has used her life experience to inspire others, always with a sense of humor and her signature smile.

• A wee bit further to the southwest, B.C. curling coach Sharon Delver paid a curling visit to New Zealand and Australia this month. And nice to hear more about concrete plans for Oz’ first real curling facility ...

• The Sports Network picked up our exclusive on Brad Gushue’s newest addition. But of course ...

• Finally, a YouTube curling roundup shows excerpts from Sweden’s 2007 mens final (check out the huge backswing on Per Carlsen)... the women’s final, and also the mens juniors (note switch of Van Halen backing track to Survivor), plus a cool vid summarizing the 2007 World Juniors in Eveleth. Finally, someone has finally posted Brit comedienne Catherine Tate’s amusing – if predicable – sketch, which features Rhona Martin ...

• Okay, finally here’s the last item, and it’s a warning. Do NOT, under ANY circumstances, click on this link. Just don’t do it ...

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Gushue picks Noftall























There’s a big story in the Wednesday edition of the St. John’s Telegram, but The Curling News has it first: the search for Brad Gushue’s new lead is over, and the winner is... Dave Noftall of St. John’s (photo).

Noftall recently played lead for Mark Noseworthy, including the 2005 season which saw Noseworthy surprise the field to qualify for the playoffs at the Players’ Championship in St. John’s. Gushue also thrilled the hometown fans by making it to the final that year, eventually losing to Edmonton’s Kevin Martin.

Gushue spoke exclusively to The Curling News:

“Dave will bring a hard working, positive attitude to our team,” Gushue said. “He is a very calm, mature guy who will fit into the chemistry we are trying to develop.

“It was a long process trying to find the right fit, but we have. We had interest from all over the country; it came down to choosing who would be the best fit on the team, no matter where they were from.

“We are all extremely happy about having Dave as part of the team and we are looking forward to hitting the ice next season.”

Unconfirmed reports say the final choice came down to Noftall and an athlete from British Columbia.

Noftall was also a key player behind the scenes during the run of Grand Slam events at Mile One Stadium in St. John’s (2004, ’05 and ’06). He works for Destination St. John’s as Manager of Event Tourism, charged with attracting and booking big events such as the the Scotties Tournament of Hearts (2005), the Memorial Cup, the Juno Awards, and so on.

Perhaps another major curling event is in the offing, Dave? Looks like your upcoming season is destined to be a “major” as well...

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Rocking the Vic


















Harry is back home, the golf clubs are swinging, and there yet another musician front and center on The Curling News Blog.

Why, you may ask?

Simple... it turns out one of the best-kept west-coast-Canadian secrets in the world of music venues is in Victoria, BC... and specifically, the Victoria Curling Club.

Ever since one of our favourite bands – the Pixies – played VCC on their enormously successful 2004 reunion tour – this VCC concert photo shows lead singer Black Francis – we’ve noted more and more live shows booked for this curling club. After the ice goes out in April, of course.

But the legacy is much older... we found word of a Ben Harper show at the VCC dating back to May of 1997. That’s at least 10 years, folks.

Last Sunday saw a popular Finger Eleven gig – some clips can be seen on YouTube, but we’re not linking to them because, well, they suck – and this Saturday it’s another TCN fave, alt-rock heroes Metric. In July, there’s more in store with geezers, and bagpipe punks, a skafest, and so on and so forth.

The only time we’ve personally seen the club floor covered with something other than ice was during the 2005 Ford Worlds: the club became the Keith’s Patch and we could definitely see how it would also serve as a good live venue. Of course, that week the musical acts were the usual gang of cover bands we see at many Season of Champions events. The mighty Pixies, however... they’re simply at another level. Sigh.

Elsewhere:

This Norwegian blog tells us that there were no spectator turnout for the recent Norwegian Mixed Championship. The local club president also wonders if its label as a “championship” scares away people, ie. players, who are more interested in having a good time – which is important to Norwegians at all times, naturally!

The last bit turns to some positives: that the event was played in the “western territories” – we assume Norwegian events aren’t typically hosted there – and while it’s sad that they still have to play in a hockey rink, says NCA general secretary Sverre Myran, a new rink will probably be built soon in Stavanger. Nice ...

