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R.I.P. Chevy

What can we possibly say about the sudden passing of Don Chevrier (left, with curling cohort Don Duguid, circa Salt Lake City 2002) that hasn’t been said in the last couple of days? The “voice of God” has been silenced, and as a result there have been plenty of media laudations. In keeping with the style of this here TCN Blog, here’s a few writeups that lie just off the beaten path, that you might not have come across yet… so look here and also here, if you please.

It is certainly a feather on one’s cap to be labelled (by NBC’s Dick Ebersol) as one of the two “greatest all-around sports announcing talents in North American history.” The other? The legendary Jim McKay

Some tribute stories also mentioned current CBC curling legend Don Wittman, who is sadly missing this year’s Grand Slam of Curling broadcasts (thus far, anyway). Paul Friesen has a good one located here. Our thoughts and best wishes go out to Don and his family.

And now, prepare yeself for one of the biggest clickfests in TCN Blog history. Begin!

• Do you know the Discovery Channel show How It’s Made? Well, the show will finally feature the making of curling stones on tonight’s Episode No. 15 (9:00m ET on the Science Channel), which also looks at refrigerators, aluminium baseball bats and opalescent glass.

The show will make its debut on Canada’s Discovery Channel on January 15… and we’ve even listed the episode in the JVC Curling TV Guide in the upcoming January issue of The Curling News!

“We actually went to Wales, to the quarry itself,” said Nathalie Dallaire of Productions Maj, the show’s Montreal-based production company. “Then we finished up at Canada Curling Stone in London, Ontario.”

Speaking of CCS, there’s a fantastic feature on outdoor – or Open Air – curling in said January issue, including a sidebar on a world-famous rock band’s search for curling stones. Make sure you subscribe today, because you simply don’t want to miss this one!

• The San Francisco Bay Area Curling Club is pumped: they had a TV feature air Monday night on the local NBC station; they’re hosting an open house tomorrow ay 8:00pm at Sharksice in San Jose; and of course they’ll be watching the December 23 broadcast of the Korbel Elite Curling Challenge from the Rockefeller Center in New York, which airs at 2:30pm eastern time.

TCN Blog readers, of course, are aware of the show and also the fact that it will now mark Peja Lindholm’s final North American television appearance

• Now over to Mexico, where Alice and Pabu are excited about Mexico City’s first outdoor ice rink. Naturally, they’ve made the call for curling to get on the agenda …

• There’s lots of media interest in The National down in “The Hawk”; such as local stuff, Halifax stuff (here and also here), good old CP wire, their competitors CanWest and, of course, CBC, too. In fact, the host broadcaster is also big-time: in addition to semi-final and final action on the Mother Corp. network this weekend, each draw has a match webstreamed live from the CBC dedicated curling page. Hardcore fans will note this is a CurlTV production, delivered to CBC …

• The new Grand Slam website is rocking, too, located here… and of course there’s The National subsite, over here

• Yes, The Hawk is popular even without The Ferb. The question now is: will he be ready for playdowns in February?

• Santa is coming: but how does the jolly one know if he’s at a curler’s house?

– Instead of cookies and milk, he finds pins from an obscure curling event
– All the Christmas music playing is recorded by a bagpiper
– A wee man is walking around grumbling. Santa thinks he’s an elf, until he sees “Icemaker” written on his back
– As he exits, a sign attached to the chimney says “No Alcohol Beyond This Point.”

Good stuff, and you can find these and more in this recent column from Joe Pavia of the Ottawa Sun …

• Wheelchair curling icon Chris Daw is hanging up his Extender, at least for this season. The CCA story is here, and there’s a CanWest story here, although wheelchaircurling.com had the story first.

Daw, who is busy promoting the sport in an off-ice role, was also recently elected as curling’s first-ever board member to Athletes Can, and while he won’t be wearing the national uniform this year, Canadians should be happy that he didn’t leave the country altogether …

• Meanwhile, is the Jim Armstrong wheelchair controversy really over yet…?

• The competition schedule for Vancouver 2010 has been released …

• Here’s a look at the Ingerlund gals who did so well in B-Division action at the recent Le Gruyère European Championships

• Hate to rain on a parade, but we don’t believe Mr. Watkins is the world’s oldest curler. The Curling News did a story a couple of years ago on Regina’s Phil Ward, who we think is still going strong at age 102. In fact, spies recently told us he still drives himelf from the seniors home to the Tartan Curling Club! Any comment, Guinness?

