Sunday, March 31, 2013

The numbers don't lie (not all the time anyway)

I’ve never been a big believer in the stats the CCA and WCF keep – I’m more a Gerry Guerts disciple. I've just seen far too many of the scorers in action over the years to have faith in how they determine a score. But no matter how you slice them, the numbers put up by Team Jacobs in the opener agains China at the world championships are pretty impressive.

The WCF ciphers had the skip at 100 per cent after eight ends and gave him a score of 96 when all was said and done.

Here’s what he told Mario Annicchiarico of the Victoria Times-Colonist after winning 7-6, a score that doesn’t reflect the dominance of the Canadian squad.

“I’d really like to see the percentages from that game. I think we were probably pretty high,” said Jacobs, who returns for Finland this morning at 9 then Scotland at 7 p.m. “We curled really well, made all the shots we hadto make, capitalized on the misses.” 
The percentages told the tale, with Jacobs curling 100 per centinto the ninth end. By game’s end he had curled 96 per cent, Fry was at 95,E.J. Harnden at 94 and Ryan Harnden finished at 89 per cent. As a team, theywere a collective 94 per cent.

Jacobs said the team wasn’t nervous in its first contest on the international stage with the Maple Leaf on the back. In fact, it was just the opposite, as Monte Stewart of the Canadian Press reported.

“I thought we would be a little more nervous than we were, because we never played in the worlds before, and everyone’s there, and all eyes on us cheering for us,” said Jacbobs.“It was wild, but we weren’t nervous. But because we weren’t nervous, it allowed us to come out and play our game. It was awesome all around.” 

Interesting to note is that the world championships are featuring the same stones used at the Brier. You remember, those ones that caused all the whining from players as they tried to figure them out. It will be interesting to see if that will give Jacobs any sort of advantage as other squads try to match up the rocks that didn’t seem to be matched.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

A bronze consolation

For Rachel Homan, it's going to be a trip to the bronze-medal game -- the one contest no one as competitive as her really wants to be in.
The Homan rink lost 8-7 to Scotland's Eve Muirhead in a game the skipper figured her team should have won, according to the Canadian Press.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Yes, you can bet on the men's worlds

Here, courtesy of are the odds to win the 2013 World Men's Curling Championship
Canada                                     7/4
Scotland                                   7/2
Norway                                     5/1
Sweden                                    5/1
China                                        10/1
Switzerland                               12/1
USA                                         15/1
Czech Republic                         25/1
Denmark                                   25/1
Russia                                      25/1
Finland                                     33/1
Japan                                       50/1

If you'd like to throw a bob or two down on Brad Jacobs or perhaps take a flyer on Team Japan, you can go here. I think I like Edin from Sweden at 5/1.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Homan defeats ancient German skip

Rachel Homan and her rink are hanging around near the top of the leaderboard, keeping playoff chances alive and – for the first time – commenting on the difficult conditions.

After beating Germany and their 102-year-old skip Andrea Schopp this morning, Homan noted in this Canadian Press story that the team was battling the streaky frozen pebble.

"Maybe once or twice the lines tricked us and that was pretty frustrating but it was a really well-played game by my team," Homan said. "We're just trying to hang in there with the ice and we pulled itout."

This, to my knowledge, is the first time she’s acknowledged the fact that the ice in Riga, Latvia is causing problems for the curlers. So far, she’s been pretty mum about what seems to be (from the comfort of my TV anyway), some tricky ice.

I think Major Morris has probably drummed into the gals that there’s nothing you can do about the ice other than deal with it. Pretty smart thinking and something that we didn’t see from all teams at the Brier.

It goes to show you just how good the conditions are at most major events these days. When you get something that has runs in it or rocks that aren’t matched, it can throw players off.

Homan’s win over German skip Schopp – who won her first world championship a year before Homan was born – had the team scored at 83 per cent while Homan was at 86, much better than Schopp’s 73.

packed crowd few spectators seemed to love the Canadian win.

