Sunday, August 31, 2008

And we remember

It was one year ago today. Curling legend Doug Maxwell passed away, at age 79.

Despite recent health concerns it still seemed a cataclysmic death at the time. However, Doug would soon be followed by none other than Don Chevrier and then Don Wittman, making the 2007-08 season a stunning year of lost curling legends.

And we remember.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

A Curling Farewell

A fond farewell to InTheHack, the clear leader in independent online curling news and gossip from the late 1990s throught the early years of this century. Custodian Mike Potter has closed the doors, and his final farewell posting, which is located here, includes some cool memories.

And a smorgasbord of stuff for you follows. We are on a short semi-vacation for a couple of weeks, but don’t drift too far away; you may see us post something along the way ...

• First came this jesty posting, Canadian Brothers Pissed That Fantasy Curling Is Cancelled. Well, guess what... the real deal is indeed online, as CurlingZone has jumped in with, believe it or not, a fantasy curling league ...

• Canada’s Globe & Mail has now picked up on Wonder Bread’s fab commercial spots ...

• Team Adelboden in Switzerland – now skipped once again by an out-of-retirement Björn Zryd, after former skip and World Mixed Doubles champ Toni Müller split to join Team Andi Schwaller – are a fun bunch, as evidenced by their website. Look down in the bottom left corner for a very cool poll, asking: who is the greatest male Swiss curler at each position?

The actual language of the ask is: Wähle deine Spieler für die “Hall of Fame?”

So far, the top vote-getters are, generally, a mix between the legendary Attinger clan – generations of brothers, cousins and so on – and members of Patrick Hürlimann’s 1998 Olympic champion team.

Voting closes on August 30, so get on it ...

• The Brier trophy is coming to Moosomin, Sask ...

• Speaking of Sask, Team Michelle Englot – akak Team Saturn – has hit the blogosphere, and here’s their “Meet the Team” posting.

Love the tagline:

Regina; Saskatchewan; Canada; Earth. In that order.

John Morris has spoken out regarding the Canadian Curling Association’s volunteer fee, which has caused some recent controversy, as this CTV piece shows ...

• The Winnipeg Sun has revealed the name of Manitoba’s new curling chief, Shane Ray ...

• Have you checked out Vera Pezer’s Smart Curling yet? Well, why not?

• Scotland’s great Munro Caper will get an official investigation (lots more on the details are here) ...

• It took Phil a while to get the Grand Forks pix out of the camera and posted online. Oh well ...

• According to one story, curling still “remains an enigma” at the Olympic host site of six years ago. Sigh ...

• A Colorado video curling feature for you ...

• WE GET MAIL: Craig Brown, skip of the 2008 U.S. men’s team, sent us an interesting note...

Hi TCN, This video is a U.S. ad for Molson beer. I think this might be a short version of the commercial, but it was the only link I could find on YouTube.

Check the TVs in the background. It’s tough to see on the small
YouTube screen, but I’ve seen it on a real TV and I’m pretty sure it is none other than my brother-in-law, Ian Tetley, along with Scott Bailey sweeping a Wayne Middaugh shot.

My girlfriend thought I was a little crazy rewinding this ad over and over again with the TiVo... until she realized what I was looking at.

For the record, we endorse Craig’s sharp eyes: that is the famed former (and also recent) world champion front end for Middaugh. Thanks Craig!

• WE GET MAIL II: And finally, Team Glenn Howard coach Scott Taylor wraps up his trip to Beijing...

The weather is outstanding today. Clear dry air and blue skies. Jet-lag enabled me to get up early enough to watch people in the local park doing their daily martial arts exercises, including sword routines.

We had a breakfast meeting with members of the COC.

Then we travelled to BC Canada Place. They have an amazing exhibit of Canadiana that is open to everyone. One of the goals is to convince people to visit our country, while the second floor is dedicated to fostering opportunities between Canadian and Chinese businesses.

We spent our lunch break walking around Tianamen Square and the Forbidden City. More security – armed forces and police – than I have ever seen.

We spent the afternoon in Shinyi talking with the leaders of our Canoe and Rowing teams. It was great to hear their thoughts about being based at a satellite venue, and not staying at the Athletes’ Village.

