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Outdoor curling in Waterloo

It’s a chilly one in sourthern Ontario this morning.

Curling fans – or hardy outdoor types – are invited to swing by Waterloo Town Square, where two sheets of outdoor curling ice have been built. Why? Why not?

Go out and throw a few; the sheets are open from 2:00pm to 5:00pm. Just make sure you dress warmly.

Further north, the Canadian women’s curling championship begins today in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont. – the Scotties Tournament of Hearts.

Oh yes, we remember now. The good old STOH. Kind of a big deal, that event is… but the Olympic Winter Games have been so distracting. And they’re still a couple of weeks away.

According to your trusty Curling TV Guide, available in every issue of The Curling News (you do subscribe, right?) saturation television coverage begins this afternoon. But before you grab your snacks and your favourite comfy chair, check out The Curling News Twitter feed for some background info on the event.

[Photo by Dennis Dosman, click to increase size]

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JJ curls on OTR

Jennifer Jones and her Team Canada squad are in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario preparing for the start of Saturday’s Canadian women’s championship – the Scotties Tournament of Hearts.

Practice ice for all 12 teams is scheduled for tomorrow.

Also tomorrow, The Curling News Twitter feed will be linking to a pile of team previews, so be sure to stop by and visit. Why not click on Follow?

JJ spent a day in Toronto, before jetting north. She hyped up the STOH with some media visits, including a stop at the TSN studios of Off The Record, the all-sports chat show which recently featured Glenn Howard, Randy Ferbey, John Morris and David Murdoch in its annual all-curling skins special.

Jones is on the show tonight, on the Next Question segment following TSN hockey guru Bob McKenzie (who is Up Front). Air time is 6:00pm ET.

If you miss it, you’ll be able to catch up via the OTR webpage.

And as the she photo shows, she chose to go curly! (click photo to increase size)

Is that natural… or is it the straight look that is natural? Hmm…

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BYOB… is coming…

Hmm. Wonder what this is about?

Most everyone knows what the original B.Y.O.B. stands for. Most curlers and curling fans, anyway.

But what is the significance of Feb. 1? Apart from the Ontario Men’s Tankard provincial, we don’t know of any other event that starts on Monday, February 1. The Scotties Tournament of Hearts, of course, begins in three days… on Saturday, Jan. 30.

What does “whole new meaning” indicate? In the curling context, could it mean:

Broom Your Own Biter?

Bury Your Own Board-weighter?

Barnstorm Your Own… er, Breakfast?

Bit.ly Your Own Blog?

Um… we don’t think we’re helping. At all. Any ideas, anyone?

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Jennifer Jones says Yahoo!

You just had to know that defending Canadian women’s curling champion Jennifer Jones almost yelled “Yahoo!” at the news.

No, not when she realized that the nightmares about Korea had stopped.

No, not when Cheryl Bernard had decided not to enter the Scotties playdowns. Jones isn’t scared of Bernard, despite her big win at the Olympic Trials, although the fact a young team of unknowns is now representing Alberta probably put a smile on her face.

It was when the internet giant Yahoo! called her up and asked her to be a correspondent – a journalist! – at the upcoming Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games.

We actually heard the official news before JJ did – she expressed surprise that we knew, and checked around to confirm the official word was out – but then we sat on it for a few days, which gave various media outlets, in Winnipeg and Toronto, the chance to splash the news. Oh well.

“I’ll be blogging, and doing some video reports,” Jones told us. “Now I get to cheer all of Team Canada on and experience the Olympics in a totally new light.

“I look forward to relaying my own personal experience to viewers and having them see a different side to my personality than the competitive one on the ice. I am definitely looking forward to it and always love new experiences and challenges.”

We should think so. The poor woman is a lawyer, and as much as she may love her career, we full-time journalistas cannot possibly imagine the daily drudgery of drafting legal briefs, transcribing depositions, and all that exciting stuff. And we’d probably have to wear a suit and tie, too. Argh.

JJ’s employers, Wellington West (where Kerry Burtnyk also works) are fully supportive of her continuing curling adventures.

“Jennifer has ‘it.’ She has that intangible star quality that we are thrilled that viewers, and the world at large, will be able to see up close and personal as she provides coverage at the Vancouver Games,” said Charlie Spiring, the WW CEO. “We see it in her work and in her dealings with clients and colleagues. She is competitive, intelligent and strong, yet also possesses an innate charm, warmth and grace. It really is a powerful combination.”

So enjoy yourself, JJ. Put aside your careful clock-watching, your complex knowledge of legalese, and feel the fresh air of creativity flow through your veins. Ahhhhh.

We think you’ll love it!

Of course, Jones is only the second member of her team to join the “other side” of the media bench. As die-hard fans of The Curling News are aware, second Jill Officer has been a TCN correspondent for some six years now, and has been known to blog it up on these online pages, too.

You can follow Jennifer Jones and other Olympian correspondents – such as Elvis Stojko (Figure Skating) and Stanley Cup winner Ken Daneyko (Ice Hockey) – at the Yahoo! Olympic portal, which will feature a new Olympic mobile site, a custom-designed  broadcast studio in Vancouver, and an entertainment center, FanCouver, where fans attending the games can participate in Yahoo! events and promotions.

Want more on JJ? We’ll have more for you, either tonight or tomorrow morning… stay tuned…

[TCN photo montage by Anil Mungal]

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Martin vs Howard? Red vs Pink? AWESOME!

Kevin Martin, Canada’s 2010 Olympic representative, and defending champion Glenn Howard will meet in Sunday’s championship final of the BDO Classic Canadian Open in Winnipeg… for the second straight season.

Martin versus Howard. West versus East. Red versus… Pink?

That’s right. Fans have been invited to wear either red or pink to cheer for the favourite squad. Red, of course, is for Team Martin… the Olympians, who will “Paint The Town Red” in Vancouver just a few days from now.

