Thursday, March 27, 2008

Curling crimefighters

Heard about the Vernon break-in?

There’s a video report here, too.

Some good news, however (although RCMP haven’t caught the thief yet) in that the community has banded together to offer not one but three vehicles by which people can make contributions to the athletes and coaches affected by the crime.

The 2008 Ford World Women’s Curling Championship Host Committee has announced that a trust account has been set up at three local banks to allow the many people who have called asking how they can help the teams affected by the hotel break-ins.

“Our phone lines have been receiving many inquiries from concerned Vernon citizens, event volunteers and curling fans throughout the Okanagan who want to show their support to the teams affected by the hotel break-in on Sunday,” said Rob Pringle, Chair of the 2008 Ford World Women’s Curling Championship.

“This community has invited the world into their homes and residents have been saddened by this unfortunate incident. They have stepped up to demonstrate the true nature of this caring and welcoming community,” Pringle concluded.

Event sponsor National Bank Financial, as well as Vantage One and CIBC Vernon have all set up trust fund accounts under the name 2008 Women’s Curling to allow for contributions from the community.

Contributions will go to replace monies and property the affected teams have lost. All contributions in excess of the amounts lost will be forwarded to the Sandra Schmirler Foundation.

Bank locations are:

National Bank – #101 - 3100 - 30th Avenue

Vantage One, Main Branch – 3108 33rd Avenue, #120, 5301 25th Avenue (Okanagan Landing Rd.) and in Armstrong, #1, 3300 Smith Drive

CIBC, Downtown Vernon on 3201 – 30th Avenue, and in the Village Green Mall

“The teams are overwhelmed by the coming together of the community and the support they have received, and will remember the warmth of our community for a lifetime,” said event coordinator Toby Oswald-Felker.

Calling U.S. curling fans

VERNON – So, have you heard about WCSN?

They are the new online partner to, and they are webstreaming some of the 2008 Ford World Women’s Curling Championship matches across America, free of charge. They’ll also be doing same for the 2008 World Men’s in Grand Forks, North Dakota, starting in early April.

So click here, and start watching!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Carmen of Curling II

VERNON – Remember Carmen of Curling?

The “new” third for Swiss skip Mirjam Ott is getting it done at the Ford Worlds. She is tied for first in shooting percentage (81 per cent) with Canada’s Cathy Overton-Clapham heading into big Switzerland/China bout.

Carmen, on the right in this CCA photo (courtesy Michael Burns), had better keep it up, lest she get popped in the kisser by her skip (left). Turns out Ott has one helluva left hook, and could drop the gloves if things don’t go her way.

OK, we’re being silly, but as this story tells, the Swiss skip knows her way around a boxing ring.


Tuesday, March 25, 2008

China has arrived

VERNON – Nice freakout pic from CCA shooter Michael Burns.

This is Chinese lead Yan Zhou, with teammate Yin Liu in the background, screaming for the sweep during this morning’s action at the 2008 Ford World Women’s Curling Championship.

Canada’s Jennifer Jones was heavy with her winning draw – right from the get-go – and China stole two to win 9-7.

This is getting interesting.

UPDATE: Now China is kicking the United States – who were 4-1 coming in here – by the score of 8-1. Ouch.

Definitely interesting.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Get your Jill fill

VERNON – First she ran wild on this here TCN Blog during the Winnipeg Brier. Now she’s ripping it up on the ice for Canada here at the Vernon Multiplex.

Either way, Canadian second Jill Officer clearly ain’t going away. So here’s a magnificent pic of Jill pumping it up last night against Germany (CCA photo by the one and only Michael Burns).

Right now the Jennifer Jones quartet is battling Italy, and the teams just swapped field goals for a 5-4 Canada lead after five. Well, the Italians have been playing well... they’ve just struggled with the last few rocks a couple of times.

Geez. Everyone – and we mean everyone – has been asking about our next blogpost (this one). Even Jill’s teammate, Cathy O, who corralled us after last night’s game.

“You gotta get Jilly off there,” Cathy said with a smile. “She’s been up there for a week. Get someone else on there.”

Sorry O. For now, it’s time to get yer Jill Fill. But at least it’s a new photo, and a new event. The Ford World Women’s in the beautiful Okanagan.

Until we find our sea legs, here’s a catchup of some fun links for you...

Townie Bastard hopes to see an all-Nunavut team at next year’s Canadian Mixed, and we echo his call. And speaking of TB, he wonders if CBC mailed it in on their final big show of the year, the disappointing Brier final ...

• AOL Sports’ Fanhouse just loved the fact that Canadian curling broadcasters are willing to let the occasional “F-bomb” onto the air ...

Torontoist visited the Leaside CC recently, and took some portrait-style photos of typical curlers. One of them, Jennie Norman, has been a local dynamo trying to inspire a new Toronto curling club, that would rise from the ashes of Avonlea ...

• Let’s talk scrapbooking! Cathy O is a fan, and we’ll have to tell her about this ...

Curling is Canadian! And so there!

• Uh, it’s a year late in celebrating, but... happy 50th, Florenceville!

• Well, this sure looked like strange, bizarre fun ...

Robyn Roste learned quite a bit about Brier boys Bubba and “Goo” ...

• This Detroit Red Wings hockey blog hopped on some comments Brad Gushue made in Winnipeg about second Chris Schille, an Alberta boy, not being accepted on The Rock ...

• Sorry, not funny. Not even a nice try...

• We think this U.S. take on the Brier final is interesting ...

Check out this kid: he does the Stoughton Spinerama, then he sweeps his own puck into the four-foot. Nice.

This guy hates ‘rock’ tag references...

• And finally, Steve Bain has perspective: Instead of watching the Ford Worlds and “wishing it was more” he is now “looking at it realizing it could be much less” ...

Monday, March 17, 2008

Brier signoff

by Jill Officer

WINNIPEG – As I was down at ice level shooting some pics of the celebration, I noticed a brief grimace on the faces of Ben and Marc after they thought for a second that they had over swept their skipper’s final shot, but then the celebration began.

And so with my first perspective of a national championship through the eyes of the media, here are some of my final thoughts on this week’s Brier at the MTS Centre in Winnipeg…

• First, I loved doing media stuff this week; a totally new perspective for me, but one that I thought was great.

• It’s not easy being a media person at the Brier. Trying to watch four games at a time during the round robin and write blogs and columns and do interviews is more than a handful worth of work.

• So, you thought Alberta’s Ben and Marc were awesome sweepers to watch on TV? You should see them in person.

Johnny Mo proved you can curl with a broken finger… and be really good at it! Morris received the Brier MVP award.

• Women’s curling closed the gap on men’s curling this year… I think the Scotties’ level of play was better than ever in 2007-08, and perhaps even out-curled the Brier this year. And no, I’m not just saying that because my own team was in it, and won the thing.

• Nova Scotia’s Brian Rafuse was oh-so-close to beating a number of the top teams here this week, and sent a message to everyone that their team will be one to watch at the Canadian Seniors in Prince Albert in a couple of weeks.

