Monday, November 27, 2006

A sound thrashing

VANCOUVER – As teams and officials struggle to escape snowed-in Chilliwack, TCN is warm and snug at a hotel minutes from the airport, and bound shortly for the Centre of the Universe.

It was the European curling universe which delivered a sound thrashing to Team North America at the Continental Cup, clearly viewable on CBC the final two days and, of course, on CurlTV every day, every draw since last Thursday.

For a quick study of the themes of the event, scroll down to the previous post and check out a barrage of exchanges between TCN and TCS (The Curling Show), which you can find under "COMMENTS".

You'd be wise to also check out the upcoming December issue of TCN, which will feature a report and op-ed from ace columnist Larry Wood. Why not subscribe today? You can only read it in the hard copy of The Curling News.

Line of the day: from WCF past president Roy Sinclair of Scotland, as quoted by Paul Wiecek in today's Winnipeg Free Press:

A guy slides down a hill on his back, and they call that luge. But if he slides down on his belly, well, that's skeleton.
If those are two separate sports, then don't tell me mixed doubles curling isn't a sport.

The IOC will be voting on whether to include Mixed Doubles, which played to strong reviews in Chilliwack, at the end of the month.

Stay tuned ...

Sunday, November 26, 2006


CHILLIWACK, B.C. – North American lead Natalie Nicholson (photo) couldn't have yelled it any better.

Not too long ago – Thursday night, to be exact – North America has a nifty lead over Europe at the Con Cup, and the Euros looked listless.

Now, Europe holds a near-insurmountable lead, 180 to 100, over the NAs. No more jet lag.

What's worse for the hosts is that only 201 points are needed to win the Cup and the $75,000 top prize.

Tomorrow it's two 60-point skins games, Kleibrink vs. Norberg and then Gushue vs. Murdoch. CBC's coverage should be quite interesting.

Spotted AK267 in the crowd tonight, hovering over the NA bench waving a huge double-sided U.S./Canadian flag. Way to go AK.

NA benchwarmers had their jackets on backwards, desperately working the rally outfits to help J.M. Menard beat Pal Trulsen (not) and Kelly Scott hold off the extremely strong Mirjam Ott (didn't work). Double-d'oh.

Over in Tokyo – way over – they're down to the Pac finals, click here for updates.

More tomorrow.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Big CBC weekend in store

CHILLIWACK, B.C. – The see-saw battle continues as Scotland's David Murdoch (CCA photo by Michael Burns) and Team Europe roared back from a poor opening day (and a 39-15 deficit behind Team North America) to almost tie things up Friday morning.

It was the European women who got the job done in the AM, sweeping their opponents in all three games to close the gap to 39-33.

In Singles competition, an interesting array of front-end players and thirds took part, not just skips. The North American women bounced back with some solid "Hot Shots" play and took the running total to 45-39. The men then took to the ice and it was all Europe and then some, as they shut the Northerners out 12-nil. Grand points total heading into tonight's men's team draw is North America 53 to Europe's 51, and look at the tantalizing games underway soon:

Gushue vs. Murdoch
Menard vs. Trulsen
Fenson vs. Uusipaavalniemi

CBC-TV kicks into gear with their first-ever Continental Cup coverage Saturday at 1:30pm ET, with the climactic men's skins finals set for Sunday at 12:30pm ET. CurlTV will still be handling non-televised sheets, so keep your computer handy along with the TV remote control.

What else is going on?

• Still more curling on TV this weekend, on NBC in fact. The Korbel Elite Curling Challenge was filmed in Whistler, B.C. last weekend and takes to the air Sunday between 2:00pm and 4:00pm ET. It's a battle-of-the-sexes between Teams Fenson and McCormick with special guest Olympic athletes – non-curlers – also taking part. Check out this cool USA Today story for a preview ...

• Here’s a U.S. development story out of Minot in the Dakotas; a peek at curling in nearby Fargo – yaah? – and finally a look at Vermont’s burgeoning curling club – the Green Mountain gang – in action ...

• Scottish curling coach Derek "Delboy" Brown has been tagged to replace Mike Hay in steering the national teams under the Scottish Institute of Sport ...

• Super-sub Jon Mead has served notice: he’ll spare for someone at Victoria’s Bear Mountain Classic in April, so long as curling doesn’t interfere with his tee times...