A few dozen fans were on hand for the morning draw at a quiet Volvo Sports Center. A pocket of flag-waving Canadian fans cheered on the national champions from the Ottawa Curling Club.
In any case, Homan doesn’t have time to worry. She and her Canadian mates simply can’t lose another game if they hope to have a shot at winning this shoot-out.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Quebec doubles champs a good story

Readers of this blog know I’m not a big fan of the two-person-throw-then-get-up-and-chase-after-your-rock-and-sweep-it competition known as Mixed Doubles, but it’s hard not to like the feel-good story of the Quebec duo that won the first Canadian trials and will represent Canada at the, ahem, world championship in New Brunswick.

Robert Desjardins and Isabelle Néron went 4-3 in the round robin and then caught fire in the playoffs to earn the overall title.

What made the win special was Neron, who was coming back to the game after a three-year absence, and for good reason.

It was an especially sweet victory for Néron, who was returning to the ice this season after spending the past three years battling breast cancer. 
"It's incredible, that's the only word I can say — incredible," marveled the 43-year-old Neron, who previously represented Quebec at the 2008 Canadian mixed championship in Calgary, playing third for Simon Dupuis. "Just to be in the playoffs was my gift because of the last three years. There was no pressure. Every new game is a gift. I'm already so happy — just throw the rocks, and if it works, it's a bonus."

Desjardins, who played in two Briers, actually was more excited about his latest accomplishment.

"I'm totally excited," said Desjardins. "It's the best thing in my curling career. I've been to two Briers, but, man, I just won the first Canadian mixed doubles championship. Nobody else can ever say that. It's unbelievable." 
You can read the rest of the story (which mysteriously reads a lot like an Al Cameron piece) in the Island Sports News. 

Monday, March 18, 2013

Homan has great strategy for rest of world championships

Rachel Homan returned to her winning ways on Sunday at the women’s world championship, with a pair of victories, one Sunday and one Monday. And, she brilliantly summed up the team’s strategy for the rest of the week to the Citien’s Gord Holder:

“It’s really important for us to keep on winning,” Homansaid. “We want to try and make the playoffs first and then take it from there.” 

 Seriously, the team is progressing and understanding the conditions in Latvia. (One could go so far as to say, adapting rather than whining about them – not that anyone would do that.) 

In this story, Canadian Press had this quote from Homan talking about the team’s burgeoning confidence.

"We're making some good shots out here and when we'remissing them we know why and we're learning from it," Homan said. "Soit's just going to keep getting better and better hopefully." 

Canada gets a date with the United States in its next game in what should be a good contest. 

Yorkton superfan hits Latvia

So what would possess a guy from Yorkton, Sask., to travel half-way around the world to watch the women’s world championships in Riga. Latvia?

The punchline might be “Have you ever been to Yorkton?”

But seriously, curling fans are like no others. They will go far and wide to enjoy the roaring game and Gord Holder of the Ottawa Citizen found one such individual here, cheering on not only the Canadians, but all gals.

Hans Madsen really stoodout in the crowd on Sunday morning, and not just because there were only about50 spectators for the early draw on the third day of the women’s world curlingchampionship. 
What set the 62-year-oldresident of Yorkton, Sask., apart was his jacket: bright red and bearing mapleleaf logos and “Canada” across the back. 
The Canadian curling teamof Ottawa’s Rachel Homan, Emma Miskew, Alison Kreviazuk and Lisa Weagle werenowhere to be seen, though. What, a member of the United States team wondered,were Madsen and his wife, Judy, doing there? 
“Yeah, but all the girlsare curling, and they put on a good show,” Madsen said after watching the U.S.lose 6-5 to Germany and his native Denmark fall 6-4 against Japan.

Now it's not like Madsen won't stand out in Latvia, not only because of his colourful display but because, ah, um, all the fans who have jammed in to the arena. It's not exactly a sell-out. 

And, hey . . . I have been to Yorkton and it’s very nice. 

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Help! I've fallen and I can't get up

Actually, Alison Kreviazuk did get up and she's fine but in the second end Team Canada's opening game against Scotland (First game against Scotland? Who did this draw?) the second slipped and fell, burning a Canadian stone.

That's kind of the way it went for the Homan rink in the opening contest of the women's world championships as they lost to Eve Muirhead 6-4.

You can see highlights of the game, including the burning of the stone, here. 

Aside from the burned stone, the Canadian team also had more bad luck as the Ottawa Citizen's Gord Holder noted.

