It was soon-to-be BDO Canadian Open champion skip Mike McEwen who asked me that, as we shared a ride over to the General Motors Centre on Sunday morning.
Uh oh. Uh… yes?
Turns out the team had seen my one-legged “Flippy Cup” Tweet the previous night, and they proceeded to joke that I had a tape recorder handy, and that they had better not say anything bad about Glenn Howard. Fair enough!
While privy to their team talk – pregame strategy and musings about Teri Schiman’s looming decision about her draw to the button – I was a little surprised to find Team McEwen all very relaxed looking despite their impending matchup with Grand Slam heavyweight Howard. When asked if they were amped, third B.J. Neufeld calmly answered, “Yeah, we’re ready.” No big deal.
After ‘outing’ me, I promised the McEwen boys I wouldn’t exploit their transit chatter, and I won’t. I do want to say from what I heard they were super down-to-earth and generous about offering me a lift, although they had a pretty full car already… and they all smell amazing. Now they’re two-time Grand Slam champions who smell amazing! Woohoo!
And were they ever ready – they were on fire during the championship final, broadcast live on CBC. To spare you any eye-rolling jokes about firefighting third John Morris racing in to tend to the flames, if you managed to catch the coverage you probably saw a few examples of their great shotmaking.
Not only did opponent Howard seem impressed afterward by the strong Manitoba rink, but even the president of the World Curling Players Association, Pierre Charette, commented beside me about McEwen, “These guys are relentless today.” With McEwen holding a lead the game moved on with a series of double-takeouts and buried stones by both teams, frozen rocks taking up most of the fourth end for a blank before Howard finally stole one in the fifth.
The big uproar came through Howard’s steal in the eighth end, because it tied the game and forced an extra end that overshadowed pregame coverage of the NHL Hockey All-Star game. A fantastic double by Howard left the Manitoba skip no choice but to fire a brilliant takeout – with no room to roll – that made his team the champions.
Congrats to both teams on a thrilling game! It was one of the most tense and exciting competitions I’ve seen live so far and I told the Grand Slam folks in the production office afterward that I’m pretty certain I literally held my breath on that last shot. Man, good stuff!
As stated by the host of The Curling Show, Dean Gemmell, on his own Twitter account: “Damn that was some BDO Canadian Open.” Couldn’t have said it better!
There was more Wii curling, an energetic rock cover band 3HT (which stands for Three Hour Tour), an epic match of Flippy Cup at the Silver Bullet Bar…
There was also much discussion about who might claim today’s championship title at the BDO Canadian Open – teams Glenn Howard and Mike McEwen – and there was even mention of the not-so-distant 2011 Brier in London, Ontario.
I am still trying to catch up on sleep, and am already reminiscing about my past three days at the GM Centre and my first experience with Grand Slam curling.
I came to this event with no expectations, glad to just be a part of the action and report my thoughts as accurately as possible to anyone who’d be willing to read them here, and I think I can safely say I am completely hooked, with no plans to look back. The players, staff, family members and Twitter alum I’ve met have been absolutely phenomenal to get to know, and the respect and kindness they’ve all shown me is unmatched.
A few highlights of last night:
• Getting ribbed by every player from Team Jim Cotter for mentioning them in the last post
• Having my phone confiscated by Jim and second Kevin Folk for about an hour to prevent me from revealing all of their secrets, like the fact that none of them even have a Twitter account or knew how to find these postings. Except that now they do… so what else can I share with you all? 😉
• Finding a new friend in Jeff Stoughton third Jon Mead, who reputably dislikes most people… but liked my shoes, as we discovered we wear the same size
• Listening to CurlingZone’s Gerry Guerts talk about team qualifying statistics, which I’m still learning about, and is no less confusing in daylight but are definitely important. I think. I’ll get there, Gerry…
• Discovering that arm wrestling may well be a sport that can be endorsed by curlers – there sure was a lot of it going on this weekend!
• Laughing so hard at the general antics of the night (that almost ended early, mind you) that my teeth actually hurt this morning.