• DID YOU KNOW: that former Mark Dacey third Bruce Lohnes has an award named after him? Truro Curling Club juniors Adam Berry and Megan Annand are the 2007 winners of the Bruce Lohnes Award (which was presented by Lohnes’ father Ted) to the Truro CC juniors curlers who demonstrate participation, co-operation and sportsmanship through the season ...

• Speaking of award winners, the inaugural recipients of Newfoundland’s “Team Gushue Scholarship Awards”, worth $5,000 each, were recently announced, among many others ...

• Meanwhile, Canadian Press has hopped on the story about Jamie Korab’s new team, and the result is something like thirty stories running all across the country, some with wild headlines like Curler fuels feud on rock (Edmonton Sun) and the Globe’s hysterical Hell hath no fury like a curler scorned.

Congratulations Jamie: you have to be the first front-end player to get more ink than over half the skips on the World Curling Tour! ...

TCN honcho George Karrys tries to wrap up a wild season over at The Curling Show ...

• Word is that New York Rangers assistant coach Perry Pearn and curling ace Kevin Martin have both entered their alma mater’s fundraising golf tourney on June 1 at Edmonton’s Coloniale Club. The annual event attracts up to 120 players and sends proceeds to the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology’s fund for athletic scholarships ...

• Looks like YouTube curling wizard sterlingwes got a boost from TCN Blog as his viewer numbers have jumped this week. If you haven’t started clicking on his collection of highlight-reel shots, we invite you to do so. Resistance is futile ...

Friday, May 11, 2007

Neil Harrison suffers stroke



















Lots to tell you about, but first a heartfelt prayer for the world’s greatest lead, Neil Harrison (beach party photo), who has been hospitalized for seven days following a mild stroke.

The beloved “Harry”, a two-time world champion with Ed Werenich – yeah, Harry was also Eddie’s fifth in 1990, and he actually played – who also won the 2007 Canadian Firefighters crown (again) has been a busy guy recently. Fresh from another appearance at the revamped Heart to Heart Bonspiel in Sudbury, was scheduled to emcee last Saturday’s Avonlea Farewell Party in Toronto, but felt “funny” after taking a shower earlier in the day. He tried to shrug it off but his wife Jane – bless her – would have none of it, and called 911.

The verdict is a mild stroke, and but the good news is that the nature of Harry’s lengthy stay is a) physiotherapy and b) the aggravating wait for an MRI, which must be driving him bonkers.

So he sounds okay... but our thoughts are, of course, with him and his family during the road to recovery.

In other news:

• Jackie-Rae Greening earned kudos for running a spectacular 2007 Ford Worlds, including this recent media feature.

We love some of the quotes in here: “I think Glenn Howard’s team said it best when they won the world championship,” said Greening. “They told me ‘you should do a template for this event because you could tell it came from a curler’s perspective.’

And we strongly applaud her mission to cut the speeches short.

“I told the opening ceremonies committee I didn’t want the players standing on the ice any longer than 20 minutes,” she said. “We’ve been left out there for an hour at some events, and then you’ve got to play a game right after that.”

Amen sistah.

And as for rumours about Edmonton – and Jackie – hosting the 2009 Olympic Trials?

“Stay tuned till June.” Jackie teases. OK, we will.

• Speaking of Wednesday’s honourees, June 2 will see the Coldwater CC host a “Tribute to Team Glenn Howard”. Howard, who lives in either Midland or Penetanguishene (we’ve lost track actually), plays out of Coldwater, as does women’s powerhouse Sherry Middaugh.

TSN’s voice of curling, Vic Rauter, will be emcee for the festivities, slated to run from 4:00 to 7:00 pm, with the official ceremonies set for 6 p.m.

Admission, which includes a barbecue, soft drink and “curling token”, is $10.00 for adults and $5.00 for children under 12 ...

• In other curling club news, there’s an interesting school curling concept – complete with an international angle – brewing on the Sask/Man border ... the Amherst CC in NS had a good year ... Vancouver’s Royal City Curling Club recently played host to a very different kind of sport ... and Brad Gushue (with the CCA) wants the ice in early this fall in Atlantic Canada ...

• Speaking of Gushue, we’re not sure why we mentioned his upcoming nuptuals in this story: he was married, of course, last fall. We actually meant to announce that he’s pregnant... er, rather, his wife is... with their first child. Congrats!