In the ninth end, a stone by third Emma Miskew hit something on the ice surface of the Volvo Sports Center and deflected off target, followed moments later by a draw attempt from Homan that was too heavy. Another stolen point and a 6-4 lead for Scotland. 
Skip Eve Muirhead later made a hit with her final stone of the 10th end, running the Canadian champions out of rocks and into some kind of shell shock. 
“That’s the way the game goes sometimes,” Homan said. “Just learn from it and move on. That (ninth end) wasn’t the only mistake we made, that was for sure.”

The Canadian Press has sent Gregory Strong to Riga to cover the championships. His story offers up quotes from Coach Earle as well as the skipper, who shot just 73 per cent in the game.

"We made several mistakes, probably way more than we normally make," Homan said. "We'll learn from them and play much better next game." 
Homan shot just 73 per cent on the day, well behind Muirhead at 92 per cent. Scotland shot 81 per cent as a team to 74 per cent for Canada. 
"It might be a little nerves," said Canadian coach Earle Morris. "We would not expect to have that happen again. But I was really proud of how they were able to fight back. 
"They held their composure and then we just had a little tough luck in the ninth end, gave up a steal and that was the game."

The Mail Online also has a short recap of the game along with some glossy pics! You can find that story here.  

Mixed Double non-Championship underway in Leduc

The Canadian Mixed Doubles Championship Trials – make sure you don’t call it a championship – are underway in Leduc, Alta., and Norm Cowley has a feature on the what is probably the highest-profile team in the competition, Mark Dacey and his wife Heather Smith-Dacey.

The championship trials are more or less a new experience for everyone and are a bit of a second thought, as Dacey explained:

TheNova Scotia champions’ only experience playing mixed doubles was eight games attheir provincials, plus lots of practice. When their respective men’s and women’s rinks lost out in the playdowns, they turned their focus to mixed doubles to see how they stack up against some of the other top pairs in Canada. 
“Especially,if it’s got potential to be in the Olympics eventually, we might as well seeearly on if we’re a contender or a pretender,” said Mark. “I think we’re a contender, but I guess this weekend will give us that information.”

The championship trials represent the first time Canada has held an official competition to determine its representative for the world championships. In the past, Canada has just slapped together a team which was probably why it fared so poorly.

“It’s a totally different game that requires different skills,” Smith-Dacey said about mixed doubles, compared to regular mixed curling. “They haven’t given the teams any experience, so how do you expect them to (do well). If we made it tothe worlds, we might not have done well either.” 
The Daceys were supposed to represent Canada in 2010 at Chelyabinsk, Russia, but the Iceland volcano erupting interfered with their travel plans. They won’thave a problem getting to the worlds at Fredericton, N.B., from April 13-20 if they win the trials.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Report: Pigs seen flying as Citizen sends reporter to cover curling

Ottawa seems to be excited about the prospect of a winning sports team for once (that was an intended shot at the local hockey team) and so its main rag, the Citizen took note. The talented Gord Holder drew the short straw was shipped over to Latvia to cover the Rachel Homan rink’s attempt at winning a world championship. 

If that sounds unusual, well. . . . it is. I can’t remember the last time an Ottawa paper sent a reporter to a curling event other than the City of Ottawa bonspiel. The town has had a few moments of curling glory -- there was, um, ah, John Morris winning the world junior and Bryan Cochrane's whistle at the Brier.

But even the Homan team was surprised that there was a scribbler from their town. 

Holder, a wonderful writer, talks about how the team has learned to deal with adversity, recounting how the rink handled the famous fifth-end burned stone by Lisa Weagle. 

The most recent tough spot for the team of late didn't come on the ice but was simply trying to get to Riga

Overall, this could be the longest curling story ever to appear in the Citizen and it’s worth the read. 

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Jacobs team forced to listen to long speeches

Not surprisingly, the Brad Jacobs team received a hero's welcome upon their return to Sault Ste. Marie. They were greeted at the airport by a large throng and then, as this report shows, there was a more formal reception where the team had to suffer through was lauded by local dignitaries.

