Thursday, May 29, 2008

Shopping Mall Curling in Russia

World Curling Tour Europe – these guys, not these guys – have leaped into the headlines with word of an annual curling exhibition being hosted in St. Petersburg, Russia.

Date of the first event is almost imminent: July 25-27, 2008.

The format sees five international men’s teams of considerable heft being jetted into the city to join three local teams, as yet undetermined.

Invited and accepted are:

Brad Gushue – Canada
Pal Trulsen – Norway
Thomas Ulsrud – Norway
David Murdoch – Scotland
Andy Kapp – Germany

Key to the venture is new WCT-E partner Adamant Construction & Property Management, a rather large Russian developer that happens to own some 1.7 million square metres of property in that city alone.

They also own a few shopping centres, including a big one that happens to boast a small ice rink. A rink that has seen curling displays in the past.

As such, shopping mall curling has come to Russia, just as it came briefly to the world’s biggest mall in Edmonton, and more recently (but sadly no longer) to a mid-sized mall in Galt, Ontario.

“It’s a bit of a breakthrough for us,” said WCT-E chief exec Armin Harder, a Canadian who lives in Switzerland.

“Adamant are covering all the costs, and the idea is to do this quite a few times leading in to Sochi in 2014.

“We look forward to putting on a good show for these guys.”

And what do the players think?

“We were pretty surprised,” said Gushue.

“We were notified by Armin Harder that the event was in the works and they asked if we were interested in attending. Of course, we said yes. But we didn’t want to get too excited until we knew for sure that the event was a go. Once we heard it was a go we got really excited.

“We have our tickets booked and we are looking forward to it... should be a great experience. Hopefully the event will help raise the profile of the game in Russia and add another event on the WCT-E for down the road.”

And on the western front:

“We are happy to be among those top teams that have been invited to this
event,” said F├╝ssen’s Andy Kapp.

“St. Petersburg is a fantastic and booming city and to play a tournament in the middle of summer heat will be very interesting. In Germany and Switzerland we are used to playing tournaments in July and August, but not in a shopping center and not in Russia. If the ice isn’t melting, we will melt it!”

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Jennifer Jones vs. The Boys

Jennifer Jones will skip the first women’s team to ever appear in the TSN (ie. Casino Rama) Skins Game.

The announcement came out of TSN’s Toronto H.Q. this afternoon. The second annual Rama Skinsfest will go January 10 and 11, airing live on TSN and TSN HD.

High-Definition curling... *slobber* *drool*

JJ and her 2008 Ford World Women’s champions will be taking on defending skins champ and fellow World wonder Kevin Martin; the 2007 World champeen Glenn Howard; and in a twist, Team Randy Ferbey, merely the best team in curling through the first half of the decade.

On the outside looking in is last year’s Skins runner-up, Wayne Middaugh.

$100,000 will once again be up for grabs.

TSN prez Phil King:

“Jennifer Jones captivated an entire nation this year with her outstanding performances at the Canadian and World championships. She is an extremely competitive curler and her talents and accomplishments could not be overlooked as an invitee for this year’s Skins game.

“Along with Martin, Howard and Ferbey, this year’s competition is stronger than ever.”

We hope Jonesy tees it up against the Ferbs. Remember the 2005 challenge skins between those two, hosted in Brandon? “Kings versus Queens” it was called, if we recall.

We also recall the boys shmucking the girls pretty good. And some pretty good trash talk before, during and after.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Olympic Curling Victory

Test the Nation: Sports, introduced in last Thursday’s posting, was a success for CBC-TV last night, and a particular success for the five curlers who were a part of Team Olympic (and Paralympic) Medallists.

Victory! Nothing less than gold for the Olympians!

Here’s Brad Gushue (photo) with the trophy. The Goosh was also the focus of a question, regarding the terminology for a “burned rock”, that was introduced via video by Colleen Jones.

Amy Nixon, from Team Shannon Kleibrink, also got some face time when host Ron Maclean announced she was the top scorer for the Olympians/Paralympians squad. Amy also graciously supplied the photo, above.

There was one other curling question: what is the name of the “modified drinking hole” at curling events? Answer: the Patch, of course.

Full results:

• 1st: Olympic Medallists with 74.2%. Coached by Victoria Pratt.
• 2nd: Refs & Umps with 73.7%. Coached by Paul Coffey (tied as top scoring celebrity).
• 3rd: Sportscasters with 73.2%. Coached by Alan Thicke.
• 4th: Armchair Athletes with 72.9%. Coached by Debra DiGiovanni.
• 5th: Cheerleaders & Mascots with 57.1%. Coached by Brian Bailey.
• 6th: Team Extreme with 55.4%. Coached by Chris Murphy (tied as top scoring celebrity).

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Olympic Curling Test

Test the Nation is a popular TV show which originated in the Netherlands and has now found success in Canada, via CBC-TV.

This Sunday evening, an episode called Test the Nation: Sports will be aired, featuring contestants assembled into various teams to battle each other – and with the Canadian public also getting in on the action, either via TV or online.

