Saturday, September 22, 2012

Mixed doubles gets is own championship

So just how are we going to pick a mixed doubles winner in this country? Jim Bender deals with that topic in his piece in the Winnipeg Sun, talking with Sean Grassie, who was half the team that represented Canada at the 2009 World Championship.

The Canadian Curling Association has decided to hold a separate championship for mixed doubles this year, which is a good and overdue move. In the past, Canada’s representative in this world championship has been half the Canadian mixed winners. That hasn’t always gone over smoothly.

“I like the idea of having a separate championship because you don’t have the problem of deciding who gets to go and who’s not going,” Grassie said. “That makes it tough on a team.”
Grassie was forced to make that decision just after celebrating his victory with the other three. While Grassie has never said as much, it did create some hard feelings with those left behind.

So far, there are no details about the first Canadian championship but it’s expected to come in an announcement this week. According to a previous CCA statement, teams can be comprised of players from different provinces.

Mixed doubles, of course, came to be because curling’s world powers believed it could be added to the Olympic roster as a second discipline. It's been a part of the Continental Cup since its inception. To me, it still seems goofy. I know those who’ve played it say it’s fun and different, but seeing people get up and chase a rock down the ice to sweep it seems silly and a bit demeaning to a sport that already gets laughed at by those who don’t know what’s going on.

Wouldn’t it be better just to add a straight mixed event, you know, the one that has four players on a team? I realize that that means an added expense of two players per squad, but really, is it that much more expensive? This is the cash machine known as the Olympics remember.

Friday, September 21, 2012

"Competition proves fierce among national women’s curling heavies"

Great to see that the Edmonton Journal's Norm Cowley is going to be penning a regular curling column. The first entry of Rock On is here.

However. . .

Not so sure that whomever wrote this headline really thought through the double entendre.

"Competition proves fierce among national women’s curling heavies"

I'm not sure many of the women would be too happy being known as a "heavy."

If I was a braver man, I might offer up a few more lines.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Olympics done, clubs look to attract members

Here's a solid story in the Richmond Review that details the struggles and successes of the Richmond Curling Centre as it seeks new members. It's probably a story that could be written about just almost any curling club in the country.

“We enjoyed a huge increase in participation after the Olympics when it seemed everybody wanted to try curling,” says Doug Bradley, the longtime manager at the Richmond Curling Centre.
“Our rental business was up 25 per cent over night and league curling was up probably 10 per cent or more.,” he says. “We were packed solid.”

But the surge felt after the Olympics is waning and clubs are looking for ways to get younger folks in the building and keep them. The club in Richmond has found some innovative ways.

For some, time is another obstacle.
A typical eight- to 10-end game requires two to three hours to complete. But more notable is that fewer people—in today’s fast-paced world—are willing to commit to a full season. As a result, Thompson says curling centres are exploring such options as a 10-week season.
“If they like it, then they can commit to another 10 weeks,” she says, noting that it also helps that the games are played on the same night and at the same venue.
“It’s also a relatively inexpensive game to get into,” says Thompson.

Seems like the Richmond Curling Club is working hard to find the answers. But this is something this blog has looked at in the past: how to turn the excitement and attention from the Olympics into a program that gets -- and perhaps more importantly -- keeps curlers on the ice.

In my humble opinion, we need help from the CCA and provincial associations to continue and strengthen the awareness program for the sport and bring it to areas where curlers aren't, i.e. don't preach to the choir (how about advertising on something other than curling broadcasts?). Canada's ethnic background is changing and the need to appeal to these new Canadians is vital.

There's also a need for clubs to break the pattern and allow new ideas such as the 10-week program offered by the Richmond CC.

Anyone with any success stories to share?

Tap-dancing, field goal kicking likely out for de Cruz

A Post Media story from Kevin Mitchell details a freaky tough break for a Swiss curler who was attempting to help out a stranded motorist.

Swiss skip Peter de Cruz and his team were in Saskatoon preparing for the Point Optical spiel. Out for dinner, they came across a woman who had driven over a cement barrier and they helped her lift the front of the car off it. Unfortunately the barrier ended up on de Cruz’s toe and he ended up on crutches. His toe appeared all bloody and it's extremely painful, putting his participation in the big cashspiel in doubt. 

"The (barrier) wasn't attached to the ground and it flew at my legs. I caught it right on the toe," he recalled. "It hurt alot -- a lot of pain. I took my shoe and sock off and it was bleeding everywhere.

If de Cruz can't start, coach and retired player Claudio Pescia will suit up for the Swiss rink. 

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

“You can’t smoke cigarettes or drink beer on the ice anymore."

There aren’t too many curling clubs that can boast of being around for a century, but the Vancouver Curling Club is celebrating its centennial in 2012. A lot has changed for the club over the years, including the new facility it inherited after the 2010 Olympics. 

Now the club is trying to recruit new members for the upcoming season. As Sam Corea, one of the club’s volunteers said, perhaps disappointingly, there have been a few changes over the years.

“You can’t smoke cigarettes or drink beer on the ice anymore,” said Corea. “And today’s ice is so well maintained, you can’t blame the ice ifyou’re not playing well.”

