Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The Weakerthans

While various rock acts have been known to play at large curling events – say hello Randy Bachman, Ashley MacIsaac, David Wilcox and Danko Jones – Canadian folk-rockers The Weakerthans are the latest musical act to follow in the footsteps of Hammerfall, Gob, The Tragically Hip and The Constantines in crafting real curling themes into their music.

The new song Tournament of Hearts – which can be heard on the band’s MySpace page – is hard core curling, with its references to “championship banners going yellow on the wall” and “peeling off the (beer) label as they peel the corner guard.” It is, however, a love song... just as Men With Brooms is really a love story.

Frontman John K. Samson – throwing a rock with a cool hat above – speaks about curling in this video mobisode, and in fact quotes from a legendary curling book (anyone recognize the cover? We do).

There are also stories available from CP and Canuck music mag Exclaim!, while our good friends at Chart have a mostly negative CD review here.

Will the 2008 Tim Hortons Brier committee draft these proud Winnipeggers into playing a gig at the Keith’s Patch in March?

• Police have already arrested three people following yesterday afternoon’s suspected arson job on the Windsor Curling Club ...

• Yorkton’s popular stop on the Asham World Curling Tour has been cancelled for 2007.

“On behalf of the Yorkton Curling Club and the Curling Classic committee, we unfortunately have to announce a one year leave of absence from the PharmaChoice Curling Classic for 2007 due to team scheduling conflicts and other extenuating circumstances that are beyond our control,” committee chair and 1999 Brier semi-finalist Gerald Shymko told the Yorkton This Week & Enterprise.

“We will be working hard to alleviate any conflicts for 2008 and will be putting our efforts into making next year's spiel bigger and better than ever.”

The good news is while the eight-year event will be on hiatus, chief sponsor PharmaChoice Western will continue supporting the local curling club.

“We’re not just laying down and letting this go,” Shymko added.

“We’re hoping the scheduling works better where the teams can travel and come back to Yorkton next year. And, we’ll be going all out to get the spiel back into this community.”

• Speaking of Men With Brooms, here’s what writer/actor/director Paul Gross is up to these days ...

• Got a suggestion for a podcast guest on The Curling Show? Just mosey on over to the Zone and name your name ...

Joe Pavia spoke with KMart over the weekend ...

• Finally, the European Mixed Championships are underway in the Spanish city of Madrid, and local voices are are starting to noice (here and also here) ... plus, Bob Cowan is actually there ...

Windsor club destroyed

As Nova Scotia’s Windsor Curling Club burned to the ground yesterday, defending provincial Brier skip Mark Kehoe took this picture (above). Thanks to TCN correspondent Teri Lake for forwarding it.

Kehoe is quoted in today’s Daily News while his club manager offers comments to the Canadian Press regarding the latest curling facility to be destroyed.

A club fundraiser was planned for this weekend.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Yes indeed, curlers are whiners

Well, well... what have we here?

Winnipeg is in an uproar today as the internal news of Asham’s cancellation of that city’s major Asham World Curling Tour event has now exploded into the public forum (also located here).

The Curling Show was quick to get Arnold Asham himself on the horn, and while there are varying reasons why the event has been cancelled, there is one idea percolating which The Curling News must sadly agree with: curlers – in particular the competitive breed – are indeed among the biggest whiners in the world of sports.

This phenomenon has actually been discussed in some major boardrooms of the sport, and many believe it’s a simple consequence of the very nature of curling as a self-managed and self-policed sport.

Think about it. Opposite to most other amateur or professional sports, curlers are somehow permitted to:

• “hire” and “fire” their own team members
• operate with or without a coach or alternate, if they so choose
• police their own game, except at various provincial, national and world championships

This is so ingrained into the sport of curling – and so alien a concept to so many other sports – that curlers reading this are probably getting hot under the collar at the phrase “permitted to.”

In many other sports, even the equivalent of a top curling skip is told – by various sport coaches, managers, owners and/or bureaucrats – what to do and when to do it. And what’s more, you’ll darned well like it, mister!

Even the nature of the curling governance structure lends credence to this concept. Some other sport leaders would shake their heads if told that Canada’s national curling association is merely an umbrella organization, with limited to non-existent power to actually direct the strategy and activities of the provincial associations.

And you can rest assured their jaws are still lying on the floor, two years later, over the public spectacle of irate curling fans forcing that governing body to tear up a multi-year television contract and redo the entire thing... by unleashing a torrent of bad press and even going so far as to threaten sponsors.

