Thursday, June 28, 2007

Olympic Curling: Decision 2014

The fourth of July is more than just an American holiday: it’s the day the world finds out the host city of the 2014 Olympic Winter Games.

The choices to follow Vancouver 2010 and host curling’s sixth official Olympiad are South Korea’s PyeongChang, the Austrian city of Salzburg in central Europe, and Russia’s Black Sea resort city of Sochi.

The vote takes place at International Olympic Committee meetings set to begin shortly in Guatemala, with July 4 the magic day of reckoning.

Pundits have recently put the Russians squarely in third place, with PyeongChang and Salzburg running one-two in the race to host. The Koreans should be the favourites, however, given that they very nearly scooped the 2010 Games from Vancouver at the last minute. Remember that?

Curling would take place in the nearby city of Gangneung, along with all other ice sports. The existing facility is already pegged to host the 2009 World Women’s Curling Championship, following next year’s 2008 Ford Women’s Worlds in Vernon, British Columbia.

Salzburg, which has a rich winter sport history, would put curling in the new (2004) Salzburg Arena, city centre, with some 5,000 seats.

Sochi would have to build a new facility, dubbed the Imeretinaskaya Exhibition Center, which would seat 3,000 and also serve as the new national curling centre. Sochi, by the way, is a truly odd place, serving as both a sea and ski resort. That’s right... snow on the tops of plam trees, people. Wouldn’t mind getting weird with that.

Who will win and who should win are often two very different concepts... particularly to IOC votemakers. Suffice to say that four years after Vancouver, curling’s big show will take place in a comparitively exotic locale.


• The Canadian Curling Association has announced the sites and dates for the 2008 Canadian Mixed and Seniors competitions: it’s the Calgary Curling Club for the Mixed on Nov. 10-16, and Prince Albert in Saskatchewan for the Canadian Seniors, taking place March 22-30 ...

• So where, pray tell, is the Brier on this otherwise engaging list of 101 Great Sporting Events One Must Visit Before One Dies? Nowhere to be found. Is this ignorance or purely a diss? We suspect the latter, given the inclusion of ridiculous things like #64, inspiring things like #60, very Canadian things like #59, and hatchet jobs like the one found at the end of #57 ...

• Here’s a well-done kid’s feature on curling, originating from PBS’ DragonflyTV ...

• Finally, a YouTube look at Houston’s recent Texas Open Bonspiel... hey, where’s Dan?

Friday, June 22, 2007

Chess on ice

Chess on ice.


That comparison is something curling has had to deal with since the dawn of time. Much of it (but not all) is rubbish, but we have always wondered what actual chess players think... has anyone ever asked them about the comparison? Do chess players wrinkle their nose in disgust at the mere mention of curling? Has anyone ever offered that “chess is like curling with multiple pieces, physical components and a very different playing surface”?

Doubt it.

Kirsan Ilyumzhinov (photo) is the world chess federation chief, and in a May 31 interview on this website, he was asked about his sport’s endless quest for Olympic inclusion:

Q: Are you still trying to bring chess into the Olympic family?

A: We are working on it every day. You probably know that we opened a FIDE office in Lausanne, getting closer to the IOC headquarters. We work in all the structures of the IOC – committees, IOC associations etc., and ask the IOC to state criteria for an international sports federation to join the Olympic family. They are reluctant to state it, and we keep pressing.

For example, why curling became an Olympic sport? When they applied for the status, they advertised curling as ‘Chess on Ice’. Isn’t it absurd that chess on ice is an Olympic sport, and ‘mere’ chess is not?

Hmm. Sounds like the biggest problem may be that curlers, and curling mandarins, are guilty of using the comparison themselves. A lot.

Ilyumzhinov, by the way, is also president of the Republic of Kalmykia, a Russian subject, and according to various media reports faces persistent accusations of diverting his republic’s resources for his own use, of human rights abuses, and of suppressing media freedom.

Oh, and he apparently claims to have once been abducted by space aliens.

Hey, we don’t write all of this stuff; sometimes we just pass it on ...


• U.S. curling skips Deb McCormick and Pete Fenson were horsing around – er, bearing around – in Alberta recently and stumbled across a taping of the hunting TV show Canada in the Rough. In no time, the pair were caught on video – Deb fishing, Pete bear hunting – plus both sitting on a bear stakeout, and talking hunting. Oh, and there’s a hot tub scene. Honest.

