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Curling Pants Mayhem

Very funny stuff coming out of Norway today, as it looks like the World Curling Federation won’t have to make a decision on Team Norway’s new “Shagadelic” flowered pants when the boys arrive later today or tomorrow in Cortina, Italy for the Capital One World Men’s Championship.

The outrageous pants (see yesterday’s blogpost) have already been banned by the Norwegian curling authorities, which includes national coach Ole Ingvaldsen and national team leader – and 2002 Olympic champion – Pål Trulsen (at left, beside team skip Thomas Ulsrud, in this TCN image from Anil Mungal).

Both Ingevaldson and Trulsen wore the original pants in Vancouver, but they clearly don’t want to wear these ones.

“They will not be used in the Worlds. These (colours) have very little to do with Norway. This is also not a fashion show,” Trulsen told VG Nett.

The same night of the team’s media conference on Tuesday, at which they displayed the new pant designs, the association and national team agreed that the psychedelic green pants could not be used. The manufacturer, Loudmouth Golf, has named the design “Shagadelic” which was a “vulgar” term used in the Austin Powers movies.

Click here for a VG Nett video story on the pants, which features interviews with pants supervisor Christoffer Svae and Ulsrud… and also includes Coach Ole on the telephone, giving his reasons for saying no to the pants. In describing the flowered pattern as “most suitable for curtains in an outhouse”, Coach Ole also added that “I think it’s okay to not play in all the world’s colors, but I think it is stupid when girls have just done it. Basically, I concentrate on the game.

“I think it’s a good decision,” said Ingvaldsen. “The point is that here is a team that travels, and those green pants are not Norwegian colours. As a team, I feel this is important. The clown pants in the Olympics were fine, because after all they were in Norwegian colors.”

“The news conference was a little Christoffer Svae stunt, I think,” said Trulsen. “I had not heard anything about this until the press called yesterday. Christoffer would probably like to use floral pants, but I think the NOK (association) isn’t ready for this yet.

“He is a bit impulsive, and that is no problem in principle, but we need to talk a little more together before this happens.”

What about these, Chris?

So, what else is really funny about this story? Two things.

First, the fact that the impossibly tiny curling fraternity in Norway is having this public, media-fuelled spat over the pants is truly hilarious.

“I’m writing an email to the board (of the NOK) right now to ask why the girls could use the disco pants when we cannot use the new pants,” Svae told VG Nett. “I personally think the green pants are fine. I think it’s a bit stupid.

“I’d like signals from the NOK in advance because it was all right with the (Olympic) clown pants. Basically, it is a good idea to get publicity, but they never do that, so we went there.”

The second hilarious item is that the first Olympic pants, the red, white and blue argyle pattern, were ruined in an unfortunate laundry incident. And Loudmouth Golf sold out of the original clown pants design within days of the start of the Olympic curling competition and is only now shipping new product around the world.

“We would like to use the clown pants from the Olympics, but some guys with bad laundry experience washed them, and they turned pink,” explained Trulsen.

“Torger (Nergard) and I made  fools out of ourselves,” admitted Ingvaldsen. “They must be washed at room temperature, but we washed them at 40-45 degrees, and the colours changed. So we needed new pants.”

Of the two new designs, only the blue and white checkered pants will be won in Cortina, while the other pair of Olympic argyle pants – which are in red, white and gray – will replace the Shagadelics.

Finally, why not vote YEA or NAY for the pants? Head back to the VG Nett story and look at one of the little boxes under the video player, which is a poll asking “How do you like the new clown pants?” (Hvordan liker du curlingguttas nye klovnebukser?)

Here, we’ll help you vote… in Norwegian!

Huff, de ser ikke bra ut (Ugh, they do not look good)
De er kjempefine (They are super fine)

Then click STEM (VOTE) in the little grey box, and watch the results pop up!

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New Norway Curling Pants

Yes, the secret is out. And our eyeballs hurt.

The secret is out!

The latest version of the Norwegian Curling Team Pants is set to hit the ice in gorgeous Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy this Saturday.

The event, of course, is the 2010 Capital One World Men’s Curling Championship. And the originators of the Pants Craze, Thomas Ulsrud‘s Olympic silver medallists from Norway, open their campaign at 14:00 CET against Scotland’s Warwick Smith.

The only question is: will it be the blue and white checkered pattern for Game 1, or the swirling multicoloured… flowers?