I don’t know how you measure fun but it’s those small, unexpected moments that have made this entire weekend such a blast for me, and so difficult to say goodbye to this afternoon.
Speaking of this afternoon, who are your picks? Eight-time Capital One Grand Slam of Curling event champion Howard, or the equally undefeated World Cup Slam champion McEwen? Both played solid in the semis and today’s finals – which will be broadcast live again on CBC at 1:00pm eastern – are sure to have fans on the edge of their seats! Can’t wait!
Also tackling the ice today will be Teri Schiman, finalist in the Capital One Million Dollar Button, who threw an unbelievable cold draw just 14 inches away from the “pin” yesterday to secure her win. But the real money is in today’s fourth end broadcast halftime… will she choose help from her chosen team of two Slam sweepers plus a skip for $100,000 or… will she take the shot alone for the million bucks?
OSHAWA, Ontario – Were you surprised by the scoreboard this afternoon… or did your predictions come true?
It was certainly a breeze for Kevin Koe, who had stolen five from Pat Simmons by the start of the third end and continued snatching up points before clinching the win in the sixth for an 8-1 finish. Glenn Howard only scored in two ends in total but still racked up a 5-2 result against Rob Fowler, and Mike McEwen continued his flawless winning streak with a game 7-3 over Dale Matchett.
In an interesting rematch for Kevin Martin and Jeff Stoughton – which was the featured game on television – the Alberta skip dropped two points in the first end and slowly chipped away at his opponents, finally managing to tie the score in end five. However, his team couldn’t recover from Stoughton’s unbelievable double-takeout in the seventh end, which gave them an insurmountable 5-2 lead.
Congratulations also go out to Teri Schiman from Vernon, B.C. who won the finalist competition for the Capital One Million Dollar Button! Out of four semifinalists who entered the contest to draw a stone closest to the button, Teri made an amazing delivery with the crowd cheering her on and ended up only 14 inches away from the pin. She will move on to Sunday’s final, at halftime of the BDO Canadian Open championship game, with a heavy decision to make – throw the stone by herself for $1 million, or choose help from two sweepers and a skip to hold the broom (all of her choice) for a chance at $100,000?
When asked on live TV what she would choose, Teri said “I don’t know, I’d be afraid of the sweepers just standing there and not sweeping!” Good luck, Teri!
While Teri’s nerves might not let her eat much in the next 24 hours, I was almost as starved as Koe was in eating up all those rocks out there. During dinner in the Player’s Lounge with Jeff Stoughton, his teammates Jon Mead and Steve Gould, and CBC commentator Mike Harris I had the privilege of listening in on some shot talk, some stories from the days of curling past (circa 1980s!) and some all-around friendly banter. Jeff was also complimenting Martin and his team on their close quarter-final and demonstrated, once again, the good nature of this sport.
What’s dinner like in the Players Lounge, you ask? Well, it’s no colossal sandwich, but tonight it was a seriously filling hot buffet of Basmati rice and chicken stir-fry, salad, and another table of small desserts. Now that I’m finally remembering to eat again through all this excitement, it’s fun to sit and mingle with different crowds of staff and players over brownies and cakes. My kind of gathering!
The semi-finals are halfway finished and the four remaining teams are all filing out on the ice to for the second half of their matches. Check out what I found in one of the player’s broom bags in the second photo… who knew, eh? Do you have any suggestions for what other objects the players could toss around during pre-game practice? Share them here, via the Comments below!
Don’t forget you can catch live streaming of the semi-finals going on now at this page at Grand Slam of Curling website and feel free to let us know your thoughts on the finals tomorrow at 1:00pm as the semis rage on!
OSHAWA, Ontario – Wow! Tense is probably the best word to describe last night’s final round robin draw, if not a light term. There was plenty of broom smacking and frustration, particularly for Team Jim Cotter, who managed to get singles in the second and fourth ends but lost out to Glenn Howard’s camp.
The second for Team Cotter, Kevin Folk, said it best afterward at the Silver Bullet bar: “We just couldn’t pull it together, but it happens.”