The teams are:

Refs & Umps
Armchair Athletes
Cheerleaders & Mascots
Olympic Medallists
Team Extreme

There are a few celebrities hanging out – like former NHL star Paul Coffey – and you can see some behind-the-scenes action in this video.

What’s the curling angle? Well, Team Olympic Medallists features no less than five curlers, in addition to a nifty mixture of other Olympians from various eras, and at various levels of fame.

“It was a ton of fun being part of the show,” says 2006 gold medal champion skip Brad Gushue. “There was trash talking, jokes flying around and we were treated great. It was great to be part of it.”

Joining Gushue were fellow 2006 curlers Amy Nixon, Glenys Bakker and Christine Keshen – the entire support staff for bronze medal women’s skip Shannon Kleibrink – and 2002 Olympic silver men’s medallist Don Bartlett.

So... Brad... any curling questions?

“There were a couple curling questions,” Gushue acknowledged. “One about the Patch and one about the correct terminology for a burnt rock. One of the answer options for that was Gushue. Pretty funny... I had to sacrifice a wrong answer on that one!”

So, who wins?

We’ll all have to tune in to find out. According to a survey on the show website, Sportscasters are the top pick to win with over 30 per cent of the vote, while Armchair Athletes rank second (over 25 per cent) and the Olympians third (over 15 per cent). Interesting that Refs & Umps get no respect, with less than 10 per cent!

Another opinion says the Olympians “are so engorfed in their own sports...” Wow. check out the video at 3:41 for that hilarity.

Canadians can tune in or log on Sunday night at 8:00pm eastern time, while outlanders can also take part via the show website.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Prague Adult Curling Camp

Have you heard about Prague? Not only is the stunning Czech capital (above) one of the world’s top travel destinations, it is also host to Europe’s only Adult Curling Camp.

This year’s camp, a second-year collaboration between the World Curling Federation and the Czech Curling Association, takes place May 31 to June 3 and features hands-on coaching from four top Canadian coaches and four additional high-performance curlers.

There are only a few spots left, so book your travel and your spot in the camp right away.

Some other stuff ...

• Alberta’s Fort Saskatchewan club wants a 50K loan ...

• The Potomac just got Waymarked (TM) ...

Texas Dan was at the big Texas Open bonspiel in Dallas ...

• And finally, here’s a lengthy report on the Canadian Legion championship, hosted in Dauphin, Manitoba back in February, which was marred by events such as a train derailment ...

Friday, May 16, 2008

Save The Oshawa

The Oshawa Curling Club is in deep trouble, as this story and this chat thread both reveal.

Club president Rob Faulds, above in this TCN photo by Anil Mungal, is best known to blogreaders as the voice of Rogers Sportsnet curling coverage, which had its run from the fall of 1998 through spring 2006. And like other curling commentators before him – such as TSN’s Vic Rauter – we can see that Rob has become quite the curler himself. Enough to get involved at the grassroots level too, at his home club, which is additionally impressive.

Rob’s young son also curls.

Question: can the Greater Toronto Area, the financial H.Q. of Canada and host of one heckuva big tournament in 2009, really afford to lose yet another curling club? And one with eight sheets of ice, so soon after the appalling death of Avonlea?

Will the Toronto, Ontario and Canadian Curling Associations take any proactive measures?

Does anybody care?

More stuff for a Friday ...

• We couldn’t resist scouring the web for some vintage Faulds: here he is way back in 1988, on the baseball beat, in this funny piece called “Expos Dragnet” ...

• There’s a dearth of season wrap-up stories this year; but good old Jim Bender has one, located here ...

• Manitoba Curling Association chief Ian Staniloff is moving on after 12 years at the helm; stories here and here.

Obviously Staniloff’s last official gig will be to represent Manitoba at the Canadian Curling Association’s annual Congress, held early June in Ottawa. This will be CCA CEO Greg Stremlaw’s first Congress – hard to believe he’s only been on the job for eight months – and he is expected to reveal that a significent dent has been made in the CCA’s infamous $1.4-million deficit ...

• Sounds like Bob Cowan will be kept busy for a while as the stories behind the Scottish women’s Vernon debacle continue to twist and turn, and spring turns to summer ...

The Bubbler recently declared the Green Bay Curling Club portal to be their “Site Of The Week” ...

• Here’s a look at Pittsburgh’s other ice sport in the news these days ...

• Word has it that Charley Thomas and his 2007 world junior championship squad of Brock Virtue, Matt Ng and Kyle Reynolds were recently named Alberta’s Team of the Year.

Presumably, this award celebrates 2007 achievements.

The Canadians routed Sweden 8-3 in eight ends last year in Eveleth, Minnesota to earn a second gold medal in two years. Thomas and Reynolds were also on the 2006 world championship team, along with Geoff Walker and Rollie Robinson, that captured gold in Korea ...

• RIP to a Cornwall curling legend ...

• And finally, our heart goes out to Ontario’s Dave “Hutch” Hutchison and his wife, who were victims of a recent burglary with a particularly sad twist.

