Monday, October 31, 2005

Nude athlete calendar shocker

A news release went out at 8:00am ET today. No big deal, just a typical day of curling news announcing Nude Athlete Calendar Shocks Curling World!


Here it is:

First it was the Waltzing Matildas, the Australian national women’s soccer team. Then the concept hit Canadian shores with the national women’s teams of cross-country skiing and rugby.

Now, an international group of strong-willed and taut-figured female curlers has dropped their drawers to pose nude – or nearly-nude – in a new fundraising calendar.

As revealed in the November issue of The Curling News, the Ana Arce Team Sponsorship Calendar 2006 is shot in black and white, printed on high-quality art paper and features 12 models representing curling teams from around the world. Participating nations include Denmark, Italy, Spain, England, Poland, Germany and Canada.

“This is a tasteful, artistic product that will help the athletes raise much needed funds for training and competition,” said Ana Arce, who photographed the calendar and also skipped the burgeoning Andorran women’s team for three seasons until returning to her homeland of Spain this year. Arce is also one of the models.

“This proves that curlers are athletes,” Arce said. “Strong but graceful, and of course very beautiful.”

Austrian skip Claudia Toth – whose image graces the cover (image) – turned out to be a big catch for the calendar: she had previously said no to the German edition of Playboy.

“I loved the whole idea behind it,” said Toth. “It seems like one of the very few possibilities to make curling more popular in Europe – especially Austria.”

“I think that’s outstanding,” said two-time world champion skip Glenn Howard, on the phone from an Ultima World Curling Tour event in Portage La Prairie, Manitoba.

“I’m shocked, yeah, but I also think something like this is overdue. That’s the best thing that could happen to curling. It pushes the envelope.”

2002 Olympic Gold Medallist Pal Trulsen of Norway agreed, after twice clarifying the subject matter.

It’s about time,” Trulsen said. “It’s a fun thing, but we want curling to be just like other sports. Now we have the calendar, we have the doping thing... all I know is, I’m buying it.”

One of the Canadian models is Lynsay Ryan, daughter of 2006 Olympic hopeful and two-time world champion skip Pat Ryan.

The 21-year-old Ryan studies Behavioural Neuroscience at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, but found herself posing in a see-through sarong in the forests of Füssen, Germany, in July.

How did she tell her father about the project?

“I sent him an e-mail,” laughed Ryan. “I thought it might be better if he read about it and had time to think about it before he replied.”

The Ana Arce Team Sponsorship Calendar 2006 sells for 25 euros (Europe) and 25 Canadian dollars (North America), and is available at The Curling News website.

The Curling News is the global authority on the sport of curling. Founded in Canada in 1957, it is published by professional journalist and Olympic silver medallist George Karrys (Nagano 1998). The Curling News also publishes the world’s most popular all-curling Blog; raises much-needed funds for curling clubs via a hotel rebate web booking engine; and also supports Shoot For A Cure Curling, a fundraising and awareness program of the Canadian and American Spinal Research Organizations. Shoot For A Cure also supports wheelchair curling, an official sport at the Paralympic Winter Games in Torino 2006.

The November issue of The Curling News is available now via subscription.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Game On!

We're back. The Curling News. Canada's first and only curling newspaper, and the world authority on the sport.

Say what you want about our website (and the weekly Top 10), this new Blog (thanks for all the personal and posted comments folks!), our club fundraising programs like the wicked Travel Rebate Website for curlers and their friends, etc.

It's still the printed page that is our bread and butter. We're now 49 years old and feeling as spry as ever. Here's the cover of the November issue (image), which is off to Canada Post today. Cross your fingers that you'll get your copy next week! If you're a subscriber, that is.

What's that in the top right corner, you ask? Well, just hold on to your seats and make sure you check back here Monday morning. Trust us.

Lots to mention as we head into the weekend:

• For those wanting fireworks, the big CCA-versus-their-own-membership summit meeting was a big fizzle. Our friend Joe was our fly on the wall – for about 45 minutes of the all-day session – and here he tells all. Here's his new blog, by the way, but he hadn't given us any extra summit secrets there yet as of this writing. C'mon Joe, feed us, we're hungry.
Also, TCN's own Allen Cameron has a story, but you must subscribe to the Herald to read it. Here's a teaser from one of the CCA Board members, Graham Prouse of Alta:
"I think the message that got through to me was that we had better not let this lapse in communication happen again. I said that right from the outset – I think we need to disclose everything we can possibly disclose. In fairness, I think the answers were pretty forthright and direct. I cannot think of one question that went unanswered."

Dallas and Gerry have redesigned the Black Book of Curling website, and, wow, it really sings. As CZ disciple and Sportsnet curling guy Ed Lukowich would say, "Zowie!" Check it out...

