Saturday, October 31, 2009

NONT Curling Week

The Northern Ontario Curling Association has launched the inaugural “Curling Week in Northern Ontario” presented by Bearskin Airlines, with a trip for two to the STOH and a very cool historical poll all part of the celebration.

From today, October 31 through November 8, the campaign aims to honour the history of the Roaring Game in Ontario’s north by increasing curling’s visibility and encourage participation.

Curling clubs across Northern Ontario are participating in many different ways. Some are hosting an Open House and “Learn to Curl” clinics while others are hosting celebrity matches, Halloween parties, challenge games and more.

For the full list of activities planned by various curling clubs, visit the NOCA website.

“Northern Ontario has a proud curling history and we have much to celebrate,” said Al Gemmell, President of the Northern Ontario Curling Association.

“We encourage everyone to visit their local curling club during Curling Week. This time is a great time to try curling!”

Visitors to participating curling clubs can enter a free draw for a trip for two to the opening weekend of the 2010 Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, beginning January 30.

The prize package includes airline flights from any Northern Ontario location from which Bearskin Airlines flies, one double occupancy room for three nights at the Great Northern Hotel and Conference Centre, and tickets to opening draws.

The contest is open to Northern Ontario residents only, aged 18 years of age or older.

The NOCA website also features a poll on the “Top 5 Moments in Northern Ontario Curling History.”

Options include the first Brier championship for Northern Ontario in 1950, “The Shot” by Al Hackner at the 1985 Moncton Brier, Heather Houston's back-to-back Scott Tournament of Hearts titles, the first Northern Ontario Wheelchair Championship, and seven others.

The Top five choices selected by the public will be unveiled in November.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Curling Photo Feedback

This photo captures the millisecond following the moment of impact of Kevin Koe’s last-shot attempt to win the Grey Power World Cup of Curling.

The angle-runback missed by a hair, ticking a front guard, and two of Koe’s team members react with obvious dismay.

The photo was shot the stands at the Hershey Centre by Allen Hofstetter of Paris, Ontario.

Allen and his wife Lynne Gawley-Hofstetter started a little curling supply business called Hit The Broom Curling Gear about four years ago. The Paris Curling Club, just outside of Brantford, had lost its informal “supply guy” so the Hofstetters starting displaying curling equipment on tables at the club.

“The response was amazing,” said Allen.

In a contra deal for the selling space, Allen built a large trophy case for the club’s basement. Now the company supplies Paris and also travels to surrounding clubs during popular bonspiels.

The squad also befriended the victorious Team Glenn Howard around the same time. The friendship is such that Howard lead Craig Savill even mailing one of his official Brier shirts to the couple’s 13-year-old son, Tucker, in 2007.

In addition, the squad was sent this photo, which soon made its way to The Curling News Blog, where is has been published here, with thanks to the Hofstetter clan.

A full-size version of the photo will appear in the upcoming December issue of The Curling News. Got your subscription yet?

Incidentally, Howard third Richard Hart has been corresponding with TCN writer Matt Hames this week, following Hames’ awesome blog and twitter posts during the World Cup final last Sunday.

Hames, who has blogged about the Hart discussions is correct to note that “Prior to the internet, this world class player would never have been able to get this kind of feedback about (his own) game.

“True, he could have watched the tape of the final on CBC and got the commentators’ take on the game, but that’s more an official take. Mine was kind of off-the-cuff riffs on the game in general.

“(Hart) may or may not find value in the feedback, but he’s at least taking the time to acknowledge that feedback can be valuable.”

On a final note, the World Cup feedback from television is quite good. Sunday’s final scored 441,000 viewers on CBC-TV, while Saturday’s quarter-final matchup between Koe and Brad Gushue earned 483,000 viewers, which is up 83 per cent over last year’s numbers.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Carrot Cup of Curling

Did you hear about the Carrot Cup?

TCN publisher George Karrys, who recently made his return as a Toronto-centric Sun Media curling columnist after a 10-year absence, revealed the existence of the Cup for the first time at last week’s Grey Power World Cup of Curling.

The tell-all can be read here.

And here, at last, is the world’s first exclusive photo (above) of the Carrot Cup, temporarily clutched by the jubilant pair of Ben Hebert (left) and John Morris from Team Kevin Martin.

For the record, Team Randy Ferbey held the Cup all summer, following the Grey Power Players’ Championship. Team Kevin Koe then won the Cup over Ferbey at New Westminster. In Mississauga, the Cup changed hands four times – from Koe to Martin to Team Brad Gushue to Koe again, and then finally to Team Glenn Howard.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Howard steals Grey Power World Cup

By Matt Hames

Capital One photo by Anil Mungal

MISSISSAUGA – Robbery. Theft. Anguish.

Going into this game, Team Koe had lost the last five Grand Slam finals they've played in. Make it six, and this one might actually leave a mark.

So what happened?

Two of the first four shots that Glenn Howard threw were half rock peels that were just trying to get the team out of a pickle. As we posted on Twitter, Koe was all over Howard like a cheap suit.

Indeed, it seemed like Koe was going to cruise to a victory. But a funny thing happened on the way to victory.

Team Howard.