• Three Edmonton curlers – Kevin Martin, his second man Marc Kennedy, and Mark Johnson lead Adam Enright have followed the lead of Ontario’s Team Wayne Middaugh, and bought into the M&M Meats Shops franchise world ...

Gay curling leagues have always been strong in Metro Toronto, as this Extra! story attests ...

• Big curling boardroom news: noted Canuck TV production guy Scott Moore is now on board with CurlTV, and Grand Slam founder Kevin Albrecht, ex of IMG, is now in charge at Insight Sports ...

Pacific playoffs

This news overnight from the World Curling Federation, and disappointment for TCN's Kiwi spies ...

"The round-robins and necessary tiebreakers have now been completed for both the women and men at the 16th Pacific Curling Championships being played in the Dydo Arena, Tokyo, Japan.

The men required one tiebreaker game to determine the four teams that are entered into the semi-finals. Korea (4-1), Australia (4-1) and China (3-2) were directly qualified, while Japan (2-3) defeated New Zealand (2-3) in a Friday night tiebreaker by a score of 8-4 for the last semi-final place. Chinese Taipei missed future action after finishing 0-5.

The Korean men were awarded first place based on their defeat of Australia in the round-robin, and they now take on Japan in the semi-finals, while Australia plays China. These best-of-three semis are played at the same time as the women's games on Saturday, 25 November. The two winners will qualify for the Ford Men's Worlds which will be played in Edmonton, Alberta, in late March 2007.

The five women's teams completed their round-robin on Thursday night. The Draw-Shot-Challenge results had to be used to determine the rankings for Korea, China and Japan which were all tied for first place with 3-1 records. Korea claimed first place (345.40 cm), China was ranked second (377.54 cm) and Japan was third (420.42 cm). New Zealand was ranked fourth based on their 1-3 round-robin record, and Chinese Taipei was eliminated after finishing 0-4.

The women's semi-finals, which are a best-of-three series, will have Korea playing New Zealand, and China taking on Japan on Saturday, 25 November. The two winners advance to the final, which is a single game on Sunday, 26 November. The winner of that final, or second place if Japan wins, qualifies for the Women's World Curling Championship being hosted in Aomori, Japan. The Japanese are automatically qualified as this year's hosting Association of the Women's World Championship."

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Norberg, Kiwi curlers in a battle


Europe, widely assumed to have the edge in overall team lineup, are on the defensive here at the Continental Cup.

And it's the big women's shooter, Sweden's Anette Norberg, that is struggling the most. Norberg herself missed gimme last-rock shots for wins in both the morning's Mixed Doubles competition and this afternoon's team battle versus Debbie McCormick of the USA. Takeouts, no less.

The latter shot was a gift double, left for Norberg after McCormick missed her last shot... for three and the win, after being outplayed by the Americans all game. Yikes.

Tonight it's the men.

Over to Tokyo, Japan, and the Pacific Championships (photo). On the women's side the hosts are through to the playoffs, along with China, Korea and New Zealand. In men's play, we'll let men's New Zealand third Hans Frauenlob take up the story... here's his insider's report.

Hi there TCN,

As usual it's an interesting event here in Tokyo. On the men's side, it's incredibly even; with two rounds to play in the round robin, China, Australia, Korea and New Zealand (yeah, that's us) are all on 2-1 win/loss records. Japan is 1-2 and Chinese Taipei is 0-3.

Four teams advance to the Saturday semis, and at this point its still anyone's tournament. Fourth round today, final round tomorrow morning, tiebreaks if necessary tomorrow afternoon and evening.

As an NZ-specific thing, if you want to see the shot of the tournament so far – and if you're a CurlTV subscriber – have a look at our game against Japan last night. Go to the sixth end and look at Dan (Mustapic, our skip) and his first shot. A double angle-raise-pickout that is as good as any you'll ever see – totally pumped us up and turned the game around.

In the women's, you know the playoff teams... what's interesting is that Australia withdrew from the tournament just prior to it starting.

Interesting aspects of the tournament:

• Curl TV is covering it, showing all Japanese games;

Dave Merklinger is the icemaker, and his ice is quick and boasts about 4-1/2 feet of curl;

• about 80 media from all media types attended the tournament opening press conference!!

• the Japanese women's team are genuine celebrities here. Fans wait outside the arena for opportunities to take photos or get autographs. There is no doubt that the Olympics has made an impact on the profile of the sport in Japan.