• Winnipeg’s Brier was the seventh most attended in history with 165,075 people coming out. Yesterday’s final had 9,223 fans in the stands.

• Happy Freakin’ Birthday to Ben Hebert... that’s one heck of a present!

• It was an awesome sight to see… a very long embrace by curling buddies Marc Kennedy, and Newfoundland and Labrador second Chris Schille. Schille was down at ice level after the ceremonies were over and the ice was being torn apart, and he was obviously very happy for his good friend.

So I wrap this up feeling somewhat sad that the excitement is over, glad that the work is done and, of course, congratulations Team Alberta for a well-deserved Brier championship. And thanks to editor gk for letting me run wild on the TCN Blog!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Alberta goes 13-0

by Jill Officer

WINNIPEG – There was a buzz in the building as people filed in for this Brier finale between the top two teams in the world.

Too bad the game was a stinker.

There will be lots of news in tomorrow’s media on exactly what plagued the player’s skills – and confidence – down at ice level at the MTS Centre.

Soft ice? The melted ring marks left by a stone in the house – well before the 10th end, by the way – would indicate that.

Stuff from the ceiling? Specifically, the air vents, or so the speculation went.

All we know is this was the second time in two years of Brier finals that Ontario’s Glenn Howard was surprised by the ice. His team never latched on to the conditions at the start the 2006 final and Jean-Michel Ménard, the eventual champ, jumped out to a big lead.

This time around, the problems also confounded Howard’s opponent, Alberta’s Kevin Martin. But Martin made a few more shots than the Ontarians did, and that proved to be the difference.

There were some Alberta fans here that were body-painted from the waist up and cheering loudly. Alberta lead Ben Hebert’s brother Chris and his buddies were stirring things up here at the MTS Centre. Chris was hoping brother Ben won the big game today so he might get away with not buying his brother a birthday present. The Brier Tankard would be a gift enough for Ben, who celebrated his 25th b-day today!

It was also a final for CBC today... the broadcaster’s final Brier telecast.

What do Mike Harris and Joan McCusker think about that? Turns out, not a lot. They both said they still feel like there is still so much to do this season – the Ford World Women’s in Vernon, the Players’ Championship in St. John’s in April, and they still get to do all the Grand Slam events next year.

So... in the end, a great shot was made by Martin, John Morris, Marc Kennedy and Hebert, with the latter two sweeping Martin’s rock perfectly to the button for the win.

Tune in tomorrow morning for my final thoughts on Brier 2008.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

CBC’s final Brier final

by Jill Officer

WINNIPEG – After missing a runback, Ontario’s Glenn Howard left a hit for three for Saskatchewan’s Pat Simmons in the 8th end.

The green machine took full advantage of the miss from Howard and stuck for three. The funny thing about the shot was that the crowd here at the MTS Centre yelled at the Saskatchewan sweepers to clean the rock! Obviously they were trying to help prevent any mishaps again today.

So, although they tied it up after eight, in the end, Ontario just couldn’t be beat.

You can’t help but to feel badly for Simmons and his team. Although the boys had a chance to put their game away against Alberta’s Kevin Martin last night, they still had a chance to win if it wasn’t for that pick on the last brick.

Even Howard said after today’s game that “Simmons didn’t deserve to be in that game.”

And so, with Saskatchewan being eliminated here, many people are wondering what might have happened had Sask won the game last night.

It also answers the question of whether or not the team would recover from such a disappointing loss last night. There were moments where the team was quite sharp, but although they made a case for themselves from the 8th end on, they really just weren’t quite as precise as they had been during the week.

Simmons had tears in eyes during the post-game media scrum. He also said he didn’t get much sleep last night, but he and his teammates were really proud of the way they came out to play tonight.

And so Ontario’s Howard will meet Alberta’s Martin in the final, pretty much what everyone predicted coming into this 2008 Brier.

After the game, both skips (photo) said that they expect tomorrow’s finale to come down to the last rock. Both skips agreed that their teams have been 50-50 against each other this year, and that each will have to play their best.

And what a great way for CBC to end 60-odd years of Brier TV coverage... bittersweet, to be sure, but this one is sure to go down in history.

Game on!

Decked out

by Jill Officer

WINNIPEG – The family members of Team Ontario are decked out in the pink cheering today. They said they were nervous, but that's usually a good sign, isn’t it?

There are many fans cheering for Ontario today, but not to be outdone, Saskatchewan fans have travelled to this neighbouring province to cheer on their boys.

It’s midway through Brier Semifinal Saturday and although the game has been close, it looks like Ontario has more control than Saskatchewan.

The big question on the media bench today was whether the green machine would recover from last night’s game, where skip Pat Simmons had an open hit for the win only to have his rock pick something, causing him to flash. Everybody had something to say about it!

Fifth-end break today featured a couple of presentations, with one to the late CBC commentator Don Wittman’s family, which included a video tribute on the big screen. Witt was a Manitoba boy, you see. TCN’s own Doug Maxwell was also honoured, as was original CBC curling voice Don Chevrier.

Don Duguid, former CBC colour commentator and two-time world champion from Winnipeg, was also given special recognition for his years with CBC.

Okay, the players are just filing back out on the ice for the second half of the game… stay tuned!

Kisses, Wheelies and Sask agony

by Jill Officer

WINNIPEG – First of all, Savs can relax. No way is editor gk giving up that photo, he says. And I agree. Serious athletes are going for serious peak performances today and tomorrow, and its time for everyone to focus.

Having said that, we just can’t stop talking about the fun stuff!

Emcee Stu Brown has been entertaining fans here all week in the Keith’s Patch, but for the playoff games he has been entertaining fans with his antics in the crowd.

In between the fourth and fifth ends of the 1 vs 2 playoff game, Stu had the in-house camera focusing on couples in the crowd while he commentated. The funniest reaction, by far, occurred when the camera zoomed in on Alberta third John Morris and lead-slash-curling commentator Ben Hebert, who at the time were both at ice level watching the Jumbotron.

Ben proceeded to grab Johnny Mo and show him some love. They pretended to kiss, they hugged and the crowd cheered.

During fifth-end break tonight, the Canadian Curling Association featured an on-ice demonstration from both the Manitoba visually-impaired curling team and the Manitoba Wheelchair curling team (see photo). “The Wheelies” as they call themselves will be competing in the national championships later this month at the West Kildonan Curling Club right here in Winnipeg.

And finally, to the big story. Wasn’t Saskatchewan’s Pat Simmons looking great early on last night, stealing not one, but two deuces from Kevin Martin and Alberta during the 1 vs 2 Page playoff game?

The stunning disaster that followed, culminating in the open hit for the win which picked some debris, left the men in green absolutely shattered, and needing a serious pickup before meeting defending champions Ontario in today’s semi.

More on just how shocking last night’s result was can be found here and here.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Savs the Patch Dancer

by Jill Officer

WINNIPEG – Here’s a photo I snapped of fun-lovin’ Ontario lead Craig Savill. Tonight he and his defending champs are smiling, as they eliminated red-hot B.C. and skip Bob Ursel 9-7 and are into tomorrow’s Brier semifinal.

