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Fantasy Curling picks and more



"The Women Issue" ... got yours yet?

Have you checked out The Curling News on Twitter lately? Yes? No?

Big mistake if you have not. There is so much cool curling info out there that we have either generated ourselves or passed along, often after we viewed it first… and it would be a shame if you are missing it.

In addition, our February print edition (cover at left) is making waves as it underwent a sudden and last-minute change – just 48 hours before press time, no less – into a special themed issue, which focuses on “The Women”.

Sure, The Women are topical as the STOH Canadian Women’s championship is set to begin in Charlottetown, PEI. But there is more… so much more. From the story of the junior legacy and Al Cameron‘s preview of the field we jump to columns from Team Canada’s Jill Officer and Team Nova Scotia’s Teri Lake… to Curling in America by Olympian Debbie McCormick, and why she is now a “curling trucker” driving across the United States… to a piece written by a delightful 10-year old female “Little Rocker”… to a new study analyzing women and curling and their communities… to a special guest column by now-retired STOH queen Robin Wilson titled Women in the Headlines.

As we have been pointing out this season, some of this content is only available to our individual subscribers, who receive a special, super-sized copy of The Curling News every month – a different edition than the one sent to curling clubs. Subscribe today to ensure that you are one of the special ones, and that you aren’t missing the best curling news and information anywhere in the world.

Want more? Okay.

The STOH also kicks off nearly three months of online fun, as Goldline Fantasy Curling was just announced last night. And while there are event prizes available for the Brier and women’s and men’s worlds in the weeks ahead, you need to make your picks NOW to have a chance at the STOH prize and also the Grand Prize!

Check out the info below, which we received via a CurlingZone email news blast (and welcome back, fellahs!)…

Play Goldline Fantasy Curling!

Make your Fantasy Curling picks and win prizes from Goldline.ca

Who would you pick to win a Brier final: Alberta’s Kevin Martin or Ontario’s Glenn Howard?

How about a women’s matchup between Jennifer Jones (Team Canada) or her ex-teammate, Cathy Overton-Clapham (Team Manitoba)?

Curling fans can now enjoy online Fantasy Curling through the Goldline website, and guess the winners of some of the sport’s biggest matchups through the championship months of February, March and April 2011.

Goldline Fantasy Curling allows fans to pick and choose game winners throughout the upcoming Canadian and world curling championships: the Canadian Women’s in Charlottetown, PEI; the Canadian Men’s in London, Ont.; The World Women’s in Esbjerg, Denmark and the World Men’s in Regina, Sask.

What’s more, Goldline is offering prizes to the winners! Prizing can be used either in-store or for online shopping, and consists of:

GRAND PRIZE – Get outfitted by Goldline from head to toe! The person who gets the most correct game picks over all four events wins this prize package valued at CDN $550.00

CDN WOMEN’S – The top three game pick winners for next week’s Scotties Tournament of Hearts will each win a CDN $75.00 Goldline Gift Card

CDN MEN’S – The top three game pick winners for the Brier will each win a CDN $75.00 Goldline Gift Card

WORLD WOMEN’S – The top three game pick winners for the women’s worlds will each win a CDN $75.00 Goldline Gift Card

WORLD MEN’S – The top three game pick winners for the men’s worlds will each win a CDN $75.00 Goldline Gift Card

All of this combines for a total of CDN $1,450.00 in amazing curling prizes! But fans should hurry hard, as the first stones of the Canadian women’s curling championship will be thrown this coming Saturday, Feb. 19 at 1:30pm ET.

Goldline Fantasy Curling is online NOW and can be played HERE (goldline.ca/fantasy).

Goldline Fantasy Curling is open to everyone. Prize winners who are not Canadian residents will be responsible for shipping costs.

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A Sunday in Grimsby

Peter Corner (crouching) vs Nick Rizzo

Matt Hames is the former U.S. columnist for The Curling News and lives with his wife and two children in Buffalo, NY. He is currently enjoy round two of his competitive curling retirement, after going pretty hard in an attempt to represent the United States at the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games.

by Matt Hames
TCN photos by Anil Mungal (click on image to increase size)

GRIMSBY, Ontario – They said it would be cold here at the 2011 Ontario Men’s Tankard championship, otherwise known as the “Can Anyone Beat Team Howard” Ontario Championship. They were right. As The Curling News Twitter feed showed us last week: Brrrrr.