From an outside-the-sport perspective, you’ve gotta be kidding!

In this context, curlers get away with murder when compared to other athletes in other sports and will obviously not hesitate to bray loudly if something irks them.

What is tragic is the curler’s tendency to bray the loudest when his or her competitive team is adversely affected by a given situation. It’s hard to ignore the level of selfishness that often ingrains itself into such a self-governed sport.

Then again, curlers still aren’t “paid” very much for their services, are they?

Or aren’t they?

And is that not an entirely different kettle of fish?

Or not?


The Curling Show also has a segment with icemaking madman Shorty Jenkins ...

• In Brockville, Glenn Howard beat Brad Gushue to win the Shorty Jenkins Classic, in a repeat of the Brier final result from last March. Reigning champ Kevin Martin lost the semi to Howard, while Wayne Middaugh’s super-team with Jon Mead and Graeme McCarreland Ian Tetley and Scott Bailey – lost the quarterfinal to Howard. Russ who?

On the women’s side, Debbie McCormick most enjoyed the vibrant Canadian dollar, as her Team USA upended Quebec’s Eve Bélisle in the final match ...

• In Galt/Cambridge, the BDO Galt Classic was a big hit in the shopping mall and on Rogers Television... at least the men’s final, as Darryl Prebble surprised Mike Harris with a 6-5 victory for the championship, which was also The Battle For Scarborough (Prebble represents Scarborough Golf Club, while Harris appears to be back at neighboring Tam Heather).

The women’s final was a dud as Julie Reddick made it two spiels in a row with a 13-5 bombing of Colleen Madonia, but Hollie Nicol’s junior team from Kitchener-Waterloo impressed by losing the semi-final to Reddick by a 7-6 count.

“After losing, we said give us five minutes and we’ll be happy with the weekend,” Nicole told The Record. “Our goal was to make the playoffs, and we did that.”

• Over in Edmonton, the locals must be smarting over the fact that a couple of visiting teams waltzed into their town, kicked everyone’s butt and left with the big cash. Bingyu Wang of China crushed Glenys Bakker of Calgary 8-1 in the Boston Pizza women’s final, while Saskatchewan’s Pat Simmons beat Kelly Row, Randy Ferbey and then Brent MacDonald to win the men’s cheque ...

• The same thing happened over in Norway, as Canadian invaders took out their European opposition at the Radisson SAS Oslo Cup. Edmonton’s Kevin Koe took out the perhaps-not-so-retired Pål Trulsen 7-2 to win the men’s crown, while Winnipeg’s Jennifer Jones defeated Saskatchewan’s Sherry Anderson 7-6 in an all-Canuck women’s final. A couple of Scottish teams, skipped by Kelly Wood and Claire Milne, made the semis.

• The second Grand Slam of Curling event has been announced, and once again the small Cape Breton city of Port Hawkesbury will play host to The National, this time running Dec. 20-23.

“Having the Grand Slam of Curling returning to Port Hawkesbury for a third consecutive year is a tribute to the local community, businesses, volunteers and organizers as each group has been instrumental in making The National such a success,” said Port Hawkesbury Mayor Billy Joe MacLean. “We’re looking forward to hosting the top curling teams from Canada, the United States and Europe in late December and this prestigious world class event will serve as a welcomed early holiday gift for the residents of Port Hawkesbury.”

The Grand Slam events feature a pile of Canada’s top men’s squads including Martin, The National’s defending champion, along with Ferbey, Gushue, Glenn Howard and 2003 Tylenol Players’ Champion Jeff Stoughton.

The top 15 Canadian men’s teams, along with two European squads and one entry from the United States of America, will compete in The National. A complete list of participating teams will be announced in November ...

BalancePlus has sent out a cool notice summarizing the “Battle of the Brushes” this past weekend; ie. they’ve just announced the teams wielding their new tapered blue and orange BalancePlus brushes this season: Teams Harris and Peter Corner (semi-finalist in Brockville) and also Team Sherry Middaugh (lost semis at Galt).

These teams will help BalancePlus raise funds for Prostate Cancer Research via an end-of-year auction of each brushe, which will be covered in autographs. The funds raised from the auction will be split between Prostate Cancer Research and the Canadian Paraplegic Association.

BP’s pink brushes, now widely available, will continue as a fundraiser for Breast Cancer. You can add to the support by purchasing one of these charity-connected items today ...

• Finally, a sad occurrence in Japan over the weekend ...