• Multiple sclerosis? No problem for this brave gal… just go curling!

• Here’s a curling-themed computer wallpaper for you …

• Here’s a look at the defending BC men’s champions, who have a bye to this year’s provincial …

• And here’s a peek at Mr. Brad Gushue’s biggest challenge on The Rock, good old Mark Noseworthy

Al Cameron says two of Jeff Stoughton’s teammates have undergone disciplinary action, but so has a team in Saskatchewan – in a matter of speaking – for prize splitting

Mabel DeWare and Bud Gerth have been named Honourary Chairs of the 2009 World Men’s Curling Championship in Moncton. DeWare skipped the only team from New Brunswick to win the Canadian women’s title, back in 1963. She was also vice-chair of the 1980 Air Canada Silver Broom men’s worlds in Moncton and the 1985 Brier. Gerth was chairman of the 1980 Broom and also chaired the Moncton 100 in 1990, the largest cashspiel ever held …

Here’s a preview of January’s Ramada Perth Masters, which will see current stars Glenn Howard) and blasts from the past (Eddie Werenich) make the trip to Scotland in January…

• Looks like amateur photographer Takeshi loves his BalancePlus shoes

Texas Dan tells us the second annual Texas Open Bonspiel is on deck for April 11-13, and it sounds like a hoot …

• Speaking of hoots, Duluth’s annual House of Hearts Celeb/Charity Bonspiel takes place during the closing weekend of the Brier, and the organizers plan to charter a party bus departing from Winnipeg – and the Keith’s Patch, no doubt – directly to the spiel. Goodness …

• Finally, where the heck are Willie and Wissel, the two curling trophies from December 11’s Entrepreneur Curling Bonspiel in Apeldoorn, Netherlands? They’ve gone missing, but this here blog would indicate they are on a great adventure. How about that?

What’s surprising is the entire caper has garnered some Dutch press, and things seem to be coming to a head for January 6… although we’re not sure why, nor in what context. Perhaps a sudden influx of comments and suggestions from TCN Bloggers – please click on “comment” – would take these escapades truly international? Who knows… but let’s find out, shall we?

And on that note, the TCN Blog is officially on vacation until January 4 or so. Merry Ho Ho, everyone …

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Here in the Hat

MEDICINE HAT – We’re here in the Hat, for their second Con Cup hosting in the past four years.

This one is the rubber match, with North America and Europe tied at two Cup wins each.

Yes, the NA’s look all-powerful on paper, and well-rested, while the Euros are tired. They just got in from Füssen, which is literally their biggest event of the season. Key players are missing, like Uli Kapp… and Euro champion skip David Murdoch even has a Swede, Niklas Edin, playing third for him.

Mixed Doubles was fun to watch, and as the WCF reports here, it was fun to play, too. At least for Russia’s Liudmila Privivkova and new Mixed Dubs teammate Murdoch (standing), although they did lose to NA’s Jennifer Jones (holding the brush) and Bill Todhunter. This CCA photo is courtesy of Michael Burns, BTW.

Latest results from this afternoon saw Privivkova upset Jones 6-5, Deb McCormick smack Angelina Jensen 11-3, and Kelly Scott avenge yesterday’s loss to Kelly Wood by a 5-4 count.

North America currently holds a 48-24 lead. The winning team is the first to get to 201 or more points.

Allen Cameron is here, naturally, and is doing a bang-up job on his blog, which now sees him toting a camcorder around to add a new video angle to things.

Anything else?

• Wanna design the Vancouver 2010 medals? Why not?

ConMan is braying for Edmonton to host Canada’s 2009 Olympic Trials, but it’s gonna be a battle… meanwhile, he also previews this weekend’s women’s Canada Cup Qualifier here

Joe Pavia has a neat report in from Ottawa’s men’s Canada Cup Qualifier, including the news that The Gushues are being followed around by the Rainbow Rockers. Here’s another report, too …

• The latest webisode of Mike HarrisCapital One Curlers Corner is online now, and the show just keeps getting better and better. And not just because of The Curling News references…!

