Friday, January 30, 2009

Big USA, Brazil curling weekend

In this Friday installment we rail against curlers who wear black, set up the Canadian Juniors, test your curling mettle with a pop quiz, show you some Scottish stuff, rail against curlers who wear black, and amaze with a crazy eBay promotion. But first...

This is a big weekend for U.S. curling, Brazilian curling, and world curling in general. And it’s all going down in beautiful Bismarck, North Dakota, host city of the 2002 Ford Worlds, and in Green Bay, Wisconsin, just steps away from famous Lambeau Field, the home of the Packers.

To start things off, the big day has finally arrived... Friday night will see Brazil versus the United States, in game one of the best-of-five men’s challenge series for the final berth in the 2009 Ford Worlds in Moncton.

And none other than the famed New York Times ran a story – complete with some decent pics (like the one above) taken during one of Brazil’s recent training sessions in Quebec, Canada.

Of course, subscribers to the print edition of The Curling News saw a photo of the team way back in the November 2008 issue, after their appearance at the inaugural Team Glenn Howard Fantasy Curling Camp, which of course will be happening again this coming September. But we digress.

As the WCF announced earlier this month, 2007 world bronze medallist Todd Birr is the man in the hotseat for the United States. Birr is quoted in the Times story, but we also grabbed a fresh quote courtesy of USA Curling:

“We’re looking forward to representing the U.S. in this event, it’s something that’s been in the background for us all season long,” said Birr.

“Certainly we want to secure our spot at worlds, but beyond that it’s just such an honor to play in something this historic. It’s the first time the U.S. has been challenged at the men’s level, after all.”

Will any Brazilians make the long trek to the Dakotas to cheer on their team? Judging from the Brazilian fans we have seen at other sporting events – and we’re not just talking about futbol, either – we sure as heck hope so!

To follow the results, check the USA Curling website or the Gameday Scoreboard at CurlingZone. And check out this here blog, too... you never know what we might come up with through the weekend.

Secondly, Bismarck is also hosting the U.S. men’s national Challenge Round to declare the final four berths to the 2010 U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Curling next month in Colorado. Play started Wednesday and big names involved – that failed to make it straight to Denver – include 2006 Olympic bronze medallist Pete Fenson (currently 3-2), defending U.S. champ Craig Brown (3-1), perennial U.S. men’s runner-up Craig Disher (3-1), former Fenson Olympic teammate John Shuster (5-0) and former national champion Jason Larway (3-2).

That’s a murderer’s row of great teams, as witnessed by the struggles of of former Canadians – Brier competitor Brian Wight and TCN correspondent Matt Hames (with Brier competitor Dean Gemmell of The Curling Show on the front end) – who are both at 1-4.

Meanwhile, another ex-Canuck, former Canadian Junior finalist Greg Romaniuk out of Winnipeg, is the co-leader at 5-0.

Romaniuk is a big secret. When Canada’s Mark Johnson fled Edmonton for the U.S. he grabbed some press, and he grabbed some more when he qualified for Denver. But Romaniuk has had a better season stateside – he’s travelled extensively and won a tournament in Madison, Wisconsin – and now he’s off to a great start at the Challenge Round.

Pop quiz, hotshots... which junior skip did Romaniuk play for and in what year did they lose that Canadian junior final? And whom did they lose to? Anyone?

By the way, next month’s Olympic Team Trials will also decide the squads, both men and women, that will compete in this year’s world shootouts in Gangneung and Moncton... so Denver acts as a double championship.

Third – or is that fourth? – the women’s Challenge Round started up Thursday night in Green Bay. It’s a small field, with six teams fighting for four spots, and it features two-time U.S. junior champion Aileen Sormunen and former national champion Amy Wright, who were both at 1-0 at time of writing.

Fourth – er, fifth – a wild new curling promotion has been launched by Denver Sports and USA Curling. Believe it or not, you can bid, on the eBay auction site, to put your face on the button during the U.S. Olympic Trials.

With a minimum $1,150 bid, the “Buy The Button” auction allows the winners to have their face placed in the ice on the button, where it will remain throughout the competition. There are four such buttons available, and the winning bidders also receive 10 tickets to the women’s and men’s final matches on February 28 (10:00am and 3:00pm MST)

The auction runs from now through Wednesday, February 4. So click here if you don’t believe us!


• Speaking of the New York Times, can anyone tell us why they emailed us back in December seeking a photo of Joe Frans? They didn’t reply to our reply, so it’s all a mystery ...

Chery Bernard defeated Shannon Kleibrink to claim the first playoff spot in Alberta, and it’s down to three sqauds in Saskatchewan, with Stefanie Lawton leading the way ...

• The M&M Meat Shops Canadian Juniors begins on Sunday in Salmon Arm, BC. Russ Howard will be there with TSN for the finals but he’s also on proud papa duty, as daughter Ashley is skipping Team New Brunswick. Ironically, Russ’ brother Glenn Howard has a son, Scott, who lost the Ontario junior men’s final to just miss out on qualifying.

Other names of note include, of course, defending women’s champion and world bronze medallist Kaitlyn Lawes of Manitoba, with a video of her winning shot located here.

There’s also stalwart skips Brett Gallant (for the men) and Erin Carmody (women) of Prince Edward Island.

But the women’s side is most intriguing. It says here that Lawes’ biggest challenges will come from Alberta’s Casey Scheidegger, who has Kalynn Park at third stone, and Ontario’s Rachel Homan, who is already a legend despite her debut appearance at the Juniors. Oh well... sitting 10th on the (adult) Canadian Team Rankings list for a spot into December’s Olympic Trials will do that for ya.

• A Canadian interloper named Kevin Koe has made the cover of the February Scottish Curler, and it must have something to do with the Albertans grabbing much of the moolah in Perth earlier this month ...

• Speaking of Scotland, two-time and defending world junior champion skip Eve Muirhead – who graces the homepage of the 2009 World Juniors website – is more than just a fine on-ice shooter: she’s a damned fine golfer, and she's Friday’s Local Hero, too ...

• Numbers man Kevin Palmer has another installment of Curling with Math online ...

• First it was British Columbia... then it was Ontario... now it’s Manitoba’s turn to discuss the restructuring of men’s curling in their province. The difference with Manitoba is that this back-and-forth, which has been noticed by The Curler, talks about much more than just the provincial-level teams; the plan is to give a boost to all grass roots areas ...