The aptly headlined story on this piece tells more details.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Brier TV numbers slip but still impressive

The television numbers are in for the Brier and while they’re solid, the audience for the final has to be a bit disappointing. For the first time in recent memory the championship game didn’t crack one million viewers on TSN.

The match-up between Manitoba’s Jeff Stoughton and eventual winner Brad Jacobs of Northern Ontario topped out at 914,000.

That means that the final of the Scotties out-drew the Brier this year. The women’s final drew 
1,057,000. While that’s happened before, it is pretty rare. And it also came on a night when the Scotties was up against the Academy Awards, usually one of the biggest draws of the television year.

Part of the reason for the low Brier number could be the teams. When a rink from audience-rich Southern Ontario is in the final, there is usually a bigger number. Without Glenn Howard (or a Kevin Martin) and with Jacobs not being a household name as of yet, many casual fans may have decided to watch Walking Dead. As well, the later start – 8:30 EDT – could have had an impact as well.

Make no mistake: TSN is overjoyed to see an audience number of 914,000 and all week, the evening games brought in more than 500,000, so that puts it up ahead or on pace with hockey (except for Leaf games) but I’m sure the network was expecting more than a million.

The semi-final game between the two Ontario teams drew 754,000. The first page game between Glenn Howard and Stoughton had an audience of 832, while the Jacobs game with Brad Gushue’s Newfoundland and Labrador squad brought in 728,000.

And the bronze medal game? Oh right, that wasn’t on TV.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Jacobs great, Stoughton not so much as NONT wins the Brier

So was it a great performance by Brad Jacobs or a crappy one by Jeff Stoughton? It was probably a combination of both but in the end, it doesn't really matter -- the Northern Ontario are Brier champs. 

Here's how the National Post saw the finale, with Jacobs saying the win was overdue. 

“It’s been too long since Northern Ontario’s held that Tankard,” Jacobs said, his voice shaking. “To bring this back to Northern Ontario, to Sault Ste. Marie, it means the world to us.” 
Jacobs, third Ryan Fry, second E.J. Harnden and lead Ryan Harnden will represent Canada at the Ford World Men’s Curling Championship from March 30 to April 7. 
It’s the first Canadian men’s title for all four curlers. At 27, Jacobs is the youngest skip to win the Brier since Kevin Martin in 1991 at age 24.“I don’t even know how to feel right now,” Jacobs said. “It’s really overwhelming what’s going on.”

Not surprisingly, the astute Paul Wiecek saw a great team in Jacobs and a surprisingly awful team in Stoughton. 

The way Brad Jacobs and his Northern Ontario team were playing here the last few days, Jeff Stoughton probably wasn’t going to beat him in the Brier final anyway.But then the game started and Stoughton promptly — and personally — removed all doubt.
If you’re interested, you probably already watched the game on TV Sunday night, so there’s no need to belabour the ugly details behind Northern Ontario’s historic 11-4 victory over Stoughton, other than to point out he missed his first four shots — two in the first end and two in the second end — to gift the best-hitting team in Canada a 3-0 lead on steals and a stranglehold on the game.

Jacobs' victory came 28 years after Northern Ontario's last win, which means, of course, that the skip, at 27, wasn't born yet. He doesn't have any first-hand knowledge of the most famous shot in Brier history thrown by Al Hackner, a guy, by the way, who probably should have beat him in the Northern Ontario playdowns. Here's the Edmonton Journal: 

Jacobs became only the fifth Northern Ontario team to win the Brier, and the first since Hackner in 1985, when he shocked Manitoba’s Jeff Stoughton 11-4 in front of 10,897 spectators Sunday night at Rexall Place. 
“I know Al Hackner made that amazing shot, the best shot of all time, and then he ending up stealing in the extra (end) to win,” Jacobs said about Hackner’s cross-house double takeout to force an extra end against Alberta’s Pat Ryan at Moncton, N.B. 
“That’s really all I know. I wasn’t even born,” he added. “It really doesn’t mean a whole lot to me. The Briers that I’ve seen are in the past 10, 15 years.”
OK, that makes some of us feel really old, Brad. No worries, though. And leave it to Terry Jones of the Edmonton Sun to bring up the fact that a few years ago, there was talk of doing away with the Moose team. 