It's not as simple to say that this game was lost when Blake MacDonald jammed in the fourth end. At that point, Koe was cruising and looked to be comfortable in forcing Howard to one. But all of a sudden, a jam and Howard gets a gift deuce, and a new outlook on life.

But it's more than that. Because Koe came through with a couple of great shots to bail out Blake. So the game wasn't over, but the domination was. From that point on, Koe had his only difficulties in the match. A triple for one in six (WCPA boss Pierre Charette called the blank, and he was very nearly right).

And in seven, Team Howard just keep coming, forcing run back after run back after run back. Howard gets his first lead in seven but it still wasn't over.

Koe had some chances in eight to get the deuce, but left some shots on the sheet. Still, in the final analysis, full credit is due them.

But as Koe tries to break into the top of curling, this is the kind of game they'll have to close. They can beat Howard, Martin, Ferby and Gushue. No one would be surprised by them winning anything. But the great teams close when they have a change.

And conversely, truly great teams stay in there even when they're struggling. That was Team Howard. They struggled early, but like they always seem to, they hung in there. They stole one in the last end to win 6-4, but more so, they stole this game.

They don't rattle, and don't stop believing even when the other team throws everything at them. They are world class, and tough to beat every time they step out on the ice.
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World Cup: Team Runback

By Matt Hames
Capital One photo by Anil Mungal

MISSISSAUGA – Holy smokes, they like runbacks.

Now, we're all for runbacks, but team Koe seems to hit first and ask questions later. This isn't a criticism, because it's hard to argue with the success. They make run backs like most teams make guards. There isn't a rock they can't or won't run back.

25 foot double? Let it roll.

In the 7th end, Howard is laying one on the wing with a center guard and he draws open. He knows that if he goes behind the guard, Koe will play the runback nut.

So he goes open. Koe beaks it, leaving Howard a simple nose hit to take the first lead of the game.

With one end to play, we'll say this: Koe deserves to win this game. They deserve a deuce and their first Grand Slam trophy. But deserving isn't enough. They have to come out and manufacture a deuce.

Our guess? They'll run back a few guards trying.

World Cup: Is the tide turning?

Matt Hames
Capital One photo by Anil Mungal

MISSISSAUGA – This Howard team is kind of annoying. Don't get me wrong, I like to watch them, but they bug me.

They should have been down at least one (maybe more) at the fourth end break. Team Koe totally out played them and could have been up 4-0. (I still say that Koe should have capped the inturn side in 2, and I'm not sure how Howard scores.)

And with all that said, they leave Kevin Koe with a triple for one. That was the first end where things got a little difficult for Koe. Credit him for coming through with a great shot.

But you can feel a deuce coming. Meaning we're in for a cracker of a last two ends.

World Cup: Can Koe Hold On?

by Matt Hames
Capital One photo (Kevin Koe) by Anil Mungal

MISSISSAUGA – So here we are, the second half of the game is underway. When I got here, I was surprised to learn that team Koe has been in 5 Grand Slam finals and is 0-fer in all finals.

This is a big second half for Kevin Koe and the team. If you're following this live posting, then you'll know that they dominated most of the first half of this game.

But they are tied. And even though this last end looks good for them, it says here that it's not. This is one of the first ends where things went relatively okay for Howard. Yes, it wasn't great, they crashed early, but this is a good building momentum end.

I said the game rested on this 5th end, but it doesn't. Where it rests is with confidence and body language. Team Howard are all standing together, probably listening to a joke or two from Rich. Team Koe is all over the rink, standing alone.

Curling is a team game on so many levels. The Howard team seems relaxed. The Koe didn't hang out together in the last break.

Are we reading too much into that? Maybe. We'll see right?

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World Cup of Curling: At the Half

by Matt Hames
Capital One photo by Anil Mungal

MISSISSAUGA – So here's the skinny.

Team Koe dominates the first half of the game. We posted on Twitter that Koe was all over Howard like a cheap suit.

We don't care what the numbers say, there was never a point in this game where Koe had discomfort until Blake MacDonald's last rock in the fourth end.

Howard was down to manufacturing a deuce in the rings with three shots to come. At this level, the way these guys can throw it, that's not something that often happens. But alas, Blake MacDonald jams and gifts Howard a deuce and life.

Forget the score, the job of Koe will be to bounce back. Yes, I know. I just said bounce back. But I just watched almost four ends of domination. Howard had to throw a peel on his first rock in one and two. He has those shots, but he doesn't want to be throwing them.

Then, out of the blue, Howard gets his gimme deuce and a tie at the half.

They must be thinking that if they can come after Koe in this end, they could rattle team Koe. The history of this head to head has to be in team Koe's head.

This, ladies and gentlemen, will be the pivotal end of the game. How this end goes will go the game. Howard is going to start the second half of the this game with a halfway guard, something we talked about a couple of posts ago.

And we should be in for a cracker of a second half.

World Cup: Sweeping Rant

by Matt Hames
Capital One photo by Anil Mungal

MISSISSAUGA – The only sweeper on the sheet who sweeps with two grippers is Nolan Thiessen (at left).

This isn't a knock on Nolan, but I think it's better for the game if sweepers can use their slider. Just watch the motion of the sweeper using two grippers. It's an almost slide with a gripper on the ice.

Inevitably, that sweeper will be down the center line dragging a foot on the slide path. Conditions matter in a game like this. And the conditions will be better with less dragging.

