Thursday, June 25, 2009

Banner year for Canadian curling governance

Exactly one year ago today, we posted this story on the first Canadian Curling Association NCC (National Curling Congress) helmed by new CEO Greg Stremlaw.

Another Congress has now come and gone, and today’s news release reveals that another $880,000 surplus has been committed to the long-term reserve fund.

“Financial performance is the item that stands out,” said Stremlaw, in an interview with The Curling News.

“This puts us at $1.7 million in accumulated surplus.”

Indeed, as the CCA newser mentions, a Senior Program Officer with Sport Canada noted that the CCA’s financial performance has been particularly outstanding and that some of the results are hard to believe, given where the organization was only a few short years ago.

There were tons of interesting presentations, workshops, breakout sessions, discussions and notices of motion throughout the week. Items catching our keen TCN eye include:

• a new “Curling For Life” document, which closely examines the “paradigm shift” between curling as a lifetime recreational sport and curling as a high-performance athletic endeavour;

• an embracing of new social marketing efforts, from Facebook to Blogger to Twitter and whatever techno-stuff is still to come;

• plans to “Leverage 2010” and thus ensure that curling clubs are prepared for an expected avalanche of phone calls, walk-ins and other outreach from the general public during February’s Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games;

• an “investigation of the possibility of establishing” a Canadian Mixed Doubles Championship;

• implementation of a single competitor’s fee, starting in 2010-11, that will allow competitors to enter all disciplines which require the payment of a fee;

• a Member Association code of conduct, that will be developed for presentation and approval at the 2010 National Curling Congress.

In terms of elections, 2008-09 volunteer boss Fran Todd of Ontario (CCA photo above) has been replaced by her former Vice-Chair, Graham Prouse of Grande Prairie, Alberta, who now serves as Chair of the Board of Governors. Jack Bowman (Victoria, B.C.) is the new Vice-Chair.

CCA Governors Lew Andrews (St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador) and Beth Sullivan (Bathurst, New Brunswick) have retired from the Board, while three newcomers are on board: Elaine de Ryk of Greenfield Park, Quebec, Ron Hutton of Saint John, New Brunswick and Georgina Granchelli of Sydney, Nova Scotia.

For his part, Stremlaw seems pumped about just how smoothly the curling landscape is rolling out before him.

“I am personally witnessing a collaborative spirit with the stakeholders,” said Stremlaw.

“Truth be told, it hasn’t always been this way. At times the sport can become political.

“We’ve got 14 member associations and they’re all diverse, all different, but there seems to be a genuine interest in working together, getting ourselves to where we want to go.”

Anything else, you ask?

• CCA Governor and longtime curling leader Bernadette McIntyre does have other interests besides the Roaring Game... such as her very cool job ...

• Monsanto Canada has renewed its sponsorship agreements with CCA through to 2013. The news release indicates that the Continental Cup, which will not be contested in the upcoming Olympic season, will return for another run of events from 2011, 2012 and 2013 ...

• Monsanto, of course, also supports western-based curling clubs through the “A Better House” grant program, which disbursed some $80,000 in funding directly to prairie clubs this past season ...

• Another curling mover and shaker has taken a step back from the sport. Fast Eddie Lukowich, the former Brier and world champion skip, has resigned his position with the United States Curling Association after nearly 10 years, and just eight months prior to Vancouver 2010. Canwest has the story here ...

• Winnipeg’s Jill Officer made a recent appearance in Thunder Bay, Ont. on behalf of Olympic sponsor RBC ...

• World Senior men’s champion skip Eugene Hritzuk is on the air via The Curling Show ...

• And finally, this brief YouTube video asks the question “What’s curling all about?”
Well, gee, didn’t you know the answer...?

Monday, June 22, 2009

Curling Zombies on the road

Remember those loveable Curling Zombies?

They took to the streets, which is what zombies do.

They hung out at The Beer Store, which was something new.

They infatuated the Rogers TV folks during last February’s Ontario Tankard.

And believe it or not, they are still groaning their way around the country.

Fresh off this past Saturday’s screening at the CFC’s Worldwide Short Film Festival in Toronto, our favourite undead curlers are off to St. John’s in Newfoundland. Deadspiel will make its Eastern Canadian premier at the Nickel Independent Film Festival (June 23-27) with a show date of Thursday June 25, part of the 10:00pm Late Night Horror Show.