Savill might not be smiling so broadly, should he happen to come across this blogpost. Read on – you won’t believe your curling eyes.

The first reveal came from today’s Tankard Times, the “daily blat” produced at the Brier here in the ’Peg.

Our trusty Getting to know feature spotlights the two event favourites this week, Ontario and Alberta.

Ontario third man Richard Hart tells us that “Craig is known to wear women’s underwear.”

And I, Jill Officer, can even confirm this one.

For anyone who was in the Patch at the Continental Cup in Medicine Hat or the Canada Cup in Kamloops, you will also be able to confirm this.

Ontario lead Savill is known for a little something that goes on after hours. Stu Brown, the emcee extraordinaire of the various curling Patch parties, borrows a woman’s bra for Savill to sport while he puts on show… a sexy little dance, to be exact.

Now, Savs might be a little perturbed that not only did his teammate sell him out, but I have now sold him out online. Truth is, I owed him one anyway for yelling out during a Canada Cup presentation this year; Savs asked in front of a hundred people if I still had “pee on my hands” because I had made that comment to some media folk after a doping test after we won the Scotties. Let’s just call it even, huh pal?

Oh. My. Goodness.

I had sent editor gk a sample of this here blog as it was being constructed, and he just messaged (from Finland!) that he actually has a photo of Craig Savill doing his Patch dance... dressed in a women’s undergarment.

No. Freaking. Way.

I have now begged him for this foto, but I have yet to see anything on my screen... or on this here blog, for that matter.

As I’ve mentioned in previous postings this week, Alberta second Marc Kennedy has had an outstanding week shooting above 90 percent in 8 out of the 11 games played thus far. Kennedy has actually set a record for the highest average percentage for a second – ever! His average this week was 93 per cent, and that just nudges out the record held by both Ontario’s Ian Tetley (2001) and Quebec’s Eric Sylvain (2000). No wonder Alberta went undefeated! It’s all about the seconds, you know. :)

Still no photo from Finland. Will he or won’t he? That is the question!

Olympic Trials to Edmonton

by Jill Officer

WINNIPEG – It’s finally official. The Canadian Curling Association announced today that Edmonton will host the 2009 the Tim Hortons Canadian (Olympic) Curling Trials at Rexall Place, December 6-13, 2009 at the 15,000-seat arena.

The CCA also announced that the pre-trials qualifier – the last chance for those teams that haven’t earned a direct Trials berth – will be held in Prince George, British Columbia in November of 2009. The dates have only been tentatively set for this event.

The format for the Trials will be an eight-team round robin with only three teams making the playoff round, unlike the usual four-team page-playoff that you see at all of our national championships. Moreover, the Trials used to feature 10 men’s and women’s teams, but that’s been chopped down to eight.

And for the pre-trials qualifier, it will be a triple-knockout: the A and B winners and C finalists will all qualify for the Trials in Edmonton.

Back to the Brier and the on-ice action!

British Columbia’s Bob Ursel defeated Olympic Gold Medallist and 2007 Brier finalist Brad Gushue of Newfoundland this morning in a tiebreaker. So that sets up our first round of playoffs... they’re in the first end right now, with B.C. taking on Ontario’s Glenn Howard in the 3 vs 4 playoff game. This is also a sudden-death match that could eliminate the defending champs if the Lotuslanders – who are now 8-1 after a poor start to the Brier – have anything to say about it.

Heading into Brier Friday

by Jill Officer

WINNIPEG – There must be something about Thursday at the Brier. It’s the last day of the round-robin and everyone seems to come out to play their best… including the teams already out of contention.

Northern Ontario’s Eric Harnden, who has allowed fifth man Brad Jacobs to step in at skip position for the latter half of this week, defeated Saskatchewan’s Pat Simmons in the afternoon, and it’s a good thing Simmons had two chances to clinch a spot in the 1 vs 2 playoff game... for he did just that with a 8-2 drubbing of Manitoba. That killed any home team hopes of making a tiebreaker.

It was a tough week for former world champion Kerry Burtnyk and his young curling team, but the hometown crowd gave the boys a terrific cheer as they left the ice Thursday evening.

In the photo above, you can see that the victorious cornhuskers waited further up the sheet so the Manitobans could take their farewell walk alone. Simmons himself, a little further back from his team, is also applauding.

Nova Scotia stayed tough against the defending champs from Ontario and the Territories kept it close against Kevin Martin and his Alberta squad until the seventh end.

But in the end, things played out as expected, so here’s the confirmed playoff picture:

Newfoundland and B.C. will play in a tiebreaker at 9:00am local time today. You read it right here first, yesterday afternoon, ahead of anybody else (except perhaps the TSN guys).

The winner of that game will play against Ontario in the 3 vs 4 Page playoff game at 2:00pm local time.

And… your feature matchup will be Alberta and Saskatchewan in the 1 vs 2 game on Friday evening, starting at 7:00pm local time.

As I mentioned, Brad Jacobs has stepped in to play for Harnden, but there have been a number of fifth players thrown into the lineups this week…whether for an entire game, a few games, or just a few shots.

Ontario fifth Steve Bice also threw a few bricks, and Alberta alternate Adam Enright did same. So did Mark Butler of Prince Edward Island, Doug Gee of the Territories, Dave Slauenwhite from Nova Scotia and Philippe Menard of Quebec.

Most notably though, after Quebec was out of contention, skip Jean-Michel Ménard switched positions with third man Martin Crete. The former skip – Crete set a record for consecutive appearances as a skip at the Canadian Juniors two years ago – returned to his former haunts and Ménard proceeded to sweep his team’s front-end stones!

Also, in a game that had no bearing on the playoffs, Quebec and Northern Ontario played not one, but two extra ends in the final round-robin draw!

Quebec had last rock in the 11th, but hit and rolled out to go to the 12th. Crete drew to the four foot in the 12th for the win... and perhaps it was better this time that he threw a a draw!

Curling Ring Man

by Jill Officer

WINNIPEG – No, not the house rings on a sheet of curling ice. We’re talking about the bling on your finger.

I’ll have just a bit to say about Northern Ontario and skip Eric Harnden in the following blogpost, but did you know that Harnden has an official license with the Canadian Curling Association to sell championship competitor rings?

It’s a great concept, which reaches out to any curler who wants a ring to celebrate his or her participation in a Canadian championship. It’s great for curlers who won a lower-profile championship – like the Mixed, Juniors or Seniors – which doesn’t provide rings to the winners, but it’s also great to have something for everyone who has experienced the joy of representing their province, regardless of how they finished in the standings.

This is also cool for curlers from past eras when there were no rings given out to the champions... not to forget anyone from recent ring eras who happened to lose theirs along the cold cashspiel or playdown road. Anyone going to fess up to that?

I didn’t think so!

The official Season of Champions Participant Ring programme offers a couple of varieties and also different gemstones inlaid to the ring, signifying the event (Brier, Scotties etc.).

In addition to the CCA webpage above, you can contact Eric Harnden directly through his website, located here.