Okay, back to the game. Richard just sailed his top four draw to the back twelve giving Koe a shot to get out of the end. Koe makes it decently which causes a conversation about the next shot.

Howard tries a double from an outside rock. That's the second end in a row that Glenn has had to try a double.

My first head scratch comes on Koe's last shot. Why did he throw an out-turn and not an in-turn come around on his last? Seems he could have really chocked off the lid and made it real tough for Howard to score if he throws the inturn.

Of course, Glenn makes the inturn draw to the lid to make it 2-1.

Still, if Koe can keep Howard throwing big weight hits on his first rock, then he might be able to break the goose egg in Grand Slam finals. As good as Howard is, I think most teams would love to see Glenn having to throw big weight hits.

World Cup: End 1

by Matt Hames
Capital One photo by Anil Mungal

At this level, it's really hard to pick the right spot for a center guard. Koe starts end #1 with a half way guard.

Any higher, and you can get rid of a rock that's buried with back line weight. Any tighter, and Howard just runs back the guard.

The real value in the guard comes late in the end. The half way guard ensures something at the end that Koe can use to force the play.

Indeed, the end really gets fun when Richard quite accidentally makes a great hit and roll to the back button. Koe manages a couple of complete pistols and steals two.

But this is the thing about Howard: they are tough to rattle. They've always seemed supremely confident in their ability to hang points.

But you can beat that Koe starts end #2 with a rock in the top of the rings, preferable biting the top four foot. This could be a fun game, especially since I'll stick to my score.

BTW, Arsenal are up 2-0 in what is being written up as quite a boring match.

Grey Power World Cup: The Preamble

by Matt Hames

MISSISSAUGA – So here we are, in the wild west of the Greater Toronto Area, for Act III. I'll be your live blogger for what is the third year in a row that Glenn Howard takes on Kevin Koe in the final of the World Cup of Curling.

Here are some stats that I'm sure CBC will mention:

1. It's the third year in a row that these two teams are playing in the World Cup final. Howard has won the last 2. But that was when the event was called the Masters of Curling. Now that it's called the World Cup, will Koe win? (We'll take your predictions in comments, but I'll throw out Howard winning 6-5.)

2. Head to head since 2006, they've played 6 times. Koe is 1-5.

3. Yesterday we watched Gushue beat Martin on CBC. My wife, a reluctant curling fan, opined the following: "Aren't people tired of Kevin Martin and Brad Gushue? Don't they always play each other?" Well, I responded, they're kind of the best. If you had of made the bet that it was Koe v Howard in the final, you weren't really going out on a limb. These guys can play. It's up to the rest of curling to catch Howard, Martin, Koe and Gushue.

4. If Howard wins, the team will tie Wayne Middaugh for second place on the all-time Capital One Grand Slam list.

5. If Koe wins, it will be his first Grand Slam win.

6. This is Team Koe's sixth Grand Slam final. See #5 for his record in finals.

7. Liverpool beat Manchester United today 2-0. I tell you that because there's a nice argument to be made that Liverpool is Koe and Man U are Howard. I won't make the argument. I'll also be updating West Ham Arsenal (Arsenal lead 1-0).

If you have questions, want to say hello, you can catch me here in comments or on Twitter at and also

Enjoy the game.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Olympic Torch is lit

It has begun.

The flame was lit in Olympia, Greece today for the 2010 Olympic Winter Games and carried off by the first relay runner on a journey of more than 47,000 kilometres to Vancouver.

The Olympic flame is to be carried 2,180 kilometres across Greece this week and will arrive in Victoria, British Columbia, on October 30 to embark on a 106-day, 45,000 kilometer journey throughout Canada.

Canadian aircraft manufacturer Bombardier is producing 12,000 identical torches, each weighing 1.6 kilograms, including fuel, which is a mix of propane and isobutane.

Twelve thousand relay runners will carry the flame before the opening ceremony in Vancouver on February 12. Curlers are included, and also –controversially – some of the media from Canada’s Olympic broadcast rights holder.

Torch designer Daniel Deschenes told AFP they were inspired by Canada’s “snow-covered landscape, sculpted by the wind, with traces in the snow or ice left by skiers or skaters.”

Deschenes said the torch would remain lit through “rain, sleet, snow and wind” and in temperatures from -40 degrees Celsius to +40 degrees Celsius.

And guess what? You can even download your own virtual Torch for use on your mobile device or computer.

What will they think of next?

[Photo by VANOC/IOC]

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Curling News: November 2009 issue

Here we go!

The first issue of the 2010 Olympic curling season is now arriving at subscriber’s doors, and in extremely limited supply at curling clubs.

Got yours?

We’ve updated our website with the latest TCN Top 15 Men and Women (hello there, new #1 Thomas Ulsrud!) and with selected contents of this issue... plus, we have not one but two Web Specials just for you.

Click here and read all about it!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Russ roars and so much more

Russ Howard roared, particularly on this stone (a missed draw for two in the seventh end) but to no avail, as he lost yesterday’s Bern Open finale to Norway’s Thomas Ulsrud by a 7-5 score.

The 2006 Olympic and two-time world curling champion had a 4-1 lead but watched the Norwegian 2010 Olympic hopefuls take two in the fourth end plus a big three in the sixth to assume control.