• Finally, word today that the recent Ford Worlds in Victoria earned 500K on $1.5 million worth of tickets sold. Great stuff considering the gate expectation was about $1.4 million, and that the arena was only about 80% finished when the first rock was thrown. CCA and the World fed get 145K each, while 210K will stay in the Victoria curling community. Not bad.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Pinnacles of the industry

Word from former TCN publisher and Editor Emeritus Doug Maxwell, and then officially out of Saskatchewan, that Regina heroes Laurie Artiss Ltd. have won the pin manufacturing and distributing contract for the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games.

Chris Pasterfield (L-P photo, above) was darned right when he labelled the Olympic pin job the "the pinnacle" of his industry.

The official Olympic suppliers for 18 years in Canada, The Pin People have been supporters of The Curling News almost since it was first published in Calgary, as Canadian Curling News, nearly 50 years ago. Grab a pin, any old pin, and chances are good it's got their name stamped on the back.

Until last year, The Curling News Pin Collector's Club was a regular TCN feature; it folded many years after it was deemed to be unprofitable and had continued only because of the company's love of the sport. The original company founder, curling fan Laurie Artiss, was a former sportswriter – the inaugural TCN legacy. His daughter, Karen Pasterfield, is company president (and Chris' husband).

But there's little time for champagne. After exhausting months of effort winning the bid, 2,000 designs are due, and the majority of pins have to be ready in time for Torino 2006... in four months!

However: "You cannot forget your core business," Chris said. "One thing we learned from Calgary in 1988 was exactly that. Olympics come and they go. We learned that we can't forget our schools and churches and local sporting groups that buy their pins from us. Because that's our bread and butter.''

Congratulations to one of curling's biggest supporters!

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Battle lines drawn

Curling-crazed readers may wish to consider getting a paid online subscription to the Calgary Herald. This way they can read the regular work of curling scribe Al Cameron, one of the busiest around, who also contributes to The Curling News.

Naturally, this being a Blog, readers are are also invited to consider the long-held conspiracy theory that you can't believe anything the mainstream media say. ;-)

Today's column on page F2 of the sports section delves deeper into Thursday's extraordinary provincial/CCA summit meeting (see Oct. 24 below) with some eye-opening rumouring in addition to hard quotes from Cindy McFeeters, an elected official (ie. volunteer) recently decommissioned from the CCA board.

McFeeters: "What was most frustrating was the lack of information given to the directors to make the proper decision. And the provincial associations have asked the hard questions, and the CCA hasn't given them the answers they deserve."

Cameron says his newspaper tried to get the CCA to reveal the payout to lawyers during the TV deal renegotiations, but were "politely, but firmly, dismissed last month."

Over at the Globe, Bob Weeks managed to wrangle this quote from Ontario provincial exec Doug Bakes: "If (the CCA hopes) to get everyone on side, then they need to back up, clean up the past and maybe acknowledge that somebody screwed up. That would go a long way towards regaining some confidence."

On the good news ledger, CCA has mailed the cheque to the hosts of the second-biggest Scott Tournament of Hearts shootout in history, the 2004 event in Red Deer. The magic number is $291,621.05, which will be split between area clubs based on their volunteer participation. Thanks again to Al Cameron for that one.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Confederation confrontation

With the news of last Thursday's TV announcement still a hot topic of discussion, this coming Thursday could prove to be a pivotal one for the sport in Canada.

As first revealed weeks ago by Allen Cameron, writer for the Calgary Herald and also a correspondent for The Curling News, nine of the eleven-or-so provincial/territorial associations have demanded – and received – a special meeting with the Canadian Curling Association.

The provinces are not happy with confederation. Hmm... does thissoundfamiliarorwhat?

Specifically, the member associations are angry at a perceived lack of communication, arbitrary decision-making and directional planning, and, yes, the TV muckup which while now brought to conclusion captured headlines all summer.

Today's Globe and Mail revisits the issues behind the extraordinary summit, which goes down in Ottawa Oct. 27. Any capital-city volunteer flies-on-the-wall are requested to submit their resumes forthwith.

Friday, October 21, 2005

"Peace in the Middle East"

The headline is a great zinger on the TV deal in today's Toronto Star, in which writer Chris Zelkovich also quotes The Curling News.

In fact, everybody seems to have an opinion on the "news" released yesterday (see this blog's Oct. 21 and Sept. 29 entries)... even the lowly Trail Daily Times out in B.C. Hey... it's not our fault their website is fried.