Dang. And I was so close to signing up. Not sure if that’s a great sales pitch, but there’s a nice article here about the club.

Monday, September 17, 2012

King rink earns green fee money

Jamie King and his part-timers took top spot at The Shoot-Out at the Saville Centre with an 8-1 victory over Charley Thomas, as Con Griwkowsky reports. Blake MacDonald skipped the team while Scott Pfeifer threw third and Jeff Erickson, second. King put up the first stones and said the lineup will stay intact for their next round of golf cashspiel.
“The only rule we made is if we have a lineup and we sin aspiel, we’re not switching until we don’t win a spiel,” said King. “So Vernon (in two weeks), here it is.” 

Meanwhile, Kaitlyn Lawes, filling in for Jennifer Jones who is recovering from knee surgery, skipped the Horseshoe Valley Winnipeg team to a win on the women’s side.
“Obviously I wish Jennifer was here,” said Lawes. “She hasbeen super supportive. We’ve phone her every day. She’s so excited for us andvery happy we were in the playoff and into the final game.”
Stories here and here

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Holland looking for confidence with new team

This morning both Edmonton papers have stories on Amber Holland and her new rink, which qualified for the playoffs at The Shoot-Out at the Saville Centre. For those unaware, Holland dusted her Canadian championship rink of a couple of years back and brought in a new lineup that features Jolene Campbell, Dailene Sivertson and Brooklyn Lemon.

It’s kind of shocking, to say the least, to leave a team that so recently won a Canadian championship. Perhaps even more surprising to leave one that had a pre-trials spot and Sport Canada funding. Norm Cowley got Holland to dish on the departure.

Holland gave up a lot when she chose to quit playing with her previous rink of sisters Kim and Tammy Schneider and Heather Kalenchuk. She walked away from an Olympic pre-trials berth next fall and $18,000 in Sport Canada funding.“A pre-trials spot obviously was the harder thing to give up,” she said. “The carding and the money, I never played the sport for money. I probably never will. I’m not going to get rich off of it. I know that.“I play it to have those goals — get back to the Scotties and the Olympics. Those things are why I played this game and try to be the best player I can be out there.“I just felt that, for me, I was at a stage where after seven years, I felt I needed to do something different. ... There’s lots of things within a team that need to stay within a team, so you’re not going to get any dirt from me,” she continued. “But it’s one of those things you have the feeling where you want the confidence to play with the team you’re playing with. After the Scotties this year, I just felt I lost a little bit of confidence in me ... .

There's a cryptic comment about not revealing any dirt, which makes you wonder if there's more to the story here. (Or it could just be Amber being Amber -- she has a wry sense of humour). Of the other three former teammates, Kim and Tammy Schneider and Heather Kalenchuk, only Kim Schneider is playing competitively this year. 

You can read the Journal story here and the Con Grikowsky’s story from the Sun here.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Rare footage of the Antarctic Curling Trials

And now, for all you who have nothing better to do with the next five minutes, 17 seconds of your life, I present Pingu Goes Curling. (Watch around the 2:40 mark for Pingu to do the Stoughton Spin-O-Rama).

The solution to all curling problems is beer

Con Grikowsky tells the story of how Jamie King was talked out of retiring to head up a new rink made up of some talented rock-tossers including Blake MacDonald and Scott Pfeifer. Lead Jeff Ericsson rounds out the team. And all it took was some cold, brown liquid. 

“Beer,” said King.
 The new rink is putting together a WCT-lite schedule of just four events before Christmas. Seems the tour is more focused on where they can get some quality golf in between time on the ice. (Not a bad plan, if I do say so myself.)
“We had our tee times booked before we did ourcurling schedule, although Blake’s in charge of the golfing times so I don’tknow if it is booked,” said King. “We’re golfing in a few nice places – Vernonin a couple of weeks, Kamloops in a month.” 

Friday, September 14, 2012

Shorty and Shoot-out underway

The first stop on the women’s WCT is on this week in Edmonton and there is a lot going on, especially with Heather Nedohin’s Canadian champs in the house.
Norm Cowley details the champs’ position heading into the season, with the fact that the next 15 months is all planned out.

Kelly Scott is going to have to change the water in the team cooler. What other explanation can she give for this rash of babies being born to members of her team? Con Grikowsky has the story of the rotating lineups for the BC squad that’s playing in this week’s Shoot-Out in Edmonton.
Jeanna Schraeder is back in after maternity leave and Sasha Carter is at home giving birth to Son No. 2.
Last year, when Scott got all the way to the Scotties final, she also had to re-order the lineup sheet and get used to new teammates. Part of that was the illness that swept through the competition.

“In a sense, we’re king of back to that again,” said Scott.“We’ve got to kinda learn one another again. There’s some sense of comfort inhaving a past teammate (Schraeder), but at the same time we have new goals.It’ll be fun.”


 Meanwhile in Ontario, the teams are gathering for the Shorty spiel in Brockville, the annual event named in honour of the great icemaker.
As Ottawa Sun’s and Hogline Curling proprietor Joe Paviasays, the stars are gathering at the event including Brad Gushue, Kevin Koe and Brad Jacobs along with Sherry Middaugh, Rachel Homan and Eve Muirhead.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Geezers Going For Gold!