11:30am

The semi-final featured Greg Balsdon’s Loonies against former Howard teammate Peter “The Constable” Corner just finished.

An interesting stat: Team Corner was the oldest team in the competition. Their team average age of 46 was older than just about every player in the field, so despite you hearing about old bald guys competing at the upcoming London Brier (Howard, Martin etc.) there would appear to be plenty of younger guys – some of them balding – coming up on the scene, too.

Before the game I talked to Team Corner second man Phil “The Head” Loevenmark, and he agreed that his team was old. Phil may feel old but he still looks exactly as he’s always looked, so cheers to him. Maybe it’s that large head. Or perhaps that retro mullet.

The Parade of Champions honoured two-dozen ON winners dating back to the 1980s

It was tempting to call the semi-final The Experienced Old Veterans versus The Youngsters, but I don’t think that’s fair. Sure, Balsdon made a few rookie-ish mistakes, but in the end his team simply executed their shots better.

Maybe the Corners seemed a bit rusty. I understand rustiness. You might have watched thousands more rocks coming down the sheet than your opponents but if you haven’t watched a lot this season, rustiness can strike at any moment. That isn’t to say that Corner’s team was rusty, or that they lost for any reason other than their opponents made more shots. But they were just missing hits and rolls – ie. the rolls after the hits – and some of it was sweeping calls.

A couple of moments here and there, and they could have really put some pressure on Balsdon. They didn’t, and his squad was on their way to the final against a team that is as experienced as Corner, but not even remotely rusty.

Outside of the fourth end – a Corner steal – Greg’s team wasn’t too bothered in the semi. That would change in the final, and I’m not saying that now that the final over. I actually typed that after the semi and before the final, you see, but the editor is just posing my stuff now. So there.

(It’s true. Every word is true. –ED)

Team Bice finished 6-4 and watched their tiebreaker chances slip away on Friday night

1:00pm

The final is underway in an hour or so, and you would have to be a fool to bet on Greg Balsdon’s team. That said, there’s a reason they play the games, folks. Just because it seems pretty obvious that Howard’s team will win, curling can be a funny game, like any other. Sometimes funnier, like any other.

It’s not that funny, really. Glenn Howard was going for his 13th provincial championship – wow – and to beat him, Team Balsdon had to file away who they are playing, what game this was, and just go out there and do what they can… and start by throwing stones as decently as they know they can.

Easier said than done, I know. Finals have their own level of adrenaline. Hack weight easily becomes board, and board weight easily becomes normal weight… particularly on arena ice.

For Balsdon’s team – and for anyone in a final, actually – it’s best to think about the game one end at a time. Go further and think “one shot at a time”, if possible. Don’t focus on who you’re playing against, focus on the shot you’re playing. Because if you’re thinking of the face, and/or that you are in a final, you’re thinking about outcomes.

Think about a curling shot, any old curling shot… like a 20-foot straight runback on a guard, for example. That is, in actuality, exactly the same thing as a nose hit. Another… a hit-and-roll to the centre is no different from a 20-foot angle-runback triple.

Team Balsdon (foreground) vs Team Rajala

In both instances, it’s important to hit the stone in the right spot. The difference is the story that we give the shot: one is “hard” and the other one is (relatively) “easy.” That’s because outcomes add a degrees of difficulty to the shots we throw and attempt to “make”.

There is supposed to be no difference in a final. A final adds degrees of difficulty because of the story we attach to it. For Glenn Howard, who has been in more finals than every player on Team Balsdon combined, thinking about this as just another game comes naturally.  Particularly when he’s been in, what, eight such finals in a row?… and has in fact won the previous five in a row. Wow again.

5:00pm

One thing you rarely hear the TV commentators say in curling is this:

“Well, Jim, you have to give them credit. They hung in there to the end, and they played hard.”

One more time for the Men In Green

Can you think of another sport in which it’s okay to quit, ie; concede the match before the allotted playing time is completed? There isn’t one. In curling, it’s not only okay, it’s considered sportsmanlike behaviour.