Hutch is a true curling guy, who ran the Annandale “Eager Beaver” cashspiel (no laughing!) for years before joining the the Ontario Curling Association as an employee. He discovered the theft when he returned home from the OCA office.

Hopefully the press on this story will reach the ears of the thief, who will then choose to do the right thing.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Award-winning Curling Photo

For once, the shooter shares the limelight with the subject.

David Cooper, a photographer for the Toronto Star, has won a Canadian Newspaper Award for this photo of Ontario skip Glenn Howard scoring the title-winning three in the ninth end of the 2007 Brier curling final.

The award news release is here, and the Star photo page is here. And here is the original Star story as it ran (online) back in March of 2007. In the print edition, by the way, the photo itself ran full-size, and very large, on the front page of the sports section.

There were all kinds of similar photos taken at that very same instant – by Adrian Wyld of CP, by the National Post, by Michael Burns of the CCA, local shooters, and also by Anil Mungal of this here The Curling News – which makes us wonder: did other news outlets submit their versions of this photo for the award, or not?

If the former, the question becomes: what made the Star photo better than any of the others? Was it the precise angle of the shot? Did Cooper get more “air” between Howard and the ice?

Regardless, a nice job from a photographer who would typically not have even been in the building, if not for Hamilton’s close proximity to Toronto.

By the way, did you know The Curling News is currently running a photo contest? No? Well, you must not read the print edition of TCN; the contest has been underway since late February and the entries received to date are quite good. Stay tuned for more on this in the coming days ...

In other news:

• Longtime Ontario curling coach Tom Coulterman, the father of Krista McCarville third Tara George, is being inducted into the Sault Ste. Marie Sports Hall of Fame ...

This story by the International Council of Sport Science and Physcial Education (ICSSPE) includes Austria skip (and curling calendar queen) Claudia Toth ...

• Another new podcast from The Curling Show features Tylenol Players’ Champion Amber Holland ...

• Finally, we’ve shown this Desktop Curling Game before, but the gadget gurus at Gizmodo aren’t too impressed. However, fans include Nerd Approved (if a wee bit sarcastic), plus heisthelamb who likes it, big time ...

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Burtnyk, Now and Then

Okay, let’s see if we can plow through all the Manitoba curling stories and thus free ourselves, finally, to look at other curling news... eh?

Kerry Burtnyk finally acknowledged that he is bringing an Edmonton import into his team: and it is, of course, former Kevin Martin third Don Walchuk. Story from the usual suspects here and here, but only The Curler posted a photo of the news conference, which you can see here. Uh, a photo without Walchuk, although we was on the telephone. And with two team sponsor reps who look somewhat out of place. Whatever.

Some are questioning why Burtnyk held a news conference to announce what everybody already knew? First of all, if arch-rival Jeff Stoughton is going to hold a news conference, then you can be darned sure Bubba is going to host one. Secondly, there was additional Bubbaspec on who is going to play lead – perhaps another Edmonton import? – and Burtnyk took the opportunity to declare that Garth Smith will be returning.

Still with Manitoba:

• Much like the recent long-overdue celebration of the 1976 Canada Cup hockey champions, Burtnyk’s 1981 Brier and Worlds team (see ancient photo above) were recently inducted into the Manitoba Curling Hall of Fame. The only sour note was the no-show by lead Ron Kammerlock (at right), who was supporting a curler who got the chop from Burtnyk’s squad just a few days earlier – his son.

Ron should have been there, plain and simple.

Here’s what Burtnyk said about that particular team, back when the inductees – which also includes former Stoughton third Jon Mead, Winnipeg skip Janet Harvey and the infamous Johnny U – were first announced. The Curling News ran this quote in our popular They Said It section of the April issue:

I think it put us ahead of many experienced teams that played the wide-open game. And it’s hard to believe, but there were actually a lot of experienced teams that feared us because we’d basically draw to anything early in the game, and people just couldn’t understand what we were doing. So at the time, I think we were kind of ahead of the curve for what young teams were normally like.

We did something that nobody else has really been able to do as that young a team. And I think that was an outstanding accomplishment. We were almost a team that maybe was a bit ahead of its time.

• Naturally, there’s a bunch of other men’s changes taking place in the Peg ...

• Earlier on, Jim Bender had an interesting possible prediction of Burtnyk’s new third: Joe Frans?! Meanwhile, over at Hacks & Wonks, PolicyFrog thinks young Reid Carruthers is... er, making a mistake ...

This fellow suggests a list of reasons why Ryan Fry took off to The Rock to begin with ...

• A fan built this tribute video to Team Jennifer Jones and then posted an apology on the team website for not having enough images of the front end! Judging by the skip’s personal reply, the result is a fine piece of work ...

• And finally, DID YOU KNOW that the arson suspect in Winnipeg’s 2006 Thistle Curling Club destruction – who had confessed – was freed by the judge? Want to guess why? Well, here is the story, and here is an editorial comment on the matter.

And here is another link to Paul Wiecek’s “Memories Of the Thistle” story we linked to back in June, 2006 ...