Say hi to all our mates from Europe for us at the ConCup! Cheers!

Last call for Russ and Brad

CHILLIWACK, B.C. – The Continental Cup has roared to life, and you can check it out live at CurlTV, and via online scoring here.

And it marks the first time the 2006 Olympic golden duo of Brad Gushue (rear in CCA/Michael Burns photo) and Russ Howard (foreground) have been on the ice together since the last puck of Pinerolo in February.

And this week's event marks the last time, as well.

As readers of The Curling News well know, Gushue has replaced Russ with youthful Alberta import Chris Schille on the road to 2010, while Howard will seek his Brier fortune out of his hometown of Moncton, along with son Steven Howard. Thus, this fourth edition of the Continental Cup is the last hurrah of the men's Olympic champions, in terms of the once-controversial lineup change that brought Howard on board in October, 2005.

The squad faces Norway's Pal Trulsen, the 2002 gold medallist, tonight, for ultimate Olympic bragging rights.

Right now, Gushue and Kleibrink third Amy Nixon are tied 3-3 with Europe's Eva Lund (third for Anette Norberg) and Trulsen. Mark Nichols and Bronwen Saunders are brushing for the North American duo, while Trulsen second Flemming Davanger and Cathrine Lindahl (Norberg's sister) are sweeping for Europe.

Meanwhile, a blow to the NA squad as Nichols has taken himself out of the lineup for singles curling. He's got a bad wheel, largely undiagnosed, which causes pain on takeouts, particularly on speeding bullets like the ones he threw in the Olympic final.

"Obviously I would have loved to play singles, but it's in the best interests of the whole team and my leg," Nichols told TCN scribe Larry Wood. "I want to be ready to play the games, the teams and the skins."

Nichols has an MRI scheduled for early December.

Check back often as The Curling News brings you regular blogposts from the Continental Cup, plus the occasional insider's report from Tokyo and the Pacific Championships, which are a resounding success in curling's newest hotbed of Japan.

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Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Curling Detour: Afghanistan

Yes, we're in Chilliwack B.C., but a quick jaunt across an ocean – and a rather notorious Gulf – to share greetings from ace curling scribe Bill "Gravy" Graveland (photo), of the Canadian Press.

Yes, he is in the Middle East – probably embedded with Canadian Forces – but we're really not sure. We do know this is a brief tour of duty for him, before he returns to the familiarity of curling ice.

Bill reports...

Dear The Curling News:

Sorry I didn't get in touch with you sooner but it's been crazy this past week... or is it two now?

First of all, there is no curling rink here. I know that will come as a shock to you but, on a positive note, there is a Tim Hortons... and a hockey rink... but alas no ice, and certainly no rocks. It might have something to do with the fact we're in a desert here in Kandahar, but word is the engineers are going to try and come up with ice for the hockey rink once winter fully hits... and after that curling ice is just a stone's throw away (intentionally bad pun). I am still expecting Shorty Jenkins to show up at any time!

The strangest thing about being here in Afghanistan so far is it hasn't stopped raining. It rains four times a day – big storms – with thunder and lightning. Tents are washing away and there have been floods all over the country with dozens of people killed.

For the first time in my life my luggage was lost on the way over here, and it finally showed up a week later. It's amazing how nasty a week in the same clothes can be!

Re. photo: the helmet and flak jacket are very uncomfortable, and excuse the whiskers. My fixer (interpreter and driver) insists that I have to grow a beard and wear local clothing when
I go into town. I'm sure it will make me look a lot like a local – LOL!

Take care and I will send you another photo if the beard comes in any better... and in my new Afghani clothing.


Ana on the air

A quick photo to show you as The Curling News travels from rainy Vancouver to rainy Chilliwack, and Thursday's start of the Continental Cup.

This is Ana Arce, chief architect, photographer and cover model of the new 2007 women's curling calendar called Fire On Ice. She was on Toronto's FAN 590 morning radio show recently, and you can listen to the interview – and purchase a fundraising calendar – at this page.

More from British Columbia coming soon, so visit often ...

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Once more with the rock

Yep, Team Anette Norberg have rocked out... yet again. This time on Eurosport’s Watts Pop TV show, where athletes show other talents that they have (or not).

In this YouTube video, taped in early October, the curling girls sing along to Joan Jett’s I Love Rock And Roll, followed by outtakes, along with a few bars of the AC/DC classic Girls Got Rhythm. Yes, they sure do.