“I just follow the fashion police,” is all that skip Ulsrud has to say, nodding to teammate Christoffer Svae. The burly second thrower (second from right in the John Hauge photo at left) is the one who found the pants, made his teammates wear them during the first Olympic practice in Vancouver… and the rest is history.

“I must admit that when I saw 10 cameras following us in that first practice, I thought: ‘This was a good idea then, Christoffer,’ ” Svae told Norway’s Aftenposten.

The blue and white pants were worn by Norway’s junior men’s team at the World Juniors in Champery, Switzerland earlier in March. Norway’s Paralympic wheelchair curlers then followed up with a tealish-blue and white pattern in Vancouver, plus Ulsrud’s original Olympic design, and of course the Norwegian women’s team went full-on bonkers with a wild, spotty “disco” pattern last week in Saskatchewan (photo can be seen here).

As reported a few weeks ago on The Curling News Twitter feed, Team Norway has since inked a sponsorship deal with Loudmouth Golf, the U.S. manufacturers of the pants.

Stay tuned to The Curling News for more info on Team Ulsrud, the Cortina Worlds and so much more in this fantastic 2010 curling season.

It ain’t over yet, folks!

[Aftenposten photo by John Hauge. Click to increase size]

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Angry Andrea wins fascinating worlds

And on the ninth day, Coach Rainer rested. Zzzzzz.

SWIFT CURRENT, Sask. – Oh Andrea. What are we to do about you?

The CCA/Michael Burns photo at left shows all the medallists who made the 2010 Ford World Curling Championship such a smashing success (click image to increase size). In summary:

• Canada’s Jennifer Jones fought off more playoff disappointment to reach out and grab the bronze medal which eluded her last year, and had some choice words for the media along the way (video here). As one Winnipeg Free Press headline writer noted, JJ wants some R-E-S-P-E-C-T, people.

• Scotland’s Lady Eve Muirhead is more than the curling “it” girl right now: she’s a talented shooter and leader, and will no doubt have her choice of domestic (non-Olympic) teammates for many years to come. One only hopes she doesn’t get too distracted by golf – another sport in which she excels – and chooses to continue testing her curling skills at the highest level.

• There were non-podium stars, too. Latvia made their first appearance, won their first game, and inspired the TSN TV guys to build a wonderful video highlight. Norway’s Linn Githmark wore more crazy pants, shook her thang and captured hearts, as this local blat clearly states. The Swedish girls, who finished fourth, look like an exciting young generation that is basically right here, right now.

And now for the new champions, Germany, and their skip.

Norway's Linn Githmark (NOT Schoepp!)

Andrea Schoepp has had quite the curling season, winning European and now World gold like she did some 22 years ago, back when she was new to the scene and did a fine job of shaking up the staid, reserved world of women’s curling.

Canada’s Marilyn Darte (Bodogh) had first shaken things up a couple of years earlier, in 1986, but she and her gang of gorgeous, kilted ice maidens would soon be ousted in the determination department by this young German.

And she hasn’t changed much. Schoepp glowers. She glares. She growls. She stomps and berates. Her sweeping calls sound like a bobcat meeting a buzz saw.

She’s been kicked out of curling, by her own national federation (for disobedience, as we recall) and had to miss the 2002 Olympics and worlds. After a couple of years away she then returned, declaring her love for the sport and her new attitude, which focuses on fun.

Well.

It was definitely Angry Andrea, the fiery competitor, who showed up in Swift Current after going 3-6 at the Olympics… which, by the way, is an event she would rather not compete in at all. As we noted in the supercharged post-Olympic March issue of The Curling News, Schoepp gave an interview to Germany’s ZDF before Vancouver 2010 that had many shaking their heads. In this rough translation, she said things like:

I wouldn’t mind if all this crap were cancelled… The Olympics are just annoying… I feel zero excitement.

Scotland's Lady Eve (STILL not Schoepp!)

As TV viewers couldn’t help but notice, Schoepp exploded at her team, which features 17-year-old Stella Heiss, rotating lead Corinne Scholz, Canadian-born Melanie Robillard and, of course, “Moni”, the long-suffering Monika Wagner who has been with her skipper through some 17 years of Schoeppdom. The eruption took place after the skip’s last shot of the game, which unfortunately settled into an auto-freeze position, basically turning a guaranteed stolen victory into a combination-runback for Scotland to score one, and force an extra end.