• And finally, we liked this nice story from Al Cameron on what competitive curlers do with the mountain of jackets they amass during a career.

It turns out that Heather Rankin, who is wearing power orange (no photo, Al?) has the same colours as another competing team... and she blames Cameron for the duplication, telling him that he “wrote an article last year about everybody wearing black, and I found the most obnoxious colour I could find just to make you happy.”

This will be music to the ears of Bob Cowan, proprietor of that venerable Scottish Curler magazine and also the recent but already legendary Curling Today blog, who is on a one-man crusade to get curlers to just STOP WEARING BLACK... and we agree ...

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Full Contact Curling

Rick Mercer is probably Canada’s most successful political TV funnyman. His previous show, This Hour Has 22 Minutes, has had some fun with curling over the years... from spoofing a widely-panned CCA commercial to Raj Binder’s brilliant appearance at the 2005 Olympic Trials... which featured a flummoxed Wayne Middaugh, Jeff Stoughton, Shawn Adams and Russ Howard.

Now, the Rick Mercer Report has produced a curling item... a mock commercial spot for the mock CBC-TV show Full Contact Curling, which we now present for your viewing pleasure.

And there’s more. There’s always more...

This poor fellow from Massachusetts looks like he was the victim of Full Contact Curling... and the debacle ocurred on his second stone of two back-to-back games! We love his opening line: “Let it never be said I’m not completely honest, even when it involves my total humiliation.”

• Well, looks like the Mississauga News figured out that Ontario provincial competitor Chrissy Cadorin is a calendar girl ...

• Meanwhile, the Ontario STOH blog has some funny stuff posted. First, a good zinger was dropped by one of the competitors at the team meeting. Second, they’ve posted a request for info on Jenn Hanna’s choice of pants. Finally, one match from Tuesday night was interrupted by a “Beer Time Out”, we kid you not. Okay, the writer actually called it a “bar” time out (look under “9th end”) but all we can think about is... KEGGER! ...

• Calgary’s Shannon Kleibrink is fuelled by the fire and Al Cameron handicaps the Alberta STOH field ...

• Here’s a preview of the Sask women’s titleshoot now underway – new format and all – in Swift Current. Clearly, the “Miller” sisters have a lot on their minds these days ...

• And here we have a preview of Team Rob Lobel, set to begin play at Monday’s TSC Stores Tankard Ontario men’s championship ...

• DID YOU KNOW: that an Ottawa heart attack victim was saved at the RCMP curling club? ...

• Speaking of Ottawa curling, we see that Joe Pavia now has his very own mugshot... woot!

• They’ll be Jam Pail Curling in Smithers, B.C. next month ...

• Damned snow... no backyard curling for you!

• Riverview, NB will buy a corporate package for the massive Ford Worlds in Moncton (good choice, guys) ...

• Here’s a cute kiddie curling pic... with the requesite helmet, of course ...

• The story of Scotland’s Fife Curling Trust and it’s million-pound plan for a new rink in Cupar has hit the mainstream news, but of course curling fans have long been informed, courtesy of Curling Today ...

• Clubs across PEI are going hard with The Dominion Curling Club Championship... is your club involved?

• Team Vic Peters is done for the year, in a mild blow-up fashion ...

• Geez guys, that house is a mess... and we LOVE IT ...

• And finally, congrats to Zach, an avowed “LifeGetter” from Binghamton, New York.

Feeding off a rather interesting conclusion – namely, that “when it comes to a lot of cool things, America is lame and nobody participates” – Zach and his brother made the long trek to Rochester, NY for a day of open house curling.

Make sure you click on the link above. Nice story and pics, Zach. Welcome aboard.

And just like that, slowly but surely, curling’s gradual conquest of the United States continues its march ...

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Killer Curling Partnership

Today’s big news, that Capital One has joined the Canadian Curling Association family, is simply fabulous for the sport of curling in Canada. And for multiple reasons.

For those who have been living under a rock, Capital One is the title sponsor of the Capital One Grand Slam of Curling. To recap, the elite series of men’s and women’s cashspiels started off as a major thorn in the Canadian Curling Association’s side, but years of gradual discussions has paved the way to an informal relationship. Most recently, the Slams have been included in CCA high-performance strategy, as a valuable training and scouting ground for the association’s 2010 Olympic planning.

Now comes word that Capital One has joined the CCA sponsor family – as a supplier, officially – making them a formal member of the Season of Champions.

This is awesome on so many levels.

First, any possible notion that bitterness remains between the former foes – the CCA and the World Curling Tour and Players’ Association – simply cannot exist. The Grand Slam is the crown jewel of the Tour and Players’ Association (as owned and executed by Toronto’s Insight Sports) and Capital One now has its foot in the same door that welcomes Tim Hortons, Kruger Products (Scotties), M&M Meat Shops and more.

Second, the deal gives the CCA its first financial services partner since CIBC, which owned naming rights to the Canadian Mixed far too many years ago.

Third, Capital One’s tight relationship with the athletes – see the latest evidence of that here – will continue to rub off on the CCA, which has already made great strides in reconnecting with those who actually play the game on TV... the boob tube being, of course, the sport’s main revenue-generating vehicle and, historically, the strongest tie to the public.

Fourth, look carefully at the deal. Capital One will not sponsor a SoC championship – why would they, when they have have the Slams? – but, rather, is the host of the official credit card of Canadian curling. But there’s more... they’re also a CCA development partner, through the Rocks and Rings program.

This is very cool.

Development partners are hard to find. Because development is, in the eyes of marketers, not very sexy. Capital One, to their credit, already executes a development program, through the Slam’s “School of Rock”, in which athletes work with thrilled kids on the Slam ice surface at each event.

CCA development programs could use a shot in the arm, and perhaps Capital One is aiming to help deliver Rocks and Rings on a grander, national scale?

Fifth, allow yourself to imagine more and more rewards – starting next season, hopefully – for earning points on the Curling Platinum MasterCard...

Sixth, and possibly number one in the long run, is this. The successful negotiation and confirmation of any major sports sponsorship deal – given the current economic climate – makes curling stand tall and rather proud today, even as the rest of the sports world seems to be falling apart (see also this... and this... and this).