Of course, you probably can’t think of another sport in which the thrown or otherwise delivered object ­– ball, puck, stone, whatever –can be affected in-flight (think curling brushes) before it stops its trajectory. Because there isn’t one.

But I digress.

In terms of conceding the match early, curling finals that are televised are somewhat different. This The Dominion Ontario Men’s Curling Championship was, sadly, basically over after the first end. Team Howard scored three, but more than that, they got into the heads of Team Balsdon. You could see it in their body language: they tried to fight it, buyt they knew they’d lost. Down 8-2 after five ends, the only requirement from then on in was to finish the required (from television) minimum of eight ends of play.

When everyone knows it’s over, it’s easy to phone it in. Fast shots, zero conversations, get-into-the-hack-fast-and-throw-just-to-make-it-to-the-eighth-end kind of “speed curling”. Howard is already at the other end to throw, and Balsdon is also standing at the other end, waiting to throw.

Glenn Howard is one of the best to ever play this game. He holds the record for the most Ontario titles, and his team of Richard Hart, Brent Laing and Craig Savill are, arguably, the best team in the world. They are definitely, in my opinion, the most fun to watch.

That they are going back to The Brier, once again, is really excellent news for the London organizing committee. And it’s also excellent news, in my opinion, for fans of curling.

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Juniors in Calgary: The Men

CCA photo by Michael Burns

by Guy Scholz

CALGARY – Super Sunday it was!

I sure hope you curling/football fans were channel surfing yesterday during the Packers-Steelers clash.  I almost missed a classic yesterday.

First the shameless plug – I was at the Canadian Juniors in Calgary to flaunt my co-authored, updated version of Between the Sheets: The Silver Lining with Cheryl Bernard. My new significant other/bride/NFL fanatic femme was torn… big time! She can’t remember the last time she missed a Super Bowl party – ever! She’s from Detroit and is quite new to our granite game. I’ll cut her a little slack… she used to watch the “Don and Don” CBC version of curling as a kid in Michigan. But she has never thrown a rock (other than in the hood).

Being the supportive femme she is, she came out to watch the Junior Men’s final between Ontario’s Mat Camm and the Saskatchewan squad skipped by Braeden Moskowy. She has become a typical Albertan – ie. a transplanted or adopted Saskatchewanite. She has gone to Roughrider games and loved “The Green” crazies and their antics, and she re-fell in love with their fans during the Canadian Juniors this weekend at the North Hill CC in Calgary.

And so to Super Sunday! What a great final between ON and SK. If you haven’t seen it, go right now to the TSN website and watch the replay of the game. It looked like the undefeated (13-0) Sask team was going to blow out their opponents, but the Ontarians hung in there and came back from 3-0 and 5-2 deficits by turning it around quicker than any Aaron Rogers deep pass. It started with a well-played two with hammer, then they followed it up by playing a brilliant end to steel (you spell it this way on Super Sundae, you see) another two to jump up ahead 6-5.

The Sask men tied it up and snuck ahead 7-6 until Ontario forced the extra end. On Moskowy’s last rock he had an extremely difficult and quiet come-around tap back with no wiggle room for error to win by about this much __! What an intense pressure shot by Braeden. This was one of those quiet weight come around shots that had to curl about three feet from the hog line in. I watched the crowd all stand at once – hold their collective breath still not knowing if the rock would break enough even in the final four or five feet. The place went berserk.

But hold it! There was a call for a measure and everyone had to wait. Then, of course, the crowd went berserk for a second time.

It was classic… one of the best curling finals you could wish for. The Super Bowl was a classic as well but, as Miss Michigan said of the curling afterwards, “I have seldom felt so tense watching a final game of any sport come down to a final play like this. It was agonizing in a good way. And I love Saskatchewan. It’s my new favorite province. Oh, do they have a lot of curlers in Saskatchewan?”

She just had to hang around for a long while afterwards and talk with Team Sask and give them all a hug.

I have been to almost 30 national curling events and this one was as well run as any, regardless of size. The crowds were outstanding and the fans were fantastic. It wasn’t just those green Roughrider curling fanatics that brought color and energy to the venue, as many of the other provincial fans had their favorite team’s colours painted on their faces, dyed into their hair, etc.