Howard previously won the event in 2007, beating Ulsrud 4-3 in the semifinal with a steal in an extra-end.

Of course, if you are following The Curling News Twitter page (aka Tweets) then you would be aware of these results, and more (check it out now for Barrie results, wheelchair curling results in Norway, and stuff about broken toes).

And on the TCN Twitpic page you can see – yes, actually see – a blow-by-blow account of the conclusion to the Bern Open semifinal between Ulsrud and Scotland’s Peter Loudon, in which Ulsrud took two in the eighth before producing the hit and roll of the tournament, in the extra-end, for the 6-4 win.

Meanwhile, in nearby Kuesnacht, a battle of 2010 Olympic women’s hopefuls took place at the Grasshopper Women’s Masters. When the smoke cleared, Germany’s Andrea Schoepp had stolen a 7-6, extra-end win over Debbie McCormick of the United States.

In London, more Olympic internationals are through to today’s playoffs of the Southwestern Ontario Women’s Cashspiel (SWOWC) along with two-time defending champion Rachel Homan of Ottawa, Sherry Middaugh, Alison Goring and others.

At Medicine Hat, the Meyers Norris Penny Charity Classic also wraps up today – for both men and women – and the first big U.S. Tour stop of the season took place in St. Paul, MN, with Thunder Bay’s Mike Pozihun bringing the title back to Canada.

[Thanks to Switzerland’s LAOLA TV curling channel and Europe’s Curling Champions Tour for the visuals]

Friday, October 16, 2009

TCN on Twitter!

The November 2009 issue of The Curling News, founded in 1957, is now in the mail, jetting its way across Canada and around the world.

Click here to subscribe. You don’t want to miss it.

The Curling News Blog (ahem) continues to churn out content, posting five times yesterday alone. We’re now at more than 725 diverse, detailed and always entertaining postings since the fall of 2005.

This blogpost is the first to show off our newish Twitter account, simply @curling, which has been churning out all kinds of tweets (153) since we launched on September 12.

This includes weekend tournament up-to-the-minute updates and stories.

The Curling News has been your best source for wide-ranging curling news and information since 1957 ... !! ... and now you can follow us on Twitter!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Million Dollar Button 2010

For the second consecutive season, Canadian curling fans from coast to coast have the opportunity to register for their chance to cover the button for CDN $1 million, live on CBC Television, through the Capital One Million Dollar Button contest.

And the website that is open to one and all to register at went live this morning.

This year’s finals will take place during the championship game of the BDO Classic Canadian Open, the third leg of the men’s 2009-10 Capital One Grand Slam of Curling series, on Sunday, January 24, 2010 at the MTS Centre in Winnipeg.

During each of the first three events of the men’s 2009-10 Capital One Grand Slam of Curling series, six lucky fans who filled out a ballot on-site will be randomly selected to compete in an on-site playoff. The on-site playoff will take place during the finals of the Grey Power World Cup of Curling and The National as well as during the quarterfinals of the BDO Classic Canadian Open. During each on-site playoff, the fan who is closest to the button will win the right to compete in the semi-finals of the Capital One Million Dollar Button.

A total of six Canadian curling fans will qualify for the semi-finals of the Capital One Million Dollar Button including one representative from the Grey Power World Cup of Curling, The National and the BDO Classic Canadian Open along with three randomly selected online entrants.

The six semi-finalists will subsequently compete against each other following the semi-finals of the BDO Classic Canadian Open on Saturday, January 23. The semi-finalist who throws the rock closest to the button will earn the right to compete for $1 million in the finals of the Capital One Million Dollar Button.

The Capital One Million Dollar Button is the first curling-based contest in Canada with a grand prize of $1 million available to be won.

Last year, Ron Trottier of Osoyoos, B.C. came within 35 inches of winning $1 million after his shot slid just past the button. Trottier’s shot was good enough to earn him $10,000 (CDN) as the inaugural finalist of the Capital One Million Dollar Button.

“We’re getting fans off their seats and right onto the ice with their favourite players,” said Ian Cunningham, Chief Marketing Officer, Capital One Canada. “It’s a once in a lifetime chance to shoot for $1 million and experience the excitement and pressure that the pros feel every time they play a Capital One Grand Slam of Curling event.”

In order to win the Capital One Million Dollar Button’s grand prize of a one-time payment of CDN $1 million, the contest finalist must successfully deliver a rock from the hack and have it cover the hole in the centre of the button on a regulation curling sheet. The contest finalist will have just one opportunity to execute the shot.

Should the finalist’s rock miss covering the hole in the centre of the button, but be touching a part of the button, the individual will receive CDN $100,000. Alternatively, CDN $25,000 will be awarded if the rock is touching the four-foot circle. A prize of CDN $10,000 will be awarded if the rock is touching the eight-foot circle while a rock that touches the 12-foot circle will earn CDN $5,000. Should the finalist’s rock not touch any of the circles, the individual will receive $1,000 (CDN).

Full contest details are available at the website.

To enter the Capital One Million Dollar Button contest, individuals can register online at or on-site during the opening days of the first three men’s 2009-10 Capital One Grand Slam of Curling events.