Pink is for Team Howard, who use pink brushes and wear pink-trimmed uniforms in support of the fight against breast cancer.

If the fans respond, this will turn the MTS Centre into a violent clash of technicolour, er, mayhem.

And that would look simply AWESOME on CBC-TV!

Each team posted convincing victories Saturday night in the semi-finals of the season’s third Capital One Grand Slam of Curling event. Martin qualified for the final after defeating Thomas Ulsrud, Norway’s 2010 Olympic representative, by a 6-3 count while Howard overpowered old buddy and Ontario rival Wayne Middaugh of Toronto 7-2 in the other semi.

With the victories, both teams advance to the championship game with identical 7-0 records. The final is, of course, of December’s final of the Canadian Olympic Trials, which qualified Martin for Vancouver.

Action gets underway Sunday, January 24 at 12 noon (1:00 pm EST) and will be shown live on both CBC Television and CBCSports.ca.

During the fourth end break of the championship game, Alma Laidlaw, 63, of Guelph Ont. will compete in the finals of the Capital One Million Dollar Button contest… where she’ll have the chance to throw a stone to the button for $1 million (CDN).

[Capital One photo montage by Anil Mungal]

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Nederlandse Curling Verhaal en Vragen

An offbeat tale for a Thursday morning, but with potentially serious questions at the end. And we’re looking for your answers.

Guess what? Dutch curling is having a good year.

The national women’s team earned silver in the B-Pool at the European Championships in Aberdeen last month, just missing a trip to Swift Current, Sask. for the Ford Worlds (that honour went to another country of curling minnows, Latvia).

The national men’s team won the Euro B-pool, scoring gold, and have qualified for the A-division at next year’s championship in Champery, Switzerland. They too missed out on a spot in this season’s worlds (in Cortina D’Ampezzo, Italy) when Denmark – a team headed to the Vancouver 2010 Olympics – beat them in a do-or-die challenge series.

Now, we’re not saying that teeming hordes of orange-clad Holland sports fans are descending on curling championships to cheer on their teams. Not yet, anyway. Despite the fine work of TCN photo editor Anil Mungal (above), this remains a dream for Dutch curlers.

But we, The Curling News, apparently could not sit idly by while Dutch sports fans questioned the presence of curling in the Olympic family. So we opened out big mouths – in English – in the comments section of this Dutch blogpost, and promptly engaged in some lively debate with the Orange Crush.

A couple of Dutchmen have stood up in support of our opinion – along with another Canuck, “The Curling Guru” (no surprise there) – but we throw this debate open to you, the ultimate curling fans.

Should curling be an Olympic sport?

Should Dutch sports fans have a better appreciation of all Olympic sports, particularly when their countrymen are starting to achieve tangible results in those sports?

Should we have apologized to Frans? Should Frans apologize to us?

And perhaps the biggest question of all: do curling fans have a role to play on the blogs, chat groups and online portals of the world, as Vancouver 2010 puts our sport under a massive microscope every four years?

Please use the Comments section of this blogpost to give us your thoughts. And if anyone feels up to commenting at the Dutch blogpost itself, you can find it here

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UK Olympic Curling Uproar

Great Britain’s Olympic curling program is in an uproar with the news today that Karen Addison, the hand-picked alternate member of Eve Muirhead‘s Olympic-bound squad, has withdrawn from the team.

The word comes from More Than The Games, which also mentions that news of Addison’s replacement will be made today, at any moment.

Such a shocker was a source of speculation earlier this week by Bob Cowan, the intrepid Scottish curling blogger at Skip Cottage Curling.

This flies in the face of the success of the team, which has scored podium finishes in virtually every competition they’ve travelled to this season. It would be one of the understatements of the year to say that this distraction is not needed at this time.

Addison, who was a member of Gail Munro‘s 2006 Scottish champions – who were also at the centre of an uproar that season – is shown in action at the Ford Worlds in Vernon, BC (CCA photo by Michael Burns).

UPDATE: Annie Laird (in photo at right) has been appointed to replace Addison; you can read more about this at the latest Skip Cottage Curling post.

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Casino Rama Curling Skins XI

RAMA, Ontario – For the man from Lockerbie who once played goaltender on the hockey ice (yes, we kid you not) today’s Skins Game success was a brilliant shutout.

David Murdoch and his Great Britain Olympic squad blanked Team Randy Ferbey $57,000 to nil to win the 2010 Casino Rama Curling Skins Game (The Curling News photo by Anil Mungal).

Their total haul? $70,500 for two eight-end games.

For those who are interested, that’s some £42,000 in UK coin. Not at all poor.

And not at all unexpected from a “clever, methodical, calculating, cold-blooded killer.”

Crowds were strong for the event, with the 3,600-capacity Entertainment Centre counting an average of over 3,000 bodies for each of the three draws.

The athletes were, as usual, treated like royalty. Swag bags for each player included a GPS, shirts and sweaters, poker chips (but of course), a travel bag, gift certificates, and more.

Another year, another Skins Game. Thanks for following!

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Casino Rama Curling Skins X

RAMA, Ontario – This is where it gets fun.

Heading into the final two ends, David Murdoch is at $14,000 and the newfangled Randy Ferbey foursome are at… nil.

Nada. Zero. Butkus.

No big deal. That’s what skins are all about: all or nothing. In the curling sense, all-out offense.

And with the majority of the cash available in the final two ends – not to forget the winner’s bonus – the Ferbs need not fret. As of the start of the seventh frame, the pot held $20,000… with more to come.

Look at this TCN photo by Anil Mungal! Living proof that Wayne Middaugh (at right) can sweep!

How well can he sweep? We should ask Rocque and Pfeiffer… we really should…