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The Curling News: April issue

The April issue, our last of the season, is out… got yours?

• The Brier and STOH, by Larry Wood
• Worlds in Japan
Rodger Schmidt previews the Ford Men’s Worlds
• They Said It: Brier edition
WEB SPECIAL: Ryan Durham on a CCA fear of… Toronto?
Jill Officer on the Grand Slams
• Introducing the Tylenol Players’ Championship
Doug Maxwell on the little paper that could
• 50th Anniversary Retrospective: Buckets, Matty and Woody… plus Ferb on the Jumbotron
WEB SPECIAL: Matt Hames says Brad Gushue wasn’t impatient; he was playing chess
• Eight ends or ten? Larry Wood on the return of a curling debate
• Asham Club Corner: CCA releases the ultimate curling guidebook (and it’s awesome)
• Newsdesk: the curling coin, 2010 venue breaks ground, Schmirler events and Avonlea finale
Teri Lake on the first time
• The Curling News TV Guide
• The Curling News Store

… and more!

Coming soon… the biggest gol-darn collection of curling links you’ve ever seen. Prepare your click finger(s)…

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Farewell to the Rheos

There aren’t many occasions where we divert from curling onto another topic, but this is one of those times.

The Rheostatics, Canada’s most beloved and utterly unlabellable – is that even a word? – independent rock band, are calling it quits. At least, the founding lineup will end following their final club show tonight and their final concert hall gig tomorrow night.

And seeing as departing bassist/vocalist Tim Vesely (photo above, with madman guitarist Martin Tielli) is responsible for some of their biggest “hits” – see the incredibly lush Claire and the stunning sonic swoops of Bad Time To Be Poor on this page – we at The Curling News are definitely in mourning.

We invite you to read the farewells in today’s Star, today’s Torontoist, a recent Eye Weekly, in two great Blogosphere postings here and here, and cries of denial here and here.

Of note is a personal farewell from rhythm guitarist/vocalist Dave Bidini in today’s Glob and Flail. Bidini is, of course, also an accomplished author and all his books should be explored, but this one is simply a must-read.

And the beat goes on. The Rheos were recently surprised with a secret tribute album assembled by their CanRock peers; past videos are cropping up here; CBC has posted a hefty visual tribute; and now stunning rare, live shows are finding an online home.

Apart from the essentials Claire and Bad Time (above), here’s three quick vidlinks for you to get a taste of the always-changing Rheos. The Tarleks is probably their best video (and yes, that is the real Frank Bonner)… Power Ballad to Ozzy Osborne provides another hint to their humour… and the brilliant Stolen Car – performed live at CBC studios – is simply wonderous to the senses.

A few years ago, we e-mailed Bidini about the lack of a Rheos curling song. After all, if they can write a song entitled The Ballad of Wendel Clark, then how about curling?

Bidini politely demurred, but at least he replied. But we’re not bitter. Just disappointed, and not at the sporting snub.

They will be missed.

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Harris picks Epping

1998 Olympian and CBC curling commentator Mike Harris (above), newly returned from Alberta, is back in Ontario and has three-quarters of his new team firmed up.

John Epping, the youthful former national mixed champ and recent third-place finisher at the Ontario TSC Stores Tankard, will play third. Harris stalwart Trevor Wall throws lead.

The Curling News can also confirm that, yes indeed, Harris and Wayne Middaugh – on-ice rivals, off-ice pals and co-inductees into the Brampton Sports Hall of Fame – were, until recently, talking about a merger.

It was Middaugh’s idea that he would throw third for Harris, but after a week of discussions, Middaugh eventually signed up Jon Mead and Graeme McCarrel instead.

“He (Middaugh) called it off, and my first thought was ‘Thank God’ ” Harris told TCN… with a grin.

“I thought I was the only one who was crazy to think about it.”

Harris’ second is expected to be confirmed next week.

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The Beer Store steps up

Well, well… looks like some of the management minds at Ontario’s government-owned The Beer Store have finally realized that a celebrity actually works for them… and, hey, is getting a ton of press these days.

In all seriousness, the $5,000 donation for breast cancer awareness that Glenn Howard’s employers made yesterday in Hogtown (TBS photo above) is a fine gesture of support for Team Howard, aimed squarely at the charity of choice which the team has adopted in such brilliant fashion this season.

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M-15 wins Finnish election

Amid some fine preview stories on the imminent Ford World Men’s Curling Championships, The Curling News has learned, exclusively, that 2006 Olympic silver medallist and Finnish hero Markku Uusipaavalniemi was recently elected to Finland’s parliament.

As reported by the national daily Helsingen Sanomat:

On the other hand, the captain of the Finnish curling team in Torino 2006, Markku Uusipaavalniemi, managed to secure a Centre Party place from the Uusimaa constituency. M-15, as he is called in curling circles, should increase the average IQ of the 200-member assembly: he is said to be able to resolve the Rubik Cube puzzle in 25 seconds.

Incidentally, Makkuu has struggled on the ice this year. A fairly drab showing at December’s European Championships in Basel was followed by an almost-upset in the Finnish playdowns for next season’s Euro shootout; however, Uusipavaalniemi recovered to win the spot for Füssen.

