Sunday, March 13, 2011

This and that from the Brier

Some thoughts after the London Brier:

* The bronze medal game certainly isn’t a popular contest as far as the curlers are concerned. All four teams that made the playoffs spoke out against the game, calling it dumb. The CCA handed out a seven-point memo saying why it was brought in and this paragraph caught my attention: “Contrary to the popular belief of some, it will make little or no difference to ticket revenue, even though a person can still purchase a single game ticket, but it does make the weekend ticket package more attractive.” Not sure I understand the logic there. It would seem there’s a value attached to every ticket and so the 7,000 people who attended obviously paid something towards their seat.

* Congrats to Jim Henderson of Sweep, the late, great curling magazine. He won his third Scotty Harper Award at the Brier. Not bad for a photographer.

* So who was that guy in the patch last night who had people lined up to have their picture taken with him? Why none other than Jack Cox, the Ontario flag-waver who was put into a harness this week. He was as popular as most of the curlers and there were even T-shirts made up with his likeness on it.

* Speaking of the Patch, Chairman Peter Inch told me today there were just under 3,000 there last night. In what may be the only criticism I had of this event, the lineups to get a beer were ridiculous, taking about 20-30 minutes. A guy can get thirsty in that time.

* London won’t break any attendance records but it certainly did have a great atmosphere all week. And it will finish in the black, which is always a good way to end things. I don’t suspect the CCA will be getting rich from its take, but it’s better than the last time the big shootout was in Ontario. I’m thinking we’ll be back here within the next decade.

* Finally a Mea Culpa on my last post on the CCA directing the Olympic Trials to Toronto (which shows why I need to review my Journalism 101 texts). So it seems the CCA DID approach the Toronto Curling Association and ask them to put in a bid. And it seems the TCA DID get together to try and put in a bid. So kudos to both. But the real Bad Guys in all of this were the folks at Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment. Seems they weren’t willing to move the Leafs or the Marlies from the Air Canada Centre or the Ricoh Centre for the Trials and they weren’t willing to punt the Royal Winter Fair from the Direct Energy complex where it’s been a fixture and would be held at the same time as the Trials. Apparently no other facilities were appropriate for the event.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

CCA makes the wrong choice for Trials



You’re kidding, right?

The next Canadian Curing Trials will be held in Winnipeg, the CCA announced on Wednesday to just about no one’s surprise. Winnipeg is a safe curling centre. Just like Edmonton and Regina and Brandon. To some extent, even Halifax. Those cities hosted the previous Trials.

By choosing Winnipeg to hold the biggest event in curling – the fourth Western city in five events, surprise, surprise -- the CCA took the sure and safe route. There’s little doubt this will be a huge success. Winnipeg has an almost spotless record with big curling events (there was that little blip in 1998 let’s not forget) and will likely put on a good show.

But this decision also showed just how myopic the CCA is in its vision for the game.

Either that, or how secure it wants to be at the bank.

To be sure, the Canadian Curling Trials, which will determine the two teams that will represent Canada at the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia, is a cash cow for the CCA, an event with which it can generate funds to operate the many other programs it runs. The association asked for a minimum fee of $750,000 for hosting the big bonspiel. And it gets half of any profits after that too. So it makes sense to put this shootout into a corral where it’s a sure thing. But this event – and only this event – is a sure thing no matter where you hold it.

And that’s the point the governing body has clearly missed -- you could hold this in just about any centre in Canada (OK maybe not Quebec) and fill the building up to the rafters.

So why not take a chance? This was an opportunity, a genuine door opening to have really impacted the game. Instead of trying the double-takout and roll for five, it elected the open draw for one. With five sweepers on a 12-foot sheet of ice.

Since the bottom line for this is just about guaranteed, why not get creative and drop this into Toronto? You want to grow the game? You want to move up to the big time? You want to attract culturally diverse audiences?

That would happen in Toronto. Ain’t going to happen in Winnipeg. The fact that this is tied to the Olympics makes it work. Folks would come out in droves, maybe only for one draw or two but that’s all you need. And by the way, there are more curling clubs and more curlers in Toronto than any city in Canada. You’re already starting from a pretty good base.