Friday, September 21, 2007

Curling superstars in Moncton

Lots of pickup of the WCF announcement of the 2009 Ford Worlds in Moncton, including Bill Graveland’s story featuring local hero Russ Howard.

Russ was there for the announcement, of course, alongside a series of curling legends (see photo)... in fact, can anyone name these past heroes? Post to our blog’s Comments section below this story, and you just might win something.

We fully expect Bacon to be among the first respondents... will someone else top him to win?

Still with Moncton, Lorne Mitton – the curling mayor – has announced he will not run for another term... so, will Mitton take a volunteer role with the Ford Worlds organizing committee?

• Finally, Russ Howard will help hockey’s Moncton Wildcats offer a $10,000 prize to a spectator during an on-ice curling challenge. The fun takes place on September 23 ...


• There are multiple events on tap this weekend – Shorty, Galt, Oslo, Edmonton etc. – and all results are available on CurlingZone’s Gameday Scoreboard, right here in the middle of your page when you log in. Boom. There’s nowhere else you need to go!

• Ontario curling fans can tune in this weekend and see the Galt finales on local TV ...

• The International Olympic Committee and the seven Olympic Winter Sport Federations recently met in Vancouver to discuss the progress of the 2010 Games, and the World Curling Federation has posted an update ...

Kelly Scott’s defending world champions are in Regina tomorrow and Sunday, promoting the 2008 Scotties in the Queen City, where they will represent Team Canada. Also on the agenda is a challenge match against Joel Jordison’s men’s team ...

• The Manitoba Curling Tour finally has a good date for their championships, plus a new website, too ...

• Denver has won the right to host the U.S. Nats/Trials in 2009... and perhaps this angry bird might even attend. Meanwhile, there’s almost as much media coverage of Bismark’s loss...

• Finally, it seems these guys have discovered the Norberg/Hammerfall video... nearly two years after the fact. We thought the internet worked faster than that ...?

Monday, September 17, 2007

New Canadian event website

Some quick mouse clicks for your fingers (and eyes) this morning ...

• The Canadian Curling Association has rejigged their look for the new season, which includes a new dedicated site for their championships. The site features all of their familiar championships in one hub, and for the first time in the public forum, the story of the Season of Champions concept, complete with a nifty promotional video ...

• Meanwhile, Dean Gemmell’s The Curling Show has new CCA CEO Greg Stremlaw in the hot seat ...

• Saskatchewan’s Sherry Anderson is ready for another season. Are you? ...

• Jumpin’ Joe Pavia is back, with his first Ottawa-area curling column ...

• According to the local blat, Brockville’s Shorty Jenkins Classic is ready to roll this coming weekend ...

• Scotland’s Curlathon was a very colourful affair yesterday ...

• Vernon’s host committee for the 2008 Ford World Women’s is just plain done looking for volunteers, as the response has been “overwhelming” ...

• Remember the name Joe Frans? The skilled Ontario curler who played third for John Morris in one Brier (2002) and second for Wayne Middaugh in another (2005) was suspended for two years following a doping infraction. He’s now back, and in a big way, as his new team won last night’s Ontario Curling Tour Championship. Julie Reddick, who has switched positions with former skip Jo-Ann Rizzo, won the women’s title ...

• And remember our story on the Sub-Zero Sweepers? Well, following that piece – and a South African marketing trade story on the cheeky advertising campaign by Nando’s Foods – the African bureau chief of Canada’s Globe & Mail has jumped in with a major feature, and we have a comment from the only Nando’s operation willing to talk about the campaign so far.

“I’m impressed that word of the Sub Zero Sweepers spread to Canada so quickly,” said Mark Majewski, National Marketing Director of Nando’s Canada. “If the South African team came to the Great White North anytime soon, I’m betting they’d quickly be schooled by our Canadian squad. The score would be ‘peri’ lopsided in Canada’s favour, I’m sure!”

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

2007-08 Season Launch

The curling season is underway.

In fact, this was first declared by the Scots – who have the divine right to make such a declaration, we say – back on September 3, but it really hit home on Sunday, as the results of the first major cash tournament of the year came in.

Item number one on both the World Curling Tour Europe and the Asham World Curling Tour was Switzerland’s Baden Masters, and 2006 Olympic winner Brad Gushue is the champion (photo by Urs Raeber). The new Gushues defeated recent Ford World runner-up Andy Kapp of Germany in the final, 5-4 in an extra end (the ninth), while Switzerland’s Andi Schwaller and Bernard Werthemann both lost in the semis. Big names also made the quarterfinals, in the person(s) of Norway’s Thomas Ulsrud and Scotland’s David Murdoch.