Schoepp continued berating her team until coach and brother Rainer Schoepp – who teamed with his sister and Robillard to win European Mixed gold two years ago – came out and calmed her down. Schoepp reportedly apologized to her teammates, and did so again after throwing her winning shot some 20 minutes later. In fact, Schoepp apologized repeatedly amid the victory hugs.

Schoepp is an enigma. It’s easy to see how it would be a challenge to compete with her, just as much as to compete against her. But Schoepp is also funny and witty. She has a great smile, although she doesn’t share it on the ice. She gives great media quotes about an apparent love/hate relationship with her sport, expressing exasperation that she needs to go out and recruit young girls to try curling and then mould them – almost immediately – into teammates for world play.

Here’s another media zinger from this past week, which was hinted at in that ZDF story above:

I wasn’t looking forward to the Olympics, but the whole season I was looking forward to this event. I know I’m not normal and maybe a little bit crazy and different, but that’s the way I’m feeling.

This event you play just for you. You are the main sport, you are the people where everything is all about (you). The Olympics, as a curler, you are kind of in the background.

However, her 10th end meltdown was enough to send Canadian curling fans into a tizzy, as the Comments section below this online story indicates.

Here she is, Andrea Schoepp. Golden again!

Schoepp definitely struck gold this season, in terms of her teammates. Heiss doesn’t have much experience, but is well-trained in what her skip expects from lead stone. She ranked dead last for leads dueing the round robin, but stepped it up for the playoffs. The addition of Scholz this season was a great move, as she is a priceless curling gem in Germany: a hard-working curling talent who attended WCF camps for years, on her own, in order to improve her game. Schoepp didn’t recruit her: curling did.

The real key was Robillard. The Canadian who actually lives in Belgium and is now reportedly moving to Spain first replaced Wagner at third stone near the tail end of last year’s worlds in Korea… and the results have been spectacular. Wagner’s game as a third had fallen off in recent years, and she replied to the change with stellar play at her new front-end position. Robillard simply offers more to Schoepp as a third shooter, and then sweeps skip stones.

It was a strange final. After playing so well to convincingly beat Canada earlier in the playoffs, both Schoepp and Muirhead – and their teammates – struggled. In the end, the winning skip fired a 67 per cent shooting average, compared to the loser’s 77 per cent.

So many questions. If Schoepp were  male, would people be so quick to judge her temper, her judgement, her intensity? Hey, we’re just asking.

Here’s a quick quote from Robillard, after the victory: “She (Schoepp) is becoming a legend. She’s never going to give up. I have a lot of respect for her.”

So. Andrea… what about you, who seems to rub so many people the wrong way? What are we to do about you?

Today, we can all agree on one word: congratulations!

[All Canadian Curling Association photos by Michael Burns. Click on images to increase size]

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Seniors finale

OTTAWA – The veterans are ready for their championship weekend, as the 2010 Canadian Seniors wraps up today and tomorrow at the Ottawa Hunt.

Hosts Ontario are poised for another Seniors win in men’s play, as Gareth Parry‘s outfit is into Sunday’s final. They will have their hands full, however, with the winner of today’s semifinal tilt. The match features Big Brad Heidt of Saskatchewan (Denis Rule photo courtesy event organizing committee), who has Big Gerald Shymko on his team, against yet another fresh Seniors “youngster” from Alberta in Mark Johnston.

Ontario and Sask both finished 9-2, with the Ontarians getting the nod into the final thanks to a 9-4 round robin win over the Gappers earlier in the week. Heidt beat the Albertans 8-4 on Friday morning to set up his spot in the playoffs.

On the women’s side, the defending world senior champions from BC are back into Sunday’s final, and the twist this year is that Christine Jurgenson is now skipping the squad.

There’s an extra game on the women’s side, as Saskatchewan’s Susan Lang will face New Brunswick’s Heidi Hanlon in a tiebreaker this morning, with the winner then taking on Northern Ontario’s Vicky Barrett in today’s semifinal.

Lang lost 9-4 to Hanlon in Friday’s lone women’s draw and the teams finished the round-robin with 7-4 records.

[Click on image to increase size]

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Curling Weekend

This is quite the curling weekend!

As we told you earlier today, the 2010 Canadian Seniors get underway tomorrow in Ottawa, Canada.