Will the curlers make the final cut? You can find out this Sunday, on Global Manitoba CKND at 7:30 AM, and on Global Ontario Sunday at 8:00 AM ...

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Skins Game squads

We kinda knew this a while ago, but we... er... forgot to pass it along (honest!), and TSN has made it official today: the four men’s teams confirmed for the Casino Rama Curling Skins Game this coming December are skipped by Glenn Howard, Kevin Martin, Wayne Middaugh and Brad Gushue.

Any bets on who plays whom in the December 8 semis? We’re not telling ...

A time for athletes?

Congratulations to one-half of the mighty online curling portal CurlingZone on his marriage over the weekend. Gerry Geurts, pictured here with Marie the day before their big plunge, is not only the co-founder of CurlingZone... he also steers the Ontario Curling Tour, co-publishes The Black Book of Curling, liases with CBC-TV on their Grand Slam coverage, writes code like a Russian spy, and has a truly awful in-turn.

He’s also a cancer survivor.

All the best to Gerry and Marie, currently on honeymoon in the Dominican Republic. And thanks to CZ’s other half, Dallas Bittle, for the photo.

In other news, the Canadian Curling Association’s annual Congress/AGM is over and there’s some loose ends to tie up. We’ll be delving into the details and what they mean in the coming weeks and months – no rush, eh – but for now...

The new board faces are Saskatchewan’s Bernadette McIntyre and Manitoba’s Mitch Tarapasky, and the president and vice-president both hail from New Brunswick: Al Forsythe is in command with Beth Sullivan the next-in-line. When one considers that World Curling Federation prez Les Harrison hails from Moncton, it sure looks like New Brunswick is the new epicentre of curling power.

Meanwhile, with the new board still dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s on the financial situation, the other big news is a new era of cooperation and determination dawning amongst the traditionally über-political staff/board/membership dynamic.

Such a stage was built well in advance of the Congress with the release of the Report of the Joint Working Committee on Governance and Organizational Structure, a hefty proposal for a new era of CCA governance, which of course passed unanimously.

There are two things that leap out immediately, however. How is it that an impressive 64-page template for change does not address the issue of single-year terms for the CCA president? We’ve always thought that one-year terms don’t do a heck of a lot for a boss – newly empowered by said JWC report, of course – who is often just starting to feel comfortable in the high chair before he or she are headed out the door. We’re not suggesting decades of power like this guy or that guy, but given the six-year terms for the board of directors, a switch to a two-year presidential term only makes sense. Or does it not?

And finally, how is it that the missing equation in the CCA’s leadership conundrum – CEO/staff, board and member associations – continues to be athletes? Was this governance review not the perfect opportunity to finally get on with what simply must happen, as it has already in so many other sports... namely, athlete representation to the board of directors?

Monday, June 18, 2007

Wuthrich, Merk at Vancouver 2010

The World Curling Federation has announced that two Canadian veterans have been selected as curling ice technicians for the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver.

Hans Wuthrich of Gimli, Manitoba has been named Head Ice Technician and Dave Merklinger of Vernon, British Columbia has been named Assistant Head Ice Technician for the XXI Olympic Winter Games, taking place February 12-28.

The pair will also team up to test the competition surface a year earlier. The 2009 World Junior Curling Championship will be staged at the Hillcrest/Nat Bailey Stadium Park and will serve as an official test event.

Wuthrich is generally acknowledged to be the world’s leading ice technician. Last year he steered the playing conditions of various major events, including the 2006 Le Gruyère European Championships in Basel, Switzerland and the 2007 World Women’s Championship in Aomori, Japan.

“I've done so many events, I don’t know the actual number,” said the 50-year-old Wuthrich. “I started keeping track of them in 1993, after I did my first big one, the men’s worlds in Geneva in 1992.

“Just the prestige of doing the Olympics will make it different from anything I’ve experienced.”

Wuthrich already serves as a consultant to the 2010 Olympic process, as a technical advisor to the The Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games (VANOC). Wuthrich will continue to serve in this role, a position he considers critical to the success of the eventual playing surface.

“The only concern is going to be the building itself,” said Wuthrich. “It’s a temporary curling facility, so we have to be careful about every step in the process.”

After the 2010 Winter Games, the curling venue will become a multi-purpose community recreation centre that will include an ice hockey rink, gymnasium, library and the new eight-sheet Vancouver Curling Club. In addition, an aquatic centre with a 50-metre pool and leisure pool will be attached and will be managed by the Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation.

