Monday, January 09, 2006

Stoughton Slams 'em

One month after tasting Olympic disappointment, Winnipeg's uber-professional Team Jeff Stoughton (CurlingZone photo) won the second Grand Slam of the season, the BDO Classic Canadian Open, at their hometown MTS Centre last night.

In a repeat of the Olympic Trials semi-final, Stoughton beat Calgary's John Morris, this time on a nifty hit-and-squish on his last rock of the 11th end.

Edmonton's usual reps, Kevin Martin and Randy Ferbey, lost out in the semis. And yes, Morris was the one who dumped Ferb, for only his second win in about 15 career tries. Speaking of records, Stoughton is now 4-1 this season versus Morris, while the young cowtowners were 4-1 against Stoughtie last season.

Canada's Olympic team combo of Gushue/Howard etc. could not possibly focus on curling – although that's why they were in Winnipeg to begin with – due to endless media interviews and bureaucratic meetings, and lost out in a tiebreaker. On a third sheet of play during the semis, the Canadian Olympic women's reps skipped by Shannon Kleibrink walloped the U.S. Olympic women's Team Cassie Johnson 11-4 in an exhibition game.

With the $30,000 win, Stoughton vaults from 15th to third on the Tour money list, and also moves into the number one position on The Curling News Top 15.

• This is the time of year – actually, every four years – when curling scribes get to see their material appear under a "Road To X" Olympic banner. Naturally the "X" is Torino, or Turin for those without an ounce of Italian blood within. And what do these ink-stained wretches scribble about? Well, much of it concerns the ridiculous expectation Canada has for their curlers to strike gold and nothing but, versus the cautionary warnings from the athletes themselves that gold ain't nothing given. And so, without further ado, here we go again.

• The Strauss Herb Company has been helping curling fans attend major events in person this season. Having already provided a nifty Halifax Olympic Trials spectator package to an Alberta contest winner, yesterday they doled out a similar package to their very own Strauss Canada Cup in Kamloops, B.C., with the lucky winner hailing from west-end Toronto. The Cup runs Jan. 31-Feb. 5 with round-robin pool matches on CurlTV and the men's and women's finals live on CBC-TV... and it's also the last warm-up event for Canada's Olympic teams before they jet to Italy.

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