Monday, December 05, 2005

Skins toast, Gushue on fire

Things are getting wild in Halifax, but also elsewhere in the curling world.

We start with terrible news out of Waterloo, Ontario, where the sixth annual $100,000 M&M Meat Shops Skins has been cancelled. Scheduled for Dec. 27-29 with three games on Sportsnet and the best teams in the world shooting it out in the only surviving skins game, its plug has now been pulled by management company Shot Rock Curling, a division of the SCORE Golf empire. Despite lead sponsor M&M's patronage, additional sponsorship sales were too weak to sustain the event. Shot Rock rep Paul Savage, an Olympic coach/fifth with the Mike Harris team back in 1998, released the news today, and he must be unconsolable.

We are very grateful for the six years of sponsorship that M&M Meat Shops has extended to us, and again offered this year, said Savage. Curling is an invaluable Canadian sport and in no way should this cancellation be a reflection upon a decrease in support by M&M Meat Shops. They have been an outstanding partner.

We have been proud of our involvement in this Skins Game, said Chris Styan, Director of Marketing for M&M Meat Shops. We continue to actively support curlers Sherry and Wayne Middaugh in their competitions across Canada and we will also continue to support local activities at The KW Granite Club.

In an Olympic year – the men's Trials champ was guaranteed a berth – this development is truly awful.

Things are also awful – right now – for Team Randy Ferbey, 1-2 at the Olympic Trials after last night's loss to Brad Gushue, and many are saying he should be 0-3, if not for a maddening gift from John Morris. The Ferb, who is a straight-shooter, ain't happy.

I'm not worried about Gushue's play, Ferbey said after last night's game. I'm not even commenting on that. I'm worried about my team. I'm commenting on my team. I'm not here to talk about them, okay?


Let's talk about great writing. When Terry Jones of the Edmonton Sun is on the curling beat, which isn't very often, fans benefit. At these Trials he talks about Ferbey's woes, and Colleen's determination, and of course Russ Howard playing with Gushue, including a great tale of when Russ comforted a junior-aged Gushue after losing the national junior final. Terry was also the first to notice, apart from us of course, that Saturday's Ferbey/Kevin Martin tilt featured Ferbey in black and Martin in white... shouldn't it be the other way round? He also investigates the pressure the athletes are under at these Trials, calling it curling's "Big Gulp," and the trend towards big-name players in the alternate position.

In short, we at The Curling News are big Jonesy fans. You should be, too.

Sun Media is doing quite well this week, actually. Winnipeg's Jim Bender squeezed some almost-predictions out of TSN's Cathy Gauthier and also retired legend Kerry Burtnyk, who won two Briers in that building and just missed out on a spot in this year's Trials. Bender is also the first to get the scoop on proposed changes to the Trials qualifying system for 2009 (ie. Vancouver 2010).

As for predictions, the Globe's Bob Weeks finally wrote his first curling column of the season on Saturday, and he boldly went where no one dares every four years. He is calling Sherry Anderson to beat Jennifer Jones in the women's semi, and Colleen Jones to triumph in the final. On the men's side, he sees Ferbey defeating Glenn Howard in the semi before falling to Martin in the final. Brave stuff.

For daily coverage, the Globe is using CP while the Post is using the Herald's Al Cameron and the Journal's Vicki Hall, among others. And the local Halifax media are all over this, just to state the obvious.

Two final items: history will be made during tonight's women's draw, as TSN will actually pre-empt wrestling in favour of curling, instead of the other way around. The rasslin' world must be reeling. Finally, Torino Olympic curling tickets are a hot item: they are 95 per cent sold out. Cool.

Gushue/Howard are now up 8-1 on poor Mark Dacey. Hold on folks, things are getting interesting.

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