“Because we didn’t have any ice going into the event we didn’t know what to expect,” Gushue told The Curling News. “We’re excited to get off to a such a good start.”

A big announcement occurred in Atlantic Canada just moments ago, as the World Curling Federation made it official: the 2009 Ford World Men’s Championship will be hosted in Moncton, New Brunswick, April 4-12 of that year.

It will mark the 51st world men’s titleshoot, and follows Moncton’s legacy of hosting grand events, for the world (1980 Silver Broom) for Canada (1985 Brier) and for those who love money (1990 Moncton 100)... and 50th anniversary celebrations should be in full swing, as recently proposed by curling legend Doug Maxwell shortly before his death. The same Doug Maxwell who, incidentally, was the major architect of the Moncton 100, amongst his many, many sporting accomplishments.

We’ll have a full report on Maxwell’s recent memorial service, including thoughts from some of the many curling heavyweights who journeyed to the service, in the first print edition of The Curling News, coming out in late October. We invite you to subscribe, naturally.

And to anyone who dares think the 09 Worlds might not be a spectacular event, you are forgetting the mayor of Moncton is former CCA President Lorne Mitton. And that the current WCF President, Les Harrison, lives about 10 minutes away from the arena. And that the current CCA Vice-President is also a New Brunswicker.

Clearly, New Brunswick is well on its way to becoming the new epicentre of curling power. What’s next... will a prominent curling internet wizard, for example, relocate to some beachfront property near Fredericton? Could happen, but who knows. We’re just speculating.

Elsewhere, the curling news has been piling up ...

• Here’s a closer look at Niagara Falls native Greg Stremlaw, the new CCA CEO ...

• Is British Columbia’s Salmon Valley CC in trouble?

• Two members of the USA Senior Women’s team recently engaged in a new business startup – their own bank ...

• Curling has returned to Salt Lake City, as the Wasatch Curling Club’s Friday league – and Learn To Curl sessions – will wrap up soon, after September 21. Location is the Utah Olympic Oval in Kearns ...

• Sounds like Midland, Minnesota will be getting a new curling club... while the Green Bay CC in Wisconsin is celebrating its 50th anniversary ...

• Remember the 2002 Worlds in Bismark, North Dakota? Their local media has gone bonkers over their one-in-three chance to host the 2009 U.S. Nationals, which will also serve as the U.S. Olympic Trials for 2010. Read all about it here, and here, and here ...

• Still with the U.S. – holy smokes! – they say that Hibbing will host the U.S. men’s and women’s national shootout. The men’s champs will head just down the highway to Grand Forks, North Dakota for the 2008 World Men’s ...

• Recent Canadian Brier competitor Jon Solberg is headed to Whitehorse to lead that city’s curling club, which will also host another WCT event in November ...

• First a brand new curling facility (as profiled in The Curling News); and now the gift of ancient stones in Swift Current, Saskatchewan ...

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Doug Maxwell: Curling Giant

You can read a fair amount these days about Doug Maxwell, the curling impresario who passed away last Friday in his 80th year.

The news first broke via an obituary notice in the Globe & Mail, then Al Cameron ran a piece on Sunday, as did curling friend Bob Cowan in Scotland.

Tuesday saw a salute from the World Curling Federation and also from CBC, where Maxwell first plied his specialized trade of curling journalism.

Finally, today’s Owen Sound Sun-Times spotlights Maxwell’s impact on the Markdale community, and today’s Toronto Star also has a nice piece, with the print version including a recent photo of Maxwell at one of his beloved Skins Games (photo above by curling camera whiz Mark Snyder).

There’s even been a few calls for the world championship trophy to be renamed the Maxwell Cup.

We at The Curling News are in mourning, as Doug, or “DDM” as he was known, was more than simply a senior columnist. He was our Editor Emeritus, a title bestowned upon him after 20 years of owning the former Canadian Curling News, for which he also served as Publisher and Editor.

After rescuing CCN from certain collapse in 1980, Maxwell sold the paper in the fall of 2003, in the hopes that former CCN Associate Editor (and 1998 Olympian) George Karrys could carry the tradition forward. Four years later, The Curling News – plus this here blog – has solidified its status as the world’s top curling publication, turning heads with cutting-edge content, attractive design values, and even eye-catching TV commercials.