Well, OK, they might not yet be classified as Geezers, but the Bluenosers are back. Colleen Jones, Mary-Anne Arsenault, Kim Kelly and Nancy Delahunt have reformed with an eye on getting to the Olympic Trials.
Monty Mosher details the how the re-united squad, that includes 25-year-old Jennifer Baxter at lead and presumably in charge of the defibrillator (Delahunt is team manager and alternate), is going with a heavy competitive schedule.
This time, however, it will be Arsenault calling the shots with Jones playing third.
"It's been great, lots of laughs," Arsenault said this week as the team prepared for a season-opening bonspiel this weekend in Sackville, N.B. "Certainly there is a familiarity to everything. I'm trying to expand Colleen's aggressiveness and she's trying to rein in my aggressiveness. I think somewhere we'll meet in the middle and it will work.""I think it's awesome," said Jones. "It feels great out there. We have this comfort together that comes from having spent over a decade together."
Jones said the advanced age of the squad shouldn't have a bearing on their performance. As she pointed out, the men's side if filled with Old Coots.
Jones said she doesn't care how old the team members are. She said Kevin Martin, Glenn Howard and Jeff Stoughton have shown that older men can command their sport nationally and internationally.
"That to me just screams that curling is a sport where the longevity and experience and the kind of wisdom that comes with age is a really positive thing," she said. "Watching the men has been the epiphany. . . that there is no reason for us not to succeed."

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Mike Harris choose Swiss Alps over Don Mills Ave

Mike Harris, former silver medallist, former TV commentator and former golf professional at The Donalda Club, is packing up and heading to Europe.
Harris resigned his post at the posh Toronto club to assume a new role as the head of a European high-performance curling centre, located in Champery, Switzerland.
In the National Post,  Harris talks about his decision to make the switch: 

“For me, it was one of those tipping points,” Harris said. “Either I stick with this course for the rest of my career, or I can try a new path. From a career standpoint, I’ve never really worked in the curling world.”
Harris won't be spending as much time with the top-level Euro teams, but rather those who are just half a notch below that lot:

“There’s 26 countries that compete at the European championships and only eight of those, or so, end up at the Worlds or Olympics,” Harris said. “So there’s 18 other countries that have curling … not your traditional curling countries, that have national team programs, that really don’t have [good] ice conditions or coaching available to them on a regular basis."
I guess that also rules out his return to the airwaves as a commentator for the Grand Slams on Sportsnet.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

“The (World Curling Tour) screwed us." Southwest Women's event folds

Steve Green in the London Free Press has the story of one of the longest-running and most popular women's cashspiels ending due to what it says is bad planning by the World Curling Tour.

“The (World Curling Tour) screwed us,” said Lynn Baker, who chaired the event in recent years. “We were here first and the WCT put themselves on either side of us. We’ve had the same weekend for 15 years, but the girls can’t play three weekends in a row with all that travelling. It’s just not possible.“We’ve had a lot of great teams here over the years, including from Europe and China, and the city and curling in this area is losing because of this. But everything has a shelf life and this seemed to be the right time to say goodbye and leave on a good note.”
This year's Slams are in Calgary Oct. 7-10 and then Winnipeg Oct. 21-24. The Southwestern Ontario Women's Charity Cashspiel has traditionally been held in that middle week, but no more. The event raised more than $200,000 for breast cancer research over its run. There are no plans to shift it to a different part of the year or even talk of reviving it.

Monday, September 10, 2012

New CCA videos. Only takes 4 seconds for obligatory beer shot to appear!

The CCA has put together a nifty series of six You Tube videos that deal with all the positive aspects of the Roaring Game. They have these in their titles: "Curling: Meet People and Play With Friends" and "Curling: Play At Any Age."

The pieces were done at the charity summer spiel at the Toronto Cricket, Skating and Curling Club and feature some faces you'll recognize (including a famous curling photographer) and many you won't.

Now the question is who is going to watch them? It's great to produce these and post them but if it's only curlers who are going to see them, then it's a wasted effort. It would be great if clubs could forward these to potential new members or show them at open houses, etc.

Here's another idea: maybe have some translated or subtitled into different languages so you can start expanding the demographic reach.

In this example below, there's lots of social stuff shown, including the obligatory beer shot which appears at oh, four seconds in. Cheers! You can find all six at the CCA's You Tube channel.


Lawn Bowls On Ice

Here’s a neat story written about curling in New Zealand. The writer seems to have taken a fancy to the Roaring Game. 
Curling is known as "lawn bowls on ice", but I think that description gravely undersells its charm as well as its competitiveness - something that gradually creeps up on me and my teammates, just as the chill seeps into my coat and through my beanie and gloves.
It's always funny for those of us who have played the game for so long to read the first impressions of those who are getting their first try at it, especially those on the other side of the globe. This writer, in fact, admits that the New Zealanders can't hold a candle to one of the world's great curling powers:
Our cousins across the Tasman excel at this sport.
Um, well, ya, sort of I guess. In any respect, it's nice that the sport is getting some ink down there.