Hopefully Eric will have a few emails and phone calls to plow through upon his return to Sault Ste. Marie!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Brier playoff picture

by Jill Officer

WINNIPEG – It’s been the best draw to watch so far this week at the Brier with four curling teams – one on each sheet this afternoon – fighting for their lives.

• B.C. fighting for their life against N.B...
• NFLD/LAB fighting against P.E.I;
• Saskatchewan fighting (er, OK, not quite for their lives) against Northern Ontario;
• Manitoba fighting against Quebec!

Each game was a one-point match heading into the 10th end with the exception of the Manitoba game, where Quebec conceded after nine.

And so…

• B.C. won, meaning they are guaranteed a tiebreaker;
• Newfoundland won, meaning they are in the same position as B.C...
• Saskatchewan lost, meaning Pat Simmons (photo above) and co. have to win tonight if they really want to be in that all-important Page playoff 1 vs 2 game… it means you get two legs in the playoffs, you know!

So here’s the deal for tonight’s games:

If Manitoba wins, they will be in a three-way tie with the Newfies and B.C. But with Manitoba playing against Saskatchewan, it could mean the difference between the 1 vs 2 game or the 3 vs 4 game for the Green Machine.

And this is what we know:

• Alberta is in the 1 vs 2 game.
• Saskatchewan and Ontario are into the playoffs.
• B.C. and Newfoundland will battle each other in a tiebreaker, and you could add Manitoba to that mix if the Kerry Burtnyk squad can win tonight.

Got your head around this yet? I’m not sure I do... but it’s gonna be a whale of a curling show tonight on Brier Thursday Night!

Junior honourees part deux

by Jill Officer

Et voila! It’s the newest pride of Quebec, the full squad of Canadian junior men’s curling champions, who also scored bronze at the Worlds in Sweden. Skipper William Dion is at the far left.

The boys were home from Europe for only a day and a half... they say they did laundry and then hopped in the car for the 28-hour drive to the Brier!

One of the guys was coming anyway, and the rest were convinced by Team Lawes during their layover in Frankfurt on the way home.


Oh, and the third honouree tonight? Yup, it’s Team Jennifer Jones. I’ll have to get away from this keyboard soon!

Junior honourees part one

by Jill Officer

Here’s two members of Canada’s – and Winnipeg’s – world bronze-medal junior women’s curling team: Jenna Loder (second from left) and the skip, Kaitlyn Lawes (right). Jenna’s older sister Cherie-Ann is in there, and the red jacket belongs to a Newfoundland fan, but of course... and this is none other than Mark Nichols’ partner, Colette.

The girls are being honoured before tonight’s final Brier round-robin draw, which some people – like editor gk – believe to be the single best night to be there, live at curling’s big show: the Brier.

There’s another two teams being honoured at centre ice tonight, too. Wonder who they could be...?

Brier, Blogs and Tiger Woods... again

by Jill Officer

WINNIPEG – The biggest game of the week is over. Ontario’s Glenn Howard and Alberta’s Kevin Martin had a breakfast meeting (above) complete with live television coverage on Sheet B at the MTS Centre here in Winnipeg.

Martin and company didn’t look that hungry. They weren’t sharp early on, putting draws behind the T-line and missing other routine shots.

Martin’s thoughts prior to the matchup:

“They play a different style. They don’t have a Marc Kennedy that can throw it that hard, but Brent (Laing) has a brilliant short game. So there are two different way of going about the game, but both work.”

Lainger, you may remember, played for the Old Bear at the Grand Slam in Port Hawkesbury in December, the fifth and final Slam Martin won in a row on his well-publicized streak.

What many touted would be a preview of the Brier final was only slightly less exciting, however, as Martin was up three points playing the 10th end.

The game featured some spectacular shots by all players on the ice, but as much as Howard showed up to play, third man Richard Hart was less than stellar as he clocked in with an uncharacteristic 70-ish shooting percentage.

It won't be much surprise to see these two teams meet again in the next couple of days, but a better performance from Olympian Hart is required.

British Columbia has kept their playoff hopes up with a win over the islanders of P.E.I. And Olympic golden boy Brad Gushue from Newfoundland and Labrador is also still in contention with a win over New Brunswick this morning.

And so… we could have an even clearer playoff picture by the end of the draw this afternoon. If Manitoba wins today over Saskatchewan and Quebec, and the Newfies and B.C. both win their last games, there will be a couple of tiebreakers.

As much as I’d like to see Manitoba make the playoffs, I’m hoping they can do it without tiebreakers. You see, I really would like to sleep in tomorrow, so if any of you Brier Boys are reading this, could you work on that for me?

What else?

• After a few days of competition I caught up with Alberta’s John Morris to see how his finger is holding up.

He reported that it’s doing pretty well. He ices it after each game and receives wax therapy before each match, too. That treatment requires him to dip his finger in hot wax, allowing it to harden, and he leaves it on for a few minutes to loosen up the joints and muscles in his digit.

I also received a tip from my very perceptive friend – and teammate – Cathy O, who said that Johnny Mo has been shaking hands with his opposite hand before and after the games... here’s what he had to say about that:

“I’m supposed to have a cast on it for six weeks and I only had it on for one week, so it’s not healed yet. What I’m trying to do is not put it out of line at all. So if I shook someone’s hand and they shook it too hard it could re-break it.”

• The Canadian Curling Association will hold a press conference on Friday at Noon CST. They have “several” major announcements to make, one of which has been highly speculated – the confirmation that the 2009 Canadian Olympic Trials will be awarded to Edmonton. Come back Friday afternoon for all the details!

• Reading enough curling blogs lately? No? Okay, here’s some more: Ted Wyman, another colleague of mine at the Winnipeg Sun; these guys (who are always mad at CBC); the Jeff Stoughton spinerama over at (check out the 51 comments from Wednesday!); and finally, Team New Brunswick ...

• I said Ted Wyman was a colleague: that’s right, in addition to this TCN Blog I’ve been doing some writing for the Sun. You can see today’s column here, and another one of my submissions here.

• A few funnies from today’s Tankard Times.

In the “Getting to Know…” section, we have more on the Tiger Woods thing I wrote about earlier in the week:

Tiger Woods is still the most popular answer to the “If you could be any athlete in the world…” question. Some others that have been mentioned are Derek Jeter, Roger Federer, Steve Nash, and of course Wayne Gretzky. Turns out Tiger would also be a popular person to put on the invite list for a party. Many curlers this week have also listed him as someone they would invite to a party in answer to “Three people (dead or alive) you’d invite to a party.”

Newfoundland’s Brad Gushue sold out teammate Chris Shille on the question “Something about a teammate we don’t already know.” Gushue said that “Chris likes ballet.” I wonder if Brad ran that by Chris before that was printed? NOT!

In answer to the same question, Steve Laycock, Saskatchewan’s Hot Shot lead, suggested that the team’s second, Gerry Adam, “was born with a mustache.”

It also seems that a number of players are happiest when they are with family and friends. The question was “You are happiest when?” Geez, you’d think that with all the curling we people do, that we’d be happiest when we’re curling... right?