In the 52-year-old Merklinger, Wuthrich sees a familiar face. The two have worked together on more than 10 major curling events over the years, both overseas and within Canada. Merklinger has recently headed the ice crew at the 2007 Canadian men’s championship and the 2007 Ford World Men’s Championship at Edmonton’s Rexall Place.

“I pebbled my first sheet of ice in 1969,” said Merklinger, who also competed at the 1985 Canadian championship at second position. “My first head ice job was in 1974. But I’ve been hoping for the Olympic job for the past few years.

“I've always said, once I get to do the Olympics, I’ve done it all.”

Merklinger will move to Vernon from Vancouver next month to become the head ice technician and club manager at the Vernon Curling Club. He will also lead the ice crew when that city hosts the 2008 Ford World Women’s Championship in March.


• Here’s a mildly amusing tale from Alaska, by way of Scotland ...

• Speaking of the motherland, there could be mucho trouble looming as the new Scottish government has pledged to mothball sportscotland, which is disbursing some £600m to sport and athletes all the way up to the 2012 Olympic Games in London ...

• Finally, two curling teams will be inducted tonight into the Saskatchewan Sports Hall of Fame and Museum: the 2003 double world junior champions, skipped by Steve Laycock (men) and Marliese Miller (now Kasner) ...

Friday, June 15, 2007

Bernadette On Deck

Word out of Gatineau, Quebec and the Canadian Curling Association’s annual Congress says that premier Saskatchewan volunteer Bernadette McIntyre (photo) will be acclaimed to the CCA Board of Directors, without a vote.

No surprise there: McIntyre is arguably the best-known event volunteer leader in the country, having chaired the 1998 Regina Scotties, the 2006 Brier, and the 2001 Olympic Trials along with multiple years of great cashspiels in the Queen City.

She is also a founding member the Sandra Schmirler Trust Fund (now Foundation), served on the board of the Saskatchewan Sport Hall of Fame and Museum, and won the CCA’s Ray Kingsmith Executive of the Year Award in 2003. She even volunteered, in a non-executive role, with the 2005 Canada Games.

“I believe if you volunteer and contribute to your community, it makes for a stronger community,” McIntyre said in 2005.

Now, McIntyre is volunteering to contribute to all of Canadian curling, and it says here that she will be a vibrant and valuable addition to the board. And not a moment too soon, as the CCA grapples with office turmoil, financial struggles and an irritable provincial membership.

Also ...

• First the Hungarians and the Czechs, now the Slovaks... indeed, “Síri novi Sport!” ...

• Oich. The planned world-class curling centre and home of Scottish curling – a £1.5 million facility – might fizzle out, due to complaints of country aesthetics and inherent danger to – wait for it – badgers ...

• The Ontario Curling Tour’s 2007-08 event schedule was released this morning ...

• Too funny: The Score’s “Tiger Woods of Curling” dons a fabled ice uniform, grabs Mike Harris and heads to “a very unfamiliar place for a nation of brothers” (aka the Toronto Cricket club). Yo, check this ...

• Finally, more frustrating news coming out of the Fredericton Golf & Curling Club, following the stiff-arm the golfers gave the curlers.

As reported in yesterday’s Daily Gleaner, curling member Ed Haggerty believes he and his fellow rock-tossers were hosed.

Haggerty says the members were told the curling club needed $125,000 to replace the ice plant, condenser and chilling equipment.

“I’m not a mechanical engineer but I’m an electrical engineer and a good deal of that is electric,'” said the retired Haggerty. “Having worked for 37 years at NB Power in construction, I’m aware of a lot of different kind of facilities. I was on the ice committee and I personally don’t believe the plant is in as bad a condition as what’s being told.”

At the Monday meeting which saw the shareholders vote to turf the curlers, a pro engineer “submitted a letter and said much the same thing,” Haggerty said. “Yes, the plant is getting older but, in his experience as a mechanical engineer, he felt with some maintenance it was certainly capable of operating for a good long time.”

But the golfers weren’t willing to give the curlers much time to try to round up the money.

“Who can come up with 125 grand in three weeks?” Haggerty said.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Fredericton curling club kicked out

Word today that the Fredericton Curling Club has been unceremoniously booted out of the facility it shares with their former golf buddies.

What’s in a name, you ask? Not much, according to the shareholders at the Fredericton Golf and Curling Club, which essentially voted on Monday night to change its name and strike “curling” out of its title.

As the image of Fredericton curling in 1854 indicates, this marks the end of 150-plus years of history. Gone. El toasto.