We finished off the afternoon back in Beijing at the Performance Centre discussing what we learned and how the information can be used by all sports – including curling – in future Olympics.

We said our goodbyes to our fellow coaches, excursion organisers and team leaders at our group dinner.

The trip was very worthwhile. Tomorrow is travel day. Everyone is looking forward to getting home, but not the long flight.

No one in our group will ever forget the great people of China and their friendlliness, the beauty of Beijing and the surrounding area, and last but certainly not least, their first Olympic Experience.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Wonder Kid Curling

It’s all about the kids. And the Olympics.

Canadian Olympic TV viewers have been delighted by the new commercial spots for Wonder Bread, a sponsor of both the Canadian Olympic team in Beijing and the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games overall.

Wonder, a Weston Bakeries brand, has a Beijing 2008 online campaign but chose the winter sports theme for its TV spots, which features tiny tykes attempting to ski, skate, bobsleigh and... you guessed it, throw curling stones (above, click to zoom in).

Brilliant move by Weston, and their agency, Round Table Advertising. The little ones are impossibly cute, as you can see by this link. You can also see the spot here, plus the :15-second all-curling version.

Cuteness sells. And we’re buying, particularly when we see two youngsters sliding rocks around amid slips and slides.

The tykes are hired actors (but of course) and the spot was shot last November. Turns out the “stones” are actually ice buckets that were partially filled with sand, glued shut and then painted to resemble real curling stones. VANOC and the Canadian Curling Association even gave their blessing to the new “rocks”.

Er... wouldn’t it have been easier to just call Asham?

Curling has its own :15-second vignette, while the link above showcases all sports in a :60-second spot.

“It’s a little different to see winter sports during the summer Olympics,” said Weston’s Lisa Dahl. And as we said earlier, that’s brilliant.

Here’s Round Table Creative Director Brent Peterson:

Wonder Bread is the favourite bread of Canadian children, and through Weston Bakeries, is an Official Supplier to the 2010 Vancouver Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games. This inspired us to show Canada that it is never too early to start dreaming. We thought it would be charming and entertaining to watch tomorrow's athletes as they discover, learn (and fumble through) their chosen sport.

And still with kids, both big and small...

• “Young people aren’t watching curling anymore,” says John Bernards, executive director of the International Association of Skateboard Companies. Bah Humbug, John. What–Ever. Get Bent, or whatever boarders are saying these days. You Gnarly Chode ...

• Sounds like reigning world junior curling champion Eve Muirhead of Scotland is also one heck of a golfer ...

• From curling’s favourite big kid: 2006 Olympic champ Jamie Korab has posted a behind-the-scenes video from his Italian experience ...

• For the kid in all of us: here’s a peek at a car racing video game featuring “curling” – in this one you eject your driver through the window and onto a curling target. Er, okay ...

• Turns out former Scottish world curling champ and current Brit Olympic team bigwig Mike Hay is in Beijing, after first going to Macao ...

• And two Canadian curling coaches are also in Beijing, Janet Arnott (of Team Jennifer Jones) and Scott Taylor (from Team Glenn Howard). This is part of a Canadian Olympic Committee “secret plan” to familiarize potential 2010 team mebers and coaches with the whole Olympic hoo-hah. Scott reports exclusively for The Curling News:

13 hour flight over was good. The new Beijing airport is fantastic. Road travel was easy using the special lane for Olympic vehicles. The sun is up but obscured by haze. Hot and humid. Off to the Olympic Village this morning.

Slow going on this BlackBerry.

What we have seen of Beijing is beautiful and clean. The people are very friendly. Many of them speak English, which makes it easy for us.

Our first full day kept us busy. We spent most of the day at the Athlete’s Village after we traded in our passports for one of the coveted accreditations. Security is tighter than at some airports.
It boggles the mind to comprehend the time, effort, planning and organizing that must go into a facility that houses and feeds 10,000 athletes and 4,000 support staff. We had lunch in a more quaint setting that seats 6,000.

Our athletes are well looked after. The support staff have setup facilities to help them prepare and recover. It was great to see that many athletes have their country’s flag hanging from their balcony. The huge Canadian flag that had been smuggled into many previous closing ceremonies made it obvious where our athletes are located.