Kevin Martin had the upper hand all night, scoring three times in three ends against Jeff Stoughton and cruising to a five-end win, 6-1. Showcasing sportsmanship at its very best, Jeff entertained a delighted crowd with not one, but two, of his famous ‘spin-o-rama’ deliveries. He drew cheers from the crowd and both Martin and his third, John Morris, raised their brooms in salute.
Jake Higgs and Mike McEwen cut a close game with McEwen edging out a 7-6 win Dale Matchett and Grand Slam newcomer Mark Kean also ran a close 6-5 game. Thomas Ulsrud and his Pantsmates looked blindingly dashing but could not be saved from Peter Corner’s shock steal of two in the final end.
And what a shock it was. Read this story to understand just how important Ulsrud’s miss was, and how it extended the race to the playoffs well into today!
It was a fun night. Only a few teams were certain of their fate going into the late hour, as talk of tiebreakers circulated. Teams were speculated about until the very last second, and when the results were finally announced, some teams were surprised… like Team Don Walchuk! LOL!
After the last draw, I hitched a ride back to the hotel with Mr. Walchuk. While sensing he was exhausted, he was nice enough to introduce himself! I also had a chance to hang out with Team Cotter at the Silver Bullet Bar (they make a pretty fantastic rye and coke to drown your Slam sorrows in, in case you were wondering) and found out they’re not only one of the most
humble group of guys there is, but also one of the most hilarious! For a team that lost their substitute, Ryan LeDrew, about 20 times during the course of the evening, they really embrace newcomers – I was chosen as the spare, and then the new lead, over the course of a few drinks. Now, to work on that delivery…
If you are in the mood to practice your own delivery and can’t get out on the ice, check out the curling Wii game set up at the Silver Bullet Bar! I took a chance on it last night, thanks to the encouragement of my friendly tablemates, and found… that this still looks a lot easier on TV. But it was a blast and you can rest assured, as the reigning champion of eight points, that I will cheer you on.
by Erin McLaughlin in Oshawa, Ont.
(Who is sending content on time and waiting patiently while The Editor takes his time to post it)
It’s been an exciting day so far in the stands and ‘backstage’ at the BDO Canadian Open and if you weren’t at the 10:00am draw… why not? It was loud. Kids in the house kind of loud.
They came, they saw, they cheered for Randy Ferbey… and then they cheered some more.
For the second day in a row, a supportive group of school kids filled almost an entire section on their own and waved handmade posters for Ferbey and the boys, screaming wildly for, well, pretty much every shot. The young man sitting behind me wasted no time and started to root for Team Rob Fowler, shuffling along behind the seats sweeping his own imaginary stones and giving those enthused youngins’ a run for their money.
Despite Ferbey’s own personal cheering section and scoring two in the third end, his former world champion teammate (from the 1980s!) Don Walchuk stole three in the first and one in the second, sweeping off into the afternoon with one in the fourth and three in the seventh for an 8-4 finish. Making off like a bandit himself, Jeff Stoughton scored big numbers in the third, fifth, and seventh ends respectively to win 10-5 over John Epping. Fowler and Peter Corner fuelled a close game 6-4, and the last two games on the ice ended up being the closest of all with Teams Wayne Middaugh and Mark Kean fighting into the eighth end, when Middaugh won it 8-6. Dale Matchett stole two in the sixth, blanked in the seventh, and stole two more in the eighth after an early battle with Jake Higgs early on, and won 6-3.
Off the ice, photog extraordinaire Anil Mungal was singing and serenading with a version of “Single Ladies” as I reminded Glenn Howard about his broom-wielding frustration mentioned in my last post. It was a thrill to meet him and get a photo taken with him, right there on the field of play!
I also spent some time yesterday and today with fellow curling Twitterites (Twitterees?) Cheryl and Tony. The latter drove four hours from Rochester, New York to watch live pro-level curling for the first time! Tony has become pretty famous in the Pants region – he started that group on Facebook which celebrated the Norwegian call to snazzy, eye-catching slacks during the Vancouver Olympics. The moment he finished creating the grouy, which took just a couple of minutes, he had 20 fans. Overnight, he gained 10,000. At it’s peak, the page had some 670,000 members… and still has over 600,000 almost a year later.