Also starting on Saturday, March 210 and running through March 28 is the 2010 Ford World Women’s Curling Championship, from Swift Current, Saskatchewan. Jennifer Jones is off the media bench and back on the ice for her third World appearance in a row representing Canada, and she is looking to rebound from last year’s disappointing fourth-place finish in Gangneung, Korea. The home team will be challenged by defending champions China, Denmark and Scotland, and we’ll be keeping a close eye on the teams from the USA, Sweden, Switzerland, Norway and Japan, too.

This event also features the debut appearance of Latvia, whose team is coached by Brian Gray, a Scotsman who lives and coaches in Switzerland. Here’s our previous story on the Latvians and their big qualification triumph, from back in December.

Canada’s games will be televised live on TSN, and each game will also be available for online viewing shortly after completion, at TSN.ca.

Team USA will see four of their games webstreamed online at Universal Sports (USA only), plus all the playoff games.

Eurosport will be televising many games throughout Europe, and streaming more games on the online Eurosport Player.

We have also heard from other markets that experienced great interest in televised curling during the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games – including Brazil, which be televising selected games during both the women’s and men’s worlds, via SporTV. Olá a todos os fãs do Brasil de curling!

What else, you ask?

There’s also the greatest party bonspiel (tournament) underway this weekend in Duluth, Minnesota… the House of Hearts, which features celebrity athletes competing with Regular Joes (and Janes) to raise funds for charity. While we await news (and hopefully photos) of this annual classic, here’s a “medical” look back at one past event… and a second, remarkable tale which includes a YouTube video

Finally, let’s not forget the Wheelchair Curling event wrapping up this weekend from Vancouver, namely, the 2010 Paralympic Winter Games (photo). As we have already advised you via Twitter, there is a tiebreaker today between Sweden and Italy (admission is free) and the winner battles Canada tomorrow in one semifinal, while the United States and South Korea will meet in the other semi.

The finals also take place tomorrow.

[WCF photo by Dan Field]

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Canadian Seniors in Ottawa

There’s a bunch of amazing curling events on tap this weekend, including the 2010 Canadian Seniors in Ottawa (event website here).

Have you paid any attention to Seniors curling lately? More and more legends are qualifying for this age group and are winning their provincial championships to make it to the national shootout. Just take a look at some of the women’s teams:

Agnes Charette (QUE)… Christine Jurgenson (BC)… Laura Phillips (NL)… Heidi Hanlon (NB)… and Diane Foster (AB) to name a few.

And the men? We’ve got Al Hackner (NONT)… Brad Heidt (SK)… Brian Rafuse (NS)… Pierre Charette (QUE)… Mark Johnson (AB)… Wes Craig (BC) and more.

Hackner and Foster are recent champions, with Hackner losing the 2007 world senior final in Edmonton on an amazing last shot by Scotland, and Foster winning the 2008 world seniors in Vierumaki, Finland.

We’ve got some other neat tidbits for you to chew on. Did you know that:

• The first national Canadian Ladies’ Championship (the “Dominion Diamond D”) was held at the Ottawa Hunt in 1961, two years after its curling rink was opened? (And yes, that makes this the 50th Anniversary season of Ottawa Hunt curling)

• The Hunt staged the 1986 Ontario women’s provincial, won by Marilyn Darte (Bodogh)?  (She went on to win the Scotties and Worlds)

• Marilyn’s sister Christine, who played second on that squad, is skipping this year’s BC Seniors entry?

• The Hunt also hosted the 2008 CN Canadian Women’s Open Golf championship, and the 1976 Canadian Senior Men’s Curling Championship?

• The 2010 ladies’ team from B. C. won the championship in 2008 after going 10-1, and went on to win the 2009 worlds in New Zealand… but with Pat Sanders at skip stone?

• The 2010 Alberta champs are the same three (third, second and lead) that won the Canadian Seniors in 2005 and 2007, but with a different skip each year? This year it’s Mark Johnson; in 2007, it was Pat Ryan; and in 2005…? The skip was Les Rogers.

Brian Rafuse also represented Nova Scotia in 2008, going 9-2, but failed to win? (The title went to Sask’s Eugene Hritzuk)

Agnes Charette won the Canadian Seniors in 1997, 1999 and 2001, but went 6-5 at her most recent appearance, in 2008?

