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December 2007 issue

Here it is… another jumbo-sized issue of The Curling News, and you don’t want to miss it:

• Toronto 2009: is this the megacity’s last chance to realize its curling potential? And should other Canadians care? For that matter, should the world?

• Curling in… Morocco, a TCN exclusive!

• Prairie curling clubs can earn a portion of $26,000 in seed money

• Cirque de Eurospiel: the madness of the European Championships

Jill Officer: the players want consistency, please

• Olympic medallist to earn cash for medals

• The World Tour sponsors… the Canadian masters?

Matt Hames on building an American curling team

• Celebrate your club anniversary with The Curling News: this month, Scarborough turns 50

Larry Wood on the Maxwell legacy

• The JVC Curling TV Guide: the month of December

• Nice-guy Dean Ross wins Canuck Mixed

Penny LaRoque to the NS Sports Hall of Fame

They Said It, our monthly collection of quotes and comments

• Curling hits the great outdoors: at New York’s Rockefeller Plaza

And there’s more. Of course.

Subscribe today.

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Curlers Corner

The BDO Classic Canadian Open gets underway tonight, and there’s a new dedicated event webpage, located here. Check out things like the live scoreboard, the Kevin Martin blog, the Ambassadors section, and the first webisode of the brand-new Capital One Curlers Corner, hosted by Mike Harris (above).

Awesome old photos of bad 1980s moustaches! Boo-ya!

There’s lots of other stuff going on, such as:

Joe loves TV curling; but he’s forgotten the Le Gruyere European Championships, with a whack of TV and webstreamed content starting on Saturday. There’s also a cool TV promo available at the event website … but, then again, Eurosport.com coverage might be geo-blocked outside of Europe, so watch for that possibility …

• Speaking of TV curling, TSN just announced that the Casino Rama Skins – of which The Curling News is a media partner – will be broadcast in High-Definition. This will mark the first-ever high-def show for curling in North America (March’s women’s worlds in Aomori was high-def in Japan) …

• Guilty! And three years for this chump

• Remember Canada’s girls from Balgonie? They’re back

• Some nice photos of the U.S. Wheelchair Curling Trials located here

• Speaking of both Regina and wheelchairs, there’s a wheelchair curling clinic underway in that city this week, open to all individuals with a disability who are interested in the sport. The first session will be held on Thursday, Nov. 29 in the gym at Wascana Rehab Centre, from 10-11:30 am, in room M414 (to introduce the sport) and is followed by an on-ice session at a later date. If interested, contact Kathy at 766-5301 or Clayton 584-0101 …

• There’s a big women’s Capital One Grand Slam of Curling event taking place this weekend, in Halifax …

• Way to go Jo: just a day or so after a news story talked about Jolene McIvor’s sponsorship challenges, she went on to win The CUETS Schmirler, defeating ex-teammate Michelle Englot in the final …

Here’s an update on former junior champions skip Charley Thomas, and his first men’s season …

• If your club had 40 members, would you consider it to be “booming”? Ah well, so be it …

Les Steskis win …

Here’s a brief tale of curling at the Montreal West …

• VANOC unveiled their 2010 mascots yesterday …

• Scotland’s David Edwards has been experimenting with webstreamed curling at Aberdeen in Scotland, and the results can be viewed here

• Meanwhile, Texas Dan just looooves CurlTV

• Here’s some University of New Brunswick curling, complete with video:

• Quote of the week comes from the Townie Bastard, who says:
Yes, have a chuckle at the notion of roving gangs of irate curlers. You can laugh right up until they come for you, my friend. Then you will learn fear

• And from one Newfoundlander in Iqualuit, we go to a Torontonian who is also there – and curling, too …

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Black Book has Hart

TORONTO – The BDO Black Book of Curling got a media boost Tuesday at the posh Granite Club, as world champion moustache-grower Richard Hart dropped in to check out his Glenn Howard team’s Power Triad statistics, first-place ranking and more (TCN photo by Anil Mungal).

Hart professed interest in reading the essaye on his team’s seventh end of the Tim Hortons Brier final: was Brad Gushue’s missed attempt for glory a good call, or a bad call?

You can order your copy of the BDO Black Book of Curling from the CZ Store, or call 1-866-690-1835 in Canada or the U.S. (or 416-690-1835 internationally). The BDO Black Book is also available as a fundraiser for clubs, teams, groups and leagues; call for more info.