Lee and Breanne Merklinger of Gloucester (Ottawa) have been awarded $2,000 grants from the The Canada Games Council and the Foundation for Athletes Sport Training. Lee is the new player suiting up for Team Jenn Hanna this fall, as former Hanna second Dawn Askin is fully dialed into Team Jennifer Jones out in Winnipeg ...

• Spies tell us that Vancouver’s Brent Pierce is the latest skip to assemble an out-of-town team. The 2000 world champion out of British Columbia will indeed take over Don Walchuk’s Edmonton squad of Brent MacDonald, Warren Hassall, and Brendan Melnyk. It was apparently an amicable split between Don and his mates, who had a solid season ...

CurlTV has confirmed that Rob Meakin will haul his butt out of retirement – and a plum coaching gig with USA Curling – to rejoin his old 1995 world champion skip Kerry Burtnyk in the ice wars this fall. The Curling News Blog had speculated that Don Harvey would get the gig, and although we were eventually wrong, we are heartened to hear that Harvey was indeed the first choice and was asked to join. Turns out Harvey’s new business venture meant he couldn’t fully commit to the rigorous Bubba schedule ...

• Our other favourite charity spiel, Duluth’s House of Hearts, has a new date for next year’s 2008 event, plus some new photos posted to the Gallery section of the website ...

• Amid the CCA turmoil, there is good news on the sponsorship and ticket sales fronts ...

• In a YouTube roundup, we have some French juniors training, competing, and mostly partying ... Manitoba’s wheelchair team shows their stuff ... does this Italian video mean that Joel Retournaz’ Swiss experiment is over and he’s returning to curl for Italy? Can we get a translator here? ... and finally, sterlingwes has posted a whack of fresh curling highlight-reel shot vids – 22, in fact – on his growing YouTube page in the last half-day or so. Wicked. When does the ice go in again, exactly?

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Meet the Preem



















TORONTO – Almost a year to the day following a reception for Olympic and Paralympic medallists from the 2006 Games, Ontario politicians paid a tribute to the world champion Team Glenn Howard.

They were congratulated by Premier Dalton McGuinty (centre) and Ontario’s Health Promotion Minister Jim Watson (far left) at Queen’s Park yesterday. Howard and teammates Richard Hart, Brent Laing, Craig Saville and team coach Scott Taylor were also recognized in the Legislature after they presented the Premier with an autographed curling broom (BalancePlus, of course).

Team Howard was also joined by Brian Cowen, Chair of Curl Ontario and Michelle Gower, outgoing president of the Ontario Curling Association.

Photo courtesy of the Government of Ontario

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Parkes’ final four

The news came screaming into TCN’s email bin yesterday afternoon: Canadian Curling Association CEO Dave Parkes (photo) was packing up and leaving this Friday, a full seventh-plus months ahead of schedule.

Back in March, in Japan, Parkes told TCN he was disappointed with the ongoing efforts to replace him; indeed, he had hoped to know the replacement in time for the CCA’s annual general meeting in mid-June, whereas the RFP for a search firm just went out last week.

According to Al Cameron, who broke the story online yesterday (and in CanWest papers today), it was a pre-AGM board meeting in April that is pushing Parkes out the door earlier than planned.

So Parkes is down to his final four days in the corner office, and after 20-odd years, CCA is headed for some rather huge changes in the weeks and months to come.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Weston joins 2010
















Here’s (left to right) curling golden boy Brad Gushue along with fellow Olympic medallists Beckie Scott (cross-country skiing) and Dominique Maltais (snowboardcross).

The athletes were in Toronto last Thursday to announce that Weston Bakeries has joined the Vancouver 2010 Olympic (and Paralympic) sponsorship family. Weston, which also sponsored the 1976 Montreal and 1988 Calgary Olympic Games, is currently celebrating its 125th anniversary. The company will also be a supplier to the Canadian Olympic teams headed to Beijing next summer and London in 2012.

In addition, the parent company – George Weston Limited – also announced a donation of $300,000 to YMCA organizations across Canada. The new Wonder Play, Dream, Grow Community Spirit program will fund community-based programs that help kids stay fit through play. The program will also include funding the building of several playgrounds and training facilities in communities across Canada.

Gushue flew in and out on the same day, but told The Curling News that he is scaling back his appearances after more than a year of crazy-busy scheduling. He also revealed he was recently acclaimed to the presidency of the Atlantic Chapter of Olympians Canada.