Can you say Pantaloon Phenomenon?
It’s pretty quiet in the hallways right now as the second draw of the day is underway. The school kids have gone and Wayne Middaugh isn’t playing this round so only the occasional “HARD!” is cutting through the cement in the event production office.
I’ve been tagging along with the folks at The Curling News, trekking through the hallways and up and down stairs to observe all the inner workings of the GM Centre. I have met so many interesting people who work to make these events what they are and pull off a smooth production that trying to recap everything here might take all night. It has been absolutely fascinating getting to wander around and ask people what they do, and how they got into curling. One of the best parts of the curling atmosphere, I think and probably most would agree, is the socializing.
This afternoon I was able to sit in on a live video webchat with Jeff Stoughton and Co. (and provide security in the crowded bar/restaurant – how’d I do, boys?), check out the exhaustive autograph line for Team Howard (hey hand cramp), and catch a glimpse of their documentary filmmaker Dave Goodbrand in action – you can check out a preview of the documentary here. Some of the Stoughton interview questions included, “Is Reid Carruthers single? He’s my personal Johnny Mo!”, “What is your favorite part of curling at your level?”, “Who does your team hang out with off the ice?”, and another regarding an infamous McDonald’s drive-through in Brooks, Alberta… funny stuff!
I almost forgot something – usually the Grand Slam crew can be seen snacking and munching throughout the day, as they move about ensuring the event runs smoothly. But there has been very little of that today, and no wonder, because lots of talk about a Man vs Food manwich competition – involving Grand Slam event workers Rob Cranston, Duff Charette and Mathieu Crevier along with General Motors Centre facilities guy Jeremy Giles – had actually taken place… and no one is hungry. At all!
You can hardly call their challenging quadruple-stacked mountains of meat and cheese a ‘sandwich’ – judge for yourself at left – and there remains some debate about who actually was the ‘winner’.
If you haven’t heard, the GM Centre has its own curling beer garden formally titled the “Silver Bullet Bar” for all sorts of good food, live entertainment and shenanigans. It opens daily at noon and features a separate entrance for non-ticket holders, too.. If you’re making your way to the BDO Canadian Open at all this weekend, join us for all the fun and festivities!
Tonight’s 8:30pm draw might get crazy, as there is the threat of tiebreakers early Saturday morning. I’ll update the results either later tonight or Saturday morning.
There are, and will continue to be, photos of my BDO Canadian Open travels posted on my Twitter page, so feel free to check those out as I continue my experience… and keep up with all the live scoring on the official Grand Slam of Curling website!
Side note: Special thanks go out in this post to all of the BDO shuttle drivers for their time and patience, and congratulations to expert driver and devoted curler, Ian, who recently proposed to his fiancée from, where else, the curling ice!
Ian made his move rather creatively at his club, where he and his fiancée both curl, getting a bunch of friends and family in on the proposal by pretending to take a nasty spill at the end of his sheet and telling them to send her running when it happened. Unfortunately, she didn’t want to go because she felt like she was not qualified to tend to his ‘injuries’! Thankfully, after some heavy persuasion, she slid out to save her man… and was delivered a different kind of curling rock 😉
OSHAWA, Ontario – Before I begin, The Editor has asked me to give a nod to all CurlingZone fans who have been donating to the cause, commenting on this blog and waiting for news of the CZ revival! Apparently, an update on this sorry affair will be posted on these pages later today, so please look for it!
One of the first questions I’ve typically been asked when sitting in a curling audience long enough to strike up a conversation with other fans is, “Do you curl?”
The only question I get asked when I tell anyone outside of the curling community that I like curling is, “You like curling?” followed by a look that suggests I should be entering retirement at 25 and taking up knitting.
Short of a semi-exhaustive explanation about my own curling efforts, which were very exciting to me but are perhaps better conveyed in person to those whose eyes won’t glaze over, I’ll settle for stating that I’ve tried it and that, yes, I do like curling and there is nothing wrong with knitting.