The CCA has dreamed about hitting the Toronto market for years with the Brier but has always been a little shy. While the Brier might still not work, there’s little doubt the Trials would be a success. It’s that Olympics thing. And then you have, finally, the roaring game on display at its finest, in the largest media market in the country.

Now maybe Toronto has to get off its duff and be proactive and get a bid committee together to make this happen, but the CCA could have at least encouraged that.

Instead we have Winnipeg, which will be a success, no doubt. But to me it says the CCA is more interested in making money than growing the game of curling.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Scotties wrap up, Brier preview

So some notes on the wrap up of the Scotties and the upcoming Timmies Brier:

* The Scotties final was a wonderful game filled with all sorts of stuff: great shots, misses and a dramatic ending. That resulted in a huge television audience of around 1.2 million. Not a huge surprise there, really considering the high-profile Team Canada and a prime time start. But don’t forget this was up against the Academy Awards. The bigger surprise, to me, was the 870,000 that the bronze medal game drew. I have to admit to being stunned at that, although having an Ontario team is always a help because of the huge population base in that region.

* Charlottetown proved to be a tough place to leave. I’ve said that often when I’ve been there in the summer, but not so much in winter. A major winter storm hit late Monday, cancelling all the flights and forcing a major rebooking that meant some folks didn’t get home until three days after their scheduled departure. Amber Holland’s team, that was to fly out of Moncton, ended up spending an extra day at Chez Howard, sleeping on various beds and couches in Russ and Wendy’s suddenly converted Bed and Breakfast. I had a couple of extra days in PEI, which wasn’t awful considering there was great chowder at the Olde Dublin and great accommodation at Rodd’s Charlotttetown.

* Speaking of travel, Jennifer Jones didn’t stay home for long. She’s going to be in Toronto on Sunday conducting a clinic at the Bayvew Country Club and will likely head down to London after that.

* By the way, it was a One-Two-Three finish for Equalizer broom heads at the Scotties. Just sayin’.

* I really liked Kelly Scott’s words on the ice conditions in Charlottetown. She agreed that it was some of the trickiest ice she’d played on in all her Scotties, but then said, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It means teams have to work harder and smarter. More team should understand that.

* I was in London last night conducting some interviews that will appear on the TSN Tim Hortons Brier preview show on Saturday at 7 p.m. One of the best stories I got was from Brad Gushue. I asked him where he keeps his gold medal and he said he has no one resting place for it and admitted that one time, for about a week, he couldn’t find it. Turns out it was in his wife’s bedside table.

* There will be a Weeks in the Brier this year, but won’t be me (obviously). My distant cousin Blair Weeks will be the coach of the PEI team. I understand that the four guys on this team may not exactly be the best of friends. They spent much of last week practicing on the arena ice at the Scotties.

* So the Twitter account of the Imposter Kevin Martin (@fakekevinmartin) has reached the MSM with this fine story by Mario Annicchiarico.If you haven’t seen it yet, log on and follow as it can be pretty funny. This is one of my favourite Tweets: Thought about using Ferbey's number system for weight calls; realized it won't work for us because Ferbey's a bit of a knob

* I've been chuckling about this NDP-inspired petition to Keep Northern Ontario in the Brier. Actually, aside from some idle chatter, there's no official talk about removing the NONT entry. So the petition is sort of like on to Keep the CN Tower in Toronto.

Finally, the picks for the Brier:
Alberta: Kevin Martin admits his team hasn’t played as much this season as most but did ramp it up in the last month. Hard to bet against them.
Ontario: Glenn Howard always plays well at Ontario Briers – two of his three wins have been in his home province – and he said he loves the support he gets.
Manitoba: Jeff Stoughton has had a pretty solid year and his toughest game so far may have been to get out of his province where he had to beat Mike McEwen. I like this team, especially with Jon Mead in the lineup.
Next Tier
Newfoundland and Labrador: Brad Gushe admitted to me that his team has struggled somewhat this year and he’ll be opting for a defensive style this week.
Northern Ontario: Brad Jacobs may be hard pressed to repeat his great performance of last year, but it won’t be due to a lack of hard work.
B.C.: To me, the sleeper in this field. Overlook them at your own peril.
The Rest:
Sorry gang, I don’t see anyone else from this field making a run.