Dan says we must vote for curling. We agree with Dan!

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Swedish stunner: Lindholm quits

This photo (by TCN’s Urs Räber) shows the last competitive curling stone ever thrown by Swedish curling legend Peja Lindholm.

In stunning news, Lindholm has anounced his immediate retirement from the sport. Frustrated by a sixth-place finish at the recent Le Gruyère European Championships in Füssen, the three-time world champion has hung up his brush.

Curling Today has the story here, and we note that Lindholm says he has also “lost his joy of competitive curling.”

The sport, in turn, has lost the joy of observing a passionate competitor, as quick with a quip or an emotional photo pose as he was skilled with slider underfoot.

Fans in North America can catch his last-ever TV appearance at the Korbel Elite Curling Challenge, which was taped in October and airs December 23 on NBC.

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Attention KMart Shoppers

words by Matt Hames
photos by Anil Mungal

RAMA – Things change really, really fast in the Casino Rama Skins Game. Yesterday we opined that Wayne Middaugh might miss an out-turn peel one out of 100 times.

Make that two out of 100. Wayne flashes an out-turn peel in the sixth end for a gimme skin for Martin. From then on in, the Ontario team struggled to even score.

It got ugly. If this was a boxing match, they would have stopped it. Opponent Kevin Martin threw guards on his lack rock in seven and his last rock in eight. Polar opposite of the desperation heaters he was hurling in the first half.

And these were guards on guards.

So Martin plays about as badly as a team can possibly play to win a Skins championship. He wins a grand total of 61,000 and owns bragging rights over Middaugh for another year.

Couples finishes second is the headline on the golfer’s website. Here, you can replace that name with Middaugh.

Cheesy winner’s quote, no doubt drafted by TSN press office:

“This event has been a real treat. I’ve never played in such a special venue like Casino Rama before,” said Martin. “It’s almost Christmas time and this will surely make it a happy holiday season.”

Ugh.

We’re outta here, hope you enjoyed it. We sure did …

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Third Chapter

by Matt Hames

RAMA – After four ends, the story is at third.

Johnny Mo (not pictured) isn’t quite delivering the stones like he normally does, and KMart is left with Hail Marys. Like last night’s semi-final, the Martin squad is struggling to even threaten to get a skin. Once again, from the first end onward, it’s been all Wayne Middaugh, all the time.

KMart is throwing bombs on his first rock just to leave himself something on his second. If you’re Team Middaugh, this is how you drew it up. If you’re Team Martin, you’re left hoping that over the next four ends – the ones with the really big money – John Morris can right the ship and get his rocks into better spots.

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Curler Doon

by Matt Hames

RAMA – Wait a minute.

We just came across this photo (above), from Füssen, just now posted to a Facebook page. Moments ago, apparently, from a mobile phone half a world away.

Looks like quote a party at the Europeans, where’s it’s about 1:30am.

Could this be the nature of the “technical problems” our fearless leader has alluded to?

Hmm …

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Chilling

by Matt Hames

RAMA – Dang, it’s cold in here.

At his presser yesterday, Martin talked about the ice. He said that it was the same speed in practice as it was for his 14K draw to the can.

That’s awesome, because we’re in what’s called the casino’s Entertainment Centre. It’s a big room with seats. When it was built, no one could have envisioned a curling game played here. Boxing? Sure. But curling?

We already wrote about the plant that is located on a concrete floor.

The picture you see here is the reason it’s so cold in here. That’s a big hose (photo) connected directly to outside. Cold, crisp Barrie-slash-Rama air from outside is being pumped into the arena to keep it a cool 55ºF.

Martin was marvelling about the ice conditions. He rightly pointed out that this proves that a curling event can be held almost anywhere.

We’d add “anywhere that outside cold air can be pumped inside.” Not sure how that would work in sub-tropical climates.

Game on. Martin vs. Middaugh. We’ve got the chills.

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Pregame

by Matt Hames

RAMA – First off all, apologies for technical problems that are preventing these here blogposts from loading instantaneously onto Blogger. Seems there’s a technical problem between here and Germany, where our fearless leader is blogging from the European Championships.
So it seems this is appearing as Not-Quite-Live; hope things get better.