This typical golf-versus-curling story has been heard often before: the golfers have been subsidizing the curlers for years, curling membership has steadily declined, and a whack of new curling facility equipment ($100,000 or so) is needed and is not forthcoming... so a “business decision” was made.

Some of the discourse is disturbing, however. Curling club past president Gary Wilson feels the curling executive was “misled into believing we were doing better than we were, by the board and by the general manager. I have, on paper, reports from annual general meetings that say we were making money.

“When this came to a head and we were asked to meet with the board, we were told point blank that this was all wrong. We never made money, we were losing money, but out of the goodness of their hearts, they were adjusting the books to make it look better than it was. They said there should have been footnotes put into the profit and loss statements that all expenses were not charged to the curling division that should have been. They didn’t cook the books, but they didn’t report everything accurately on paper. There was nothing fraudulant or whatever in that manner. But things weren’t explained as to what they were in exactness.”

Looking ahead, incoming president Cyndi Greene is talking tough, saying that fundraising toward a new facility will be “well underway” in three to four weeks and they’ll begin scouting potential locations, and that “we’ll get an ice plant and a shed to put (the club) in. The life span of an ice plant is 30 years. So once that’s in, we’re looking at a minimum 30 years.”

We should know better than to infer directly from media accounts, but these quoted steps and solutions all sound far, far too simple. There will be no FCC curling in 2007-08 and it is going to be very, very difficult to make a comeback at all, let alone get “a new venue up and running no later than 2008.”

Given that “neither Greene or Wilson were surprised” by the results of Monday’s vote, and that Greene says the club executive is only now planning “to meet with legal counsel later this week to protect the assets of the club,” one has to ask... what, if anything, was attempted to prevent this disaster?

Was the NBCA ever asked for help or direction in rebuilding what sounds like an abysmal membership count? Was the CCA’s lauded Business of Curling seminar program ever considered or attended?

Who’s on first? Or rather, was on first? Just asking.


• Alberta women have joined the men in revamping their provincial format and a pair of Calgary teams are headed directly to next January’s provincial championship.

Defending champ Cheryl Bernard and 2006 Olympian Shannon Kleibrink were the beneficiaries of the Alberta Curling Federation’s expansion of the women’s provincials, a move the ACF ratified at its annual general meeting on the weekend.

As pioneered by the men’s provincials, there’ll be 12 teams chasing the 2008 Alberta women’s title; the traditional eight (three each from the North and South, two from the Peace) as well as the defending champ, the top Alberta team on the Canadian Team Ranking System (CTRS) last season (Kleibrink) and two teams to be decided this fall. One will be the top CTRS team in the stretch from September to late January, and the other will come from an Alberta bonspiel series.

In addition, the ACF announced that both the men’s and women’s provincials will adopt triple-knockout formats, with four qualifiers going to a Page playoff system.

• Meanwhile, the eternal question of provincial qualification rages on in BC... and on, and on, and on ...

Congrats to Vermont curlers on a great inaugural season ...

• Let’s keep the good news coming: The Curling News has learned the Toronto Curling Association will announce a new sponsor tomorrow in Retirement Residences Group. RRG becomes title sponsor of both the TCA Business Women’s Bonspiel (November 9-11, 2007) and the Toronto & District Ladies Bonspiel (Nov. 13-15).

“We are looking forward to partnering with two great bonspiels,” said Elaine Wood and Pam Starr, Regional Directors of Marketing for Retirement Residences Group. “We support curling all over the GTA and this is a great opportunity to show our support for women’s curling.”

• And finally, RIP to Bob Martin, a curling mover and shaker in Ontario’s Golden Horseshoe region ...

Monday, June 11, 2007

Take-Out Weight Curling... v3?

Remember Take-Out Weight Curling?

It was a videogame, circa 2002-03, that scored strong reviews and went through two versions, both of them selling quite well... and notably through standard retail stores, and with little or no promotion or advertising within the curling market.

Developed by Saskatchewan youngster Nathan Sorensen when he was still in high school (!) TOWC and TOWC2 are now out of print and hard to find.

Great news today in that Nate has resurfaced with a revamped website/blog, located here. He’s currently studying computer science at the University of Calgary and while he’s not announcing a TOWC3 or anything like that, his inaugural message indicates that he just might be willing to mail some game copies out to those who cannot find it, and are in desperate need of a fix.