M-15 received 2,804 votes and as a member of the “Keskusta partiet” will be one of only 200 people to make decisions for the entire country.

Cool.

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Mead on the move – to Ontario squad

Almost one year ago The Curling News, to the embarassment of the Manitoba sports media scene, broke the news of Jon Mead’s departure from the sport of curling.

Today, the Winnipeg Sun has the scoop that Mead (photo) is on his way back to the sport, on a three-year plan to win the Olympic Trials with… guess who…

Wayne Middaugh.

Yep, no playdowns for Mead, and no physical upheaval from his Winnipeg base; just an eye on buckets of cash and CTRS points en route to Vancouver 2010. Via the province of Ontario, that is.

Welcome back Jonny. It’s not the first time you were considered for a spot on an Ontario team (any guesses folks?) but this full-time commitment is another matter.

Welcome back to Graeme “Crackers” McCarrel too, although it’s really no surprise.

Next up… who Middaugh might have played with next year, had the deal gone through. And if you thought today’s news is pretty wild, just wait until you read this.

But you’ll have to wait a bit for that.

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World champs at only “80-85 per cent”

VIC_cpAOMORI, Japan – A morning earthquake here in northern Japan – centered just a few hundred miles away and registering 7.1 on the Richter scale – was a prelude to Canada’s thunderous power on the curling ice.

Canada’s Kelly Scott beat back a revitalized Denmark squad to win the 2007 World Women’s Curling Championship by an 8-4 score, the first adult worlds event ever held in Asia.

“We were on a mission today,” said Scott. “The curling girls were on a mission.”

It marked Canada’s 14th world women’s title, and Scott becomes the only skip in history to win both the world championship and world junior championship. As Kelly Mackenzie, the diminutive skip also won the 1995 junior championship in Perth, Scotland.

Big winners not once but twice against the Danes earlier in the week, the Canadians were in for an early nailbiter as Denmark – comeback winners in the bronze medal game the previous night – came out blazing. Skip rocker Madeleine Dupont was clocking 87 per cent in shooting performance, almost a full 20 points higher than her cumulative average.

Up 4-3 at the halfway point, the Canadians turned it up a notch. Lead Renee Simons buried a stone in the sixth end and it held up for a steal. In the seventh, second Sasha Carter and third Jeanna Schraeder executed brilliantly, and their high-pressure tactics opened an even bigger lead with a steal of two.

The Danes, led by skip Angelina Jensen, could only score a single point through the final four ends, and conceded after Canada scored another in the ninth.

One year ago, Canadian curling fans were calling for Scott’s head on a platter. The team stumbled through the worlds on home ice in Grande Prairie, managing a bronze medal but undergoing withering criticism for aimless strategy and poor shot execution.

Today, following a run of 24-3 in their last two tournaments, Team Scott are clearly the most efficient women’s curling machine in the world.

“So many things happened to this team (in the last year),” said coach Gerry Richard.

“If you count the Olympic trials, we had three major events in three months. We learned a lot, and we went to work on improvements.”

Richard said the team broke down their deliveries and reworked their releases to find the most optimum way to throw the stone. It’s a story to inspire any curler, whether a high-performance athlete or a rookie struggling with the basics.

“Look at Tiger Woods,” said Richard. “He himself reworks things, he adjusts his swing all the time. If it’s good enough for him, it’s good enough for us, and it’s good enough for everybody.”

And in an ominous note to their challengers, the new champions are prepared to continue improving.

“We’re at about 80-85 per cent of our potential right now,” said Richard.

“We can produce a little more.”

Canada would have earned 14 Olympic points toward qualifying status for the 2010 Olympic Winter Games, but are pre-qualified as host nation. Denmark received 12 Olympic points, while bronze-medallists Scotland – skipped by Kelly Wood – grabbed 10 points.

Other nations impressing with a head start on Olympic qualifying included Debbie McCormick of the United States (7-4 round-robin record for nine Olympic points), Switzerland’s Silvana Tirinzoni (6-5 for eight points), Sweden’s disappointing Anette Norberg, the 2006 Olympic champions (6-5 for seven points) and Japan, Russia and Germany, who all tied at 4-7 to earn four Olympic points each.

Italy and the Czech Republic, making their world debut, both took 1.5 Olympic points for their 2-9 won/loss record.

The next global championship for women, the 2008 Ford World Women’s Curling Championships, takes place next year in Vernon, Canada, not far from Scott’s home base of Kelowna.

Next week, the 2007 Ford World Men’s Curling Championship gets underway in Edmonton, Canada, with the finals ending April 8. Over 170,000 tickets have been pre-sold for the event.

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Frost warning in Japan?

IMG_6177AOMORI – Just a few minutes before game time, and head ice tech Hans Wuthrich is fretting about frost. It’s a gorgeous day outside – 13 degrees C – and it’s never been as warm inside as it is today.

Also, Richard Hart just called from Port Hawkesbury, where it’s gawd-knows-what time in the morning, to check in on proceedings. We suggested he and the boys film more of Craig Savill’s moves for another YouTube moment