Finally, we note that the Rocks and Rings program – which brings the world of curling to a school for a full day, and for only $150 – is not owned by the CCA, but by a third party... namely Chad McMullan, the proprietor of Rock Solid Productions. Great to see McMullan add a second venture, in addition to the Toronto-based corporate outings, to his all-curling stable of properties.

Whew. Anything else... for now, anyway?

• Here’s Women of Curling Calendar girl Chrissy Cadorin in action at yesterday’s Ontario Scotties. Odd, that Cogeco TV coverage. The OCA considers it sponsored by Scotties; the main Cogeco website considers it to be sponsored by Scotties; but there is zero mention of the sponsor on the actual broadcasts of the “2009 Ontario Women’s Curling Championship” ...

Dean Ross defeated Dan “Hit Man” Petryk to grab the last spot into the Alberta provincial. The 2008 Mixed champ – who finished fifth with Susan Connor at the first World Mixed Doubles hosted in Finland last March – will make his third Alta men’s appearance. There’s more on Ross here ...

• Let’s hear it for the front-enders! Former second stone Robyn MacPhee beat her former skip among others to take the PEI Scotties title ...

• Will veteran Ontario front-ender Kim Moore – lately throwing second for Sherry Middaugh – be hanging them up after the current drive for Vancouver? Moore also talks about losing the 1997 STOH final to Sandra Schmirler, and how she still hasn’t watched the videotape of that game ...

• Longtime curling bureaucrat – and high-performance competitor – Amber Holland now has the top curling job in Saskatchewan ...

Jay Peachey, Bryan Miki and Sean Geall are through to the BC men’s shootout... and we’ve got some rather Peachey memories, incidentally, in the February issue of The Curling News ...

• We’ve got more on the story of Million Dollar Button competitor Ron Trottier, courtesy of CBC Sports host Scott Russell, who has a new blog entry online ...

• And finally... Glow Curling isn’t really that new – we promoted its first appearance in Alberta a couple of years ago – but the photo recently taken by Troy Fleece of the Regina Leader-Post, shown here, deserves a highlight. We wanna play!

Monday, January 26, 2009

February 2009 issue: all killer, no filler

We have lots of newslinks for you today, but first, the February 2009 issue of The Curling News is now in the mail.

Inside you will find a plethora of curling goodies not seen on this blog, which you would do well to seek out. All killer, no filler.

Stuff like:

The Curling News TV Guide: only TCN gives you all the regional and national curling TV listings in one shot: provincials, Scotties, Super Leagues, you name it!

The Wrench Speaks: in the first of a multi-part TCN exclusive, living legend Ed Werenich speaks to The Curling News about absolutely everything... growing up in small-town Manitoba, the problems with women’s curling, the Olympic weight fiasco, Marilyn Bodogh, his crowning achievements (and regrets), his brief stint in the TV booth, Sandra Schmirler... and more!

• Our humungous cover story on the race for berths into Canadian Olympic Trials – who has the inside track in qualifying; how the CTRS system works; and which curlers are sick and tired of the whole thing ...

Larry Wood opines that the previous Olympic qualifying system was just fine as it was, thank-you-very-much ...

Letters: readers spout off on the TSN commentators, the number of curlers in Scotland and why women can’t beat men ...

Battle of the Sexes Redux: inspired by a powerful Letter to the Editor, we examine criticism of the Casino Rama Skins experiment and explore the history of the Battle, which now sees the men tied with women at three wins apiece – yes, believe it or not – dating back to the first Battle in November 1973 ...

• What’s in his wallet? Kevin Martin stars in a new Capital One TV commercial ...

The Dominion Club Corner: a tale of Trillium grant dollars in Mitchell, Ontario and a golden 50th anniversary in Comox, BC ...

• Capital One Grand Slam Stars of the Future: Craig Savill is in the spotlight, although he’s pretty much a star right now ...

• The Ultimate Curling Rankings Primer: not only do we list all the men’s and women’s Gold Trail, CTRS, AWCT and Order of Merit standings, we try and explain just what the heck it all means ...

And more!

Trust us, you don’t want to miss this one, folks. Make sure you subscribe today.

What else is happening? Geez, what isn’t?

Marla Mallett is the surprise 2009 B.C. STOH champion ...

• It was standing-room only at the Nova Scotia Scotties as Nancy McConnery became the surprise Nova Scotia champion, upsetting TCN’s own Mary-Anne Arsenault in the final. TCN’s own Teri Lake lost the tiebreaker with Team Jill Mouzar.

• Newfoundland is no surprise as Heather Strong has captured another title, her fifth in a row ...

• Also advancing to the Scotties in Victoria is Quebec’s Marie-France Larouche, who beat arch-rival Eve Belisle in the Quebec final ...

• On Prince Edward Island, Kim Dolan is through to tonight’s final ...

Sherry Middaugh and Ontario – including calendar girl Chrissy Cadorinare underway today through Sunday, as are a whack of other provincial Scotties championships this week ...

• In men’s play, Glenn Howard beat Kevin Martin in a very interesting Canadian Open Slam finale yesterday. It was a game of great shots and stupefying misses – though not as stupefying as those in last year’s Brier final – which helped make it a thoroughly entertaining affair.

Capital One contest winner Ron Trottier almost won a million bucks, but 10 grand ain’t too shabby.

Almost as entertaining – not really – has been the major-league whingeing over foul language dished out by the athletes.


Don Bartlett is back in the Alberta provincials, as is former two-time provincial finalist Jamie King. So is a fellow named Mike Hutchings, after winning the C-berth yesterday. As the story tells, the Peace district will be repped by Jeff Ginter and Kurt Balderston.

• In the south part of the province, Steve Petryk grabbed the A-berth, Rob Armitage took the B and the C-side finale goes tonight ...

• In New Brunwick, names like Odishaw and Kennedy have made it through to the upcoming provincial finale ...

• In nothern Sask, three pretty big names from the past are into the Tankard, while here’s the southern qualifiers ...

• CurlBC is looking for a Team Leader for their squad at the Wheelchair nationals in late March. Deadline for applications is January 30 ...

• Question of the day: is Idaho Statesman writer Bethann Stewart disdainful toward curling, or just a rookie? His story, located here, starts with the zinger “curling, a sport that requires little or no athletic ability. And that’s just part of the charm.”

