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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.