Finland: enroute to playoffs!

by Paul Webster
CCA National Development Coach
Coach, Canada 2008 World Mixed Doubles

VIERUMAKI – In what some observers described as the best game of the event so far, Canada defeated Hungary in a one game tiebreaker to advance into tomorrow’s playoffs.

We won in an extra-end game that had everyone on their feet. If you look at the scoreboard you'll see a lot of one-point ends scored, in total contrast with everybody’s games throughout the week... and this seriously didn’t reflect the level of play.

First, a bit of background on how we got here. Two days ago we lost a tough morning game against Hungary. It was a tough one to lose as prior to the game we were alone in top spot. Both Dean Ross and Susan O’Connor were struggling with their percentages, but we hung in and played a great eighth and final end, and just missed our final stone that would have put a lot of pressure on Hungary. Having realized they beat Canada, they yelled in celebration.

You’ll notice that the celebrations here in Europe are much different than in North America. The Europeans have a lot of emotion and for a lot of these countries beating Canada is like winning the event. When Italy beat us, the guy on the team hoisted his female teammate in the air like they had just won the Super Bowl. It’s different, and something that Canadian curlers would not do and something we have to adjust to – it’s just tough to watch!

The loss created a must-win situation against Japan in our evening game. After taking one point in the first end we dropped a five in the second, a steal of one in the third, and we were then forced to one in the fourth. Down 6-2 after four ends. Change!

For the first time in the Worlds we made the decision to change up our rotation. Susan started throwing first and fifth and Dean threw the middle three rocks... and was it ever a great decision. A bunch of steals in five, six and seven, a force of one in the eighth to force the extra end, and we simply dominated the extra-end. Five points to finish up... and we win 12-7 after being down 6-2 Phew! That was quite the roller coaster and that, my friends, is the World Mixed Doubles.

So today, in a rematch with the Hungarians, we continued with our change of having Susan throw first and last (watch out Cheryl!) and Dean throw the middle three... and it continued to work beautifully.

Hungary was also playing very well, especially in the opening half of the game. They had a chance to set up a big end in the sixth, however they elected to peel a guard which allowed us some easy shots to ensure our score of one... it could have easily been a steal of one or two had they elected to corner freeze. Canada into the playoffs!

So our path tomorrow is clear: play the Czech Republic and if we beat them, play Finland... that would put us into a traditional four-team semifinal playoff with Sweden, Switzerland and Norway... so cross your fingers!

Weather update: it’s back to cold and snowy here. Only one day so far with a glimmer of sunshine. Depressing, but winning some big games has certainly lifted the spirits of the Canadian team members.

Senior Women have a big game tomorrow morning, as well, against Sweden. Win and they guarantee themselves at least second place. Senior Men are rolling along nicely.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Curling column by Ben Hebert

by Jill Officer

WINNIPEG – Ben Hebert (right, beside teammate Marc Kennedy) is making a name for himself. For winning piles of games with Team Alberta, for setting records, for giving pretty good quote (like it’s obvious who the weak [leads] are, let’s leave it at that)... and for a budding videography career, too.

Actually, that camcorder bit was pretty lame. I know Ben can do better, because I’ve read another piece of work from him recently, and it’s good. Quite good.

That’s right... Benny Heebz wrote a curling column.

It was in the February Scotties preview issue of The Curling News, which came out over a month ago. Until today, it was only available in that print edition.

Now, however, it is available online at the TCN website, front and centre (for a limited time only) on the homepage amongst the listing of great stories you can find in the current March “Brier” issue. And here’s a direct link to the story page itself.

Nice job Benny. Let’s just see if the people agree with you, that some should “be careful what you wish for.”

As a bonus, there’s another Web Special column from another TCN colleague, Halifax’s Teri Lake. You can find that one located here.

Here’s Russ

by Jill Officer

WINNIPEG – If you’ve been able to catch TSN’s afternoon broadcasts, you've heard a new voice... but it’s a low, raspy one that you likely recognize. Two time world champ, Olympic champion rather vocal skip Russ Howard has been providing his commentary in the p.m.

Looks like he’s also been taking notes from one of the best. Howard is pictured above hanging out in the TSN booth with Vic Rauter during last night’s broadcast. Russ says he must be doing okay because they haven’t sent him home yet.

Big game tonight

A letter on behalf of all current and future Mixed Doubles players...

Dear Marcel/Scott, Jill/Dawn, Bronwen/Chelsey, Mark/Ben and so on:

Your sweeping makes us better players... and it wasn’t until we started playing this new format of curling, and thought we could shoot and sweep ourselves, that the true impact of your brushes were really noticed. Please accept our apologies for the many years in which we might have taken you for granted...

I tell you, what I wouldn’t do to jump out on the ice and sweep a few of our Canadian rocks recently! If you check out our linescore you’ll notice that we won that game against Slovakia by a score of 12-11... which is great. It currently is the highest combined scored ever in Mixed Doubles, although the Swiss team is racking up a lot of points (15-2 against Wales the other day!).

We had a few shots in that one in which I am convinced that if we had two brushers we may have won the game in six ends... instead we went the full eight ends (including dropping a five-ender in the seventh) and pulled out a single point in the eighth to win.

In the same draw Sweden and Japan also lost giving them both two losses, putting us into sole possession of first place in our pool. It was to be temporary, as we just lost to Hungary 6-4.

The Hungarian gal is Ildiko Szekeres, a former fitness competitor, and here she is in this photo, along with our guy, Dean Ross (and me over Dean’s shoulder, BTW).

First place is big in this event. There are three pools and the three first-place finishers are basically put through to a first, second or third-place finish and all three second-place finishers battle it out for the fourth playoff spot. Positioning is all based on the draw shot challenge at the beginning of the week. I won’t tell you where we stand quite yet.

Susan O’Connor and Dean looked way better today than our game against Italy, but Hungary was a step back. It’s a different game for these two competitive curlers who are used to having two other teammates on the ice to help them through their frustrations. In Mixed Doubles you spend a lot of time thinking to yourself, talking to yourself and generally being by yourself. We’ve tried to work in some team systems that will ensure we mimic a normal four person team speaking pattern... and yes, they are now speaking to themselves a little more!

I got up early the other day for an 8:00am senior women’s draw; my second coaching stint with Diane Foster’s ladies. They lost a tight one, 6-5, after coming back from a 4-0 three-end deficit to almost win... followed by a win... followed by loss to their fellow first-place runner, hosts Finland.

It was only after the other day’s AM game that I discovered there are no timeouts in our senior play. I find it interesting that the WCF has a policy that if there are no time clocks there are no timeouts. There are a number of teams that have coaches available, however, with this WCF policy they are relegated to only seeing their teams before the games and during the fifth-end breaks.