And I loved how the organizers featured mostly the 1980’s and 90’s generation singing the pre-game national anthem, handling the music and entertainment between ends, and emceeing one of the best banquets we’ve attended. In other words, the organizers catered to the age of the event and brought to life a lot of fun for curling fans of all ages. When you walked into the Glencoe or North Hill CC’s this past week, there was energy in the air… and you knew something of significance was going on.

I’ll always remember Super Bowl XLV!

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Juniors in Calgary: The Women

CCA photo by Michael Burns

by Guy Scholz

CALGARY – I honestly thought I was sitting in McMahon Stadium in early November watching the Saskatchewan Roughriders invade Calgary, and confusing the poor southern Alberta fans about who the home team really was.

But no. I was at a sold-out North Hill Curling Club on a Saturday night in Calgary, watching the Canadian Junior women’s curling final between Saskatchewan, skipped by Trish Paulsen, and Team Alberta, helmed by Nadine Chyz.

There was green and white face paint, green wigs and green streaks, Saskatchewan provincial flags, Roughrider flags and jerseys, even a few Roughriders green good-luck beads. And on the red side – actually Alberta blue – there were similar fashion statements, including a number of morph alien outfits.

Over the years, Calgary has been known for really knowing how to celebrate national events. Back in 1948 (and no – I wasn’t around for that) it was Calgarians who started the football revelry that fast-tracked the Grey Cup to the celebration it is today. And it was Paul Gowsell and his Calgary-based junior men’s rink back in the 1970’s (were you around for that, Guy? <grin> – Ed.) that helped take curling from a perceived conservative spectator sport to something which added, at the very least, a touch of color.

Saturday night was fun! Fans had a blast; it was loud and intense; and you could sense something significant was in the air. These were knowledgeable curling fans who seemed to live and die with each shot. The game itself was a nail biter – typical of what goes on at McMahon when the Riders and Stamps hook up. Chyz needed to make a difficult last-rock hit and flop to win the championship, and her stone rolled a bit too far. Almost like a tough 48-yard field goal that just blew by the goal posts. A typical Rider-Stamp heartbreak for one team, and joyous celebration for the other.

The Habs and Flames are promoting their Winter Classic at McMahon in a couple of weeks, but I seriously wonder if they’ll be able to capture the SK-AB rivalry that has its roots going back a couple generations, and on the gridiron and with granite. Saturday night’s final was a match made in the organizing committees dreams. 245,000 Saskachewanites call Calgary home, making it the largest non-Sask city for Saskatchewanese in Canada. So it was more than fitting to have the host team match up with their curling-mad cousins who either live in Calgary or had relatives come in for this very well-run junior championship.  It was the perfect final to fill up the North Hill.

Just throwing this out there – how about a curling winter classic at McMahon, featuring Team Alberta versus Team Saskatchewan in a Continental Cup-style event?  Or Team West vs Team East? Or a Skins curling event? Just a thought.

I may have more thoughts later today or tomorrow on Sunday night’s men’s finale, so stay tuned to The Curling News Blog!

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Vol. 54 Issue 4: February 2011

Fcover_feb_2011ebruary 23, 2011
Why will it be the most compelling women’s game in curling history? Only The Curling News knows, and tells

From Juniors to The Show
The field for the 2011 STOH women’s shootout

The Women Issue
It struck us like a thunderbolt, just before press deadline; so here it is, our first themed issue on “The Women”

For The Love of The Game
Guy Scholz digs deep with The Two Dons, Walchuk and Bartlett, who have finally slain their demons
FOR SUBSCRIBERS ONLY

The Curling News TV Guide
Full national, international and regional TV curling listings
FOR SUBSCRIBERS ONLY

Women in the Headlines
Robin Wilson, the STOH curling queen, cheers us on in this special Women’s issue

The Dominion Club Corner:
Should your area curling clubs merge operations? Jean Mills looks at the why or why not

TCN Newsdesk
Keith Richards goes curling as do German motor cars, Vladimir Putin, those hockey Red Wings and the folks at The Hockey News
FOR SUBSCRIBERS ONLY