So visit his page and send him a comment, or an e-mail... who knows, maybe if enough people write in, he’ll find the time and inspiration to get back on the curling development trail ...


• A flurry of news recently concerning Scotland and their high-performance plans aiming toward Vancouver 2010... as usual, The Scottish Curler has the best summary of what it all means ...

• In recent news, Northern Ontario has (finally) finished their long-awaited amalgamation... and Hall of Fame legend Vera Pezer is the new chancellor of the University of Saskatchewan ...

• DID YOU KNOW: that InTheHack is selling some of their branded curling gloves on eBay... and speaking of merch, it looks like the ProCurler spring sale is still going as we head into summer ...

• Congrats to all at the Great Smoky Mountains Curling Club in Knoxville, TN... not only do they have the best club motto – “will curl for jugs!” – but they also hosted a summer spiel on the weekend, with teams from Hamilton, Collingwood and Windsor, Ontario taking part along with U.S. teams from Detroit and Knoxville ...

• Just prior to that event, Colorado Springs hosted a tourney, as reported by the fine folks in Kansas City ...

• They’ve also been curling in California, and SongMonk recently broke down down his delivery... which, of course, prompted more mulling ...

• Here’s two YouTube glimpses into the magic of outdoor Swiss curling, then and now ...

• As the Czechs say, Hokej: V Trenãíne hrali hokejisti curling ...

• And don’t forget the Hungarians (also in English here) ...

• And finally... wanna buy some rocks? ...

Friday, June 08, 2007

40-degree curling

40 degrees (with humidity) celsius in big, bad Toronto today and who would think there’s curling goin’ on, all for a great cause and with some serious celebrity names to boot.

Of course, there is lots of golf underway for the celebs and sponsors, at some great courses like this one, and this one, plus this one, and of course this one.

There has already been one pub night, which saw world champ Craig Savill challenged by some unknown guy to a 40-yard sprint outside along Eglinton Avenue. We kid you not.

Savill won, like any A-carded national athlete should.

Drop on by the Canlan Ice Sports Centre for a gander this weekend, and/or make a donation here.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

The Blue & Orange

All good things must come to an end, and it looks like the pink gear sported by Team Glenn Howard – the world champions, of course – has moved on... to orange and blue. Or has it?

Team sponsor BalancePlus has announced a limited run of new specialty carbon-fibre tapered brushes are on sale now, with proceeds going to prostate cancer research. That’s $100 from every brush going to this cause, which will be embraced by the team through the coming 2007-08 season.

That doesn’t mean you can’t get pink brushes anymore... indeed, they are also still on sale via the BalancePlus website. But the new campaign should deliver another $10,000 to the Prostate Cancer Research Foundation of Canada, and should also deliver a new look for the colourful Howard guys this fall.

Unless the Howards are sticking with pink, meaning that another team would be donning the blue and orange. Hrmm... any thoughts?

What a busy bunch, these world champs are. Fresh off a party at their home club which drew a whack of supporters, the boys are in Sudbury today as part of Tim Hortons Camp Day, visiting no less than 13 Tim Hortons area locations.

“They might serve coffee, pose for pictures, sign autographs, talk about curling, whatever they want to do,” said John McLellan, Tim Hortons’ regional marketing manager for Northern Ontario.

Monday, June 04, 2007

The Curler

It’s back.

The Curler was a staple of Manitoba curling club reading for about 15 years, but hasn’t been around for a while. Back in late February, publisher Resby Coutts – recently the MR guy of the Manitoba Curling Association, who also hosts a Sunday morning radio program called “Rock Talk” on Winnipeg’s CFRW AM1290 – brought it back to online life and we have watched it become a great little website. Check it out... and with provincial associations all meeting in the lead up to next week’s big annual Canadian Curling Association Congress, there’s lots to digest.


• They’re turning away curling-crazed people in Aukland, New Zealand... check out this Kiwi TV report ...

• Meanwhile, they went “Turkey Curling” in the Middle East the other day, and these guys hosted “Ferret Curling” in Ottawa yesterday ...

Curling Today reports that, amongst other cool stuff, there’s a new Scottish curling forum up and running, and also that world champ Kelly Scott will compete in Scotland in mid-January, at a lucrative new WCT-E event ...

• Still with Scotland, did you know they’re planning a new tourist centre overlooking the legendary Ailsa Craig? That would cost some 30 million pounds? Tis true, read on here ...

• Finally, the new Grand Slam for women, the Sobey’s Slam, will be held on arena ice in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia ...