Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Curling. What else?

Back from a break.

Curling season has started.

Lots going on.

Read and click.

More later.

Photo credit: Dan, of course. Where does he find these things?!

• Here's a great personal curling anecdote currently making online waves, and we can't imagine a better read to kick of the season. It comes from Moncton's Curling Beausejour summer camp, and it features Russ Howard working with an average joe, sharing secrets and insights about the sport that both love. This is what happens every year, weekend after weekend, at such instructional camps – the HOT SHOTS, at Kevin Martin's Academy, and so on – and it is really an experience not to be missed...

• From the Did You Know department: DYK that a Manitoba team won the season's first national championship (already)? Neither did we...

Listen Up: you can check out new curling retiree Jon Mead on The latest episode of The Curling Show, and also U.S. silver skipper Debbie McCormick on Chicago’s 360 The Pitch radio show...

Kevin Martin recently spoke to the Edmonton Journal (subscription only) about his new squad, and specifically new third John Morris. Some zingers from the Old Bear:

John and I? I think we're going to be a strong combination. I think it's good for John to get out of the skipping role. Now he just has to worry about getting in great shape and shooting – something that he's brilliant at – and that's it. He's just going to focus on playing great in every game and make every shot.

Er... every shot?

(If he misses), Being that I'm a bit older, I don't think it's going to be a problem. If I had a chance to throw for someone like Ed Lukowich, I would have just listened to him. The guy knew what he was talking about. It's the same token here. I'm older, and I think we're going to get along just fine.

As for Johnny Mo:

To curl in this game at this level, you need a pretty thick skin. We know what to expect from Kevin. I think that's part of constructive criticism. If I miss a shot or if I'm not throwing very well, I want to hear about it. I've worked with sports psychologists, and sometimes you need a bit of a release. I've been able to control that release, although it may cost the team a couple of brooms that I break along the way...

• Today's Saskatoon Star-Phoenix summarizes the women's teams competing in the wheat-sheaf province this season (subscription only). Of note is CBC-talkie Joan McCusker taking a break while her 1998 Olympic teammates continue; Sherry Linton joining up with the McIvors; and both the Sherry Anderson and Stefanie Lawton teams "going hard" this year...

• Vermont curling is now ready to rock n' roll...

• Alberta's Slave Lake CC needs an icemaker – right now – or the season may not start...

Blog Report: what's this? Looks like a new Blog, based in Duluth, Minn., for area clubs. Wonder if anyone from Thunder Bay's Fort William CC will notice they've been excluded, in favour of historical rivals Port Arthur?... Patrick has been busy, attending the Powell River summer spiel, and also welcoming a pink brush in his house... and Texas Dan went completely bonkers with his Blog while we were away, continuing to post en masse about his HOT SHOTS Fantasy Camp experience: the entire collection is now online starting with Part I here, then Part II, then Part III here, naturally Part IV, and finally Part V. You go, Dan...

And finally: news that the CCA had withdrawn funding – temporarily – from both the Club Development Fund and the Athlete Assistance Program was credited by some to Sweep Magazine. However, the scoop goes to – once again – the intrepid Allen Cameron of The Curling News and Calgary Herald. There's been some discussions of these and other CCA cost-cutting measures here and here, and InTheHack's Mike Potter takes the CCA to task here, and now we present the most recent original story verbatim...

CCA puts development funding on ice:
Association had based grants on future earnings

by Allen Cameron
The Calgary Herald
August 26, 2006

Desperate to get its financial house in order, the Canadian Curling Association has decided to stop what some already consider a dubious business practice.

For the past six years, the CCA has been using money it expects to make from future events to fund its well-received Curling Development Fund.

But with the CCA in the hole to the tune of at least $100,000 for the coming season, and with the Tim Hortons Brier next March in Hamilton hardly a guaranteed money-maker, the grants to clubs across the country will be suspended next year.

As well, the CCA told clubs that were successful in applying for development funds that the money may not arrive until next year, and that full payment won't come until 2008.

The fund has doled out nearly $1 million since its inception in 1999, with the money going toward such things as purchasing updated ice-making equipment, staging learn-to-curl clinics or promotions.

According to a letter sent earlier this month to clubs that received grants, the lack of profits from the 2001 Brier in Ottawa and Tournament of Hearts in Sudbury, Ont., should have stopped the development fund that year. Instead, "the CCA agreed to 'borrow' funds from the profits of future events to ensure the continuity of the fund."

That policy has continued, until what the letter refers to as a "budget crisis" forced the CCA's hand.

"It was never really a cash-flow issue because we never give out the cheques until eight months or so after the event," said the CCA's manager of curling club development Danny Lamoureux, who oversees the program. "But we've never been able to catch up, and the auditor finally kind of told us, 'Stop it. This is not a good practice.' But it was good for the curling clubs."

But Darin Eno, president of the Coronation Curling Club – one of the lucky applicants this year, receiving $750 for instructor training – isn't so sure.

"I'd just as soon they get their house in order. If it takes five years, so be it," said Eno, who hasn't been told when his club will receive the money. "Don't be giving money out if you don't have it. The first time they had to borrow against future events, they should have put a halt to it right there. I don't run a business like that, I don't run a household like that. I don't go borrowing money on hoping that an oil company will drill a well on my land. You can't do it."

CCA president Donna Duffett didn't return phone calls, while CCA CEO Dave Parkes is on holidays.

But a CCA director, who requested anonymity, was surprised to find out that the association had been giving out money that it didn't have.

"I'm against that because we can't guarantee future profits," said the director. "All it takes is one freak winter storm or one poorly attended Brier and there's going to be nothing there to borrow against."

The suspension of the development fund – Lamoureux said that it should return in 2008 bigger and better – is another cost-cutting measure that the CCA hopes will remove what has become an embarrassing deficit for one of the highest-profile amateur sports in Canada, including removing money from the Athletes Assistance Fund.

The top four teams at both the Brier and Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Lethbridge will be ineligible to receive AAF money – about $7,000 per team at the Brier and $4,000 per team at the Hearts – to cover travel costs and time off work; they will, though, receive the prize money that accompanies a top-four finish.

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