• And finally, what have our pals at The Curling Show podcast been up to? Well, they’ve recently posted Q7As with Dave Nedohin and John Morris, that’s what ...

Friday, January 23, 2009

KMart in a box

What, you thought we were lying?

Or just using some sort of analogy?

Like we said, that’s world champion curling skip Kevin Martin, above, in a box – well, just out of a box, anyway – as portrayed in a new Capital One commercial spot airing this weekend on CBC.

It’s all part of the latest Capital One Grand Slam event, the 2009 BDO Classic Canadian Open, which we highlighted on Wednesday.

You’ll want to check out the upcoming February issue of The Curling News, in which we expose all the details behind the new TV spot.

On the Slam ice, Winnipeg’s Mike McEwen apparently shot 100 per cent in besting Glenn Howard on his final stone last night. Impressive, young Skywalker... but you are not a Jedi. Yet.

And Jet Boots is back online... and he’s doing some live chatting from the MTS Centre. Just head to CurlingZone and click on Live Curling Chat in the upper right hand corner, in the USER CENTRE.

But make sure your surfing corresponds with the draw times... eh?


• Two more STOH provincials are wrapping up this weekend, in British Columbia and also in PEI... meanwhile, the veterans are up on the kids in Nova Scotia and here’s a preview of next week’s Saskabush shootout ...

• The host club of the B.C. STOH – Parksville Curling Club – is an unusual beast. You can cheak out the story here ...

• On the B.C. men’s side, there’s a cool pic of Vanouver’s Sean Geall featured with this story ...

• It’s the Last Chance weekend for Northern Alberta men ...

• Apparently some people in Medicine Hat, Alberta are somewhat cheesed that the 2010 Ford World Women’s went to Swift Current, Saskatchewan ...

• Following a disappointing Skins game and a super-comeback weekend in Scotland, world champ Jennifer Jones will be in the Golden Horseshoe – that’s just outside the southwestern edge of Toronto – for two appearances on February 7, to help raise funds for local youth leagues ...

• Speaking of Jones, is Toronto FC’s new soccer hero Dwayne de Rosario the next JJ – or CJ? Um, talk about comparing apples and oranges ...

• Canada’s national magazine, Macleans, has a rare offering on curling in its latest issue ...

• DID YOU KNOW: that a Canadian Idol finalist will be singing at the Saskatchewan men’s Tankard? Woot!

• DID YOU KNOW II: that curling is “sort of like playing golf with Tiger Woods”? Well, now you do ...

• Anyone want to buy a 10-foot long, 1950s-era tabletop curling game?

• Howard lead Craig Savill received an Ottawa sports award on Wednesday night ...

• For the first time since 1989, there will be no live men’s Tankard coverage on TV in Saskatchewan. As a consolation, sponsor SaskTel and a local on-demand channel have teamed up and stepped up... but it’s just not the same ...

• Speaking of Sask men, look at this team: Glen Despins, Brian Derbowka and Chris Haichert are back, and rather suddenly ...

• We finally have evidence of a coach entering a game, after an injury. It happened in Scotland; check it out here (fifth paragraph onward) ...

• Belleview, Ontario curling scribe Alex McNaught takes us through the old virtues of curling, from 1956 ...

• This fall’s Prince George Canadian Olympic Pre-Trials qualifier has received a $15,000 grant ...

• And finally, yet another former curling “hater” has decided that curling “doesn’t suck”. Gee, thanks for the enthusiasm ...

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Another Slam, the Bender Cam and more

There’s lots going on as we put the finishing touches on the February issue of The Curling News – have you subscribed yet? – so here’s a linkfest to keep you going. Crack knuckles... now...

Jeff Stoughton (above) is on home ice as the third Capital One Grand Slam, the BDO Classic Canadian Open, gets underway tonight at the MTS Centre in Winnipeg. The event website is located here.

Local blatster Jim Bender sets up the CTRS chase and also talks to Kerry Burtnyk about the recent Brier memories, while Freepman Chris Cariou spotlights young gun Mike McEwen.

Three playoff games will be televised on CBC this weekend, and don’t forget the Capital One “Million Dollar Button” contest, which will be a part of the TV package. They’re jetting in from across Canada for this one – like this gal from Fergus, Ontario – and two people were also selected from 3,300 online entries submitted over the last few months... like this fellow from B.C.

Didn’t know about this? Quit whining; we showed you the link weeks ago ...

• The Manitoba men’s field looks to be almost complete and... but... good lord... Sun Media has given Bender a videocamera, and told him to get out there and file moving pictures, in addition to words. What is this world coming to?

• Meanwhile, the manitoba gals are all set, as are the Ontario men’s and women’s provincial fields (that was a news story, here’s the OCA draw page) ...

• The Nova Scotia women’s Scotties are already underway, and here’s a quick preview ...

• The Ontario Seniors are over and done, with Bruce Delaney and Cheryl McBain taking the 2009 titles. What this summary story fails to tell you is that multiple Canadian and World senior champion Anne Dunn lost the women’s final. Of course, Joe Pavia has that tidbit in his latest column... meanwhile, over on PEI, the 2009 Senior champs are Mel Bernard and Shirley Berry ...

• Here’s a southern Alberta update, leading off with men’s playdowns this coming weekend ...

• Speaking of Burtnyk, he will be speaking about his past cancer battles at a luncheon in April, which is affiliated with the CFL’s Winnipeg Blue Bombers football team ...

• Former Brier skip Jim Armstrong won his second straight B.C. wheelchair curling championship last weekend, but has already been named skip of Team Canada at next month’s 2009 World Wheelchair Championship in Vancouver. 2006 Paralympic champion Sonja Gaudet, who was on Gerry Austgarden’s runner-up team, was named as the alternate. There’s a recent feature on Gaudet located here ...

• Back in Ontario, the city of Kingston beat out 2008 hosts Collingwood to win the bid to host the 2010 Ontario ParaSport Winter Games, which will include wheelchair curling at the Royal Kingston Curling Club ...

• And Napanee, which is only some 40 kilometres west of Kingston, will be hosting the 2010 Ontario men’s provincial Tankard ...

• The Toronto Curling Association has a new sponsor (top news story) for the venerable men’s bonspiel ...