Photo courtesy of Argyle Communications

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Curling House























Anyone catch curling on the hit FOX TV show House the other night?

The irascible doc, portrayed by British actor Hugh Laurie (photo) was shown asleep on his couch with the sport blaring on the television in front of him, until a phone call woke him up. And that’s it.

Hmm... what are the writers, or the FOX network, trying to say?

Well, we’ve got news for you guys... 24 has jumped the shark, big time. So there!

Elsewhere...

• The Canadian Curling Association, currently weathering heavy fire from the online community (as usual) has put out an official RFP – Request For Proposals – to find a search firm, in order to find their new Chief Executive Officer. Current CEO Dave Parkes will, as previously announced, retire at year’s end.

The RFP has a due date of May 10, with proposals to be sent to CCA board member Graham Prouse of Alberta ...

• So... didja think curling was over? Think again. The Ontario Junior Curling Tour Championships start tomorrow in Sudbury – site of last weekend’s Heart to Heart charity shindig – with 24 teams (12 junior men’s and 12 junior women’s) doing battle. Ottawa’s Rachel Homan is the clear favourite on the gal’s side ...

• The Esquimalt Curling Club has been saved, for now ...

• Remember Jason Young’s The Curling Stones? He’s showing in Houston right now, through the bulk of May ...

Brad Gushue is in T.O. today – in and out on the same day, what an itinerary! – for a VANOC sponsor announcement ...

• Let’s catch up on some old team news links: Al Cameron was actually the first to break the news of Colleen Jones’ new team, not CurlTV ... here’s local Halifax writer Jody Jewers and his take on the new Team CJones, while crosstown rival Monty Mosher was the first to label them Canada’s first coast-to-coast curling team... but is he correct? ...

• Meanwhile, did Jim Bender’s final wrapup column really label Wayne Middaugh an “enemy team” ...?

Here’s an odd one... a promising baseball athlete gets cut, and switches to – of all things – pole vault and curling...

• This here summer vs winter-sport funding story has an interesting thought from Canadian Olympic hero Roger Jackson. Namely, that Canada needs Olympic gold (x2) from both their 2010 curling teams to have a hope of making the host nation’s overall team goal. Canada has, we must note, never won double gold at the Olympic Games.

“Winter sports have been underfunded in the past,” says Jackson.

“We’ve had some winter sports in Canada with no international athletes. The overall depth is weak. We have depth in hockey, curling and speedskating and we need two golds in hockey, two golds in curling and medals across the board in speedskating if our goals in Vancouver are to be met in 2010. Those three sports could account for two-thirds of our medals in Vancouver. The one sport in this country that has the attitude of it's ‘Gold or Go Home’ is hockey. We need to get that (attitude) in other sports.”

Note to Roger – we humbly suggest that curling (at least the Olympic version) also has that attitude. Just look at the near-vitriolic criticism heaped on virtually all Canada’s Olympic curling teams save for the only golden pair – Gushue and Schmirler – from both the media and the public ...

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Farewell Avonlea: May 5























It’s been more than a few months, but the tragedy of Toronto’s biggest curling club closure will finally be remembered – and its legacy properly honoured – this coming Saturday night.

Avonlea and the Toronto curling community, you see, not only had their heart ripped out... they had been utterly ripped off in the process. T’was bad enough the club owners sold the facility last August; but there was no advance warning to the many hundreds of off people who called Avonlea home for up to 50+ years.

Sometime in mid-summer they received word they had just two weeks to clear out all stored equipment, decorations and trophies prior an imminent change of ownership. Emotions among the curlers were running high and the pressure was on to find places to play, so the priority was to find homes for the masses, including scores at rental leagues... not to mourn.

As publicized in the April issue of The Curling News, the official Avonlea Farewell Party will be held at the old club – now an indoor soccer facility – at 101 Railside Road in Don Mills.

There are prizes, an auction, food and also appearances by legends such as The Wrench, plus the usual suspect members of the Toronto Curling Mafia. For a closer look at the poster, click here.

Organizer Mary Phoenix tells TCN that she “sought advice from an old Scottish curling club for some traditions that would help us properly close a club... they advised that we start with the bar full and end with the bar empty, and we will attempt to do just that!”

Last we heard, the $20 tickets were going fast with the club darn near close to capacity, so hurry up and send an email to: avonleafinalparty@hotmail.com to get in on the party of the summer!