I can totally understand where the WCF is coming from in this regard, as teams in the past have taken advantage of it and in my opinion it has simply hurt the game. I’m hoping in the future that coaches and teams can work this out with the WCF. I spoke with WCF Director of Competitions Keith Wendorf after the game, hoping that timeouts could be inserted for the playoff games... Keith agreed this was a flaw that needs to be worked out, however, in this particularly busy championship the two on-ice officials would not have enough time to help officiate the timeouts in addition to their current duties.

Interesting to note the differences in the two competitions: Mixed Doubles has the hogline rocks, timeclocks, timeouts, a full slate of officials and the Seniors have no hogline rocks nor officials, no timeclocks, and only two on-ice officials. One of the coaches from Europe compared it to a European championship, whereby the ‘A’ Pool have all the bells and whistles and the ‘B’ Pool is comparable to the Seniors. Tough to outfit both sheets with clocks and hogline handles but it would be great if it were possible! Naturally, it all comes down to $$$.

That said, this event is amazing given the tiny number of volunteers on hand. The organizing committe and WCF should be extremely proud of what they have accomplished here in Finland. Everything has gone off without a hitch so far.

A funny moment the other day came from Susan and... a person to be named later. Susan was musing about what she was required to wear for her massage tonight, and being a North American, she asked the other lady in our group if she was going to wear underwear for the massage, She-Who-Shall-Remain-Nameless responded, “... To the massage or during the massage?” We all had a laugh, but poor Susan is still stumped! I will update you on her Finnish massage shortly!

Huge, huge game tonight following the Hungary disappointment... the final round-robin match, against Japan... and in only a few minutes.


TSN to show ALTA-ONT morning clash

by Jill Officer

WINNIPEG – After much discussion about how the two tops teams here this week are scheduled to play a morning draw, TSN has decided to add a broadcast to their line-up tomorrow by broadcasting the biggest match-up of the round robin.

The broadcaster will feature Ontario’s Glenn Howard against Alberta’s Kevin Martin – a match-up that many think will also be the Brier final on Sunday. Good move on TSN’s part for TV numbers, but many businesses and companies across the country could be short-staffed tomorrow morning as people may choose to stay home and watch the big game.

Know what else this means (we hope)? New TSN commentator Russ Howard will finally get to criticize his little brother before some 300,000 viewers (including the CBC webcast). Or exhort him to victory.

Or, more likely, something in between.

Asham Stompers

by Jill Officer

WINNIPEG – Tuesday night’s draw featured the best matchups so far with five of the top teams playing... and playing against each other.

Hometown boys Manitoba met Alberta, while Saskatchewan was trying to put a stop to Ontario’s undefeated record.

Kevin Martin was booed in the second end of his game against the ’Tobans. The Albertans were sitting a couple buried behind cover and decided not to give Manitoba’s Kerry Burtnyk anything to play with and chose to throw his first rock through the house.

The packed house booed Martin’s choice but Martin just shrugged it off.

Unfortunately the crowd then cheered when Martin missed his last shot, picking one of his own to give Burtnyk a shot for two. Okay people, this isn’t a basketball or hockey game… we don't cheer for misses in curling!

Manitoba was a bit slow to start, made a few nice shots and then gave up a steal of four when Burtnyk came up short on a draw.

Ontario looked slow to start against Saskatchewan. The prairie boys came out firing, but were forced to draw against five in the fifth which they did! They want on to win 7-5... good on them!

Brier organizers were telling me that the rumours they have heard say the MTS Centre is sold out for the playoffs… they specifically asked me to tell all you folks out there that this is NOT TRUE. They said although most of the available seats are in the upper bowl, there are lots of seats available. Come on Winnipeg! It’s not everyday, or even every year that you can watch someone win a Canadian Championship live.

The Asham Stompers took the stage between draws at last night’s Keith’s Brier Patch. The Stompers feature none other than Arnold Asham, the founder of Asham Curling Supplies. The Stompers are a jigging group that have toured all over the place, performing versions of the Red River jig. They even performed at the halftime show of a Winnipeg Blue Bombers game in front of 30,000 spectators.

They were awesome, folks. And the youngest member is only six years old!

Arnold says they are even trying to get on the entertainment bill at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. Then again, so are we!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

More OTR mayhem

by Jill Officer

WINNIPEG – Breaking news: TSN’s afternoon talk show Off The Record features two curling guys on its four-person panel on Wednesday: Wayne Middaugh (above) and Peter Steski. And they’re talking Brier, of course.

Wayne, you will recall, got my goat prior to December’s Casino Rama Skins on OTR by declaring that “the Olympics have ruined curling” (I wrote about that in the January issue of The Curling News). Middaugh also went on to call Kevin Martin a cheater – to his face! – regarding Corn Broomgate at the 1991 Silver Broom World Curling Championships. What will Wayne come up with tomorrow?

As for Steski, I don’t know him very well but I am told that he was a multiple OTR guest a few years ago, and while his curling profile might be lower than Wayne’s he is pretty quick with the quips. He served as the Ontario/Quebec rep to the World Curling Players’ Association and he reportedly despises the Toronto Maple Leafs, so that could certainly be interesting.

Maybe I’ll tune in, too...

WMD in Vierumaki

Looky here. Paul Webster, coach of Canada’s first-ever Mixed Doubles team – and a subject of a wild story in the current March issue called Top Secret: curling moves into high-tech world – is blogging from Vierumaki, Finland. The Curling News sure gets around.

by Paul Webster

VIERUMAKI, FINLAND – Well, we are here. And to those of you hearing about the Mixed Doubles worlds for the first time... you’re not alone.

Mixed Doubles was conceived by the powers at the World Curling Federation to be the next discipline in the Olympics – and that in itself is great news. Now the chances of that happening are arguable but it seems as though all the right parameters are in place with this new game.

Basically it’s two-on-two curling. Two rocks are placed at the beginning of each end – one a centre guard for the team throwing first, and the other a rock just touching the T-line, back button, for the team throwing second. Each team then throws five rocks. The curler throwing first also throws fifth, and the other player throws second, third and fourth. A player’s position can change in each end if a team so desires.

There are no specific sweepers – just a thrower and a person inside the hogline. You have to hold a brush when someone is throwing and then one or both players can rush to sweep the rock. We have decided as a team that the athlete in the house will go out and sweep.

Eight-end games. Some big scores and very few blank ends. Oh... and no hitting until the third rock of the end is thrown – even if rocks are in the house. So you can see why there are very few blank ends!

Our team consists of Susan O’Connor and Dean Ross (in photo above) – and me, the assigned coach for the team. They won the right to represent Canada as part of the Canadian Mixed team. Their squad decided to send their back end to represent Canada – a tough decision made no easier when both Dean and Susan were all-stars at their respective positions!

Dean is a very good player from Calgary who has been at provicials numerous times and unfortunately is from Alberta! Too many Randys and Kevins playing there or you would have definitely heard from Dean before now. He is the consumate teammate, and he may also be the biggest curling fan I know. I am extremely pleased that he has won this opportunity; no one deserves it more and absolutely no one would appreciate it more.