On-site registration dates include October 22-24, 2009 during the Grey Power World Cup of Curling at the Hershey Centre in Mississauga, Ont., January 7-9, 2010 during The National at the Sleeman Centre in Guelph, Ont. and January 21-22, 2010 during the BDO Classic Canadian Open.

Online registration began today, and ends at 11:59pm ET on January 10, 2010.

Vancouver 2010 medals unveiled

The heavy medals have been unveiled.

VANOC released the official sport medals of the Vancouver 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games today.

The designs are inspired by the ocean waves, drifting snow and mountainous landscape found in British Columbia and throughout Canada.

Each medal features aboriginal artwork and no two medals are alike.

The medals are circular in shape and, at between 500 to 576 grams, are the heaviest in Olympic and Paralympic history.

The medals are based on two large artworks of an orca whale and raven by Canadian designer Corrine Hunt.

For more on the medals, and a look back at the history of Olympic Winter Games medals, check out this CTVOlympics story.

This story from VANOC’s website shows the reverse sides as well as the Paralympic medals, and this VANOC video explains the concept, manufacturing and so on.

Curling team sponsors rock

The Continental Cup is back. For three years, starting in 2011.

And while that is a great story, we like one of the underlying themes even better. Read on.

Turns out the rumours of the Cup demise were premature. The Canadian Curling Association and World Curling Federation have agreed on the relaunch after this year’s hiatus – there is no Cup event held during Olympic seasons – and their decision was no doubt made easier with the news that World Financial Group will be the title sponsor.

“We are most happy to welcome World Financial Group into our partnership with the CCA, allowing us to continue the Continental Cup in a stronger financial position, thanks to their support,” said Les Harrison, WCF President. “This competition has been an important showcase of the world's most talented curlers in a very unique format, which has enabled us to develop and promote our sport through a variety of disciplines.”

Indeed, the Ryder Cup-esque feel of the event, which features Team World versus Team North America in a variety of curling disciplines, has led to the creation of the World Mixed Doubles format, which may become an Olympic discipline in time for Sochi 2014.

But our favourite line in the CCA news release is this one, from World Financial Group of Canada president Rick Williams.

“Our commitment to sponsor the Continental Cup is an example of our commitment to supporting curling in Canada, which began four years ago with our sponsorship of the Randy Ferbey team,” said Williams.

“The participation of curling teams from across the globe parallels our reach as a global financial distributor - to help individuals and families become financially independent. We look forward to working with the Canadian Curling Association and the World Curling Federation to make this a very successful event.”

What’s our point? Simply that curling team sponsors can grow from “smaller” industry contributors into larger national partners; from issuing grassroots, slap-on-the-back support to cutting some very big cheques. And this new reality is something that curling sales experts used to scoff at.

They’d best not be scoffin any more. World Financial Group now joins The Dominion and M&M Meat Shops as major players in the CCA Season of Champions stable, and all three started the same way... as lowly curling team sponsors.

The revolution continues.

Swiss are flying, crazy-mad

Here’s the very happy Swiss Olympic Men’s team right after yesterday’s Trials victory.

From left (standing) is skip Ralph Stoeckli, third Jan Hauser, second/third Markus Eggler, and lead Simon Struebin.

Crouching in front is the coach, Thomas Lips (left) and aternate Toni Mueller.

We have some exclusive quotes from some of the boys.

“I’m flying,” an elated Eggler told The Curling News.

“You can’t believe how I am feeling. The old man is back to the Olympics. For me it’s just like a dream after I stopped curling after the world championships in Victoria (2005).

“It is also a big moment for me, because it shows me that you can reach something when you work hard for it. When our team started 1,000 days ago, our goal was to play in the Olympics, and now we did it!”

Here’s more about the excitable Eggler, specifically a recent curling milestone.

Struebin, meanwhile, tells a funny story from late in the final game, which was played at a curling club. The athletes were the only ones allowed onto the vast and otherwise empty ice surface during the competition.

“I saw this club curler who wanted to practice on sheet one during the seventh end of our last game,” laughed Struebin.

“He went totally crazy-mad, when the umpire told him that he is not allowed to go on the ice. It was hilarious!

“No kidding. A scene for the ages.”

Team Stoeckli now jets to Toronto for next week’s Grey Power World Cup of Curling in nearby Mississauga, followed by further training excursions in Canada.

[Swiss Curling Association photo by Joerg Leunenberger]

Best of Us Curling Challenge?

The International Olympic Committee has launched a contest, The Best of Us Challenge, which offers the chance to win some branded IOC merchandise as well as a trip to the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games or the Singapore 2010 Youth Olympic Games.

Olympic athletes from around the world have created video “challenges” and invite you to take them up on that challenge.

Relax – these athletes aren’t leaning on their particular sport expertise... not at all, actually.

For example, Spanish tennis star Rafael Nadal wants to see if you can hold more tennis balls at one time than he can (he picked up and held 24 balls in 30 seconds). U.S. Alpine Skiier Lindsey Vonn wants to know, in a 30-second time limit, in how many different languages can you say “hello?” (She came up with nine)

Here’s our challenge to curling fans: how many of you will choose the option to “submit your own challenge” and bring a little bit of curling-oriented fun to this campaign?