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Ready to glow

They’re ready to glow in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, but they’re not the first to embrace “Black Light Curling”… that honour may belong to the Springbank Curling Club in Alberta, which first showed off their stuff on November 21 (photo above).

The December issue of The Curling News features this story, and more, within The Dominion of Canada Club Corner department, so subscribe today to get all the details sent directly to your mailbox …

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An Aussie Thing

China grabbed double gold at the recent Pacific Curling Championships in Beijing, and were quite impressive in the process. Also grabbing spots in next spring’s 2008 World Championships were Japan’s women and Australia’s men, the latter seen here visiting the Great Wall.
The hand gesture is “an Aussie thing,” according to last-rocker Ian Palangio (at centre, with what seems to be a Movember moustache), meaning “it’s all good”… but Palangio had refused to tell The Curling News the meaning of the gesture until after his team had qualified for Grand Forks – superstition, of course, given that the photo was taken early in the PCC competition!

A report on the PCC is located here, and it sounds like things got quite scary between the Aussies and the Kiwis, in their best-of-three semi-final series.

“Indeed,” confirmed Palangio. “The series against New Zealand was extremely competitive. They have a strong young lineup that will continue to get better in the coming years.

“We’re still pinching ourselves that we won in such dramatic fashion. Watching the last stone of the 11th end in the second semi, we were mentally moving on to get ready to play a third semi-final. Unfortunately Sean Becker’s last shot over curled a little and hit the guard to give us the win.”

FOX Australia even ran a story on the boys’ Beijing efforts… not bad, lads.

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Curling Indy

Vroooom.

Check out this speedy little number. It was designed for entry into an online contest run by the folks at IndyCar. Click to zoom in on the car detail.

The contest is still on, so please vote here – click on the fifth star, of course! – and tell your friends, too. C’mon… the racing world won’t know what hit them!

The news of this work – and the sight of it – came as a pleasant surprise. After picking ourselves up from the floor, we asked Steve Lobel – the creative eye behind ProCurler Curling Stuff – what in tarnation inspired him to design a car sponsored by yours truly, The Curling News?

Q: What was your inspiration?

A: I just stumbled across the contest site while looking up stats from another favourite sport.

Q: Why a curling theme?

A: Well, I wanted a theme that would get American race fans scratching their heads a little. Perhaps it will drive them to a website to explore the sport further.

Q: Why did you include The Curling News?

I picked The Curling News as a main sponsor because the logo just screams curling, and I hoped you might put it in the paper and on the blog! My company, ProCurler.com was an obvious choice for a “B” sponsor. As for Tim Hortons, other than their generous involvement in curling, I happened to be sipping on my fifth cup of the day when they came to mind.

On a final note, we forgot to ask Steve why he picked number 77… and then, of course, we remembered. His father, Art Lobel, played third for Quebec’s Jim Ursel at the 1977 MacDonald’s Brier. And won.

Some weekend clickings for you…

• Monday, November 26 sees a media launch and reception for the BDO Black Book of Curling, with Glenn Howard and Richard Hart in attendance as well as authors Dallas Bittle and Gerry Geurts. The location is Toronto’s Granite Club, in the curling lounge, with food (and books) provided …

• With all the women’s Slam excitement this weekend, don’t forget The Schmirler

• First they appeared – along with Randy Dutiaume – in a TV commercial; now Kerry Burtnyk and Jeff Stoughton have been formally unveiled as spokesmen for the upcoming Winnipeg Brier…

• Canada’s Season of Champions event calendar is offering a new ticket package called Rocks in Your Socks

• Here’s a report on Tuesday’s news conference announcing the Tylenol Players’ Championship, which is returning to St. John’s …

• Wheelchair curlers have another championship to strive for: the first Paralympic World Winter Cup will be held in Sweden in 2009 …

• The Weakerthans’ Tournament of Hearts was the song ’o the day at KEXP in Seattle

• Here’s Jessica Goes Curling, part two …

Detroit Lakes is rocking …

• DID YOU KNOW: that Salmon Arm, B.C. gets the Canadian Juniors in 2009?

• Scotland’s NCA is sadly dead… again…

• Here’s a major league update from T-Bay …

• Hey, wasn’t Dusty Baker a baseball player-turned-manager …?

• And finally… right back ’atcha, Chris!

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Unbeatable?