Our next stop was Canada Olympic House. It provides many services for the family and friends of our athletes. Fortunately for us we were considered friends – hey, we’re curlers! – and got the royal treatment.

Jet-lag is decreasing. We shouldn't fall asleep during the next day’s session.

Media day! We visited the International Broadcast Centre (IBC). We found out firsthand that you can’t get anywhere if your passport does not match the info they have on file. The half of the media centre that we saw is massive. It’s unbelievable how many media people are here. It can be a challenge for the athletes to make time for the media but how would their story get told without them?

With great anticipation we went to the Canada-USA women’s baseball game. You can’t get in if you have a bottle of water with you – just like boarding a plane. Canada took a 1-0 lead against the favoured USA in the bottom half of the first inning. Then the air cleared and the rain started. Watching the grounds crew cover the infield was entertaining.
After we were soaked, raincoats were handed out to everyone. Our agenda did not allow us to wait. As we drove away on the bus the rain cover was being pulled off to resume play. My dream of seeing Olympic athletes in action has been fulfilled. Turns out the game was eventually called off, and our women's team will have a double-header tomorrow.

Back at the Canadian Performance Centre we got to hear from Canadian head coaches about how they help their athletes prepare for their Olympic performance. We took a tour of the Centre and outfitting areas.
We had a dinner meeting tonight to cap off our 13-hour day... and it’s still raining!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Brazil curling has begun


Stunning news from the World Curling Federation tonight, as Brazil has officially challenged the United States for the second “Americas” berth at the 2009 Ford Worlds in Moncton.

Brazil has been a WCF member for a decade now, and they are finally taking the big step forward with a challenge... which means the U.S. will host the best-of-five series somewhere (to be determined) and sometime in January.

Canadians will be surprised to hear that the athletes are all students in Quebec, and train at Lennoxville. Or perhaps that is not so surprising?

As the newser states, Canada and the U.S. are the only two nations to ever represent the “Americas” zone. But the team which finished lowest (of the two) in any previous worlds has always been open to a challenge from any other member. And this challenge has never happened... until now.

Uau! E a invasão brasileira dos olympics começou!

Friday, August 08, 2008

Front Ender’s Union

As we sit befrore the computer, blown away by the spectacle of the Beijing 2008 opening ceremonies, there is a major curling announcement to make.

Curling’s F.E.U., or Front Ender’s Union, is back.

Some may recall the 1993 era of the above logo, which was printed on T-shirts. A national list of members was created and began to grow.

However, the imperialism of “Back Enders” – the evil skips and their thuglike henchmen, their thirds – eventually wore out the weary broom-carrying, slave labouring front enders... and the group faded out.

Now Toronto’s Paul Wadland, a former Canadian Mixed finalist, has brought the original Scott Linsman design back to life. Wadland will be selling F.E.U. T-shirts today and throughout the weekend in Guelph, Ontario at the annual Sticks And Stones event, which combines curling with golf.

There’s also a F.E.U. Group on Facebook (must be a Facebook member to view).

What prompted the return of the Front Ender’s Union? Was it TV commentator bias? Was it the 2007 WCT decision to give front enders fewer CTRS points to carry over to another curling season?

Who knows? Who cares?

“I remember how we started the F.E.U.” said Ottawa’s Linsman.

Dave Murphy and I were the front end for Team Ron Diguer at the 1993 Ontario Tankard. We were sitting around the hotel pool with the front end of Team Dave Merklinger (Bill Fletcher and Kevin Lemenchuk) after the last draw of provincials, sipping on brews provided to the Merks by Team Mike Harris. Merk had just beaten Werenich, which gave Harris the bye to the final.

“No doubt we were taking some sort of abuse at the time, and decided right there that we needed a union. Of course it was all in fun, we leveraged the whole carry the broom bag, sweeping, no respect thing.”

Linseman estimates some 300 people “registered” for the union, and received a shirt.

“I’m glad to see the F.E.U. reborn,” Linsman added. “Murphy and I still curl together, although we are on the back end now.

“Of course, we managed to stay members of the union, through a founder’s union contract loophole!”

What else for a Friday?

• Ranfurly Curling Club in New Zealand is celebrating 75 years of curling this weekend ...