• Al “The Iceman” Hackner won in 2006 with the same line-up, except that Rick Lang has been replaced by Art Lappalainen? And did you know that Artie is the brother of curling media legend Chico Heseltine‘s son-in-law? (Er, no, we bet you didn’t know that last one)

• The action will be fast and furious, and lots of fun, and it all starts tomorrow? (Yes, we bet you did know that one)

[Thanks to event co-Chair Carol Lawless for the photo (that’s her, by the way) and to curling legend Terry Begin for the tidbits]

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This is why we love the Brier

by Margo Weber

CCA photos by Michael Burns (click to zoom in)

See ya later, asterisk. Hello Team Canada!

It’s the morning after Team Alberta’s big win at the Brier and I’m still rewinding tape. I am an insomniatic (is that a word?) curling-obsessed lunatic. Ha.

That was the best Brier finish I’ve seen in my lifetime, and it should go down with the very best finishes of any curling game ever. It gave me the chills and STILL gets my heart racing when I think about how hard I screamed at the TV and waited for Carter Rycroft’s little head to move so I could really see who was shot rock.

And what a reaction. The team went ballistic, and I love that. Amid the bedlam, Carter grabbed his skip Kevin Koe by his bald head and screamed “What a boy!” Blake MacDonald and Nolan Thiessen went bonkers. The wives jumped up and down in disbelief. Jamie Koe hugged his brother’s wife Carla in the stands with tears streaming down his face.

And I’ll tell you right now the last person on anyone’s mind watching or playing that game… was Kevin Martin.

As far as I’m concerned, any talk about an ‘asterisk’ beside this Brier winner’s name just because Team Martin did not compete, can be shoved where the sun don’t shine. In fact I didn’t even think once about K-Mart and team until after breakfast this morning. Not to take anything away from their amazing Olympic gold medal, which was indeed amazing. But to me, as I’ve said before, that gold was not surprising. It was almost expected.

This win by Kevin Koe was something people have hoped for, but did not expect. Prior to Sunday night this team has had too many last-stone, last-gasp disappointments hit them at the last second, again and again, and no one seemed willing to put money on them. Their huge Brier victory was dramatic, and it was historic. It was a win against a previously undefeated (12-0) team of Ontario robocurlers, skipped by Glenn Howard (left). It was the first win for a rookie Brier skip since Vic Peters of Manitoba in 1992… just one year after that Martin guy, with a moustache and a head full of hair, did it too. TCN curling Tweep @pjames said this after the first end: So if 90 per cent of teams who score a deuce in the first end go on to win, is there any reason to keep watching the Brier tonight?

Heck, it was the first time a team in the 3-4 Page playoff game has ever gone on to win the Brier.

When a rookie skip draws the button in an extra end to win the world’s most storied curling trophy, it becomes something curling fans will not forget. Was it on the same stage as the Olympic win was in Vancouver? No. This was different. But Kevin Koe and Co. have won a Brier and it was unbelievable.

This Alberta team is colourful, almost too much as times. Midweek I thought a few of them were going to bite each other’s ears off. These guys say things to each other that women’s teams could never get away with. But they settled down mid-week. They picked up play, they picked up each other in their own weird way. And now they are Team Canada and will be off to Cortina D’Ampezzo, Italy at the beginning of April for the Capital One World Men’s Curling Championships. They can also book their trips to the Canada Cup in Medicine Hat and the Continental Cup in St. Albert. Both in Alberta. Cool.

In Kevin Koe’s post-game interview with TSN, he was unsurprisingly humble and gave credit to his team and his sweepers for making that shot. When discussing that incredible light-weight hit and roll in the 10th end that killed Howard’s chances to throw for the win, Koe once again used words like ‘we’ instead of ‘I’.

Being from Alberta, I’m kind of forced to state the obvious here. Once again a Team from Alberta has come through and won the Brier, the province’s seventh title in the last nine years. Not to mention also fielding both Olympic teams this year (we’re gonna work this for a while, peeps!)

This was an amazing finish for a Brier that was… let’s face it… mediocre.  It wasn’t like last year, where we had so many returning champions you lost count. We didn’t have The Shot… which was followed by The Other Shot. The Gushues didn’t do a goofy TSN game intro video (boooo!) We didn’t have those Dader and Madge chicks running amok with media credentials.