BRANTFORD – Is Team Glenn Howard unbeatable?

That’s the question many are asking these days, as the defending world curling champions relentlessly cash in across the country. Their 2007 Brier performance and, particularly, their utter domination of the Edmonton worlds is widely regarded as one of, if not the, finest week-long, wall-to-wall performance in the history of the sport.

The squad ranked number one for the second year in a row by The BDO Black Book of Curling is, however, technically beatable.

In the first spiel of the year, Sarnia’s Peter Steski had them by the scruff of the neck in a final qualifying match, only to let them slip away for the win. Howard went on to win the Shorty Jenkins Classic.

A few weeks later, they failed to win the Don Bartlett Classic in Gander (they always seem to win the Don Bartlett Classic in Gander).

Just over a week ago, they upended a stellar field – including Kevin Martin – in Lloydminster all the way to the final, where they lost to Winnipeg’s Jeff Stoughton.

And yesterday, they had their hands full with a streaking Greg Balsdon in the semi-final of the McDonald’s Classic in Brantford, and had to steal the last end. The final then went only four ends, as Team Howard crushed London’s Kirk Ziola 9-1.

So, yes, they are beatable. But the most consistent team of the past eight years or so – going back to the first time Howard, Richard Hart and the Mitchell brothers teamed up – just seems to be getting stronger, and are obviously better tuned in to “the big game.” And that news is all bad for the Martins and Ferbeys of the world.

Scott Arnold is Canada’s National Team Program Consultant – he also coached Team Reddick/Rizzo into the 2005 Olympic Trials – who had his eyes on the world champs over the weekend.

“When you’re watching them, their half-shots are actually three-quarter shots,” Arnold observed. “A miss can cause some teams some degree of harm, but it doesn’t seem to harm (Howard), from what I can see.

“They’re just so confident in each other and the team as a whole, I don’t think any other teams are like that right now. If you get these guys on good ice, they don’t know how to miss.”

Last season, it was the white belts. Maybe this time… it’s the moustaches?

Arnold says there is only one other instance this season where he’s personally observed a team in that kind of zone. And it was at a women’s Tour event, in London.

Rachel Homan’s team,” said Arnold. “I couldn’t believe her team played that way.”

Elsewhere:

• Balsdon lost his first two games and faced elimination before reeling off five wins in a row, including a 9-4 pounding of Brad Gushue in the quarter-final. As mentioned, his Guelph foursome continued the show against Howard, falling to a steal in the final frame.

Balsdon is ranked 29th in the world by the BDO Black Book, with this comment: “Greg Balsdon is one of the few skips in Ontario who has beaten both Glenn Howard and Wayne Middaugh with even some degree of regularity.”

• Brantford’s final four resembled last year’s Ontario provincial, where Howard and Balsdon finished in the top four. It also resembled a provincial from the 1990s, which saw semi-finalist Phil Daniel lose three finals, and even resembled one as far back as 1991 – where Russ and Glenn Howard defeated Ziola in the final …

• You may have noticed Team Howard’s commitment to Movember continues. Tour observers are trying to decide which curler has has the best moustache, and Richard Hart – sporting a Mexican Bandito – is a top vote-getter.

In second place but closing fast is Peter Steski, whose classic Mutton Chop looks like a cross between pro wrestler Hulk Hogan and Motörhead leader Lemmy Kilmister

• Moments ago, St. John’s, Newfoundland was formally announced as host for the Tylenol Players’ Championship – the eighth and final leg of the Capital One Grand Slam of Curling series – running April 16-20, 2008 at Mile One Centre.

Five-day ticket packages for the TPC, which features both the top men’s and women’s teams in Canada, are now officially on sale, both online and through the Mile One Centre box office …

• The 2007 Pacific Championships are underway in Beijing, with the top two teams (both men and women) qualifying their countries for the Ford World Women’s in Vernon and the Men’s Worlds in Grand Forks …

• Tonight marks the latest inductions into the CBC Sports Hall of Fame, and while CBC curling host Scott Russell spotlights the talking heads, we note that the late Joan Mead, CBC’s pioneering curling producer, is also among the honourees …

• Thursday night marks the first fundraising event to help rebuild the razed Windsor Curling Club in Nova Scotia: a concert …

• Speaking of fundraising, Portage (in Wisconsin, not Manitoba) raised US$11,000 to fight cancer

• Kelly Scott took home an enormous $16,000 cheque last night, which keeps her in first place in The Curling News Top 15. Chief rival Jennifer Jones won her first couple of games but then lost three in a row to finish out of the money …

Have you heard the news? Canada will pay a performance bonus of up to $20,000 to Olympic medallists – including curlers. Each. There is also funding available in non-Olympic years for a top five or top four finish, to the tune of about $5,000 per athlete.

