Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Old-timers showing a youthful spirit at Diversicare Grand Masters

Have to give a shout-out to the old-timers who are still very much young at heart who will be competing in the Diversicare Grand Masters Ontario championship at Thornhill Country Club. The championship starts on Thursday.

Now this event is for players 70 and over but if you watched these folks toss rocks and sweep, you'd never believe they were of that age. They're limber, spry and fit. Some of these guys are curling 70, 80 or even more games in a season! If you're in the area, drop by and check on the curling.

You can go here to get the draw and a list of the teams and many of the names will be familiar -- these guys have made their mark in just about every division along the way and will continue to be doing it this week.

So hats off to the Diversicare Grand Masters. Good luck and good curling.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Dacey leads curlers into closed door meeting with NS officials

Mark Dacey's call out of the Nova Scotia Curling Association had some results it seems. 

According to Monty Mosher of the Halifax Chronicle Herald, Dacey and a number of other competitive curlers from the province met with officials from the Nova Scotia Curling Association behind closed doors on Saturday to deal with issues the curlers feel are holding them back against other players across the country. 

Of course under the new relegation system at the Brier, Nova Scotia missed the main competition for the first time in the event's history.

Jamie Murphy, who has won the Nova Scotia title two of the last four years, served on the ice committee and said the conditions have simply been inadequate.

Murphy, who came to Nova Scotia from New Brunswick, said he served on Nova Scotia committee to set ice conditions for provincial play and those conditions haven’t been met in the past four years. 
“They haven’t even been close,” he said. “The ice conditions in all of the qualifiers and all of the Tankards have been inadequate. 
“I can say that — and it shouldn’t sound like sour grapes — because I’ve won a couple of them. I would say in the two I won the conditions were completely inadequate.”

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Gushue sticks by comments on bronze-medal game

Brad Gushue is standing by his comments about the Brier's bronze-medal game, telling the St. John's Telegram that the game simply needs to go away. 

Gushue, who lost the game to Saskatchewan's Steve Laycock, said he has never wavered in his opinion. 

“I said it before. I said it when I won the bronze medal at the Brier and when I lost the bronze-medal game,” said Gushue, “When I said it this time, I was being consistent. 
“I meant it. I stick by it. I’m not ashamed of what I said, because it is how I feel and how I’ve felt all along. 
“I’d only be ashamed if I didn’t stick by what I believe.”

He also went on VOCM radio and re-iterated his comments, telling listeners that while he was trying in the game, he wasn't emotionally invested. You can listen below.

Later in the interview, Gushue details just how silly the bronze medal format is using the past Scotties Tournament of Hearts as an example.

Gushue first made the comments in the Calgary Herald shortly after the contest ended. It was met by a response from Curling Canada's Al Cameron, who said the game is not held to make money but to provide consistency.

“As an organization, nobody’s making money off this and putting money in their pockets,’’ clarified CC Director of Communication and Media Relations Al Cameron. “The money made from all of the games goes right back into the development of the game, from the grassroots on to high-performance. 
“It’s all good for the game of curling. 
“A bronze-medal game is used at the Olympics, it’s used at the World Championships. Teams have to get the mindset that if they’re playing for Canada with a medal on the line, they need to be prepared to play like it means something.

While the World Championships used the same page-playoff format as the Brier, the Olympics do not. They proceed with two semi-finals and a final, making the idea of a bronze medal game logical.

The page system, of course, has just one semi-final which most would think means the loser of that semi would finish third.

Still, the game was a winner for ratings on television with 621,000 people tuning in.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Big numbers for TSN at the Brier

OK, so while Brad Gushue and I clearly don't like the bronze-medal game, a lot of other curling fans do. 

The match that the Newfoundland and Labrador skip called the "dumbest game in curling" drew a whopping 621,000 viewers, which is a huge number for an inconsequential game. It lends credence to why the CCA  Curling Canada wants to keep it around. 

And the final? Well how about 1.25 million viewers? That's massive and will be among the top audiences TSN gets for the entire year. 

Overall, the TV number for the Tim Hortons Brier were up over last year, not a big surprise considering 2014 was an Oympic year and the burnout factor was likely in place. 

The overall average for the week was 587,000 with 7.5 million Canadians watching at least part of the Brier. That's a 29 per cent increase from last year. Impressive in a country of 35 million. 

A few other highlights from the TSN press release:

·         Saturday night’s Semifinal featuring Brad Gushue vs. Pat Simmons attracted an average audience of 896,000 viewers, making it the most-watched sporting event of the night;

·         The Page Playoff (1 vs. 2) featuring Brad Jacobs vs. Brad Gushue attracted an average audience of 783,000 viewers;

·         The Page Playoff (3 vs. 4) featuring Pat Simmons vs. Steve Laycock attracted an average audience of 710,000 viewers.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Dacey calls out NS Curling Association

In a strongly worded Letter to the Editor that appeared in the Halifax Chronicle Herald, former Brier champion Mark Dacey has ripped the NSCA a new one, saying its done nothing to about the relegation system that saw the province miss its first Brier since 1927.

