Monday, October 20, 2014

Vancouver club given membership deadline or faces being turned into a hockey rink

The North Shore Winter Club is facing a deadline. It needs to sign up 360 members by Nov. 15 or face being turned into a hockey rink, says this article in the North Shore News. 

Now the club is a full athletic facility and therefore the curling membership can be a bit steep to a stand-alone club. There's a $900 initiation fee and then monthly dues of $113. So that works out to about $2,250 to curl (as well as enjoy a limited selection of the rest of the club's offerings).

That's a pretty tall order to try and get that many curlers in that short a period.

What's worse is that it cuts short an agreement the club made with the local recreation association.

The decision seemingly puts an end to an agreement hatched in the late 1990s between the Winter Club and the North Vancouver Recreation Commission to provide a space for public curling following the rec commission's decision to replace the curling rink at Harry Jerome Recreation Centre with the Flicka Gymnastics Club. 

The club's past president, Kevin Dancs, seemed to indicate that having a hockey rink would be beneficial financially for the club. 
If they don't reach the goal of signing up 360 new curling members, the club will start the process to transform the rink from curling into hockey, said Dancs, adding that the club must work to keep member satisfaction high while also considering revenue streams. Only 25 members of the club take part in curling, and the revenue from that ranges from negligible to negative, he said. 
"If it was converted to a hockey rink, then we know that projections are the revenue streams are going to be quite high, plus we have a big component of our membership who are hockey members. They're going to be very happy that they have more ice time for the kids."
You wonder if this is a scene that may continue to be played out in many parts of the country. There are a number of clubs in metropolitan centres that are looking at their curling operation -- which makes up just part of the overall facility -- and wondering if it should continue.

Certainly there can be lots of benefits. If it's a golf club, it allows the facility to keep staff year-round. As well, many players join as curlers and then add additional benefits such as golf or gym use.

But clearly, there seems to be a shake out coming in curling (as it is in golf). There simply don't seem to be the number of players to support as many clubs as we have in places such as Toronto.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Weekend roundup: Koe gets lucky in win, Jones beats Homan

The competitive season is in full swing and some of the big guns notched wins over the weekend, in between turkey dinners.

In Calgary, the new-look Kevin Koe team took top spot at the Crestwood Fall Classic, knocking off Steve Laycock in the final. Koe has an interesting rotation with third Marc Kennedy still sweeping skip rocks with Ben Hebert while second Brent Laing holds the broom for skip stones. While unusual, it certainly makes sense, keeping two of the best sweepers in the game together.

Norm Cowley has all the details on what Kennedy called a lucky win. 

"That game, for sure, we were a little fortunate,” said Koe. “We were in big trouble the first half of the game. We got a good break there to steal two. After that, we played pretty good.”
Meanwhile, what many would view as the top two women's teams in the game met in the final of the Calgary Autumn Gold spiel. This has always been one of the majors in the game and so no surprise that these two made it to the final. 
Jones ended up winning the event but was full of praise for her opponents in this Calgary Sun story by Daniel Austin. 

"They’re a tremendous team and I’m sure,hopefully, we’ll play them a couple more times,” Jones said. “They’re an amazing team, everybody knows that, and we know we always have to play our best to beat them … it worked out well for us today.”

Before the game, the Jones team took in a little Thanksgiving turkey at some of the skip's relatives, posting this great shot on the team's official Facebook page. Love the hats ladies. 

Friday, October 10, 2014

Checking out the groceries and other gold medal experiences

Team Jennifer Jones returned to the ice this week at the Calgary Autumn Gold Classic and, as befits the gold medal winners, the team members were the centre of attention.

Most wanted to know how it was living a summer as an Olympic champion, which brought up some great responses in this Canadian Press article by Donna "Spinner" Spencer.

Some check out what groceries the curlers are buying. Others just kind of melt down, said Kaitlyn Lawes:

"It's interesting because even some people just come up and start crying. We've never met them before, but they had an emotional connection to what we did."

Meanwhile, after taking the summer off to enjoy all the bells and whistles that come from winning the Olympics, the team is back at it. There really is no time to rest, said Jones. 

"The way the system is set up for qualifying for the next Olympics is we're kind of required to start from scratch and start right away," she explained. "We're trying to defend our title in South Korea." 
"We had to get right back at it this season. Normally we'd be training hard in the summer, but we took the summer off. It was a great way to recover and we're anxious to get back on the ice."