But this Brier was filled with new faces. While I do like that, I also see changes coming. People are always concocting new format suggestions to fix what isn’t necessarily broke, but to make an exciting week even more so. With the success of Team Northern Ontario at this Brier, folks have been once again chatting about the purpose of such a team. (I, for one, understand why Northern Ontario was brought in. It’s a massive province, difficult travel thing. Got it.) But should there be a returning Team Canada?

After this particular Brier win, the concept of a Team Canada makes a lot of sense, considering it’s highly possible that Kevin Martin will just go out and represent Alberta again next year. If so, next year’s fans in London, ON will be asking: where’s Koe? So having something like a Tour winner, a Team Canada, a CTRS points winner, and then a playoff against bottom-ranked provinces is starting to look like a pretty good solution.

There, we’ve covered it all. Amazing win, historic moments, Alberta rocks, Brier format change… what didn’t we talk about? Ah yes. Glenn Howard’s Team Ontario and their absolutely heartbreaking year. I thought Shannon Kleibrink would like to have her year back, but this… yeesh. Nah, I don’t want to think about it. Still too stoked.

This is why I love the Brier.

[Ed note: curling fans from around the world can watch highlights and/or the entire game on the TSN.ca Video-On-Demand service, located here – select VOD: Final: ON vs. AB to view the game]

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Hot ticket

by Teri Lake

HALIFAX – The 50/50 frenzy has hit the Halifax Metro Centre.

This year’s Brier is taking 50/50 draws to new heights. Each draw has featured the classic curling prize lottery using a new electronic system developed by 50/50 Central, a company based in Summerside, P.E.I.

50/50 Central technology shot to stardom at the 2010 IIHF World Junior Championship held in Saskatoon and Regina, Saskatchewan.

Organizers there had to beef up both the number of fixed sales locations and handheld devices mid-event because they just couldn’t meet the purchase demand – not to mention the ATMs were perpetually empty.

The 50/50 frenzy culminated in the Canada vs. US final game, which awarded $149,700 to one Saskatoon-based fan!

Here at the Brier we haven’t seen pots that crazy… yet. But here’s how easy it is to get caught up in the fun. What makes the electronic system so unique is that fans can see the running total, up to the second (!), of the 50/50 pool on the arena’s big screen and in the Keith’s Patch. As soon as someone buys a ticket, you can literally see the numbers go up… and up… and up!

Tom Brockway from Bedford, NS (photo) took home $18,075 – his half of the cash collected during Friday night’s 1 vs. 2 game featuring Ontario’s Glenn Howard and Northern O’s Brad Jacobs. This was a record prize awarded at the Metro Centre and beat out the previous top spot held since the venue hosted IIHF World Juniors in 2003.

There isn’t any data available yet on how the big picture looks for comparing this Brier’s 50/50 earnings to previous years, but Ken Myers of the host committee confirmed that the opening draw “more than doubled” the same draw of our ’03 Brier.

And this isn’t just good news for fans – it’s great for the curling community too. Any net profits will be used for the development of curling with the majority of these funds staying within the province of Nova Scotia.

There you have it. The 50/50 is a win/win. So keep buying, Halifax… your next-to-last chance is right now, as we get ready for the Brier semi: ALTA vs NONT.

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Koe Day in Halifax

by Margo Weber

It’s Koe Day in Halifax!

This morning, brothers Kevin Koe of Alberta and Jamie Koe of the Territories (CCA photo by Michael Burns) face off against each other in a much anticipated match at this year’s Tim Hortons Brier.

These two brothers haven’t curled together competitively in years, but grew up in Yellowknife where they both learned the game and made it a big part of their lives. In fact, the brothers lost a Canadian Junior final – to Alberta – on a last-shot, burned rock controversy which would have been, to this day, the only national title ever won by a Territories team.

And yes, at that time, they both had full heads of hair.

They have much in common, these two. They are both soft spoken… until they’ve had a few drinks. Neither shies away from ‘Patching it.’ And from what I can see, they both married waaaayyyy above the line. Proud parents Linda and Fred definitely taught them something right there.

But today they clash. And it’s the second big Brier brother battle in two years, following last year’s infamous Glenn Howard versus Russ Howard tilt in Calgary, which resulted in a shattered brush and much controversy.

For Kevin, this win could mean another step towards a second place finish in the round robin. Team Alberta plays Glenn Howard’s Ontario tonight, so a win against little bro Jamie is paramount in their efforts to get into that Page 1-2 playoff game.