As a competitive men’s player and a former Brier champion, I can only say that I am appalled and embarrassed that a province that has been there from the first competition in 1927 (which Nova Scotia won) and has been in every one since is now sidelined. 
Even more appalling is the fact that our own curling association has no plan in place to assist competitive players with creating an action plan for a solution. Representatives hid behind closed doors while this competition went on and their only comment was no comment.
Dacey, who has about as much credibility as any curler in the Atlantic provinces, pushed the association to work with the competitive players to take a stand against the new system and what it intends to do to help out the competitive players.

I encourage the NSCA to come out from under its rock and make a statement on what it plans to do to get Nova Scotia men’s curling back on track.

You can read the entire letter here.

Your morning Brier Round-up

In the Canadian Press, Donna Spencer said Pat Simmons had been preparing for that final shot in the 11th just as soon as the 10th end concluded.

"That's the shot I wanted, Simmons said. "I told the boys in between the 10th and 11th 'we've seen that in-turn path a bunch'. I knew the weight there."

The Calgary Herald’s George Johnson recounted the end of the game and how it seemed to put a soft ending on a crazy week.

After a week of such tumult, such upheaval, the surprise, wrap-your-head-around-it, fashioned-by-the-curling-gods ending delivered a lovely purity of line:A draw to the button.  
And the final red rock, slowing ever so slightly as it approached the desired destination, nestling in there light as a soap bubble.  
A moment to take itall in, then the joint exploded in celebration. John Morris danced a jig in the rings. Pat Simmons, at the far end of the sheet, raised his arms in triumph.  
Every skip’s dream shot to win a Brier.

The great Terry Jones in the Sun got Nolan Thiessen’s take on the week, a crazy one that ended with a game that started slow but finished fast.
“I can’t believe that just happened,” said Theissen said, seconds after they celebrated and gathered at the home end for the traditional parade down to the trophies at the other end of the ice.  
“We were 2-3. We changed our skip. And we just won the Brier!  
“I can’t believe that happened. We put a rock on the button on the 11th end to win the Brier. It’s every front-ender’s dream,” he said of Simmons giving the rock to his sweepers, Rycroft and Thiessen.

The Calgary Sun’s Todd Saelhof brought up the key ingredient to this year’s Brier winners – adding John Morris, whether it was at skip or third 

Turns out Team Canada didn’t need Kevin Koe to defend its title. 
All it needed was another local super-curler, some brash decision-making and a gutsy effort in Sunday night’s final of the 2015 Brier at the Saddledome.  
Adding Chestermere fire captain John Morris to the Calgary Glencoe Club lineup, Pat Simmons, Carter Rycroft and Nolan Thiessen completed the rare defence of the Canadian men’s curling championship with a 6-5 triumph over Northern Ontario. 
 “Hard to describe,” said an elated Simmons, rushing to hug his family in the stands immediately after the post-win party broke out with 11,846 fans. “That was pretty special.”

In the Globe and Mail, Eric Duhatschek praised the talent of Pat Simmons, especially down the stretch.

Simmons, curling beautifully, scored three in the ninth end and then made a pressure-packed shot to the button draw in the 11th end to squeak out a 6-5 win over Brad Jacobs’ Northern Ontario team, culminating a week of high drama and extraordinary shot-making at the Scotiabank Saddledome. 

He also added in the waning attendance figures, compared to the last time the big rock show was in Calgary.

Even with a hometown team in action twice Saturday and again in Sunday’s final, overall attendance was well down compared to the three other times the event had previously been held at the Saddledome. Sunday’s final produced the largest crowd of the week – 11,846 – almost 100,000 down from the 246,126 spectators that passed through the turnstiles back in 2009, or the last time they held the event here. 
The Brier attendance record of 281,985 was set in Edmonton in 2005during an NHL lockout and before the constantly improving television coverage made it easier for a lot of committed fans to stay at home and watch from their couches.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Bronze medal contest "the dumbest game in curling"

It's hard to disagree with Brad Gushue's assessment of the game that he'll have to play Sunday morning against Saskatchewan. It's the bronze medal game which is loathed by most of the teams in the Brier, who, after losing out on a shot at the top prize, would rather just sleep in.

After a disappointing loss in the semi-final game against Team Canada, Gushue summarized his feelings of the bronze medal game to Donna Spencer of the Canadian Press:

Gushue will face Saskatchewan on Sunday for the bronze medal, which he called the "dumbest game in curling." 
The loser of the semifinal in the Page playoff once received the bronze medal at the Brier without having to play for it, but a bronze-medal game was introduced in 2011. 
"We'll come out and play hard — maybe hungover — but hard," Gushue said.
In most sports, the team that loses the semi-final contest ends up third. But in curling, you have to go and play the team that already lost the 3-4 game. It's kind of illogical. It's like saying that whichever team loses the final should have to play the winner of the bronze medal game for second place.

Strangely, when this game was added to the schedule, Curling Canada officials told me this was not about money. I found it hard to believe back then and still do now, at least that part of the reason for this isn't about cash. I'm just not really sure why this game exists. I can't find a reason that makes sense.

There is money on the line, supposedly, but I've heard from past participants that it's generally agreed that the cash is split between the two teams.

It could be for television, but I've had folks from that side tell me that after a long week of hours and hours of coverage, the last thing they want to do is produce another game. One point to add here is that this game does get a significant audience which may justify its existence.

So today's question: are you planning to watch the bronze medal game?