“This will be well-received by the athletes but also by the fans, I would think,” said Kevin Martin, who would have scored $15,000 for his Olympic silver in 2002.

“Most people, I believe, think the athletes are not supported as well as they could be… particularly when a top athlete could be spending 40-50 hours a week at their sport.”

For more on this story – plus more from Martin and Gushue – consult the upcoming December issue of The Curling News, on press just 24 hours from now …

• The new Swiss men’s champions skipped by Adelboden’s Toni Müller – they upset an injury-ravaged Ralph Stöckli in the final of a four-team playoff a few weeks ago – are off to the Le Gruyère European Championships in just 10 days, and they are inviting websurfers to vote on their final results.

Check out their nifty blog and look for Welchen Platz erreichen wir an der EM? down the right-hand menu …

Pfeif recently played roadie to this crazed Florida hockey fan, whose attempted explanation of our other ice sport has to be seen to be believed …

• Remember Kirsan Ilyumzhinov? Now he’s threatening to sue

• Finally, are bored at your workdesk? Blocked from surfing CurlingZone, Facebook and CurlTV? This thing should provide some amusement… for a couple of minutes, anyway …

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Black Book: was Gushue right?

Back in black, for a third time, is the new BDO Black Book of Curling, now produced by the usual geekoids at CurlingZone in partnership with curling sponsors BDO Dunwoody LLP.

Buy it, right here at CurlingZone’s new E-Store, as it’s a great read and great value at over 300 pages for just $19.99 (Canadian).

Included this year is the always-controversial Team Rankings – who is really the best out there? – plus a very detailed look at the strategy conundrum that has still got everybody talking: Brad Gushue’s fateful decision in the seventh end of the 2007 Brier final versus Ontario’s Glenn Howard. To gamble or not to gamble? The Black Book has the definitive answer on whether Gushue was crazy as a loon, or right on the money… er, the numbers.

Incidentally, both Howard and Gushue are in Brantford this weekend.

There’s another new twist, too… a whopping half of the cover price is available to curling clubs, leagues or teams as a fundraiser, for each book sold. Now that’s cool.

If your club, league or team wants more info, contact the BBoC office at 416-690-1835 or 866-690-1835 (toll free in North America).

What else is up in our wonderful world of curling?

• Do nice guys actually win? We’ll find out today, when host Alberta takes on the über-veterans from Ontario in the final of the Canadian Mixed …

• Delisle’s Team Sherry Anderson sends a player on the road to make a personal donation every year to the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix offices in support of Sporting Christmas, the paper’s campaign for the Salvation Army. Hey, it’s not just to get good press; it’s a great casue and committment from a team at the height of the busy season …

• Hurry hard… with the emphasis on hard

• There’s an invasion of Scots underway in the colonies this weekend

• While the Grand Slams continue to grow, the regular WCT schedule gets more and more crowded

• Finally, Winnipeg Free Press and SWEEP! Magazine writer Paul Wiecek made some fun predictions yesterday on Brier qualifiers – if it were suddenly March 2008 today – and had this to say about the Northern Ontario entry:

Northern Ontario – look, as far as I’m concerned, it’s a complete sham they even get their own entry. It’s time to do away with the special treatment and give Northern Ontario’s berth in the Brier to the defending Team Canada, just like they do at the Tournament of Hearts.

If the Brier was tomorrow – It would bug me, like it does every year, that Manitoba and Alberta get one berth each at the Brier but Ontario gets two.

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Help!

It’s been 43 years since the Beatles movie Help! stormed across the world, introducing fans to the sheer wackiness of the world’s greatest pop band.

Now, Help! has been re-released as a souped-up DVD package – check out this review – and for Canadian fans, there’s a one-off theatrical release, too… featuring Hi-Def, 5.1 Digital Surround Sound and a 15-minute interview extra. Tickets are on sale now for the shows on November 26 – one night only – at 32 Cineplex Odeon theatres across the country.

