Friday, September 29, 2006

Asham World Curling Tour announced

What a week for the World Curling Tour.

First came Tuesday's huge announcement of a new eight-year TV contract with CBC; a new owner; and this year's four premiere Grand Slam of Curling events.

Now, the Tour is welcoming an old friend back to the fold.

At a news teleconference schduled for 1:30pm ET later today, the Asham World Curling Tour (logo above) will be officially unveiled.

Arnold Asham, of course, is a pioneer of both the World Curling Tour and the Players' Association, as he and a few other co-pioneers (Winnipeg's Jim Furgale and Ray Turnbull, and Calgary's Ed Lukowich) rode in to rescue the struggling Tour over a decade ago. Asham and co. then sold their interests to IMG Canada in 1998, who staffed the Tour and PA and steered Tour curling into the Grand Slam era.

Now the Asham brand – already huge in curling supplies and grass roots support, via their bailout and purchase of a Winnipeg curling club last year and their unfailing support of teams and events – is back with the World Curling Tour.

Speaking of said teleconference, the athlete participant's list is strong, featuring former Players' Association directors Kerry Burtnyk and Kevin Martin, as well as Brad Gushue, Wayne Middaugh, David Nedohin and Jeff Stoughton.

Finally, storybuster Al Cameron recently spoke with the new owner of the Tour/Slam property, Ron Bremner, the CEO of Toronto's Insight Sports and former president of the NHL's Calgary Flames.

Three quotes from curling's newest power-broker:

Some people look at trees and see lemons and sometimes you look and see lemonade, right? If you take a look at the realities, Canada's always been such a hotbed for curling and I think it has so many opportunities to take advantage of.

I think it goes without saying that we've done our homework. We've looked at a lot of opportunities, not only about the televised portions can go, but how do you take these platforms and how do you leverage them, how do you take advantage of all the new technologies out there and how do you get these things to complement each other? And the other thing is how do you make some money off of it?

We didn't get involved just to storm down the tradition of the game. We want to build on the tradition. We want to sit down with our partners and have a good, thorough discussion about some of the things we think might be done to help the presentation of the game, and the fans' excitement of the game.


• Did you know the free trial period for CurlTV is right now, including live coverage of the Asham World Curling Tour’s stop in Vernon, B.C.? Well, giddyap!

• And what a weekend for Vernon! First came the World Curling Federation announcement that the city will host the 2008 Ford World Women’s Championship, and they are certainly pumped about that. After all, Vernon has a strong hosting legacy in the sport.

But now the Tour event has hit town, and as this quick story on Kelowna's Kelly Scott reveals, the event is also hosting a silent auction for Shoot For A Cure Curling (SFACC), the fundraising campaign of the Canadian Spinal Research Organization.

The auction will raise funds for the campaign, while serving to raise awareness for wheelchair curling and a SFACC fundraising spiel later in the season. Items include a Sony PlayStation, hockey memorabilia and some neat curling stuff, including SFACC baseball caps signed by Gushue, Burtnyk, Martin, Middaugh, Stoughton, John Morris, Glenn Howard and Guy Hemmings. And for Vernon curling fans who remember the Carspiel days of the 1970s and 1980s, there are a couple of caps signed by the 1982 champ - Eddie "The Wrench" Werenich.

The auction runs until noon Sunday. The ladies final goes Sunday at 7 pm alongside the men’s quarterfinals, with the men’s final set for noon on Monday...

The Conman asks if Team Kevin Martin’s current 10-0 start to the season is “Beginner's luck? Or the dawn of a juggernaut?” The Curious can follow K-Mart's progress this weekend in Gander, Newfoundland here...

• What would a fall season be without a 'Battle of the Sexes' curling challenge, eh? Looks like the word is out on the new Korbel Elite Curling Championship, which features two high-profile U.S. teams duking it out in Whistler, B.C., the Olympic sister-city to Vancouver 2010. But there's lots more to this they are not telling – yet. We will, of course, but in due time...

• The Manitoba Curling Tour launches another season today with opening draws in the Steeltown Classic in Selkirk, the first of 21 events on the tour which runs to December 30...

• Jumpin' Joe Pavia is back in action at the Ottawa Sun, and he spotlights the Chinese national men's team, which went an impressive 3-2 in Brockville and is now undergoing what can only be described as severe culture shock out on The Rock...

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