“Watts Pop knew about the Hammerfall video and they wanted to do something similar with us,” lead Anna Svard (photo) told The Curling News. “The difference was that we had to sing ‘for real’. Very scary! At first we didn’t want to do it, but said okay after persuasion.”

Team Norberg is still atop The Curling News Top 15 despite losing on the weekend to Scotland’s Rhona Martin in the final of the Stockholm Cup. The gals are soon on their way to Canada’s west coast, where they’ll spend a few days in Vancouver before heading to Chilliwack for the Continental Cup, which has two air dates next weekend (Nov. 25 & 26) on CBC.

The squad’s growing legion of North American fans have suffered a blow with the dismantling of their blogsite, which was previously hosted by sponsor Johnson & Johnson. All that’s left is a link to the Hammerfall video. There is, of course, the team’s website, but there are no plans to post info in English.


• So, you’re the manager of the Hub City Curling Club in Saskatoon, and you open your electrical bill one day and see... a charge for $47,000 dollars. Whoops. Will TCN’s new Asham Club Corner feature be following up on this story? You bet we will ...

• They didn’t make the final, but the arch-rival Kevin Martin and Randy Ferbey teams had a little fun on the weekend, with curling fans in Lloydminster the beneficiaries. Quote of the day from the Ferb, directed at all front-enders everywhere: “The lesson you've got to take from this is even a blind squirrel finds a nut now and then.”

• Kudos to Lloydminster for dressing up their 20th anniversary Wayside Classic in fine style: namely with a huge $75,000 prize purse. It attracted more top-calibre squads, including champion Glenn Howard, who had super-sub Jon Mead on board in place of Richard Hart ...

• The Laurier University Alumni are the latest official partners of the Home Hardware Masters of Curling, the first Grand Slam set for late November in Waterloo, Ontario. The grads qualify for discounted tickets and it should be a noisy event, particularly when alumnus John Morris is on the ice with Team Kevin Martin ...

• DID YOU KNOW: that Canadian Curling Association CEO Dave Parkes has apparently served notice of his retirement date? It’s at the end of 2007 ...

• Quebec skip Eve Belisle – the darling of last spring’s Scotties Tournament of Hearts in London – is skipping her province at the Canadian Mixed in Kitchener, and she’s alone in first place at 5-0 ...

• The Pacific Curling Championships are Nov. 21-26 in Tokyo, and the host nation’s matches will be available online through webstreaming. Who is the provider, you ask? Say hello to CurlTV Japan ...

• DID YOU KNOW II: that Toronto almost lost another curling club recently; the posh Granite Club, a near-victim of burst piping ...

Al Cameron is declaring that Calgary will host the 2009 Brier (subscription only), even if the CCA won’t be confirming this for just under a year or so. The last Calgary Brier, in 2002, earned a record profit of $1.3 million on 245,000+ spectators, the third-highest total ever ...

• DID YOU KNOW III: that Canadian senior squads – like the superstar Anne Dunn foursome – continue to battle scheduling snafus that see national champions unable to defend their crown if they go to the worlds?

• Who’s up on Dean Gemmell’s The Curling Show? Why, it’s the gal with the pipes, calendar pinup and Olympian Christine Keshen ...

• And speaking of, the calendar, over 500 of the new 2007 curling calendars have been sold since last week’s launch. Featuring a whopping 17 athlete/models, bonus pages and some colour images, it’s the perfect holiday gift – and a fundraiser, too. Calendar queen Ana Arce flew into Canada from Spain last week, and you can hear her appearance on the FAN590 radio morning show here ...

• DID YOU KNOW IV: that a Quebec pequiste is using Canada’s national men’s championship – errantly – as a public relations tool for the separatist cause? TCN’s own Adam Daifallah is thoroughly unimpressed ...

• Two-time world champion skip Marilyn Bodogh’s bid to become mayor of St. Catherines earned bronze last night. The brash Bodogh won 4,412 votes to finish third behind runaway winner Brian McMullan, who scored 15,067 votes ...

• BLOGBITERS: in no particular order, we have ...

That Kid in Seattle;

Jose – who has no clue – in Portugal;

Pilot in Saskatchewan (that’s one dangerous curling team logo, my friend);

Hugrun in Iceland (Sigurvvegarar!);

... and these truthful Yanks, who have voted curling to be an honest-to-goodness sport, by a 5-2 margin. How about that.