Susan is a extremely competitive player on the women’s tour. She currently plays third on Cheryl Bernard’s highly successful squad and is in preparations already as part of our National Team Program. Susan’s team have already qualified for the 2010 Pre-Trials qualifier – her preparation through that program has set her up very well for this, her first World Championship. Susan brings all the skills to the game and it is fun to watch her produce!

Along with us for this trip are four supporters: Susan Wright, Dean’s wife and lead from the Canadian Mixed team; Tim and Evette Krassman (Tim was the second on the Canadian Mixed Team); and Lucille O’Connor, Susan’s mom and our resident GPS expert. Some people have GPS built into their vehicles, but not us... we have Lucille. If you need to know where to go, she has the answer. It’s like the lady has been here before, but she swears she never would go to Europe... I think she’s pulling our legs and secretly she’s a writer for the Lonely Planet series of travel guides!

In conjunction with this championship is the World Senior Men’s and Senior Women’s Championships, where we are represented by Pat Ryan and Diane Foster respectively. Now if you have done the math, yes, this is an all-Alberta contingent... but who is counting?

The venues are beside each other in converted hockey rinks. I’m amazed at how good the ice was on the first day and while things have become a little squirrely thanks to high humidity – and tons of melting snow outside – it’s still pretty good.

Thanks to our friends at The Curling News for hosting these belated blogposts. Some funny things have been happening, such as the Foster team assuring us numerous times that they live in toom 1606 but in reality it is 6106... oh, and they swear they shouldn’t be in Seniors? Hmmm...

And now, on to the flu bug.

It always amazes me, the sicknesses that happen at an international athletic event. It is reasonable that a few people will get sick considering you are virtually creating an international petri dish of every countries’ best bugs.

I raise this issue as our male curler came down with some sort of bug – as in Italy – which we often refer to it as a explosive lower body injury (to the media, of course). Rumours from some of the other mixed and senior teams is that quite a few people are getting it. Always frustrating at a championship you have prepared for... and it always reminds us to prepare for the unexpected.

Dean and Susan played very well in our first three games and then we came up against Italy today; let’s just say it wasn’t our best outing. You could see that Dean was dragging a big and didn’t give us his usual Donovan Bailey impression as he raced out to sweep Susan’s rocks! Dean has been money all week with our first stone and this was his first game where it was shaky, and it was evident that the game was affected.

The Italian male shot very well making some key draws and runbacks, and the female also made a large number of her first shots. Lucky for us she was not as effective with her final rocks so we stayed in the game a bit. We did have a chance with our final stone to win and Dean just came a bit inside on a nose-hit triple which left them lying one.

This is a tough place to hang during a curling championship as there really is not a lot to do in between games. We are thankful for the two other Canadian teams as we can watch a few of their games as well. People at home have asked me what is like... and my best description is this:

Imagine yourself at a summer camp with a curling club in the middle of Stanley Park in Vancouver... and it’s winter/spring time... and they have fenced off the area so Vancouver is inaccessible... lots of beautiful trees, snow, cloud and... wet puddles! I would absolutely love to visit this place in the summertime; the grounds look amazing and the 18-hole golf course is no doubt something to see.

With 24 Mixed Doubles teams and four sheets of ice it is tough to concentrate games... we are used to one game days, and then a lot of time off.

We had some more Lethbridge people join us recently to cheer on the Senior teams! Their ice is a fair bit straighter then our 4.5-foot swing at our Mixed Doubles venue, right next door.

More later ...

Morning draws

by Jill Officer

WINNIPEG – There’s been some talk (example: here and here) about how some of the biggest match-ups of the week are scheduled in the morning draws here at the Tim Hortons Brier, the grandest curling event of them all.

The game between favourites Alberta and Ontario, which could very likely be your Brier final, is on Thursday morning! So not only is it during the day when people are working and can’t sneak out early, but it’s a draw time that is not even featured on television!

Ontario’s Glenn Howard told the Tankard Times:

“If you want to build this game up and promote the players and everybody thinks we are the favourites then put us on a night draw and get the crowds out,” said Howard.

The only question about this is: who’s going to watch everyone else during the day?

The Bluenosers kept pace here this afternoon with Kevin Martin’s Alberta squad, but the fab four from Edmonton were just too much for Nova Scotia’s veteran Brian Rafuse (CCA photo by Michael Burns). After blanking the ninth end to be tied up playing the 10th, Martin hit for the win.

You might wonder whether Martin’s team was less than stellar today, but in fact, it was the Nova Scotians who kept pace with Alberta.

“They played fantastic,” said Martin. “They were all over us in the first five ends.”

If it wasn’t for putting all their guards in one basket in the 10th and allowing Alberta second Marc Kennedy to make a triple-peel, the Scotia senior men’s champs (yeah, they won that, too) just might have had a chance to play giant killer. Instead, it’s back to the drawing board.

Out in the boonies

by Jill Officer

WINNIPEG – It’s that time of the week when the players are likely starting to feel a bit of Brier fatigue… and us media folks are beginning to feel it too. It’s hard work sitting up in the bench, trying to pay attention to four curling games (not just the one that the players have to focus on), write stories, take pictures and consume donuts and coffee.

Of course, I hear a rumour from the TCN editor that one of Canada’s two competitors at the World Mixed Doubles in Finland has just gone on the record as saying, and I quote:

“In one respect I enjoy watching (the Mixed Doubles) more than the Brier.”


Calgary’s Dean Ross then goes on to talk about exactly what I just wrote previously: trying to watch four sheets at once.

That’s a bold statement! I can’t say I agree. I watched my teammates play in the Mixed Dubs at the Continental Cup last December. As exciting as it was because there was so many rocks in play, the arena was so quiet. Sure, players get up to sweep their own rocks, but there’s not the same intensity because there is so much less loud screaming and yelling at players to sweep!

But the Brier been exciting with lots of extra ends taking place in the last couple of draws… it took almost three and a half hours last night, but Newfoundland and Labrador’s Brad Gushue – CCA photo above courtesy of Michael Burns – managed to steal a win from Jean-Michel Ménard of Quebec in an extra.

Ménard appeared to have control of the first half of the game, up 5-2, until Gushue made a great draw from way out in the boonies. And when I say boonies, I mean it. Newfie third Mark Nichols was actually standing on the carpet to hold the broom for his skipper!

Menard then missed the pick, Gushue drew for two, and that seemed to be a bit of a turning point.

Gushue was back on the ice this morning… in another extra end! This time against Nova Scotia’s Brian Rafuse, the Olympians weren’t so lucky. Rafuse didn’t have to throw his last one in the extra.

Ménard was also back on the ice this morning… and also in another extra end!?! Quebec took on Saskatchewan’s Pat Simmons, who took three in the 10th to tie up the match and then stole in the extra. So that’s two extra ends in row for Quebec and they gave up two steals! Ouch.

Kevin Martin was nice enough to tell his competitors in today’s Tankard Times that he’s struggling with his inturn. Who does that? Then again, if the Ol’ Bear is struggling with a turn, it probably means he’s missing by a micrometre instead of a millimetre.