• DID YOU KNOW: that both of Canada’s teams in the upcoming 2009 Winter Universiade (World University Games) in China are from Wildfred Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario?

• Finally, Cold-FX has joined the Vancouver Olympic sponsor family. And those of you who remember just how bad 1998 Canadian Olympic men’s skip Mike Harris had it in the gold-medal final will note the company’s opening tagline:

Colds and flu were a big problem for Canada at the Nagano 1998 Winter Games. Thirty-six Canadian athletes, coaches and trainers, including figure skater Elvis Stojko, long track speed skater Neal Marshall, as well as the curling team, came down with colds or flu.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Curling calendar girl Daniela Jentsch

Well... this kitten is certainly out of the bag.

2009 Women of Curling calendar girl Daniela Jentsch of Germany has approved the full image release of her nude calendar pic, and the result is a feeding frenzy of Deutsch media.

Which will hopefully result in more sales of the fundraising calendar, too.

“I never thought this would cause so much attention,” says Dani, who played for Germany at the 2000 Ford Worlds and also skipped her country twice at the European Championships.

“Newspapers and TV stations keep calling me since the story was published.”

The situation is unusual, in that the calendar athlete/models usually avoid allowing the release of their image without cropping (see this example here). The idea is that by withholding selected, ah, portions of the image, the potential purchaser is more likely to actually purchase the fundraising product.

Jentsch made an exception for Germany’s Welt and just like that, here comes another calendar media pile-on. All within Germany, mind you.

And after consulting with Dani, she has decided that The Curling News Blog can also publish her full calendar image... meaning that you, dear reader, can see one of the 16 athlete/models above, as fully photographed by Ana Arce.

“We can’t let our non-German curling friends miss out, right?” Jentsch laughs.

“But seriously, if this will help sell more calendars to help all the girls and their teams, absolutely.”

Other media pickup we have seen includes RP Online, Westdeutsche Zeitung, Eurosport (only competition photos, please!), Berliner Morgenpost and even this Austrian paper, which also links back to The Curling News.

There’s also this “Sexy Wintersport” feature from Bild, which includes Dani plus fellow German calendar curling girl Anna Hartelt along with athletes from other sports.

Hier gehen wir wieder!

As for Dani’s on-ice career, it has recently jumped from slow to very busy.

“My federation is checking to see if I’m eligible to compete with Andrea Schoepp and if permitted, I’ll play nationals with them,” reports Jentsch.

“If not, they’ll will play without me and if they win, I’ll go to the worlds in Korea with them.

“No matter what, my Olympic goal is more realistic now, since I was not curling much until last week. We went to Berne and came second, so even with a three-month break I got the results... and a few sore muscles.”

So there you have it. Another plug for the 2009 Women of Curling.

PS: on the left side of the page beside the Welt story there is a poll asking “Which winter sport interests you most?” Curling is currently ranked fourth with first-place Biathalon holding a whopping near-forty per cent lead over second place Skiing. Blogreaders know what to do when there’s another online poll with Curling not in the lead... right, gang?

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Pat Ryan: Ontario curling champion?

Which is more interesting - news that Pat Ryan is a competitor at next month’s Ontario men’s provincial, or news that Pat Ryan could be Canada’s next country music superstar?

Both newsbits fall within our sphere of interest – and yours – so we shall tell both tales.

Today, his curling.

After winning gold for Canada at the World Seniors in Finland last March (WCF photo above by Bob Cowan) the three-time Brier champion and two-time world champion turned his attention back to his job in Toronto, for which he has maintained a residence in the city for the past couple of years.

He soon discovered the Brampton Curling Club, the west-end facility which doubled for Long Bay in the curling movie Men With Brooms, and the place where Wayne Middaugh and cousin Peter Corner started their curling careers in the early 1980s.

And Ryan was soon discovered by Corner, the man who has won Briers, Worlds and provincial Tankards at both front end and skip positions.

After a few conversations Corner made further contact last fall, and Ryan became the alternate for the latest version of Team Corner... a squad which we revealed in yet another TCN exclusive last summer.

So why would Corner call on Ryan, you might ask?

Corner’s fiancee happens to be expecting a child very soon... specifically, at some point during the 2009 TSC Stores Tankard, for which he and teammates Graeme McCarrel, Ian Tetley and Brad Savage qualified during playdowns earlier this month.

So Ontario Brier hopefuls like Glenn Howard, Mike Harris, Rob Lobel and others may be shocked to see the slick tuck slide of the Alberta (and British Columbia) curling legend barrelling toward them sometime between February 2 and 8 at the Woodstock District Community Complex.

Well, not too shocked... after they read this posting at The Curling News Blog.

So, is this curling Hall of Famer ready to compete in another Brier, this time representing... Ontario?

“I don’t know about that,” Ryan laughed.

“All I know is I’m throwing rocks like crazy. I haven’t done much curling this year.”

Paired with longtime Middaugh third McCarrel at the back end, Ryan isn’t sure what the squad’s no-Corner lineup would be. After all, despite all the pre-planning of Corner’s potential family requirements, Ryan might not end up seeing any action.

“We’ll have to see what the team, and Graeme, think about that,” said Ryan.

“Graeme might want to throw the brick. He might want me to call the game. We’ll have to see if we even get the opportunity.”

In recent years, Ryan called the game with Jim Cotter throwing final stones on a B.C. team which, you may recall, just missed the playoffs at the 2005 Olympic Trials in Halifax. Cotter now throws third stones for Kelowna skip Bob Ursel.

Ryan says he enjoyed his first-ever post-game table talk with Corner last year.

“We really enjoyed each other’s company,” recalled Ryan. “We talked about curling and life, all the time commitments.

“We’d never really had a chance to sit and talk before. We’d always been competitors.”

Longtime curling fans will recall the Brier battles of 1993 and 1994. Corner played lead for Ontario’s Russ and Glenn Howard (plus Middaugh) and Ryan played third for BC’s Rick Folk. The Howards beat Folk/Ryan in the 1993 Brier final in Ottawa and then the Folk/Ryan combo beat the Ontarians in the 1994 final at Red Deer. Both teams went on to capture the world titles.