• NHL hockey coach Pat Quinn recently lost his mother, Jean. She and her husband were avid mixed curlers in Hamilton, Ontario ...

• BAD MEDIA: TCN hereby calls on Raleigh’s Triangle CC to... attack!

• BAD MEDIA PT II: here is Jonathan Gill’s first editorial posting at bleacher report, and it should really be his last ...

• BAD MEDIA PT. III: yes Andrew, you did call your first curling event last fall and, well, let’s put it this way: we look forward to your continued improvement ...

• The new Team Potter attended the Green Bay high performance camp and are now sharing their training stories online ....

• And finally, Russ Howard, campeón de Curling, no deja de ser un ejemplo de superación!

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

New curling championship; Korab madness

Just a few days after The Dominion golf-fest for the Sandra Schmirler Foundation (see previous posting) comes word that Canadian curling’s favourite insurance company is jumping in – again – with two more event sponsorships.

This is in addition to their partnership with Canadian Curling Association, which offers an amazing curling club insurance program, plus their work with numerous curling teams and grass roots events.

First came word of the new name of the Toronto Curling Association’s Junior Bonspiel, a legendary post-Christmas affair which has served as a kind of curling exchange program with Switzerland. Past champions – which indicate just how old this venerable event is – include Wayne Middaugh, John Kawaja, Alison Goring, Mike Harris and many more. Glenn Howard even lost the final.

Now comes the news of a new national event aimed at recreational club curlers, known as The Dominion Curling Club Championship.

Imagine winning your club championship, and then having a national championship to go to for your efforts!

With the first such championship set for November 2009 in Toronto, and with plans to take the event across the country in the years to come, this is yet another step in The Dominion’s direct outreach to the average curling club and its local community.

Great news and we look forward to further details coming in the future.

What else is happening? Tons, actually ...

• Team Brad Gushue lead man and chief funnyman Jamie Korab has been busy. His company, Bell/Aliant, is an official Canadian Olympic partner and sponsors four athletes, all of whom will be in Beijing for either the Summer Olympics (which starts Friday) or the Paralympics (which begin September 6).

Turns out Korab went around with a professional crew and filmed them in action, and conducted some interviews. He also tried their sports out... yes, we’re serious!

See Jamie try kayak! And fencing! And wheelchair basketball! And good heavens!

So is the beloved Korab the new Rick Mercer? Or not? We’ll let you be the judge – you can find the various shows here ...

• Speaking of Korab, his teammate Mark Nichols, sister Shelley Nichols and 2006 Paralympic wheelchair curling champ Chris Daw recently made a recent show of support for CanFund, aka Canadian Athletes Now ...

• 2007 world champ Kelly Scott is happy to announce the arrival of her first child, Nash MacKenzie Scott, on July 24 ...

• 2007 world men’s champion Craig Savill was married August 2 in gorgeous Prince Edward Island ...

• With new beginnings come sad endings, and we say farewell to Elmer Schmidt, a community curling legend in Regina ...

• World Junior champions Team Chris Plys hosted a recent golf fundraiser for the coming season ...

• The methodical drive through the curling world continues for Compete-At software, who have now partnered with Curl BC in western Canada ...

• We have yet another Texas curling feature, this one out of Houston ...

• Looks like some out-of-town friends recently enjoyed curling (and kayaking) ...

• Much ado about New Zealand, as their nationals are underway (here and here) and it looks like they’ll be doing more outdoor rock chucking this week, starting today, in fact ...

Michael Little has reposted his ode to curling from two years ago. We love this, specifically:

I used to believe that the world was divided into those who loved anchovies and those who would rather starve than eat one. Now I am convinced that the world is divided into those who don’t get curling, those who love curling, and those who would love curling if they only gave it a chance.

We also love the name of Michael’s blog, but for otherworldly reasons which have nothing to do with curling ...

• And finally, we at TCN can remember the times when curling was scoffed at in the press... and even further ago, when it wasn’t even mentioned in the press. However nowadays, irregardless of sarcasm, we have stories – like this one – in which curling is actually praised while luminary summer Olympic sports, like athletics, get lampooned.

Is this really happening? Perhaps one day we’ll wake up, and it’s all been just one crazy dream ...