Other pundits weighing in include venerable Globe and Mail sports media guy William Houston, Ottawa Sun curling contributor Joe Pavia and media columnist Rob Brodie, and TCN/Calgary Herald correspondent Allen Cameron has a great piece quoting both TSN's Vic Rauter – who is obviously in a good mood these days – and TSN prez Phil King, who opines:

"We knew curling had a large, vocal, passionate audience because we carried it for 20 years and you hear from them from time to time. But what tends to happen with this kind of thing is that people speak up and loudly for a week or so, and then it dies out. But this one kept going for a year. Every time an event was on, the disappointment would ratchet up. Curling fans just didn't let it go."

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Official Word: TSN and CBC

You didn't believe us? Hey... would we lie to you?

Word today, finally, from both CBC and TSN at 10:00am eastern time that the deal is done. A three-year television agreement with some flexibility, apparently, including a "minimum two games a day" of TSN's round-robin coverage of the big three – STOH, Brier and Worlds (Women's, ie. in Canada only).

Excerpts, first from the Corporation:

"Under this new deal CBC Sports will show the championship weekends of the Scott Tournament of Hearts, the Tim Hortons Brier and the Tim Hortons Curling Trials, (Olympics), as well as the Ford World Championships – which, this year, are the Women’s World Championships in Canada – plus the Junior National Championships, The Strauss Canada Cup, and the final weekend of the Ford World Men’s Championships from Lowell, Mass.

CBC has brought TSN on board to cover the first seven days of the events.

'We’re very pleased with this deal,' said Nancy Lee, Executive Director, CBC Sports. 'The CBC wants to ensure curling fans see the greatest number of draws and this new deal achieves it.' ”

And from The Sports Network:

"TSN will televise afternoon and evening draws for the first seven of nine days (Saturday through Friday) from the Scott Tournament of Hearts, Tim Hortons Brier, and the Ford World Curling Championships held in Canada. This upcoming season, TSN will also televise the highly anticipated Tim Hortons Roar of the Rings Canadian Curling Trials, the first event of the season, which takes place from Halifax beginning December 3.

'Public support for TSN's curling coverage has been overwhelming, and I'm thrilled to announce that we're back on the ice,' said Phil King, President, TSN. 'Since Day One, curling has been synonymous with TSN and we're looking forward to returning it to the TSN schedule.'"

The Curling News was the first – naturally – to speak with Dave Parkes, CEO of the Canadian Curling Association, and some of his comments were that "it's been a challenging summer, but it's a very competitive (broadcast) environment. The CCA, all of us working on this issue, stayed focussed on our objective, which was to deliver the best television solution for the sport, for all our constituents."

See the Sept. 29 posting right here on The Curling News Blog for first thoughts on the deal, and how that landscape compares with the "official" news that is sure to flow fast and furious in the days ahead.

More from Parkes, the broadcasters, the talent and of course you, the fans, in the November issue of The Curling News... just days away!

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

TV quote and Monsieur Ferland

Joe Pavia of the Ottawa Sun almost, but not quite, reveals what this here blog revealed last month (see Sept. 29 post) regarding the new TV curling scene. A good recent quote from CCA chief Dave Parkes though: "We've listened to the reaction of the fans and I think they are going to be happy."

Once again – for those who are still in the dark – this guy is busy buying a new set of outrageous neckties.

On another note, we spoke to an excited André Ferland last night.

The Quebec curling pioneer is pumped about his new Performance website, which is hereby relaunched with Flash animation, all-in-one online shopping, and even an archive of some of his best curling columns from the past: topics include rock timing, meaningful practice, brushing technique (naturally) and so on.

There’s more
. “After this year, I’m retiring,” André announces. He explains that son Martin will take over day-to-day operations as manager, and as owner André himself will drift away. Sort of. “I’ll still be around,” he says.

Ferland isn’t coaching any high-performance teams right now, but he still volunteers his technical and clinic expertise with Curl-Québec. Hmm... how much of a retirement is this, anyway?

On the ice, Martin Ferland
is into a bang-up fall as third for the revitalized Team Pierre Charette, who rank sixth on The Curling News Gold Trail (and seventh in the weekly Top 10) with over $18,000 in winnings thus far.

Back to André. There are some great stories over the years. A strong booster of junior curling, he even stormed out of the first-ever CCA committee meeting concerning qualification for the Olympic Trials (in 1995 or so) because the committee refused to include juniors.

Now, of course, his Performance brush is used by everyone – there’s even an alliance with fellow tradesmen like Asham and BalancePlus – to the point that the Hammer and the Brownie (remember them?) are little more than stock club brooms these days.


Tuesday, October 18, 2005

You're about to be exploited

Nice piece on The Black Book of Curling in today's Calgary Herald by TCN contributor Allen Cameron. And another great story from Dallas' trip out to B.C. It seems Calgary's Darren Moulding rushed up to BBoC publisher Dallas Bittle just before his game against Moose Jaw's Pat Simmons, wanting to know the stats line on his opponent.