• Finally, tiny Stevens Point, Wisconsin, is the hometown of USA Curling. It’s also the home of the world’s biggest trivia festival, of which a new film has been made, which features a famous local curler as one of the trivia answers. Looks like fun ...

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

The 2007 Curling Athlete Calendar

They're back.

And that's quite a back (above), that of Ana Arce, the creative director/photographer and also model – one of 17 – in the new 2007 Curling Calendar, formally titled Fire On Ice: 2007 Team Sponsorship Calendar.

Read Al Cameron's preview story here (also appearing in today's National Post) and, of course, you can read more and also order it here.

Also note the sharp new look for The Curling News homepage, debuting today. Not bad, eh?

Finally, note the November 2006 issue of TCN is out, with a wild-goggled Randy Ferbey on the cover. What's up with that? You'll have to subscribe to find out.

Oh yes, the season has really started now.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Home Hardware joins Grand Slam

An announcement is expected today that Home Hardware has taken title sponsorship of the first Grand Slam of Curling event of the Insight Sports era, The Masters in Waterloo, Nov. 28-Dec. 3 (CurlTV and finals on CBC).

The Home Hardware Masters of Curling also has a new website, located here, and Al Barber's local organizing committee has a great traveller's deal up for grabs, located here, with two options available for a combo game ticket/hotel package.

Prior to this big move, the hardware chain had been slowly warming to curling. They had taken minor sponsorships in the old M&M Meat Shops Skins (remember that?) and are selling Rusty Drew's famous Extender throwing stick. Also, a group of no less than 10 franchise stores in the Kitchener-Waterloo and outlying area (which also includes Galt and Elmira) recently banded together in time to sponsor the 40th anniversary of the big interclub competition, the Home Hardware (formerly Clarica) Bonspiel, which runs Nov. 20-25.

Welcome aboard, HH.


Brad Gushue's Thursday started at 1:45 am eastern time, when he crawled out of bed to catch a 3:50 am flight from St. John's to Toronto. When he landed, he was scheduled to do three media interviews before hitting the ice at Brantford's Tim Hortons Classic tour event. Next week he starts a book tour for Golden Gushue, of which you can follow along and read blogposts from either the CurlingZone main page, or here. Busy, busy.

But if you want to see his squad in person this weekend, act fast... tickets are sold out for Saturday and Sunday, meaning today is your only chance to see them. Or Glenn Howard. Or Guy Hemmings. Or Jean-Michel Menard. Or... you get the picture.

• Meanwhile, Gushue's Olympic teammate Russ Howard is in P.E.I. for the popular Rodd Curling Classic. Howard will appear at the Charlottetown Curling Club today from 5:30 to 6:30 pm to meet fans and sign autographs, as well as to show off his golden hardware.

PS: Did you know Russ spared for Team Ferbey rock-tosser David Nedohin at last weekend's Meyers Norris Penny tour stop in Portage, where the Ferbs lost the semis to Russ' brother Glenn, the eventual champion? Well... now you do.

Doug and Joan Middleton had quite a Wednesday. The Regina couple showed up at the Tartan for their weekly curling match, only to find out – from friends who had watched the TV news – that they had won a brand-new, fully furnished house, the top prize in the Hospitals of Regina Foundation's Lifestyles Lottery.
Oh... they also picked up a new Audi A3 2.OT car and $7,500 cash, to go along with the 2,400-square-foot, professionally decorated Wascana View showhome. The total prize is estimated to be worth more than $523,000.
"We just could not focus on what we were doing (on the ice)," said Doug. "It was the first game I can ever remember that I didn't mind losing."

• According to the Conman, Alberta's St. Albert Curling Club is rededicating the Friendly Giant Lounge tomorrow night in honour of the late, great Hec Gervais. Former teammates and family will be there ...

• Hamilton's mayor recently chucked a puck to launch the sale of mini-pack ticket packages for the 2007 Tim Hortons Brier. You can read Adam Daifallah's story about a possible new mayor of nearby St. Catherines in the November issue of The Curling News, now off to the mailhouse and headed your way. If you don't subscribe, you'd best get on that, eh?

• Finally... guess who's back? And taking shots at the CCA?

Er... that would be the Canadian Consumers' Association, not these guys. Whatever. Welcome back, Statman!