For Jamie, it’s simply about pride. His 1-8 start could use improvement. A win here, although ‘mean’ for a little brother, would mean bragging rights for awhile. Sort of.

So in anticipation of this morning’s game, I’ve prepared some interview questions for the boys… and they have offered me their thoughtful answers.

According to Kevin:

Q: Who would play Jamie in the Jamie Koe movie?
A: Danny DeVito

Q: What characteristic did you receive from the gene pool that Jamie did not?
A: A brain

Q: What was the last book Jamie read?
A: Curling for Dummies

Q: If someone wrote an autobiography about Jamie, what would the title be?
A: ‘Living in the Shadow of my Great Brother’

Q: You play each other on the last day of the round robin. Who wins? And what is the score?
A: I will be surprised if they show up.

And now, according to Jamie:

Q: Who would play Kevin in the Kevin Koe movie?
A: Oscar the Grouch

Q: What characteristic did you receive from the gene pool that Kevin did not?
A: Draw weight

Q: What was the last book Kevin read?
A: Curling for Dummies

Q: If someone wrote an autobiography about Kevin, what would the title be?
A: ‘Missed it by a hair’

Q: You play each other on the last day of the round robin. Who wins? And what is the score?
A: Territories wins the game 8-7.

Awww. Brotherly tenderness. We’ll see in a few hours whatever the outcome is.

I assume Jamie will show up physically, but mentally? Something tells me it was a long night in the Patch. Jamie tossed himself out of last night’s game against Saskatchewan at the fifth end break, and his Facebook status – before even leaving the ice – was Just call me the Patchlington Bear.

I’d imagine he sticks around on the ice regardless of how this match goes, and it could be a fun to watch as it is indeed the TSN feature game. If we’re lucky, TSN may roll tape of that infamous last-stone Juniors loss all those years ago… an event which took place just up the road, in Truro, which I happened to be at, too!

Have a good one, boys.

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Out of control Brier Muppets

by Teri Lake

HALIFAX – Meet Michael, Tyson, Nathan, Richard, Jamie, Jordan, Mike and Jacqui. You only get first names because printing the last names of this group of Calgary-based Ukrainian-Canadians would use up half my character count.

This group, The Sociables, is visiting Halifax for the first time, specifically for the Brier, after catching the curling fever at last year’s Calgary Brier. At first I thought they must be students on a study break looking for a party… well almost, but there’s a lot more to it than that. Firstly, these aren’t students. They’re working professionals using hard-earned vacation time – a few even took short leaves of absence from their jobs to make it here. Why?

“We’re really into culture,” said Michael. “We are Canadians but do a lot to respect our Ukrainian heritage as well. At last year’s Brier, we were introduced to curling and the culture of the sport just captured us. And, we’ve always heard about east coast hospitality, so when we heard the Brier would be in Halifax this year, we got planning.”

I’ll say. And wait ‘til you hear how they got to Halifax. Most folks would arrive at the Calgary airport and head for the sunrise. Not this gang, they went west!

Flying from Calgary to Vancouver, the group wanted to be in the Olympic city to experience the vibe of being amid the excitement of Canada’s gold medal hockey finale against the United States. Then, and I swear I’m telling the truth here, they boarded a Via Rail train and spent five-and-a-half days making their way to Halifax; with the longest de-boarded break being about three hours.

“It was an adventure in itself,” Michael said. “There was no internet and very limited cell service so we made our own fun.”

(You know what this means, right? Canada just witnessed the return of the fabled Brier Train! – Ed.)

If there was an Olympic sport in making your own fun, these guys (plus one gal) would be golden shoe-ins. Just sitting in the stands cheering doesn’t work for them. They have matching costumes – a different getup every day, in fact. So far the Metro Centre has been treated to Scottish and lumberjack themes with a promise of bigger and better ideas later in the week.

Though the outfits may change, the pride stays the same. “We just really want the best team to win,” Michael said, when I asked him whether they were cheering for their hometown Alberta squad.

“We’re proud Canadians and we’re just cheering for the sport.”

As for the ‘Plus One Gal,’ Jacqui likens the experience to another kind of show. “They’re like a bunch of out-of-control muppets,” she said about her male cohorts. “You know, like those two old guys that sit in the balcony at the Muppet Show and heckle the entire time.”

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[CCA photo by Michael Burns, click to increase viewing size]