Now, the final. Without question, no athlete on either team could remember how many times they’ve played each other.

Consider this: Wayne Middaugh’s charter lead Scott Bailey was the alternate on Kevin Martin’s team at the last Olympic Trials. And yes, he did play. Also a couple of cashspiels in advance, too.

Last night after the semi-finals, Kevin was asked about playing Wayne today in the final. He said they are great friends who have done battle countless times in the past. But he also asked, somewhat rhetorically, what could be better?

Indeed. What could be better?

You have Wayne Middaugh, who for years and years used the TSN Skins game as his personal ATM machine, versus Kevin Martin, arguably the best shotmaker in the game.

When we looked at the draw, I kind of hoped for a Martin/Middaugh final. It’s not that we would have been unhappy with a Gushue/Howard final… we would have talked about the Brier rematch, of course.

No, we like this one. It’s two guys who love cash and can mash with the best of them. It’s two guys who like rocks in play followed by the runback bullet.

The really good news? The game should feature really good ice. Yesterday was the first game played in the facility. The ice staff (Hans and company) learned a lot yesterday and will use that knowledge to make the conditions even better.

IOW: if you had some chips, you should bet on an epic match.

One note: yesterday Middaugh and Martin were yellow. By virtue of winning the initial draw the button contest before the event, Martin had choice of hammer or rocks. He picked the yellow rocks. Meaning Middaugh gets red for the first time. Meaningful? Doubtful. Gushue had red yesterday and was, quite frankly, all over Martin like a technicolour T-shirt.

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Match Report

by Matt Hames

RAMA – Okay, we take it all back. Four ends in, and look what we have here.

(Ha, actually you take it all back [grin] – Ed.)

After last year’s Brier, I wrote that I liked the shot that Brad Gushue called in the seventh end. He went for it. That’s the kind of thinking and strategy one needs in a Skins Game. Forget the consequences and go for it. And right now, Gushue is going for it. He’s not only matching KMart shot for shot, he’s exceeding him. And that’s a bit of a surprise.

Thing is, people have been underestimating Brad for a long time. At the Olympic Trials, he wasn’t considered a threat. At the Brier last year, he was more a sentimental favourite than a real one.

And yet, he proved the pundits wrong. He’s proved that a team from the farthest point on the right of Canada can compete.

After four ends, we just heard Kevin Martin say: We’ve got a battle.

Fast forward …

When the seventh end of the second semi final started, this was what we thought would happen.

Martin would throw the first rock top four. He would do it because he wants to play the end wide open. If possible, he’ll peel Gushue out and force a carry over, so he could have last rock.

Martin really, really likes last rock in the last end. He’s given up money before to get it. But this is different. This is also the four rock rule – remember? And the 4RFGZ can suck rocks into play.

Because that’s not the way it played out. It was Martin throwing draws for his Skins Game Life. Two absolute pistol draws in the seventh end between two peel-weight hits for Gushue. Both going so far off script that we were beside ourselves.

We are beside ourselves, actually… myself and TCN shooter Anil Mungal are stting together. But I digress.

When the dust cleared, Martin had what we all know he wanted. Last rock in the last end with the entire game on the line.

At stake: 14K, and a trip to the final.

And like a good script, it writes itself. Experience versus rookie. Three-time champ versus guy who has been picked to be an also-ran in and Olympic Trial, a Brier and now the skins game.

I’m not sure if it was like this on your HDTV, but it was so quiet during the eighth end that I was afraid to type this. The tension was so thick you could have cut it with a Jack of Clubs, or at least a casino chip. KMart makes a peel weight double that has the crowd thinking it’s over. But then Gushue papers a guard and buries one in the back four, forcing Martin to a draw to the button.

Then they had to do it all over again.

Draw the nut. The pin hole. The button. For the whole ball game.

To recap, Martin won the first skin. He stole it. From then on in, he didn’t get another skin. Actually, he didn’t really have another chance at a skin. It was all Gushue. And yet, the beauty of the skins game is simply this: it can come down to whoever is closest to the pin hole.

Martin starts and covers the pin. Then Gushue throws and comes up short.

I don’t think this answers the question of whether you want hammer in the last end or not. But one thing is for sure. Going first helps.