Anyone who submits a video challenge to the IOC contest website with some kind of curling theme attached to it will win a free subscription to The Curling News, for yourself or a friend/family member.

And, of course, we’ll make you famous. Guaranteed.

Simply notify us of your IOC submission by emailing us at Go for it!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Stoeckli to Vancouver Olympics

It’s all over in Arlesheim as Team Ralph Stoeckli defeated Team Stefan Karnusian 7-4 to win the Swiss Olympic Trials by a 4-1 games margin.

With the scored tied 3-3 in the sixth end, Stoeckli’s foursome scored the game’s third deuce and then added a pivotal steal in the seventh.

Equally important was a force in the eighth. Stoeckli added a single in the ninth and then blasted his way home for the trip to Vancouver in February... and to Canada next week, for the Grey Power World Cup in Mississauga.

It’s the first Olympic qualification for youthful third-rocker Jan Hauser, and Olympic trip number two for Stoeckli and lead Simon Struebin (Pinerolo 2006) and second/third Markus Eggler (Olympic bronze at Salt Lake 2002).

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Stoeckli stranglehold

It was deathly quiet at times at the Curlingzentrum Region Basel CRB in Arlesheim.

When there wasn’t the sound of stone smashing, and yelling, of course.

Playing a three-day, best-of-seven series in a lonely ice rink is a tough chore. And it was gut-check day at the Swiss Olympic Trials.

Team Stefan Karnusian got things rolling with a 5-3 victory over Team Ralph Stoeckli, and the St. Moritz foursome were on the board with their first win.

Then, Karnusian scored two in the fifth end of match number four to take a 6-3 lead into the break.

But it all came crashing down in the second half of the match. Stoeckli worked a deuce to close the gap to 6-5, and then saw his last stone of the sixth curl just enough to make a double-takeout, and leave himself lying two.

Karnusian faced a draw to the four-foot for his one, and a solid 7-5 lead, but the rock slid heavy, and Stoeckli stole two for a shock 7-6 lead of this own.

In the eighth end, Stoeckli left his opponent with a tricky shot for two, facing one, but Karnusian wrecked on a guard... and then spun his stone into the rings onto his own second shot stone, to count one anyway!

After that excitment, the game calmed down and following some perfect tick-shot shooting by Stoeckli lead Simon Struebin, the Baden Regio skip got his single point in the 10th end for the 8-7 win.

Stoeckli now has a stranglehold on the Olympic berth, leading the series 3-1 with three chances to win tomorrow.

Tour thoughts from week five

As CTVOlympics reports, it’s another week come and gone on the World Curling Tour.

Digging deeper, one might agree with Lydon Little that BC teams shouldn’t be overlooked heading into the pre-Trials “Road to the Roar” next month in Prince George.

Particularly Kelowna’s Bob Ursel, who has made it to two finals in his two events this season, and who won yesterday’s playoff matches in Vancouver by scores of 7-1, 6-1 and 7-1.

And yesterday’s victory by Jennifer Jones (Calgary Herald photo by Christina Ryan) indicates she has indeed shrugged off last year’s fourth-place worlds finish in Ganeneung, Korea.

She’s been an outright winner in all three tournaments since: last fall’s Grey Power Players’ Championship; the Eurotour opener in Oslo, Norway (beating Olympic champ Anette Norberg) and now the first women’s Grand Slam of the season (beating world champ Bingyu Wang).

Jones has also overtaken the struggling Shannon Kleibrink – now oh-fer in three tournaments this fall – in the Order of Merit standings.

Meanwhile, Brad Gushue’s run of tournament wins came to an abrupt halt, but not before he defeated Kevin Martin for the second time this season. The Gushues ended up losing a C-qualifier to – guess who? – ex-teammate Chris Schille.

As for Martin, and Glenn Howard, neither team has won an event this season. Hmm.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Stoeckli 2-0 at Swiss trials

Ralph Stoeckli has jumped out to a 2-0 series lead at the Swiss Olympic Trials in Arlesheim, near Basel.

The 2006 Olympian and 2003 world runner-up needs to win a total of four matches in the unique best-of-seven playoff against Stefan Karnusian, who represented Switzerland at last October’s European Championships.

Stoeckli, who also finished fourth at the 2009 Ford Worlds in Moncton, needed two points in the ninth and a steal of the 10th end to win the first match 7-6.

The afternoon tilt was all Stoeckli as his squad raced to a 7-2 lead after taking four points in the fifth end. The match ended with the score 9-4.

The competition are available via live streaming at LAOLA TV.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Norberg wins Masters

2006 Olympic champion Anette Norberg is the 2009 Re/Max Women’s Masters champion after defeating Swedish rival Stina Viktorsson by an emphatic 8-4 score in the final at Basel.

Semi-finalists were USA Olympic representatives Debbie McCormick and Switzerland’s Fabienne Fuerbringer, while the quarter-finalists included Vancouver-bound Eve Muirhead of Great Britain and Germany’s Andrea Schoepp.

The Norberg victory follows a runner-up finish two weeks earlier in Oslo, when they were defeated in the championship final by Canada’s Jennifer Jones.