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Virtue working on in-turns, out-turns and emotions

When we last saw Brock Virtue, he was snapping his broom before being ejected from the final game of the Saskatchewan men's final. The emotional but very talented curler had to sit on the sidelines for the final two ends of the provincial championship contest, having been thrown out by officials.

It was one of rather significant stories of the playdowns last year, with no one remembering a player getting the heave-ho from such a big match.

Well Vitrue is now back in Alberta and curling for Charley Thomas, and in this Calgary Herald story from Jeff Mackinnon, he says he knows things have to change.

“I certainly have room to improve in terms of withholding some emotions at certain times and I’m definitely trying to work on that this season,” the 28-year-old told the Herald.

Thomas things that having Virtue on board is a good fit and will help his new-look rink.

I think part of the reason we are going to work well together is that we complement each other very well,” Thomas said.
“Brock is a pretty emotional player and I like to think I’m pretty even-keeled so us playing together is going to bring out the best in him and hopefully bring out the best in me as well.” 

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Koreans trying to learn fast ahead of Olympics

The Korean curling program is in full gear and its top-ranked teams are knocking rocks with the best in the game, jetting from spiel to spiel -- literally -- in hopes of improving. 
As this Vernon Morning Star story details, the women's rink skipped by Eun Jung Kim flew from a bonspiel in Sweden to Vernon, B.C., arriving just in time for its first game. It managed to win that contest as well as the next two. 
The Koreans are trying prep for the next Winter Games, which will be in their home country. Although resources aren't exactly plentiful! 

With the 2018 Winter Olympics coming to Pyeongchang, Korea is looking to boost its curling portfolio. With just one club and two rinks throughout the entire country, they have some serious work ahead of them. 
Kim entered the sport eight years ago through a high school curling program. She and her teammates have been touring World Curling Tour events the past three seasons, including a 2012 entry in the Vernon spiel, to get playing time against world-calibre rinks.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Two-minute guide to curling

In the quest to entice more and more people to take up curling, the CCA has done a lot of different marketing programs, but I have to say this latest video, the Two-Minute Guide To Curling, is one of my favourites. Obviously targeted at people with only a basic knowledge of the game, it serves as a fun introduction to the sport and covers the basics.

If you're a curler, you've probably been asked about everything this video covers.

So what do you think? Two thumbs up?

Monday, September 29, 2014

Goldline heading towards 50th anniversary

Here's a nice Globe and Mail story by Adam Stanley on the Goldline equipment company which is quickly approaching its 50th anniversary. As the story reveals, however, there was a period when the future of the broom and shoe maker was seriously in doubt.

In the early 1980s, Canada was going through a financial struggle not seen since the Great Depression. Goldline Curling, a family-owned business, was running into the same issues that many small businesses were having: It couldn’t secure funding to remain afloat and had an interest rate on its line of credit that was more than what most credit card rates are today. 
So Doug Flowers, now 65, and his brother did everything they could to keep the business going and look out for their father, whose house was on the line. 
“I had a good friend who I look back on now as our saviour,” reflects Mr. Flowers. “I talked to a lot of banks and they basically just turned us down without even a sniff. This friend of mine, although he was probably a terrible banker, he was a nice guy. He gave us the financing we needed to keep going.”
Flowers says the turning point for the company, which currently sponsors both the gold medal winning rinks of Brad Jacobs and Jennifer Jones, was when it began to source materials off-shore, using the cheaper prices available in Asia to make its products.

“Back in the 1980s, all products were sourced in North America. In the late 90s we slowly started going over to Asia, but now 90 per cent of our product is sourced there,” he explains. 
It became more difficult to assemble product in the small Canadian warehouse, so they trained a team in China to do the work for them.
“It made a real difference in terms of our margins,” Mr. Flowers says. “From 2002 to 2008, if there was a turning point in the success of our business, it would be that five-year transitional period from domestic sourcing to offshore sourcing.” 

Although I'm a Balance Plus guy when it comes to equipment, I know Doug as we curl at the same club. He's a nice guy who I like and respect very much. He has done well in the business of curling and there are certainly a lot of curlers who utilize his gear.