Curling in America: The Big Red Rig
Join U.S. Olympic curler Debbie McCormick as she trucks her way around Curlingtown, USA

A Women’s Corner Stone
New study looks at the curling effect on women’s mental, social and physical health

True Grit
From the Slams to the provincial Cup to Japan: a look at Edmonton’s Team Appelman

The Curling Network
Can’t wait for an all-curling TV channel? Our first of two reports

They Said It
Our popular monthly collection of collectable quotes
FOR SUBSCRIBERS ONLY

Mixed Doubles A Dud
Your Curling Curmudgeon on the failed experiment – and what the players say

Good things come to those who wait
Columnist Teri Lake is back in the STOH; but you wouldn’t believe the struggle to get there

Tony Meets The Pants
When a social media guru meets up with the reason for his fame – and vice-versa – aka Team Norway’s Thomas Ulsrud
FOR SUBSCRIBERS ONLY

Happy Curling Anniversary
One year ago, Vancouver 2010 curling made a huge splash. Sam Corea checks in on the BC curling scene

TCN Contest Winners!
Our TSN Skins curling contest winners got the royal treatment at Casino Rama

My Curling Experience
A precocious 10-year-old tries curling, and then carries a flag at a huge event

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BDO Canadian Open: From the Stands Final Wrap

For those who missed it – and how could you! Honestly! – the pages of The Curling News Blog were recently hijacked by curling neophyte Erin McLaughlin, a Greater Toronto Area writer, communications whiz and rather adept Twitterer. In a partnership with TCN and the Capital One Grand Slam of Curling, Ms. McLaughlin was turned loose at Oshawa’s General Motors Centre with an all-access accreditation pass and the results were rather predictable: the sport of curling has assimilated yet another hapless victim. Resistance is futile! Muahahaaaa!

by Erin McLaughlin [Click on photos to increase size]

Slider hangs with Team Howard before the final

OSHAWA, Ontario – This is my last post regarding my incredible experience this past weekend at the 2011 BDO Canadian Open and I have to say… I’m pretty bummed.

I woke up yesterday morning and realized: I would have no fun drivers to talk to on the way to work. There would no entire arena to explore, no new people to greet to and get to know in the hallways. Why can’t curling be… every day?!

To be honest, when I was invited to the event I wasn’t sure what I was going to write about, other than the draws. I thought my posts might be pretty limited to fanatical scoring (which I do at home on Twitter while watching games on TV anyway) and summarizing the crowd’s reactions. Everything I witnessed is nothing I think I can fully put properly into words… but I had an unbelievable time with fans, staff and players that I will never forget.

Jeff Stoughton’s third Jon Mead even asked me on Saturday night, “If you had to summarize your experience here in five words or less what would they be?”

I’ll tell you what I told him. Well, it’s okay I guess… just kidding! What I actually said was: Best. Time. Of. My. Life.

Here’s why:

There is absolutely nothing more socially rewarding, in my opinion, than attending a curling event and meeting so many fans and supporters of the sport. Capital One Million Dollar Button finalist Teri Schiman said it best on Sunday before she took to the ice to go for a million bucks (which was a last minute decision, mind you!) with this:

“The people of curling are the best, they’re amazing.”

Team Martin after their QF loss, ready for the airport

I agree, 100 per cent! It’s great to be able to go out and share your interest with people who are just as enthused as you and who have a genuine love of the game, but to me, there’s something unique about the curling atmosphere that has no rival.

Since I went alone to this event, I felt a bit more compelled to get out of my usual comfort zone and strike up conversations with pretty much anyone, depending on where I was sitting or standing. I couldn’t believe how welcoming everyone was and how many different people of all ages I shared stories with. There were a lot drivers and event workers I spoke to who were really enthused about the prospect of more new fans – especially young people – coming out to games and getting out on the ice themselves. There were a ton of kids at the semi-final and final games this weekend, which is really exciting – I think – for grassroots programs like Capital One Rocks and Rings, which had a demonstration set up at the General Motors Centre.