You might understand the look I’m talking about and the skepticism that comes with it. I’ve heard, “Curling? C’mon. You might as well just throw marbles, how hard is that?” or “Sweeping with brooms? I do that at home!” (Awesome, feel free to come over to my house and Swiffer your heart out, pal). My favorite dig? “Curling isn’t a real sport.”
If that last statement makes you roll your eyes even a little, I hear you. I laugh, actually, because it’s not generally considered nice to tackle people in public over disagreements, but I have to admit I’ve become a tad protective of this sport and its athletes and fellow fans.
For one thing, I respect the time and effort everyone, including volunteers, puts in to each event, big or small. I have read countless articles about and watched firsthand how ice makers perfect each sheet right down to the size of pebbles to create the best conditions and I think it’s fascinating. I admire that even top notch players aren’t immune to the frustration of a shot gone awry and turning around and complimenting their opponents on a good one (they are human, after all, but how often do you see compliments from players in most sports?). Mostly, I understand that no matter what shots are called and who’s up to deliver, curling involves everyone on the team 100% and no end, no single delivery, is the exact same.
I suppose you could tell those skeptics that there’s a lot more to curling and its devoted leagues at all levels than what’s on the surface (haha! …).
Okay, allow me to at least say that I love how curling takes a seemingly simple game on ice and turns it into an endless puzzle of possibilities. There are only so many historic game plans, so many set conditions for other sports, but not curling. The ice, the players, the teams, the strategy – it’s ever changing, minute to minute. The constant adaptation, the constant communication; everyone’s opinion on a shot matters and can mean a big difference in securing a coveted title, like being the 2011 BDO Canadian Open champion.
The most exciting part, to me, is seeing this all happen live. I’ve attended the World Curling Tour’s Shorty Jenkins Classic in Brockville with my father, and sat by myself at the Grey Power World Cup, and had the time of my life at both kinds of events. It was a thousand times better in person than sitting at home, warm and cozy on my couch, choking on popcorn over a missed shot. Seriously. The smell of the… cold…. the sound of the rocks hitting the ice, the commentary from fellow fans about Glenn Howard throwing brooms around after a bad end – that’s the kind of stuff you can’t fully appreciate in high definition, and I love it (sorry Glenn, but your enthusiasm in November was the first thing that came to mind).
When I was invited by the folks who run the Capital One Grand Slam of Curling to come to Oshawa and participate in this event, both in the stands and behind-the-scenes with a Media Accreditation pass!!… my dad’s first words were, “I guess you didn’t say no.” To all the skeptics out there I say, who would? If you ask me, they’re missing out. Curling is the most authentic sport I have ever followed, and I’m proud to say that I like it.
Join me this weekend for some exclusive, select coverage of the BDO Canadian Open, whether you’re watching at home on Saturday or Sunday or able to see some of the draws live in Oshawa over the next few days. I’ll be blogging here at The Curling News website blog, tweeting from my account and possibly from The Curling News Twitter page and I look forward to sharing the experience with all of you. Stay tuned!
Anil Mungal photo of Team Howard copyright Capital One
It happened, again. Kevin Martin finds a way to win.
“I don’t know what to do with it” says Kevin after John Morris’ first rock in the seventh. That just might sum up the tone of the game for Martin and his team. That is, until they managed to snag a steal in that seventh end and win the $9,000 skin.
David Murdoch’s first rock in the seventh had picked and crashed on a long guard, giving Kevin the chance to sit three, and Murdoch was forced to throw for the carry-over. A big miss by Murdoch resulting in the Martin steal and we headed into the deciding eighth frame with – for the first time – advantage to Martin.
Let’s be honest – up until this point, the feeling throughout the game made you believe Martin just might fall to the meninblack, while still acknowledging that, quite simply, they’re just too good to ever be out of it.
Sure enough, the reigning Olympic champs stepped it up in the eighth and never gave Murdoch and company a glimmer of hope. I didn’t even entertain the idea of Murdoch making his virtually impossible last shot – a runback skinny double attempt.