The team relationships were tense. There were accusations of rock tampering before one Brier playoff game, and another story tells how an enthused B.C. fan – the “Bleacher Creature” – made the mistake of whooping his way into the Ontario dressing room shortly after the ’94 final. He got a cup of water doused over his head.

Ryan said that he and Corner didn’t bother to rehash those days.

“We mostly talked about where we are right now, and it’s really nice to be able to connect with really great players who are of the same mindset,” said Ryan.

“And Pete’s team has world champions on it, and they all want the same things we do. They’re not going crazy with the sport but they still want to keep their hand in it, and they still want to make it to the Brier.”

Ah, the Brier. And this brings us to Pat Ryan: budding country music star.

But more on that coming soon.

Do you like what you’ve read here? Please do support efforts like this by subscribing to The Curling News through this page, or by calling 1-800-605-CURL (or 905-887-1261 internationally). We print stories you cannot find on the blog, and we’ll soon tell you more about that, too ...

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Attention western Canadian curling clubs

Just a friendly reminder that the deadline to submit your club’s application for the Monsanto “Imagine a Better House” community curling club grant program is this Thursday, January 15.

We did a story on this in the December issue of TCN, within The Dominion Club Corner department, and here’s the official newser.

The program gives rural-based curling clubs in Western Canada the opportunity to secure funding to undertake development or improvement projects at their local club. Close to 250 curling clubs submitted applications last year with the Val Marie Curling Club in Val Marie, Saskatchewan taking home the $10,000 top prize.

A total of $80,000 is available.

All winners will be announced March 10 and two reps from the grand prize-winning club will receive an all-expense paid trip to a day at the Tim Hortons Brier in Calgary, Alberta.

The online application itself can be filled out right here ...

Monday, January 12, 2009

Breakfast Television Curling

Toronto’s Breakfast Television morning show – on City TV – includes some live hits from the East York Curling Club tomorrow AM.

The Toronto Curling Association is involved in the production, which will talk up the GTA curling scene and also the legendary Energizer Men’s Bonspiel (formerly the Canada Life).

Check it out between 6:00am and 9:00am ET, although we guess that highlights might be available on the show website later on Tuesday ...

Sunday, January 11, 2009

The Ferb is back

RAMA, Ontario – There are many reasons why Randy Ferbey’s huge win at the 2009 Casino Rama Curling Skins Game is so... well, cool.

• Team Ferbey (most of them) were road-weary after playing 10 straight weekends up to Xmas;
• they were 0-9 versus arch-rival Kevin Martin before yesterday’s Game 1 victory;
• Joe Average curling fan hadn’t seen or heard much from them for a while;
• they’re another Edmonton team everyone would love to see at the Trials;
• they’re still, obviously, a damned fine curling team.

Good for them, good for the sport.

Things got picky and icky and sticky yet again, with one player suggesting in the seventh end that they “should just flip a coin.”

And after his last effort of the sixth went bananas, Glenn Howard looked indeed to be working his magic.

The seventh came down to a measure – an excruciating double-measure, actually – which the Ferbs and the TSN TV crew thought would go their way (it didn’t). That skin would have clinched it for the Albertans. Carry-over.

The final frame was huge, with the teams tied at 7K apiece and a whopping $43,000 on the line. Howard missed his first runback, firing it through both intended target rocks but miraculously stuck on his own in the back-four for shot stone.

But after Ferb fourth-thrower David Nedohin made a delicious angle tap to freeze, lady luck had left the casino and Howard’s End arrived. His final runback missed, and the Ferbey Four were back in the winner’s circle.

We’ll have another report plus a variety of sidebars in the upcoming February issue of The Curling News.

This will include a fascinating history of curling’s eternal male versus female debate, with both long-forgotten info and fresh thinking thrown in. Trust us, you don’t want to miss it ...

Game on

RAMA, Ontario – They’re off!

And Team Randy Ferbey has the much-disparaged yellow stones. Hmm...

The Curling News photo by Anil Mungal

Who is Howard Jones?

RAMA, Ontario – We’ve got some skins media to show and tell y’all about, below, but first...

Following this blogpost from yesterday, we’ve been getting some queries about this Howard Jones fellow. As in, who is he, anyway?

Come ON people. You are supposedly members of the Google-slash-YouTube generation. I mean, the guy played at Live Aid, for gosh’s sake.

Here are two Howard hits... one from his hairy heyday, and another where he has a more normal do, plus an all-star band backing him up.

We’d say Howard did quite well back in the day. Just as the other Howard, Glenn, is doing this weekend at the skins. So far.

As for media today, TSN has some videos, interviews, stories and pics on their website, here and here... the Toronto Star was here... and Bob Weeks asks if the CCA is paying attention to all the athlete-oriented hoopla.

We’d say they are indeed. As Weeks notes, and as we previously noted online and in the December issue, the CCA is all over athletes like Kevin Martin, Jennifer Jones and tough-guy John Morris in an multi-media blitzkrieg to sell event tickets. And perhaps mindful of some previous criticism, these spots are bigger budget, high-gloss productions when compared to those of the past.

More evidence the CCA is wired in? CEO Greg Stremlaw was right here, in person, at Casino Rama yesterday.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Howard and Ferbey on Sunday

RAMA, Ontario – Howard versus Jones. Men versus women. East versus west. BalancePlus versus Asham.

No contest. No mas!

It was a good old-fashioned punting, and all that’s left for the reigning world women’s champions is a night of blackjack, poker, craps and whatnot.

Tomorrow it’s Glenn Howard versus Randy Ferbey for all the Casino Rama/TSN skins marbles.

See you then!

The Curling News photo by Anil Mungal

Howard, Jones in concert

RAMA, Ontario – Flashback to the 80s?

No, it’s not two-hit pop wonder Howard Jones in concert at Casino Rama... it’s star curlers Glenn Howard vs. Jennifer Jones... and curling’s latest Battle of the Sexes has begun.

And it began with a thud for Jones. Three out of her first four front-end stones were missed... and Jones soon discovered that two of those efforts were made with her designated rocks.


But Jonesy is on the board as Howard – with company – had his own series of misses in the third end, and it’s now $2,000 to $1,500 for the boys.

And this makes Kevin Martin the fourth-place finisher, with a lowly $1,000 in event winnings.