What’s the curling connection? The moptops go curling, but of course, and almost bite it when a wacko puts a bomb in a rock (see screen capture above, featuring George Harrison and said wacko).

Elsewhere:

• Italy and Sweden made it through a four-team logjam at Inverness over the weekend, and have qualified for next year’s World Wheelchair Championship in Sursee, Switzerland …

• There’s a CUETS Schmirler Classic news conference at noon today in Regina

Victoria needs new curling facilities, say the Daggs, who are off to city council tomorrow …

• The CCA president will be in Summerside Thursday for the new P.E.I. Curling Hall of Fame and Museum induction ceremony …

Bravo Toronto, says Italy …

• And we say bravo to itafaber: put the weekend behind you and just keep working away …

• And bravo to Craig, who made a great shot last night – although he lost the game… d’oh! …

• This coming weekend marks only the eighth time a curling team has been inducted into the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame. Jeff Stoughton and his 1996 world championship squad – Ken Tresoor, Garry Vandenberghe and Steve Gould – will be formally inducted on Saturday …

• The Townie Bastard is actually a curling zen master

This cartoonist just used curling for the first time (we would guess) …

• Compete-At software is now partnered with Northern Ontario curling …

• And finally, behold the Muskus Cup 2007 in Oppdal, Norway … Skol!

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The Sweeping Saga of Curling

Doug Clark is a talented writer – and very unassuming curler – from North Gower, Ontario, just outside of Ottawa. His work has appeared in The Globe and Mail and Maclean’s, amongst other places, and his 2002 book Dark Paths, Cold Trails was shortlisted for Canada’s Arthur Ellis Award for non-fiction.
Clark’s new book is all-curling, and in a big way. The Roaring Game: A Sweeping Saga of Curling has been published by Key Porter Books and is in bookstores now (also online here). It also gets a glowing five-star review from us, The Curling News.

Indeed, we need to acknowledge some bias here, as TCN Editor George Karrys has been following Clark’s stubborn and determined progress in getting this thing published – more on that in a moment – for years; in fact, he also wrote the forward.

An excerpt:

I still remember the day Doug dared to share his manuscript with me. After a voracious marathon read, I felt dizzy. The scope of Clark’s vision, the sheer size of the curling landscape he painted, was one of a kind. The book wasn’t about a famous athlete or a specific championship, nor a how-to guide, and not a purely historical tome. It was all that and so much more, delightfully bobbing and weaving among virtually every nuance of curling. This had never been done before.

Never before. True, Scott Russell (of CBC-TV fame) wrote a curling book of heartwarming grass roots stories. Doug Maxwell’s final two books were a) a fine summary piece and b) a long-awaited personal history. There have been countless how-to books for the hard-core curler, from Ken Watson to Paul Savage to Ed Lukowich, and now Colleen Jones. An ex-Toronto Sun sports writer named Jean Sonmor wrote a legendary tome about the men who competed at the highest levels (in the era of the 1970s and 80s). No less than nine – that’s right, nine – curling books were released last year. The Black Book’s attention to curling detail – including the statistical mathematics of the sport – are apt to cause dizzy spells (it’s coming, again, by the way). Even Warren Hansen has written an oversized “coffee table book” on the sport.

But nobody has ever thrown all that – and more – into a single piece of work. The ultimate, all-encompassing look at curling, spotlighting all that makes it resonate with the people. It’s all here: fun and fascination, humour, cleverness, Canada-USA-world, the stars, the unknown heroes, charity and celebrity, disabled and able-bodied, the glorious, historical past and the pop-culture present.

Regarding Clark’s stubborn zeal… here’s another excerpt from the forward, which also explains why this book deserves to sit on your shelf, and also that of friends and family.

Clark seems the epitome of a curler. He’s been trying to publish this book for years (curlers are a notoriously stubborn breed); he’s embraced and then broken up with two previous publishers (curlers are wont to change their team lineups as much as any freewheeling pro sport GM); and he tells simply wonderful stories (just park yourself at a table after a curling game and listen to the tales).

It must be said that the loving care this man has taken with our sport – in prose – means as much as the commitment shown by thousands of curling fans, players, administrators and volunteers on a daily basis.

Here’s the Key Porter page again, and the Chapters/Indigo page, too. Canadian readers are urged, as always, to choose Canadian retail sites – .ca as opposed to .com – to support your homegrown talent, and have your purchasing power count when the sales are tallied.