Three years ago there was talk of getting rid of the non-province from the Brier line-up.Now Brad Jacobs, E.J. and Ryan Harnden and the missing link they added this year in Manitoba native Ryan Fry, are headed to the Ford Worlds in Victoria.

Now we can excuse the local rag for waxing a little poetic. After all, it isn't every day that a national title comes home to Sault Ste. Marie. Here's the story from the Sault Star. 

Like a snowball rolling down a ski hill, they grew and grew, and got stronger and stronger.All the while they kept building momentum.And in the end, no one could stop them.Not Kevin Martin.Not Brad Gushue.Not Glenn Howard.And not Jeff Stoughton.Folks, Sault Ste. Marie is now home to the 2013 Tim Hortons Brier champions.The Brad Jacobs rink won its first Canadian men's curling championship Sunday, whipping Manitoba's Stoughton 11-4 at Rexall Place in Edmonton.The Soo Curlers Association rink became the first Northern Ontario team to win the Brier since Thunder Bay's Al Hackner stole the deciding point in an extra end, upsetting Alberta's Pat Ryan 6-5 in 1985.

And here's what the readers in Sault Ste. Marie will be waking up to this morning. 

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Free Press: Bonehead call by Ontario

The Winnipeg Free Press sure didn’t think much of Glenn Howard’s last shot in the 10th end of the 1-2 match, with the headline on Paul Wiecek’s story not holding back at all.

Bonehead call aids Manitoba

Wow. Now writers don’t put the headlines on stories so don’t pin this one on Wiecek, but I think the headline is waaaay off and a little harsh, bordering on incorrect. I’d wager that who ever wrote it is not a curler or certainly not someone with a background of covering the game at the top level.

Wiecek actually does a very good job at outlining the situation and pointing out that it was a risky shot. He also gets opinions on the call from Stoughton and Mead – the skip wouldn’t have played it, the third would have.

But the point to me is that when you have a shot to win the game, you do it because you don’t know if you’ll ever get that chance again. Howard’s shot was tough but remember, this is Glenn Howard who would probably make contact with the red stone nine times out of 10.

The fact is that Howard missed the shot. He could have just as easily missed the easier shot. Or he could have gone to the extra end and lost.

Bonehead call? Nope. Risky, yes.

Mead knows that and his comment after shows just how stunned he was at the Howard miss.

"We got horse- lucky."

Stoughton was just as surprised in the moments after the game.

"I don't know yet. I haven't digested thiswin," said Stoughton. "When something like that happens, it's alittle surreal. Just because you're not expecting to win yet. You're justthinking, 'OK, let's get our deuce and we go the extra end and you never know.'So to pull it off now, I can't wait... it's going to be fantastic."

Stoughton is off to the final and Howard books an early morning game in the semi. 

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Was the CCA really going to give Stoughton a do-over?

Rumours have been flying around since last night’s incident with the fans, about the possibility that the CCA may have invoked Section 8, Item 6 of the Rules of Curling.

What’s that you say? Well, here’s the way it appears in the rule book:

If an extreme circumstance occurs during the delivery that distracts the thrower to a significant degree, the stone may be redelivered prior to the opposition delivering their next stone.

So in essence, what was reportedly being discussed last night was the possibility that if Jeff Stoughton had missed his final shot, the CCA would have awarded him a second chance due to the crowd’s nasty chanting.

Thankfully, Stoughton made the shot and that was the end of the matter.

Now I don’t know how serious the talk was but it’s come from several very good sources who stand behind what they heard. There was a further rumour that if Stoughton had been given a second chance, he would have turned it down.

But if curling needed another black eye, that would have been it. Imagine: Stoughton misses his shot and Alberta gets in to the playoffs, only to have an umpire come out and say, “Wait a minute boys, we’re going to give Jeff a second chance to make that shot.”

It would have been bedlam.

I think it’s also fair to say that making that call probably would have been an improper interpretation of the rule. In my humble opinion, the rule is there in case of something a little more drastic such as say, a light falling onto the ice or someone throwing something onto the playing surface. Or your lead breaking his leg or something.

On the other hand, I think Stoughton’s comments to Bryan Mudryk that if they were making $3 million a year, you could boo all you want. But this is the Brier, with regular guys with day jobs.