Having access to the GM Centre itself meant roaming the halls and the Players’ Lounge, watching event workers bustle around backstage, meeting the ice technicians and seeing the CBC live TV setup. I also regularly sat in the production offices with the CBC crew, The Curling News writers and Grand Slam event staff (which includes cameramen and video tech guys) and was given sneak peeks at some of the uncut video footage and unpublished photographs. These are all elements of a process I either never thought about much, or never knew existed (hey Players’ Lounge with your hot stir fry – I miss you), but it was quite incredible to see it all come together.

I was also able to do ordinary things in this mysterious high-level curling world too, like step on the sticky mat that removes dirt and debris from everyone’s shoes as they head out onto the playing area. It was pretty cool to stand there with the teams, all lined up, and witness their pre-game warmups. It’s also impressive just how physically fit most of these athletes are, and have increasingly become, due to long events like Slams and Briers where they play multiple games a day and whatever else they do when they’re not competing or training. I admire how hard they work to practice and qualify for these events while juggling ordinary home lives of work, family and so on.

I love this photo! CBC's Scott Russell awaits his cue, Team McEwen, Slider in the background, even Pierre Charette!

Most of the teams and players themselves were a lot more accessible and outgoing than I figured they would be. I didn’t want to bother many of them in the hallways because they were either just coming from games (some with not-so-great results) or heading into the locker rooms or just looking to unwind with their families and friends. So imagine my surprise when a passing “Hi” turned into a full evening of hilarious shenanigans with some of these athletes, who are simply some of the most down-to-earth people I have ever met. What’s more, a lot of the teams were just hanging around and chit-chatting anyway – particularly at the Silver Bullet Bar, the featured place for off-ice entertainment at the GM Centre.

I don’t know of too many sports where it’s possible for fans to have such access to the athletes… and I think that having that kind of area is a great opportunity for more people to come out and experience live curling, and perhaps get a chance to talk to their favorite players. So if you’re reading this, you’ll be sure to stop by next time, right?

All of this brings me to one last series of highlights – although pretty much everything was one big highlight…

• Watching so much live curling that television will just be a disappointment now. Okay, not really, but maybe a little.

• Watching the finals on Sunday with Team Jungle Pants (Norway’s Thomas Ulsrud) and their amazing accents.

• Sitting rinkside during Friday’s second draw with a few new acquaintances, and generating new team nicknames. Team Pink Panther. Team Green Skittles. Team Orange Julius. Team Black Licorice. And placing orders with the Norwegians for their pants, of course.

It's always busy at the Goldline display

• Testing out different broom weights at the Goldline display (hi Andrew!) where I spent about 10 minutes with fellow Twitter comrade Cheryl trying to choose a brush head color to match my soon-to-be equipment for my soon-to-be curling league!

• All the display booths, in fact, that were set up on the arena concourse. The displays from sponsors (like Goldline Curling) and the local curling facilities – the Oshawa Curling Club, the Oshawa Golf and Curling Club and the Whitby Curling Club – were stellar and the booth workers were super-friendly and informative… and they always smiled at me like they knew something I didn’t. So wise.

• It sounds really simple, but standing at the rinkboards and feeling the rumble of the rocks as they slid down the ice – the origins of the ancient nickname “The Roaring Game”. That is definitely something you don’t experience on television, and thanks to gk for that one.

• Norway’s own knight in shining armor, Thomas Ulsrud. Not only did he find my missing shoe on Saturday night – just the shoe and just the one, mind you – but in true gentleman fashion he had me take a seat so he could put it back on himself. That is one classy skip, if you ask me!

• Seeing Team Jim Cotter off to the airport at 5:30AM on Sunday morning (yes, you read that right). It was late/early, and some were in rougher shape than others, but bidding my new pals farewell only made me look forward to a possible next time!

Okay, that’s it, I promise. Congratulations to everyone who helped organize – and to those who competed in or volunteered for – the 2011 BDO Canadian Open! Special thanks to the folks at The Curling News for allowing me to hijack their blog, and to the kind people at the Capital One Grand Slam of Curling who let me run around like a five year old on Pixy Stix. “And then! And then! And then!“

This is “that blogger“ signing off – for now. Thanks for reading, and I hope to see more of you at other live curling events and on the ice yourself!