The film is also appearing at this week’s Detroit Windsor Film Fest, on Friday, June 26, and then in west-end Toronto at the Mississauga Independent Film Festival in early July.

Another showing will take place at Montreal’s famed Fantasia Festival next month.

We’ve got a recent feature from Independent Scene right here, and a brief trailer teaser was also recently released, which you can see here.

For more on the film, consult the Deadspiel website.

Other stuff...

• Some news from Norway. First, the country has produced its first DVD on curling, a 29-minute how-to which features Pal Trulsen and Thomas Ulsrud. Second, coach Thoralf Hognestad is stepping down from the Norwegian wheelchair curling team, which he guided to two world championships in 2007 and 2008 ...

• Sweden has confirmed Team Anette Norberg as their women’s Olympic rep for Vancouver 2010. Meanwhile, young hopeful Niklas Edin is still in limbo, but feels his men’s team will get the nod sometime during or after December. You can see the formal announcements here ...

• According to the Vernon Morning Star, the B.C. town will host a Capital One Grand Slam of Curling men’s event in December of 2010 ...

• Saskatchewan curling legends Sam Richardson and Jan Betker both make appearances in this short (1:23) video promoting Saskatchewan curling, part of the federal government’s Travel Canada promotion ...

• For those of you who are suspicious of clicking on game links that we provide here – and we don’t necessarily blame you for your caution – the developers of the infamous “Brown Cow Curing” videogame (a web-based freebie) have posted some video of their effort ...

• And finally, 2008 world champion Jennifer Jones teamed with new Edmonton Oliers hockey coach Pat Quinn for a recent appearance in Thunder Bay, Ontario ...

Monday, June 15, 2009

Curling Camps: the HOT SHOTS

Our second posting in a series on summer curling camps focusses on the original “Fantasy” camp which has since dropped the moniker: the HOT SHOTS.

Now in it’s 15th year, the HOT SHOTS Curling Camp was the first camp to pioneer the “fantasy” concept of pairing high-performance elite competitors with the participants, who of course range anwhere from brand-new rookie to pretty accomplished competitive player (and all points in between).

The subtle name change has, in the words of veteran camp director David Gravelle, come about because “you the curlers, have demanded more from us. And, we’ve delivered.

“We’ve moved away from the celebrity participation to bring you more intense curriculum with highly qualified instructors and some of the top national and international coaches.

“This transformation has been a natural and gradual evolution of our sport with increased participation in the game but the lack of qualified instruction to keep our new curlers progressing on the path to increased enjoyment of this great game.”

There are three HOT SHOTS Curling Camps running this summer-slash-fall, and there are limited spaces available at all three.

First up is the traditional home of the HOT SHOTS, the Oakville Curling Club in Oakville, Ontario (one half-hour west of Toronto) on August 28-20. The second camp is on Ottawa, Ontario at the RA Centre on October 2-4, and the final camp is in the United States for the second consecutive year. The Utica Curling Club in Utica, New York is one of the oldest curling clubs in the USA and it hosts the HOT SHOTS from October 16-18.

Click here for the camp website and here for the registration page.

Anything else going on? But... of course...

• Those crazy Kiwis are working to launch another season of outdoor curling at Naseby, following a $200,000 rink upgrade ...

• Here’s a report on the recent Rocky Top Bonspiel held in Knoxville, Tenessee ...

Joel Retournaz – that Italian Olympic hero from three-plus years ago – is back with a new youthful team, ie. an “ambitious project: ...

• PEI’s world junior runner-up Brett Gallant has picked up two local awards ...

• CTV News says the Banff curling rink is being torn down and a new facility is scheduled to open in late 2010 ...

• Can you guess the name of the influential curling coach who dropped this zinger on us recently...?

“I must talk far too much. Dean Gemmel put my interview into two parts.”

It’s Quebec’s Dan Rafael, of course, who is the head coach of the Chinese national curling team program. Indeed, he has a two-part show posted to The Curling Show and the occasionally blunt Canadian is always a good interview. You can listen to part one here, and we can direct you to part two here.

Rafael, by the way, has been in China for a couple of weeks already, as this is officially the start of the 2010 competitive season (say what?). Fresh from Beijing and then Harbin, Rafael is now in Qinhuangdao and will train with the teams until the inaugural New Zealand Winter Games in August. After that, Teams China head to Canada for September, October and part of November until the Pacific Curing Championships in Karuizawa, Japan ...