In a story about his team being in control this week, he was asked about his thoughts on the ice that has been produced here by world-class ice tech and Manitoba resident, Hans Wuthrich. Martin told the Times:

“The draw weight I love. Perfect speed. It’s right in my wheelhouse. My inturn, I don't know, you'd have to ask the coach. The reaction when I throw is not quite right. I don’t know.”

Looks like Nova Scotia’s Rafuse has decided that four losses is enough this week. The Easterners have come to play today. After their extra end win over Gushue this morning, they’re staying neck and neck with Martin after five ends this afternoon… right now, they’re actually up two!

Would be nice for Manitoba if Alberta is coming off a loss tonight… then again, Alberta could be on a mission if they happen to lose here to the Bluenosers. The two prairie provinces clash tonight and Burtnyk will be trying to beat one of the bigwigs.

Connal kudos

Congratulations to Graeme Connal, who was given the Perth Guildry Sports Personality of the Year Award last night for winning December’s European Curling Championship as the third for David Murdoch. The photo by Urs Raeber shows Connal (second from right) with some of his mates on the podium in Fuessen.

Connal wasn’t even going to compete this season, but continued knee problems for Ewan MacDonald made Murdoch ring up Connal, who won the worlds eons ago – 1991 actually – with David Smith. In recent years Connal had played third for Tom Brewster, meaning lots of cash earned on many Grand Slam trips to Canada, but constant disappointment in the Scottish finals.

Hammy MacMillan now throws third for Brewster, and Connal had pretty much parked his competitive career... but suddenly, 16 long years after taking gold in Winnipeg over the Kevin combo – Canada’s Martin and Park – Connal has won a major title, is off to Grand Forks for the Worlds, and has now copped this local award.

Good on ya mate!

Monday, March 10, 2008

Broken Brier Trophy

by Jill Officer

WINNIPEG – To begin today’s third blogpost, there are a few hosting announcements to fill you in on. First up, the Canadian Curling Association announced today that the territory of Nunavut will host its first major curling championship – the 2009 Canadian Mixed, this November 9-16.

This is actually the first time any Canadian sport federation has hosted a national championship in Canada’s newest territory. Awesome.

Also, the big rumour around these parts is that the CCA will announce on Friday that Edmonton will host the 2009 Olympic Curling Trials.

It’s been speculated for quite a while now that Edmonton would host this huge event, but then Kamloops came along and put in one whale of an offer. Now after a few months of fierce lobbying the CCA is set to make the call in favour of Edmonton, and the Trials themselves would run at Rexall Place from December 6-13, 2009.

Media speculation can be found here and here.

And finally, word on the street is that Kamloops will host the 2010 Scotties Tournament of Hearts. This would be logical compensation for the city coming second in the Trials hosting battle.

It was the first battle of the undefeated teams this morning. Saskatchewan’s Pat Simmons was up against Alberta powerhouse Kevin Martin. I was down on the carpet, taking photos of the action. After giving up a steal in the second end, Saskatchewan third Jeff Sharp said to me, “We can’t give the Ol’ Bear too many chances.” Apparently they did, however as Alberta went on to win 7-4.

Seems there are a lot of curlers out there who would love to be Tiger Woods. The “Getting to know…” section of the Brier’s daily Tankard Times is a Q & A that all the players answer. For the question, “If you could be any athlete in the world, you’d be...?” many players list Tiger Woods. Believe it or not, it was the same answer for that same question at the Scotties.

So does everyone just want to win as much as Tiger? Or is it the guy’s unbelievable drive, determination and tough mental game that is the core attraction? I’m thinking it’s a little of both.

Another question in that section is “Something about a teammate that we don’t already know is...” You could imagine there are a few funny answers to this one.

Here’s one from New Brunswick Skip James Grattan: “Every morning (roommate) Jason blows his nose and a moose knocks at the door saying, ‘You called?’”

And from British Columbia third (and fourth thrower) Jim Cotter about his RCMP cfficer skip Bob Ursel: “Bob got a speeding ticket from a new/young member of the force about two months ago.”

What else is going on?

• Alberta second Marc Kennedy is leading the seconds in percentages so far this week. Kennedy has managed to post not one, but two 99 per cent games!

• Did you know that Newfoundland and Labrador’s coach and fifth are the husbands of Cathy Cunningham (Geoff) and Peg Goss (Glen) – two members of the Newfoundland women’s team at this year’s Scotties?

• When Quebec’s Jean-Michel Ménard stole a whopping five points off of Nova Scotia’s Brian Rafuse the other day – Quebec then stole another three in the second and took a four in the fourth en route to a 13-2 win – it didn’t beat or even tie the current Brier steal record.

At the 2000 Brier, PEI’s Andrew Robinson stole seven points in one end in a game against Nova Scotia’s Shawn Adams.

• Alberta third John Morris seems to be dealing well with his broken finger. Skip Kevin Martin has had no issues with Johnny Mo’s shotmaking or sweeping performances. As a matter of fact, he was relieved, telling Tankard Times Editor Larry Wood, “I was happy with the way he threw and happier with the way he swept because there’s no danger now of me having to sweep.”

• There’s a Winnipeg Free Press promo piece that features a picture of Freep writer Paul Wiecek kissing the Brier Tankard trophy (photo above). I promptly went over to Wiecek on the media bench to ask him for his autograph. He proceeded to tell me that he’s never been so scared in his life when that picture was taken.

As he picked up the hardware, the top part of the trophy actually fell off. Paul thought he had broken the hallowed trophy, and proceeded to freak out.

Turns out they hadn’t put the bolts on the thing properly and it was just a matter of bolting it back together to make it right. Whew.

• Finally, Canadian women’s champ Jennifer Jones – my skipper! – received a nice round of applause from last night’s crowd when TSN featured a shot of her on the arena jumbotron.

Now here I am publicizing it... and making her look good yet again! Hey, I like how this blog thing can work...

Weird look

by Jill Officer

WINNIPEG – I don’t know what’s going on here between Saskatchewan’s Gerry Adam and Alberta’s Kevin Martin, but Martin (left) is giving Adam one really weird-looking... er, look.

Click on the pic to zoom in and you’ll see what I mean...

Put that away, Cliffy

by Jill Officer

WINNIPEG – That’s great.

Here I am, serious photojournalist and all, trying to hone my craft and capture the glory of the Brier, one of Canada’s greatest events... and Glenn Howard has to go and ruin the photo I was planning to take of Richard Hart’s oddly shapeless hair.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Canada kicks a field goal

OSTERSUND – William Dion’s Quebec squad made it double bronze for Canada at the World Juniors today.

Dion and company were absolutely devastated following yesterday’s semifinal loss to the eventual champs, the United States. It took a long time for the skip to drag himself out of the locker room to face the music (ie, the media).

Dion was great with the quotes all week. His closing zinger came today, after clinching the bronze: “We’ve got to come home with something around our necks... either a medal, or a rope.”

Dion will move into men’s play next year, but for now, it’s time to focus on football. He’s a kicker for the University of Sherbrooke, both placekicking and punting. Clearly, his last name isn’t nearly long enough – or strange enough – for him to make the pro leagues, but what can you do?