We started a new department for our 50th anniversary last fall, in which archived stories and photos from the past were reprinted – many of them written years ago by Maxwell himself – and the sheer degree of positive feedback will see us do this once again, as the calendar year will shortly carry us into our 51st publishing season.

We have our readers – in particular, our print subscribers – to thank for this success, but we have Doug Maxwell to thank for his direction, his work ethic, his standards of professionalism and, above all, his sheer love and passion for the world’s fastest growing winter sport. He was, and he remains, the inspiration of our commitment to first-class product. He was, and remains, a friend... who happens to command a remarkable curling legacy.

We are also in shock at the speed of his passing. In mid-August, Maxwell submitted a written proposal to the World Curling Federation, clearly indicated that despite recent health struggles, there was no stopping “Mr. Curling.”

However, an August 25 message detailed the bad news from doctors: his cancer had returned and was terminal, leaving only an estimated 5-10 months of opportunities left. Still, we all thought, we hadn’t heard the last from Doug.

Less than a week later, he was gone.

Gord Maxwell, one of Doug’s three sons, tells us that, if anything, his father left the impression he “was setting an example to me even in how he died.

“It was, to a certain extent, his program. He took (the bad news) the way he wanted, and it happened the way he wanted. There was no doubt in his mind, and he was calm and focussed.”

And so the curling world has lost another giant, just a year after the passing of Don “Buckets” Fleming, whom Maxwell himself labelled “an all-time curling character.” And as we prepare to gather in tiny Markdale, Ontario this Sunday, we shall leave you with some words from Doug Maxwell himself, as excerpted from his most recent book, Tales of a Curling Hack, which was published less than a year ago; an essential item for your bookshelf, now more than ever.

It’s been quite the ride since your first eight-ender, scored at Montréal in 1951, old friend. Rest well.

Being, on occasion, a modest sort of chap, I never thought much about my place in the world of curling. Oh, I knew that my commentator’s countenance on television, first with the CBC’s “Cross Canada Curling,” Brier telecasts, and a variety of curling shows in the sixties and seventies) and later with TSN (The Sports Network), gave me some sort of recognition. But I didn’t think it was anything other than the kind of notoriety that goes with boob tube familiarity.

I knew, too, that my 18-year stint as executive director of the Air Canada Silver Broom World Curling Championship had given me a certain profile among some of the elite players of the game, but I dismissed that as more face recognition than peer respect. After all, they were the stars of the show, and I was mainly the plumber, the promoter, the public presence of the event.

Then, following the publication of my 2002 book Canada Curls: The Illustrated History of Curling in Canada, I began to get letters asking questions or suggesting theories that the correspondents felt I could address. People seemed to think I might have a secret source of curling information, and, on the odd occasion, I realized maybe they were right. I had to admit that, yes, I might be the only one still alive who had some arcane detail or piece of curling trivia stuck in a recess of my mind.

I read in Bill Bryson’s fascinating book A Short History of Nearly Everything that when the British astronomer Sir Arthur Eddington was asked “Is it true you are one of only three people in the world who actually understands Einstein’s Theory of Relativity?” the famous Brit was silent for a minute and then replied, “I’m trying to think who the other two might be.”

Once or twice, over the past few years, I have felt like Sir Arthur E. – not about Einstein’s theory, of course – but perhaps, maybe, curling? Without being too immodest, I think I bring a variety of credentials to the challenge of this book. At one time or another, I have been a broadcaster, reporter, official, umpire, statistician, organizer, promoter, innovator, sponsor and, most recently, a historian of the game. So occasionally, just like Eddington, Ive tried to think who the other know-it-alls might be. And then, as I came up with their names, I recruited them to add some of their comments to mine. The result, I hope, will be fun for all of us...

... I titled this chapter Completing the Circle. Heres why. In Chapter 1, I imagined a conversation between Baron Pierre de Coubertin and Vince Lombardi. Now that I have passed my biblical three score and ten, I have finally accepted the fact I will never fulfill Lombardi’s injunction by winning the Brier or the World. I do think, however, that I might qualify for a pat on the back from the Baron.

I think I have stayed the course, taken part. I have, perhaps, triumphed in some things, and I know I have been a part of the struggle. I may not have conquered too often, but I allow as how I have fought well.

I began my curling journey by covering the first Schoolboy Curling Championship in 1950. By attending the 2006 World Men’s Curling Championship, I think I have completed the circle.