• And finally, there is movement within the foundations of the World Curling Players’ Association. At last.

Nominations for new board positions have closed and several new board members have been acclaimed. Now representing women on the WCPA are Calgary’s Heather Rankin and Ontario’s Sherry Middaugh, while Europe’s single position has gone to Switzerland’s Simon Struebin, who throws lead pucks for front-running Olympic hopeful Ralph Stoeckli.

Voting will decide the men’s reps. Vying for a seat at the table are the following:

• Quebec’s Pierre Charette (currently Interim President)
• Vancouver’s Brent Pierce (a former WCPA regional rep)
Scott Pfeifer, second man for Team Randy Ferbey
Craig Savill, the Team Glenn Howard lead
Garth Smith, who is Kerry Burtnyk’s opening rocker
Nolan Thiessen, yet another leadman who plays for Kevin Koe.

The United States’ position features a pair of nominees, with John Benton taking on Bill Todhunter.

The new WCPA Board will consist of eight elected members, with a minimum five positions reserved for Canadian representatives. The group of five Canadian representatives will feature three male and two female members.

Read all about the nominees, their positions and the URL to go to to vote at this link ...

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Man With Brooms invades Hollywood

Everybody’s favourite movie-star curler, Paul Gross, isn’t resting on his Passchendaele laurels. The man who once had a slide delivery more solid than that of many TCN readers has not one, but two new projects coming soon... and an award is headed his way this weekend.

CTV and ABC (in the U.S.) have both picked up “Eastwick”, a TV adaption of the 1987 film “The Witches of Eastwick”. Gross plays the part of The Devil, in a very juicy role made famous by none other than... Jack Nicholson.

Gross will also appear in the comedy western “Gunless”, as a nasty American gunfighter nicknamed The Montana Kid (photo above).

In addition, the Men With Brooms maven will receive the NBC Universal Canada Award of Distinction at this year’s 30th anniversary Banff World Television Festival, now underway in Calgary... where delegates will also have the opportunity to be “In conversation with Paul Gross”.

A preview of the famed festival can be found here and a Calgary Herald story summarizing all these Gross adventures can be found here.

And in a more hardcore curling vein...

Bachelorette Jillian Harris told the media a few things about the “curling date”, from this one:

“I really love the curling date. Curling is – and I hate to say it because curlers are going to hate me – that quintessential, Canadian, nerdy sport. I find it really nostalgic. I did it a lot as a kid, hanging out in lounges. The guys really got into it.”

... to this one:

“This was such a nostalgic date for me. I remember curling bonspiels when I was just a kid — so much fun! To my delight … the guys loved it too!”

Nah, we don’t hate you Jill... after all, since the episode has turned out to be such a hit for tourism in Vancouver, we expect local curling clubs to have their voicemail systems jammed full with messages over the summer.

A note to the curious: Harris’ current hometown may be Vancouver but she’s really an Alberta gal, from Peace River, and that’s where her young curling memories come from ...

• DID YOU KNOW: that curling columnist, editor and book writer Bob Weeks made an early appearance in this leadership convention video for Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff?

• CITY GOOD: PEI’s Charlottetown Curling Club was recently honoured at the Mayor’s Citizen and Recognition Awards night. As the citation reads, “Founded in 1887, the Charlottetown Curling Club has remained a source of recreation, entertainment and camaraderie for the City of Charlottetown and its surrounding communities for 122 years.” Boo-yah!

• CITY BAD: A big boo to the town of Cochrane, Alberta. City councillors have stomped all over the curling club’s request to add two sheets of ice to their facility ...

Luber’s Lounge has posted the tentative Manitoba Curling Tour schedule for the 2009-10 season ...

• DID YOU KNOW II: that the Ontario Curling Association van in which ED Doug Bakes zips around the province each season is now for sale? Well, giddyap ...

• Toronto’s 13th Annual East York Summerspiel gets underway tomorrow and finishes Saturday. The bonspiel theme is based on the movie Grease, and the club is heavily decorated and awaits the 36 teams that have entered. The curling starts on Friday night at 6:00pm and there will be a live band that night at the club ...

• And finally, we were planning to reveal the incredibly bizarre curling posting from a blogger named Bliss, but Skip Cottage beat us to it. Here is Bob’s take on the eccentricity, which of course simply must lead you to click through and see it for yourself ...

