Friday, February 13, 2009

Spinal Tap Curling























Glenn Howard. Jennifer Jones. Pat Ryan. Hart-Laing-Savill. Ed Werenich. Joan McCusker. Sherry Middaugh. Mike Harris. Cathy Overton-Clapham.

Not a bad list of celebrity curling stars, who arrive in Thornhill, Ontario tonight for Saturday’s 18th annual Dominion of Canada Spinal Tap Mixed Bonspiel.

The little bonspiel that could has very quietly raised $250,000 for spinal injury research – until now, entirely without celebrities – since 1991, the year after a young curler named Ryan Durham broke his neck in a swimming accident and became confined to a wheelchair.

Nearly two decades later, Durham is still a fundraising dynamo for the Canadian Spinal Research Organization and its impressive Shoot For A Cure fundraising campaign, which has become very big in pro hockey (it’s also got a curling division, located here). And Durham is also the Business Development Director for The Curling News (ahem)... and, of course, he’s still running the Spinal Tap.

Last July, Thornhill Golf & Country Club hosted the Sandra Schmirler Golf Classic. You may even recall a great series of pics, shot by Anil Mungal, which showed Jennifer Jones agonizing over a missed putt.

Ryan Durham showed up later for cocktails, and did a whole bunch of convincing.

He convinced Glenn Howard to allow himself to be auctioned off as a celebrity skip some seven months later, at the Spinal Tap.

He convinced tournament sponsor The Dominion of Canada to allow a live auction item to suddenly join the proceedings, in fact as the last item of a long dinner/presentation agenda.

He convinced tournament host and emcee Mike Harris to be the auctioneer.

And some 45 minutes later, much Durham’s surprise and glee, no less than nine superstar curlers had been auctioned off for many thousands of dollars, with Capital One curling impresario Ian Cunningham agreeing to fly in the out-of-towners and put everybody up at nearby hotels.

The big day is tomorrow, with the celebs hitting the ice with their various teams at 10:45 am and again at 4:00pm. In between, at 12:30pm, they will gather for a four-end Skins Game rematch – Howard versus Jones – with a few twists thrown in, namely:

• two of the ends will be played from wheelchairs, with the official rules of Paralympic and world wheelchair curling in effect;

• Howard will play for Shoot For A Cure and Jones will play for the Sandra Schmirler Foundation, with a $4,000 pot up for grabs.

The details of this new celebfest have come together nicely. Thornhill is setting up bleacher seating to accommodate extra fans (no jeans, please). There’s a mammoth silent auction table ready to go, and special menu items are available in the adjacent cafe.

When Overton-Clapham had a cortisone shot earlier this week – she’s now been knocked off the ice, although she’s still attending – the combination of Pat Ryan and Peter Steski quickly stepped in. Rogers Sportsnet broadcaster – and ace Oshawa curlerRob Faulds will emcee the dinner.

And there’s also some teams chock full of celebrity-worthy status, like the squad featuring recently-departed Alison Goring third Cathy Auld, Team Wayne Middaugh second John Epping and Team Julie Reddick member Leigh Armstrong... not that we would ever mention the name of the skip who blatantly stacked this formidable squad... right, mister President-of-The Dominion-George Cooke?

Congrats and thanks to the celebs, the participating teams, Thornhill G & CC and the sponsors for what will no doubt be a memorable day.

Oh.... and congrats and thanks to Ryan Durham, too.


It’s Friday, folks. And that means there’s still more going on in the wonderful world of curling...

• As of Friday morning Russ Howard was 1-1 in his drive to get back to Brier and, following that, his hometown worlds in Moncton ...

• Last night’s anticipated Alberta A-side matchup of Kevin Martin versus Randy Ferbey was, um, rather forgettable. Here’s the view from Calgary and another story from Edmonton.

Speaking of these two, is it possible that Martin and Ferbey are becoming buddies? Heavens, we should hope not.

And in our last bit on Alberta, did you know that ex-Martin lead Don Bartlett is back, with a great new back, and competing in the provincial?

• It was Mark Dacey over Shawn Adams in Nova Scotia last night; and here’s some more on the Bluenoser provincial ...

• In Quebec, Martin Ferland has qualified for the big A1 vs B1 game, while famed comeback kid Guy Hemmings is also at 7-1 ...

Sean Geall is in contention out in British Columbia ...

• And let’s not forget the Moose Callers up in Northern Ontario ...

Kerry Burtnyk is the top seed at next week’s Manitoba Safeway Select, and here’s a look back at his fateful win in 2001 ...

• DID YOU KNOW: that the 2009 Swiss Championships start Saturday? Here’s a brief preview ....

• Here’s a feature on curling in Brookline, MA, starring some high school students ...

• Students from francophone schools across Saskatchewan recently descended on Nipawin for some curling fun ...

• DID YOU KNOW II: that Saskatchewan’s Players’ Championship is underway?

Paul Weicek says: extend the curling season ...

• Hmm... according to the Burlington Post, the lead for Team Peter Corner is Paul Moffatt. We actually thought it’s Brad Savage ...

• Speaking of errant writing: did you say... Furbey?

• That’s right, Charles and Ken... the joke is on you!

• Will Eugene Hritzuk’s last-minute Ashams do the job of 16-year-old Dacks?

• Curlers and officials in BC are both saying they would support the idea of a BC Curling Tour. But wasn’t something like that attempted last season?

• Brantford’s 63-year-old Johnson Wax bonspiel is fading, with only 16 teams entered this year...

• We have a science-curling crisis, folks. Apparently, outgoing Washington climatologist Phil Mote has “picked on curling” as an analogy for planet Earth’s climate sensitivity ...

• DID YOU KNOW III: that tre curlingh├ąp til ungdoms-OL? Er... now you do!

• This Brit skiier thinks curling is brill, man ...

• And finally, the winner of USA Curling’s eBay auction – where the winning bidder’s photo-of-their choice will cover the on-ice buttons at the upcoming U.S. Olympic Team Trials championship – has apparently gone to the dogs ...

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