Martin pulls out the victory, earning $57,000 and the TSN Curling Skins Game title for 2011… his second crown in the four-year history of the impressive Casino Rama locale.
A rather unexciting final, and more misses than impressive shotmaking as you might expect from a skins final… but I doubt Team Martin is complaining.
The editor is on the move and asked me to fill in! I am the skip of a women’s team based out of Calgary and ex-teammate of the sassy Margo Weber who is a regular guest poster for The Curling News Blog.
Today, I am enjoying the game from the comfort of my couch in Calgary so here’s to hoping I can still capture the excitement of the game.
The first three ends certainly favoured the Scots. Kevin Martin and his gold medal Olympians took their first skin by completing a successful skinny double in the fourth end. Despite the $3,000 win, David Murdoch and the boys continued their momentum picking up the skin in the fifth. Visible frustration and a little tension after Kevin’s last rock in that end has him looking like he’s developing a few new wrinkles.
An unusual miss to start the sixth end by Ben Hebert makes you think the team is just not on their game, even more so when Marc Kennedy racks the guard on his following stone. The team which often seems virtually unbeatable continue to struggle with keeping the Scots in check. However, a few good shots by the back end and Martin is back in it with a $6,000 skin.
Sit tight as we wait to see how this wraps up. Murdoch has another TSN skins victory in sight with a $2,000 lead… or will the superstar Canadians be able to regain their form and close the last few ends in their usual dominant fashion?
RAMA, Ontario – And so the Scots strike first, scoring the first skin worth $4,000 in the second end, after an opening carry-over. Advantage for the meninblack over The Pumpkins.
This despite a nasty “picked” stone on one of Warwick Smith‘s stones (Smith at left in this TCN photo by Anil Mungal).
“Smitty” is a riot, and it’s great to see him still hanging around high-performance curling. His first worlds appearance came at Hamilton, Ontario in 1996, when his Scotsmen lost the final to Manitoba’s Jeff Stoughton. And he’s been around so long – and he still looks somewhat youngish – that one easily forgets he’s “only” 39 years old. He certainly acts youngish, at any rate… he’s a lively, funny and enthusiastic curling bloke.
Remember the Edmonton worlds in 2007? Smitty took it upon himself to start selling beer and popcorn to the arena spectators… until the catering folks – backed up by security – put a polite stop to that.
Years earlier – was it at the Kamloops worlds in 1998, perhaps? – he held an impromptu live auction in the arena seats, and raised money for the Sandra Schmirler Foundation at the expense of his uniform jacket. If one’s memory serves correct, he also lost his balance and fell into the seats in the process… thus prompting cries of “piper doooon!”
And here in the third end, Smith just thrilled the crowd with some excited yelping during his skip’s final shot. It was a well-placed guard, and second man Ross Hepburn made a “chirping” sign with his had as the crowd guffawed. We think everyone could have heard Warwick on that one… even out on the casino floor!
And then… a miss from Martin, rock kicking and stomping from his Bear Cubs, and it’s now $7,000 to nil for Team Murdoch.
RAMA, Ontario – So here we go… another Sunday final of TSN Skins curling, 25 years on and counting.
Terry Jones summed up last night’s fascinating Battle of The Sexes here, and of course you followed our insta-blog coverage right here, right?
Team Kevin Martin is on the ice against Scotland’s David Murdoch, and boy, do these guys have some history. At the 2009 worlds in Moncton, the Scots beat KMart not once, not twice, but three times including in the championship final, which featured the infamous Martin “no-throw” in the final end.
A few months later, Murdoch beat Martin again in the first semifinal at this here TSN Curling Skins Game, and went on to win the final, too.
Martin’s biggest win over Murdoch came last February 20 at the Olympic Winter Games. At the halfway mark of the championship, the Canadians won the round-robin emphatically and Murdoch eventually had to play a tiebreaker, losing to Sweden’s Niklas Edin.
So what will happen today? Just sit back and watch… on TSN TV in Canada, and right here if you are SOL.
Off-camera, KMart’s broom was fired down the ice to him by his teammates, and it landed square on the button. The crowd erupted in cheers.