However, you make curling a big league sport, play in the biggest arenas and add lots of beer to the equation, you have to expect something like this.

But I still don’t think you want to be giving people second chances at such an important shot. 

Curling club decline: "We have come through a time of institutional arrogance"

There’s a wonderful story in the Winnpeg Free Press by Randy Turner about the sad decline of the small, rural curling clubs in Manitoba. 

According to the piece, there’s been a drop in the number of curling clubs in the province from 330 to 110, most of them in smaller centres. Turner quotes Resby Coutts with the root of the problem: 

"We have come through a time of institutional arrogance," he said. "We assumed everything was good because it was good for the last 20 to 30 years. We never started thinking until recent times that there was a problem. It worries me."

And then there is the lost generation:

Added Curl Manitoba executive director Shane Ray: "Manitoba was such a booming curling community we didn’t worry about (recruitment). We just assumed people would curl, right? And we lost a generation. Now we’re seeing the results in our clubs."

The great Vera Pezer, a curler and now the chancellor of the University of Saskatchewan, also points out the mobility of people as a reason for the drop: 

"For a good sixty years the curling club was the social and competitive centre of small towns and it served a very important purpose because at that time people didn’t go south to Arizona (or other winter destinations), they hung around in their communities," noted Vera Pezer, a chancellor and former sports psychology professor at the University of Saskatchewan. "They had bonspiels and there were really strong rivalries between neighboring communities. It became a means for people to socialize. It was very important."

Crowd "utterly devoid of class" shows up at Brier

The crowd turned into a big part of the Friday night draw at the Tim Horton’s Brier with wild cheering for and against teams, an unusual scene for curing, to be sure. 

Paul Wiecek of the Winnipeg Free Press said the crowd was just downright rude in its treatment of Manitoba’s Jeff Stoughton as he attempted to make his last shot:

As a crowd utterly devoid of class jeered Stoughton in an unprecedented violation of all known curling-crowd etiquette, Stoughton cooly drew the four-foot with the final rock of the extra end and then pumped his fist at the crowd. 
Stoughton was asked afterward if the crowd's behavior was acceptable curling conduct. 
"Well...," Stoughton paused. "It was pretty tough. It was interesting. It was hard to calm down and relax for my last shot... What can you say, it worked out well for us."

Over at the Edmonton Journal, John MacKinnon pointed out that Stoughton wasn’t a fan of the fans behaviour

Stoughton calmly made his final draw, silencing the taunting chants of his name, a gesture he decidedly did not enjoy the way Howard did. 
“Not at all,” said Stoughton, whose Manitoba team now will play Howard in the 1-2 Page Playoff game Saturday afternoon. “When they’re heckling and yelling at you to miss, it’s a lot different than when they’re cheering for you, that’s for sure. 
“I’m really glad we made that last shot. It felt really good. I was able to calm down, because it was pretty damn exciting out there, that’s for sure.”

Stoughton wasn’t the only one getting razzed during a wild night. 

The madness involved a Rexall Place crowd of 11,855, tops at the Brier so far, loudly and proudly cheering for Martin, even as they kept an eye on the B.C.-Manitoba and Northern Ontario-Nova Scotia matches. 
The fans began chanting “How-ard, How-ard, How-ard” in the 10th end of the Alberta match. The 50-year-old veteran skip just waved at them like a conductor directing the band, using his broom as a baton, which silenced them. 
“They were the loudest I’ve ever witnessed in a curling arena,” Howard said. “That crowd was — Wow! — it was something else. 
“Exciting. My heart is still pounding.”

The fans did give Martin a standing ovation as he and his teammates left the building, but the Old Bear didn’t leave without poking a little fun at the local hockey team. 

“That was loud!” he said. “That was Oiler playoff loud, if you guys remember the last time.”

Friday, March 8, 2013

Howard continues to roll

Glenn Howard and team sure look impressive thus far in the Tim Horton’s Brier. The Ontario foursome clinched first last night with a win over Quebec. And that puts one tick on the check list for the skip, as he told CP’s Donnan Spencer.

“The bottom line is, I think we’re No. 1 no matter what,”Howard said. “That’s the first goal, so we made it. With two games to go,that’s fantastic.”