The Curling News photo by Anil Mungal

Ferb beats The Bear

RAMA, Ontario – Two days ago on Off The Record, the four skips were asked “who’s got the biggest temper?” Jennifer Jones, Randy Ferbey and Glenn Howard all said “Kevin Martin”, and The Old Bear himself smiled and agreed.

And today was a just plain bad day at the office for KMart and crew, as the defending Casino Rama skins champions were upended by their Edmonton arch-rivals, Team Ferbey.

A bad stone – which picked out of lead Ben Hebert’s hand not once, not twice but thrice – conspired against Martin throughout the game, but there were a lot of misses too.

Martin even lost his jacket (hopefully temporarily).

This was, overall, a rather subdued semifinal. TSN commentator Ray Turnbull called it “one of the weirdest skins games ever”.

Tonight it’s Jones versus the near-hometown fave, Howard.

The Curling News “Moment of Victory” photo by Anil Mungal

Still in the game

RAMA, Ontario – The ice was a wee bit straight and a bit picky early on. The word “picky” is one which makes Glenn Howard feel quite icky, as we all know from a year ago. Here’s to a hairless, debris-free Battle of the Sexes tonight.

This all-Alberta tussle is getting a bit weird. Randy Ferbey just took a big 5K skin in the fifth and then stole the sixth for a $9,000 to $1,000 lead over Kevin Martin, but in the last few minutes we’ve seen Ferb second Scotty Pfeifer and Martin third John Morris both boot a stone.

In Pfeif’s case, the stone was stationary in the rings, and all eight players merely stood and watched the TV replay on one of the three utterly massive 12 x 16-foot wall screens to decide where to replace the rock.

In Johnny Mo’s case, he was sweeping teammate Ben Hebert’s stone, and so it was promptly removed from play.

Martin is behind, but still in the game. This is the skins, after all.

The Curling News photo by Anil Mungal

Ferb in the spotlight

RAMA, Ontario – Randy Ferbey’s yellow and blue garb looks mighty electric under the bright lights at Casino Rama.

The Curling News photo by Anil Mungal

Skins Curling Swag

RAMA, Ontario – Yes, we’re here and we’re on the air.

One of the advantages of competing in the Casino Rama Curling Skins Game is the stuff you win.

And we’re not just talking about the cash on the line.

This year’s competitor gift pack is chock full of goodies for each and every athlete. Pentax digital camera (12.1 megapixels), electric toothbrush, electric razor – women’s model for Team Jennifer Jones, we hope? – TSN jacket, $500 Via Rail pass... the list goes on.

Hey, it may not compare to the swag that Hollywood celebrities receive – even in an economic downturn – but it’s pretty fine nontheless.

And we’re assured there isn’t an entire “gift lounge”... just a well-stocked Green Room, but of course.

The Curling News photo by Anil Mungal

Friday, January 09, 2009

Final Casino Rama Skins curling preview

Ready for some skins curling?

Yes indeed, yesterday’s TV talk warmups – on both TSN and Rogers Sportsnet – were fun to watch. Never mind the sleepy Randy Ferbey, above (photo by TSN)... this was no snorefest.

You can check out the episode of TSN’s Off The Record right here (player is on the right-hand side of the page). But we also point out the Really Off The Record podcast located in the centre of the page (January 8). This audio-only show lasts 4:21 and features host Michael Landsberg asking the four skips (see yesterday’s blogposts) to play “CCA For A Day”, and declare how they would change the sport.

Fun stuff. Glenn Howard would force Kevin Martin and Ferbey to retire (much laughter) but in a frank and serious exchange, Martin and Howard clashed over the concept of Team Canada at the Brier.

Also, Howard declared – unequivocally – that eight-end curling games will be fully implemented across the spectrum of the sport following the 2010 Olympic Winter Games. Hmm... does he know something we don’t?

You can also listen to the FAN 590/Rogers Sportsnet episode of Prime Time Sports featuring Martin and Jennifer Jones right here (click on PTS: 2009-01-08, segment two, starting at 18:20).

Today’s media roundup includes Bob Weeks on his blog and also in the Globe & Mail; Brian McAndrew of the Toronto Star; another pal, James Bisson at the Canadian Press and they guys at Canwest Media, too.

And don’t forget this here TCN Blog, whether you are watching from home or looking for the scoop from overseas.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

2009 Casino Rama Curling Skins: ticket update and preview

It’s almost 4:00pm ET, the skips have had their say (photo above courtesy TSN) and the taping of Off The Record is over – see previous blogpost here – so be sure to tune at 6:00pm ET tonight.

Or tomorrow AM for the repeat, and also tomorrow online via the TSN Player.

We notice that Kevin Martin was kept pretty far away from Randy Ferbey. Drat! (Click on the pic to increase size.)

As for the Skins Game itself, you can find an event preview story here, another one here... and the main event page is located here.

And now, tickets.

This weekend’s skins showdown is almost sold out. The Ticketmaster portal is apparently reading “unavailable” for many people. If you have this problem, and you dearly want tickets, you have two options.

1. Visit the Casino Rama box office in person.

2. Or choose the official secret method, divulged just for you courtesy of The Curling News. Call the Casino Rama Customer Service line at 1-8800-832-PLAY (7529) and very specifically say: “I want to buy a three-game pass for the curling skins game”.

It is apparently important that you clearly state your intentions to buy a three-game pass. You need to be directed by Customer Service to the box office, and if you try to buy single-game tickets or any other package, you’re out of luck (as indicated by this recent Casino Rama posting). And if you don’t act quickly, you may be plain out of luck anyway!

Finally, our coverage. The Curling News Blog is still unsure of our coverage plans for the weekend, but if you are settling in at home to watch skins action – or cursing from outside Canada over the unavailability of the TV signal – be sure to check us out online when you take a washroom or fridge break. Like last year, you just might find us blogging live from the event.

Finally... don’t forget, the skins is televised in High Definition, and it looks utterly amazing. So if you aren’t yet set up with HD in your home, get on the horn and start arranging a viewing party at a friend’s place.

Game on!

Tonight: Off The Record with skins skips

Some big-name curling champs – Kevin Martin, Randy Ferbey, Glenn Howard and Jennifer Jones – are headed to the 2009 Casino Rama Skins Game this weekend.

All four skips are now in Toronto and en route to TSN studios at the Rogers Centre for a taping of Off The Record, the sometimes-incendiary sports talk show with host Michael Landsberg.