Jones and an impressive group of teams – including 2006 Olympic medallists Mirjam Ott and Shannon Kleibrink – are down to their last lives at Calgary’s Trail Appliances Grand Slam event in Calgary, which wraps up on Monday.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

LAOLA curling coverage

The RE/Max Women’s Masters and other Eurocurling events are also available online through a new agreement with Switzerland’s LAOLA TV.

The deal covers Curling Champions Tour events in Europe, such as the Masters, and also the upcoming best-of-seven Swiss Olympic Trials playoff between Ralph Stoeckli and Stefan Karnusian, which takes place this coming Monday through Wednesday, Oct. 12-14.

The LAOLA TV curling channel is available through the Champions Curling Tour website or through this direct page.

Women's Masters update

Three teams are currently 3-0 and into the playoff round at at the RE/Max Women’s Masters in Switzerland.

Sweden’s Anette Norberg, 2003 world champ Debbie McCormick of the United States and Switzerland’s Fabienne Fuerbringer are all in for Sunday’s quarter-finals.

Norberg is coming off a recent runner-up performance and McCormick, who has been struggling early this season, will be pleased with her start to this tournament.

Upset performance of the young 2010 season thus far has to be Fuerbringer, a calendar girl who managed to upset the Great Britain Olympic team, skipped by Eve Muirhead, 8-7 in an extra-end on Friday night.

The Swiss squad had previously beaten 2006 Olympic silver medallist Binia Feltscher-Beeli and 2008 world junior finalist Cissi Ostlund of Sweden.

In the Urs Raeber photo above, Team Muirhead battles England’s Kirsty Balfour in opening round action.

Another photo can be seen at The Curling News Facebook group page. Have you joined yet?

Men’s and women’s action also continues in Calgary, while men’s Tour play is ongoing in Vancouver and Brandon.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

SoC TV, webisode I

As another weekend of epic Tour battles are underway – in Vancouver, in Switzerland, in Calgary and elsewhere – the first webisode of Season of Champions TV hit the airwaves – er, webwaves – last night.

Following some technical difficulties, the entire show is available for viewing today.

The women went first, and during the following male segment,talk turned to the pressure of Olympic expectations.

Kevin Martin
spoke about his 1992 Olympic demonstration experience, which proved to be a titanic struggle.

“We didn’t handle it well in 1992,” said Martin. “We were young, heading into our first Olympics. We didn’t handle the media very well. We didn’t really know what we were going in for, we didn’t really know what to expect. And boy, that’s not a good way to go into an event.”

Later, Martin revealed how mental gymnastics can directly affect a high-performance curler.

“And the stress really got to all of us,” said Martin. “I think I started (1991) at 207 (weight in pounds); I finished in 2002 at 167.

“That’s a lot of stress.”

Later, the roundtable of Martin, Randy Ferbey and Kevin Koe discussed some great shots made against each other. Martin praised two back-to-back shots made by Ferbey fourth-shooter David Nedohin against Martin at April’s Grey Power Players’ Championship – both of them 20-foot straight back “nutters”.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Curling Ambassador gets his Mojo on

DID YOU KNOW: that Quebec’s Guy Hemmings is still promoting curling all over the Earth?

Hemmings, introduced as “Canadian Ambassador for (Curling)” got his on for these two short videos. First up is something we call Why Curling? followed by a basic rundown of the rules, scoring, shotmaking and equipment.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Curling casting call: postscript I

The call went out right here, on The Curling News Blog, last Wednesday.

It was a curling casting call, you may recall, for the Calgary area, seeking curlers with various retro-outfits and equipment for a TV featurette on The Roaring Game.

Calls also went out to the Southern Alberta Curling Association and even the Kevin Koe men’s team, who of course showed off their own retro look last season.

The Crowsnest Films shoot featured Winnipeg’s Jennifer Jones along with the local hired help, and today’s feature in the High-River Times tells more of the tale.

And we’ll have even more – including exclusive behind-the-scenes visuals – in the weeks to come, right here at The Curling News Blog!

[High-River Times photo by Alyssa Burnham]

Monday, October 05, 2009

Brewster, Ulsrud score gold

Scotland’s Tom Brewster went to Prague and came away from Saturday’s outdoor podium ceremony with the European Mixed Championship crown, plus trophy (Brewster photo above by Mr. Volfik). His squad defeated Denmark 5-1 in the final, while England grabbed the bronze. It is the second such trophy in three years for the oft-runner-up Scottish men’s finalist.

Moments ago at the Swiss Cup in Basel, Norway’s Thomas Ulsrud stopped his own recent run of silver and bronze by beating Sweden’s Niklas Edin 8-7 in the final. It was a wild affair which saw Usrud hold leads of 2-0 and 4-2 before Edin grabbed a deuce in the fifth and a big three-count in the seventh to tie the score 7-7. Ulsrud managed to end it in the eighth.

The Swedes had upset world champ David Murdoch in the quarterfinals, while the two Swiss Olympic contenders, Ralph Stoeckli and Stefan Karnusian, lost the semis. Danish Olympic squad leader Ulrik Schmidt and German veteran Andy Kapp both lost in the quarters. All in all, that’s an awful lot of Vancouver 2010 Olympic teams that qualified for the playoffs.