With Howard home and cooled out, the rest of the playoff picture is scrambled. Last night, Jeff Stoughton and his rink played a very strong game only to lose to an even stronger Northern Ontario team. As Paul Wiecek revealed, the Jacobs crew drank a magical potion that seemed to give them even more muscles.

"We all drank a huge Red Bull before the game," Jacobs replied. 
When reporters laughed at what they thought was a joke by Jacobs, he made it clear he wasn’t kidding about the energy drinks. 
"Honestly, honestly," he said. "It perked us right up. I’m not even lying."

Meanwhile, Kevin Martin was channeling his best Mark Twain who once said, “the rumours of my death have been greatly exaggerated.”

It seems K-Mart and his band of merry warriors are still alive and breathing after the skip declared the team’s playoff hopes “dead.”

As Johnny Mo told the Edmonton Journal, they are alive and kicking and, oh, waving the flag. 

 “We’re battling back as hard as we can here,” said Alberta third John Morris. “We have a sniff. That’s all we can ask.
 “We need a lot of things to happen in our favour,” he continued, “but the fact we’re at four losses and still have a sniff, we’ve got to hold on to that and just play our hearts out.
“We owe it to ourselves and we owe it to the rest of Alberta to do that.”
All Martin has to do today is knock off Brad Gushue and Howard and hope for a little help. Otherwise, it will be a fast path to the Patch. 

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Team Homan visits House of Commons; Harper thinks about appointing them to Senate

Rachel Homan and her rink were guests in the House of Commons and were introduced to the gathering of MPs who stood and applauded, as you can see in the video. Later they met with the Prime Minister who apparently asked if they knew Marilyn Bodogh (not really).

Attendance dips while TV numbers rise

The Edmonton Brier won’t be setting any attendance records this time around with chairman Mark Johnson telling the Edmonton Journal’s Norm Cowley that while they’ll crack 200,000, they won’t get near the record of 281,000.

And despite the hometown team sitting on life support and fewer bums in seats, they’re still trying to paint a pretty picture of what’s ahead.

While overall attendance is way down from the record-setting total of 281,985 the last time the Canadian men’s curling championship was held at Rexall Place in 2005, the local organizing committee still expects to exceed its goal of 200,000 spectators. 
“It would be nice to have more people sitting in Rexall (Place) watching the event, for sure, but we’re doing OK,” said Brier chairman Mark Johnson, who saw a crowd count as low as 5,815 on Monday night. 
“There’s still some great exciting matchups (to come). A lot of these top teams still have to play each other.”

The dropping attendance is nothing new for the Brier although it is new for an Edmonton bash. There have always been safe spots to take the big shootout and Edmonton was just about the safest. You can throw in Calgary, Winnipeg and Regina or Saskatoon, but these days, nothing is guaranteed.

Last year, in Saskatoon, only 177,000 showed up. London a year earlier had 113,000 and Halifax in 2010 was 107,000.

In the case of the latter two, those numbers weren’t unexpected. Only seven Briers have ever cracked 200,000 so if Edmonton makes it this year, that’s not a bad mark.

The last two Briers in Edmonton drew 281,000 and 242,000 (1999). Next year in Kamloops will be another small one as the arena only holds about 6,000.

There are two issues that have led to a decline in attendance. The first is the aging audience. Look around at any curling event and the majority of people are older, in the senior citizen category. As they age, they are more content to stay home and there hasn’t been a major push to replace them although the CCA has put in a number of programs to try and entice younger people to come out.

The second is the comprehensive television coverage. Why trudge through the cold and snow to sit in a seat when you can stretch out on the couch, drink cheap beer and listen to Vic, Russ and Linda? So far, the TV numbers have been impressive with audiences averaging more than 500,000 per draw. Those are strong numbers, to be sure and if an Ontario-Manitoba final were to materialize, an audience in excess of a million would be almost a lock. 

This is not a problem that is unique to curling. All sports are battling with stay-at-home fans these days. It’s not going to get any easier, either. Budgets just need to get tighter; after all, 200,000 people at a Brier is only a problem if you’ve budgeted for 300,000. At the end of the day, it’s all about accounting.