The all-curling show airs tonight at 6:00pm eastern time.

It might be repeated overnight or tomorrow morning/afternoon, and it is sure to be available online tomorrow, as well – Canada only, we think?

Practice ice goes tomorrow in the casino entertainment centre and play begins Saturday with Martin versus Ferbey (1:00pm ET) and then Howard versus Jones (8:00pm ET). The final goes Sunday, at 1:00pm ET.

Many of you will remember our extensive 2007 event blog coverage, which told you about the ice, the ice temperature, the rock-star intros, the special-guest piper, the picks, the team from Newfoundland which perhaps woulda-coulda-shoulda been in the final, and much, much more.

(Search back to December 2007 in our blog archives for that much, much more)

Last year Off The Record – OTR – also hosted an all-curling Skins preview episode, and things got very interesting. Wayne Middaugh was on fire, first reminding Martin of his corn-broom incident at the 1991 Worlds and then stating, unequivocally, that “the Olympics have ruined curling.”

Wayner is always sure to be a hoot on that show.

Jill Officer, who plays second for Jones and who writes for The Curling News, was unimpressed enough to write a column in last year’s January issue asking Wayne just what the hell he meant by that.

Of course, if you subscribed to The Curling News, you will have read that story already. Hint, hint.

So what will tonight’s OTR reveal?

It should be fun with Martin and Ferbey in the same room. Maybe TSN will seat them side by side. Giggle.

Jones will get asked about competing against men, and Glenn will joke that while he’s a really nice guy he’s just going to have to kick Jen’s butt, because the skins format is too volatile to do anything but try and squash your opponent. No Mr. Nice Guy here.

Jones, as some have suggested, is like a lawyer in her interviews. Guarded, formulaic and cliched. Well, she is a lawyer, in fact. Host Landsberg, meanwhile, has been know to get under the skin of some guests, and he may feel he has to roll up his sleeves and do just that today. Anyone want to take that bet, Jones versus Landsberg? Who wins?

Finally, a word about tickets. Southern Ontarians are complaining that Ticketmaster won’t give them any options to buy, with the site listing the event tickets as “unavailable”. There are whispers that the event is “Sold Out”.

We have the scoop. And we’ll reveal it – along with the exclusive way to go and get what few tickets remain - later this afternoon. Stay tuned ...

PS: Landsberg will be going back to his roots, at Vancouver in 2010. He is part of the massive consortium lineup of TV anchors, hosts and reporters who will be very busy at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games. This story also reveals the names of the curling TV talent: Vic Rauter, Bryan Mudryk, Linda Moore, Ray Turnbull, Russ Howard, Cathy Gauthier, Dan Murphy, Michel Y. Lacroix and Guy Hemmings ...

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Schmirler curling legend lives on

The Fed – the World Curling Federation – has just announced that Sandra Schmirler is the posthumous winner of the 2009 World Curling Freytag Award.

The award is given in two categories – Curler and Curler/Builder – and Schmirler, the three-time world champion and 1998 Olympic champion who died in 2000 at age 36 – is the first Canadian competitor to be inducted since Ernie Richardson, who received his award just days after Schmirler’s death that year, at the Brier in Saskatoon.

What is very cool, apart from the continued recognition of the Schmirler legacy (which of course includes the Foundation named after her) is that immediate surviving family members Shannon England – her husband – and daughters Sara and Jenna will receive Schmirler’s award at the 2009 Ford Worlds in Moncton.

Moncton just happens to be the 50th anniversary bash celebrating the world men’s championships, and a whack of famous names are being jetted in for the opening weekend, which will climax with a rather remarkable opening ceremony.

It says here that this event is not one to miss.

Have you ever thought about a present day with Sandra Schmirler still with us? What would the curling world look like if, in fact, she hadn’t passed away so tragically at such a young age?

Would she still be the best women’s curler of all time?

Would Colleen Jones have won fewer Scotties and World titles?

Would some of her teammates moved on, and tried their hand without her? According to the eulogy delivered by Brian McCusker, the husband of second rocker Joan McCusker, the asnwer is no way... the team would still be competing together “50 years from now.”

But who can say? Perhaps Schmirler would now be leading a team of young guns, as so many veteran skips seem to do these days.

Would she be the female TV commentator at CBC or TSN, as opposed to teammate McCusker? Remember, Schmirler had already appeared on CBC a few times prior to her death and was generally acknowledged to be, well, pretty good with a microphone.

There would have been books, no doubt (here and here) but would there be a park named after her in Biggar, Saskatchewan? Would there exist any of the not one but two TV documentaries? Would the official plaudits and awards be just starting to trickle in now, as she approached age 45?

One thing is certain. Schmirler’s nomination and confirmation for this award comes at a good time. And it will be simply tremendous to see her family – with the daughters now aged 11 and 9 – accept the award at the 50th anniversary Worlds.

“Back in Regina there are tons of good teams and I don’t know why we’ve been chosen to do this... And to play with your best friends is probably the best feeling in the world.”
– Sandra Schmirler, Maclean’s, February 23 1998


• Here’s another look at Joan McCusker’s 10-year anniversary blogpost on Nagano and the Schmirler curling memories, published almost a year ago ...

• As for ex-teammates Jan Betker and Marcia Gudereit, they made a surprising early exit from playdowns last weekend ...

• Another big women’s name to fall out of Scotties contention is 2007 world champion Kelly Scott of Kelowna, who has been eliminated prior to the B.C. provincial ...

• Women of Curling calendar girl Christine Keshen – with her very nice hat – is starting a junior program at her home club in Invermere. Now that’s giving back to the sport! Congrats to Kesh on her recent engagement, too ...

• Speaking of the calendar, it got a write-up and cover-paste on Rod Pedersen’s popular sports blog ...

• Curling got grazed by a couple of goombahs over the holidays. First came this Simple One who claims to be now “scarred for life” by curling, and then came Sportbilly24 and his declaration that curling “has gained a strong ding as one of the weirdest sports using a household appliance”. How original ...

• Here’s a look at the up-and-down season of Sherry Middaugh ...

• And finally, CBC curling host Scott Russell ranks Brad Gushue at no. 3 on his list of young Canadian athletes to watch in 2009 ...