In Canada, Japan’s Moe Meguro – another squad headed to Vancouver – came from behind to beat 2007 world champion Kelly Scott 5-4 in a semi and then whomped Cheryl Bernard 6-1 in the final of the Twin Harbours Invitational in Vernon. On the men’s side, Kelowna’s Bob Ursel almost scored the threepeat but lost the final 7-5 on an extra-end steal of two to Edmonton’s Kevin Koe. Legends Kerry Burtnyk and Rick Folk lost in the semis, and Glenn Howard made it to the quarters before losing to Burtnyk.

In Regina, Pat Simmons won his first tourney of the season with a 7-1 shellacking of Brennan Jones in the final.

Of course, those of you who follow The Curling News on Twitter knew about most of these results yesterday.

Come, and follow...

Worlds to Esbjerg, Gruyère is back

Some newbytes today from The Fed, otherwise known as the World Curling Federation.

WCF has announced that the City of Esbjerg, Demark (photo by Galen R. Frysinger) will host the Capital One World Women’s Curling Championship in 2011.

The event will be staged in the heart of the North Sea harbour city, Denmark’s fifth-largest, in an ice arena complex from March 19-27 in 2011.

“The World Curling Federation is delighted to announce that the Capital One World Women’s Curling Championship 2011 will take place in Denmark” said Les Harrison, WCF President.

Speaking on the fringe of the Olympic Congress in Copenhagen, Denmark where the official announcement was made, Harrison added: “The choice of Esbjerg is recognition of the outstanding achievements and contributions made by Danish curlers and the Danish Curling Association to the development of curling at an international level in recent years.”

The Danish women’s team, skipped by Angelina Jensen, won the bronze medal at the Mount Titlis World Women’s Curling Championship 2009 in Gangneung, Korea and also scored silver at the 2007 Worlds in Aomori, Japan. Denmark has qualified to send men’s and women’s curling teams to the Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver in February 2010.

Meanwhile, Swiss-based cheese titan Le Gruyère has renewed its WCF partnership, and will continue to sponsor the Le Gruyère European Championships over the next two years, starting with the 2009 shootout in Aberdeen, Scotland in December and the 2010 competition in Champéry, Switzerland.

Bruno Marty, representing the WCF agency Infront, said: “The partnership between WCF and Infront is proving itself to the satisfaction of both parties. In our first year of involvement, all sponsorship inventories have been sold and television coverage is increasing. We are pleased at this convincing demonstration of the value of working with an experienced sports marketing company – the WCF is assured of financial stability to support future growth in the sport.”

The Gruyère announcement can be read here, while the Danish Worlds announcement can be seen here.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Italiano Anniversario Curling

It was a little over a year ago that the Curling Italia website launched itself into the online curling universe.

Congratulations on your one-year anniversary, particularly to founder Renato Negro, who also produces the Curling Torino website and blog.

Italy has maintained a presence on the world curling scene since the 2006 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games featured curling in Pinerolo. The nation has hosted various global competitions including last April’s World Mixed Doubles Championship in gorgeous Cortina d’Ampezzo, which will also play host to this season’s Capital One World Men’s Curling Championship.

Forza Italia!

Friday, October 02, 2009

Vancouver 2010 Olympic gear

Say hello to 2002 Olympic curling silver medallist – and 2010 Olympic team hopeful – Carter Rycroft, resplendent in Canada’s new Olympic clothing.

This image provokes some thoughts. One of which is that Rycroft is just as close to repeating his Olympic experience with Team Kevin Koe than John Morris, last year’s Canadian curling poster boy, is close to going for the very first time.

Another is that Rycroft makes this stuff look good.

John who?

The host nation unveiled its official Olympic wear for Vancouver 2010 yesterday – all except key athlete-only gear, like the ceremony and podium lines – to generally strong reviews (see here, here and here).

Another curler took part in the launch – Sonja Gaudet, who has captured world and Paralympic gold for Canada, and whose spot on the 2010 national wheelchair curling team was confirmed earlier this week. Gaudet’s HBC publicity photo should appear later today at Eric Eales’ excellent Wheelchair Curling Blog.

Make sure you check out the November issue of The Curling News for much, more on Vancouver 2010 and, of course, Canada’s upcoming Tim Hortons Canadian Curling Trials. That first print edition of the new season comes out in mid-October.

There was much talk about the new clothing, which has continued into today. There is also a political firestorm over the team clothing logo, which allegedly resembles the logo for the political party currently running the country. Sigh.

For the best look at the product lines, including videos, visit this special Hudson Bay Company Olympic site.

Euro Mixed 2009

The European Mixed Curling Championship 2009 is nearing its climax in beautiful Prague, Czech Republic.

Some four years old now, the event is the second-largest competition on the ECF (European Curling Federation) calendar, after December’s men’s and women’s Le Gruyère European Championships.

After nearly a week of competition, the host nation has made it through one tiebreaker (beating Russia) and faces defending champions Germany in a bid to battle Scotland in Saturday’s semifinals.

The other semi will see England face off against Denmark. The Danes won the title two years ago.

Countries from the United Kingdom seem to do well in traditional Mixed discipline. Last year’s champions hailed from... Wales!

The website is a typical example of Czech enthusiasm for curling. Attractive in design and functionality, it includes some wonderfully atypical photographs, above and here and here (courtesy of Mr. Volfik) as well as a daily video for your enjoyment (courtesy of Josef Podrabsky).