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

A $25,000 Curling Refresh

TSN’s Kraft Celebration Tour will give no less than 10 lucky Canadian communities a $25,000 grant, aka “community refresh”, plus an onsite hosting of TSN’s live SportsCentre broadcast.

This is all in celebration of TSN’s 25th anniversary.

Nominations come from the public via this special website, and nominations close at 5:00pm eastern time this coming Friday, June 12.

We’ve noticed that one community has made an all-curling application.

The East Hants Curling Association in Lantz, Nova Scotia has been looking to build a four-sheet curling facility since 1988 (!) and geez, for pure stubborness alone, we think Lantz should make it into the top 10!

Don’t you?

Brier competitor (with Team Shawn Adams) and EHCA Director Kelly Mittelstadt is heavily involved in the drive for a curling club.

“We’ve secured government funding sufficient to allow conceptual drawings to be completed,” Mittelstadt told The Curling News.

“Once these drawings are finalized our next, and largest, hurdle will be getting funding from all three levels of government to build this facility.”

Here’s the EHCA nomination under which TCN readers are invited to comment – positively, of course!

What else for a Tuesday?

• There’s not much to say about the the appearance of curling on last night’s TV episode of The Bachelorette. The skill level was, of course, abysmal. One of the bachelors – who had clearly never stepped on ice before – declared the sport “terrifying.”

And to some surprise, the Canadian Curling Association sent out an email urging people to tune in to watch, prompting this blogger to wonder how the organization got her email address ...

Marie-France Larouche: skip et professeure?

• Yeah, yeah, yeah... everyone knows about the spoof story re. an IBM Supercomputer competing at the 2010 Worlds... but here’s the link in case you missed it ...

• And finally, Eric Deckers is the latest newbie to utter the obvious: Curling is Harder Than It Looks ...

Friday, June 05, 2009

Olympic curling tickets part II

Tomorrow morning some 200,000 “new” tickets to the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games will go on sale... for Canadians-only, we believe. Curling tickets are included.

This story from the Vancouver Sun tells the tale... and also includes news of the ticket design, which was released yesterday. In this Canadian Press photo shown above, mascot Qatchi (left) holds the ticket designs for Curling and Ice Hockey.

That’s mascot Sumi on the right, in case you didn’t know.

Here’s the official VANOC release regarding the ticket designs.

More for a Friday:

• Do you watch the U.S. reality TV show The Bachelorette? The current wanting woman is a Canadian, Jillian Harris, and in this coming Monday night’s episode (June 8 on ABC) she takes her wanting womanizers back home to Vancouver, and an appearance on the ice at the Marpole Curling Club.

Here’s the show website, where you can view a sneak preview of the expected on-ice ridiculousness. You can also see the two-minute preview here, and a story on the Vancouver episode, plus a photo of Harris, is located here.

In addition, there’s this Vancouver Sun blogpost telling how the producers couldn’t use the Olympic curling facility for the show, although they tried ...

• As reported earlier this week, five high-school sports – including curling – were on the chopping block yesterday, but all five have been since been spared the axe ...

• Also reported recently, the Cactus Pheasant Classic WCT event in Brooks, Alberta may have lost their title sponsor... but the city of Brooks just voted to kick in a $20,000 grant to support this fall’s event ...

• 2006 U.S. Olympic bronze-winning curler Joe Polo will be marching alongside those Kalamazoo, Michigan curling fanatics at the annual Doo-Dah parade today.

You remember this Doo-Dah story from Ohio last year, right?

• One representative from each of the 32 teams competing in either this fall’s pre-Olympic Trials qualifier or the Trials themselves are on their way to Vancouver this weekend for a CCA-hosted orientation.

The reps will be advised on what to expect in terms of the competitions, the media, and how to prepare now to represent Canada at Vancouver 2010.

Word is that most teams are sending their coaches, but we have heard of a couple of skips who are attending on behalf of their teams: Manitoba young gunners Jason Gunnlaugson and Mike McEwen.

The full list of 32 teams can be found here ...

• The 2009 Australian Championships are underway in Dunedin, New Zealand today with the finals slated for Sunday. You can follow results via the Aussie Curling Blog ...

• The Huntsville Curling Club, located in the prime cottage country north of Toronto, wants a new building (who doesn’t?) ...

• The Moncton Coliseum, host of the recent Ford Worlds, has been ripped in the local media – again – for its inadequacies ...

• And final, thanks to C. Fraser and the Canadian Fermentation blog for using amoebas to explain curling for the uninitiated. In other words, thanks for providing a serious head-shake on a Friday morning!