"He (Moulding) decided they had to go all out early because Simmons likes to take control of the game and shut people down from the sixth end onward," quotes Bittle. "They went out and beat them 9-5. Players are realizing that teams have tendencies that can be exploited."

What's next? Will curling team coaches get fired for failing to research opposing team scoring trends? Will Black Books and watching game films become an integral part of off-ice prep?

Cameron goes on to reveal what The Black Book says about scoring late points with hammer on Calgary's John Morris. But we won't share that here; you'll have to pick up a copy yourself. Obviously few of Johnny Mo's opponents last weekend were BBoC readers, as the young turk won the spiel and has $17,000 in the bank this year already...

Monday, October 17, 2005

The Last Laugh

"You can't really insult us anymore. It is an Olympic sport."
– Maureen Brunt, 2006 U.S. Olympic curler

That great line is just part of another journo’s story as discussed below (Oct. 14). Yes, the story – this latest one by Nancy Armour of Associated Press – has been picked up by another 40 markets, including San Fran, Detroit, San Jose, Albany, Philly, Biloxi, both Carolinas, Myrtle Beach, KC, Gainsville FL, Tuscaloosa AL, Fort Wayne IN, Kentucky, Georgia, plus both CNN and SI online, and of course in the regular curling bastions of anywhere-in-Wisconsin, anywhere-in-Minnesota, or Seattle WA.

That settles it: this PR tactic is hereby declared an unqualified success, and mucho congrats to USA Curling for making it happen.

As for Ms. Brunt (far right in photo) and her entry for zinger-of-the-year, you can read more about her and her Turin-bound U.S. champs on their nifty website, CurlGirls.

Friday, October 14, 2005

London, BAH-ston, Ventura and The Peg

It’s a busy weekend on the various regional Tours and naturally, the Ultima World Curling Tour. And, also, in the world of oft-ignored recreational curling. Here’s your friendly neighborhood Media Watch for Friday:

London, Ontario is hosting the big women’s Tour stop this weekend and the local Freep is on the scene. Nice to hear that Jenn Hanna is still dealing with JJ’s mahvellous last rock (photo) aka The Shot in her usual way – with a huge smile. We would certainly expect nothing less.

• Two typical journalist-tries-curling stories from the U.S., one from the greater Boston area and another from sunny Ventura, California.

Such tales first sprouted with regularity during and following the Salt Lake 2002 Olympic Games, and they’re often a fun read. In fact, as the Cal story illustrates, US Curling hosted an on-ice funfest just for media as part of a recent Torino 2006 orientation session, and if the story gets picked up in other markets, their PR effort can be called an unqualified success.

Pickup has already occurred in tiny Wichita Falls, in northern Texas, which is just 15 miles from Oklahoma and boasts soccer star Mia Hamm as its proudest export. Wichita Fallsians (?) would have to travel far – Dallas/Fort Worth or Houston – to actually try the sport, but Rome wasn’t built in a day, or so they say.

We’d expect the upcoming men’s worlds in Lowell, Mass. to create more stories like this in the months to come... go get 'em BAH-ston!

• Finally, Winnipeg hosted a news conference Wednesday to announce that ticket sales have started for January’s BDO Canadian Open of Curling, the second of four Grand Slam of Curling events. Last year’s whopper of a spiel truly did rock the new MTS Centre, as records were set for both live attendance and TV viewership.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

The Black Book in B.C.

TCN partner CurlingZone, specifically Dallas Bittle of Calgary, was in Vancouver over the holiday, on contract with the Allied Westcoast Classic Tour stop on the Ultima World Curling Tour.

Dallas was brought in to help the local organizing committee run a sparkling new event website, focussing on realtime results. He reports the site scored over 850,000 page views, which is a high number for a non-Slam or non-CCA event.

Question: when’s the last time you heard about a contractor being hired to run a cashspiel website? This truly is the dawn of a new curling era.

While there, Dallas talked up his new book, The Black Book of Curling, and even managed to sell two boxes on site.

Four copies were purchased by Kevin Martin, on behalf of his team (photo). Later, during a game, Martin couldn’t resist gabbing with Dallas on ice – right in the middle of the match – about the new statistics CurlingZone has pioneered and which feature heavily in the new 300-page tome. The eventual spiel champion – his squad beat Toronto's Mike Harris in the final in a battle of the previous two Olympic silver medallists – Martin also ordered a couple of crates for his curling shop in Edmonton.

Other competitors, like Vancouver’s Brent Pierce, offered continuing support. “Just tell us what we can do and we’ll do it,” Pierce told Dallas. “This is great for the sport and we’ll support it.”

At this point, it’s very simple... go to the Black Book website and purchase your copy today. Along with a subscription to The Curling News, this is the best way to show your support.