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Murdoch: not really the first

Okay. Not that we wish to correct TSN, The Sports Network, when they declare that Scotland’s David Murdoch will become the first international team to compete in the third annual Casino Rama Curling Skins Game in January, 2010.

Because they’re right. In the three-year history of this event, only Canadian teams have featured. So let’s call today’s story a... clarification.

Because when we look back at the last three decades of TV skins curling, there have actually been a few international skirmishes. Before Casino Rama’s time, of course.

The first is pictured above, from the cover of the December 1993/January 1994 edition of Canadian Curling News (click on image to zoom in).

Do you remember this edition of the old McCain/TSN Skins Game? The 1993 event, hosted in Ottawa, was a doozy.

Russ Howard – with brother Glenn and the front-end tandem of Wayne Middaugh and Peter Corner – had just won the Brier and Worlds, and looked very good early on in their semifinal against unheralded Milt Sinclair of Abbotsford, B.C. Howard won the first three skins over the first five ends.

But it began to unravel and the left coasters then took the lead. It was only on the last stone of the match that Howard pulled it out, grabbing a $3,000 skin for a narrow $9,000 to $7,000 victory.

In the final, Howard met up with the first international team to ever be invited to the Skins: David Smith of Scotland, who had upended Ottawa’s Bill Walsh in the other semi (Walsh won $7,750 in another tight match).

Curling fans may remember the very public and vitriolic reaction from Eddie “The Wrench” Werenich, who of course missed out on the chance to compete because of the invitation given to Team Smith. The Wrench was, er, not very happy.

And it was all-Scotland through much of the final. In fact, as the photo shows, the Howards were blanked through the first eight ends, down $15,000 to zero, and Russ was clearly reeling. One wonders if Smitty was actually beginning to feel sorry for him. If so, big mistake.

Russ and Co. had blanked the seventh and Smith had blanked the eighth, leaving an $11,000 skin on the table in the ninth. Howard finally cashed in, making a tap-back to score the skin and make the 10th end meaningful, as it almost always is/was (Casino Rama Skins Games are now eight ends in length, of course).

And lo and behold, the Wounded Moose pulled it off in the final end too, stealing the final $6,000 skin and the victory when Smith missed a last-ditch runback for the win.

The champs took home $37,000, which also included the $10,000 winner’s bonus and another $1,000 for winning the pre-event draw to the button.

This was also the first Skins Game in which all three games went down to the last stone.

And there are two more international skins appearances to remind you of.

We are pretty darned sure – and please correct us if you think we’re wrong – that Norway’s Pal Trulsen appeared in the McCain/TSN shootout soon after his Olympic triumph in 2002.

And another Scottish team, skipped by Tom Brewster, appeared in one of the short-lived M&M Meat Shops Skins events – and made it all the way to the final of the six-team event – televised by rival broadcaster Rogers Sportsnet. Remember that one, folks?

Anything else going on, you ask?

• Wednesday is “Camp Day” at all Tim Hortons stores across Canada, a special day where every penny earned in coffee sales goes to a worthy cause: the Brier sponsor’s Tim Horton Children’s Foundation. Don’t be surprised to see some of Canada’s top curling stars slinging coffee and donuts at various store locations tomorrow ...

• The twin sons of TSN curling colour man Ray Turnbull – affectionately labelled “in-turn” and “out-turn” – were in the news last weekend...

Brad Gushue’s hometown St. John’s Telegram recently published a look back at his squad’s – er, sorry, Russ’ squad’s – 2006 Olympic triumph ...

• SHAMELESS SELF-PROMOTION 101: For some reason, Canwest News recently recycled this online story from March’s Brier frenzy, in which The Curling News boss George Karrys was quoted on the rarely-discussed question of curling songs ...

• Speaking of curling songs, Skip Cottage liked our recent highlight of the bizarro Jamie Jay Singh song, reposted here... and this here video tribute to Seattle’s Granite Curling Club boasts its own original curling song...

• Less than two months after the successful Ford Worlds came to New Brunswick, that province’s Interscholastic Athletic Association will vote today on whether or not to throw five sports – including curling – off the provincial high school athletic roster ...

• Finally, would anyone care to guess why these apartments for rent in Hoboken, NJ have been called Curling Club apartments?

In Hoboken, New Joisey?

Somebody help us understand. Please.