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Brantford curling wrap

Kim Tuck fires a stone in Brantford

by Kimberly Tuck with photos by Robert Wilson

First off let me apologize to my readers for not providing a day-by-day blog of the events as they unfolded this past weekend in Brantford, as I had promised. Although our team got off to a quick start by winning our first two games, the schedule that we fell into over the following two days of curling didn’t leave me much time to write… or even eat and sleep, for that matter! I will definitely need to have a little sit down with the drawmaster – love you, honey!

So let’s wrap up the weekend with a few of my observations and experiences…

Thursday evening officially kicked off the event with one game on both the women’s and men’s side being played, plus practice ice was offered to teams who wished to take advantage of the opportunity. The event also added a new dimension by inviting about 40 junior curlers from the three host facility to come to the main host club, the Brantford Golf & Country Club, to watch the team practices and mingle with them afterwards – and chase autographs. Teams skipped by Cheryl Bernard and Kevin Koe took time with the kids and there was even a special appearance by legendary hockey dad (and Brantford’s own) Walter Gretzky. The kids seemed like they were enjoying themselves immensely, and they particularly enjoyed words from Koe second Carter Rycroft, who when asked by one of the juniors why he started curling, he replied with a chuckle “because I can’t skate!” to much laughter from the crowd. In my opinion this is a fantastic addition to the event, and I hope that the organizers will keep running with this idea.

Friday saw the Classic come to life with action at all three clubs. Our team went head to head against Team USA with Patti Lank at the helm. It was a good battle and when the dust settled we had come out victorious; our next opponent was Team Silvernagle from Alberta. The game again was close and it came down to Silvernagle’s last shot which didn’t quite go as she had hoped – leaving us shot, without having to throw our last one for the win. Day 1 was in the books and we were still on the A-side… which wasn’t the case for some the women’s favourites, such as Jones, Holland, Overton-Clapham, Scott, Lawton and Nedohin – all these teams lost their opening round games!

Team McEwen’s Matt Wozniak does Movember

The same thing was happening on the men’s side as Koe, Epping, Gushue and Jacobs also lost their openers. “Movember” was in full force, with mustaches on the faces of many of the guys… and have you ever wondered what some of the top curling teams eat while they are competing? Well, when we sat down in the players’ lounge Friday night to have a bite to eat after the game, we just happened to be sitting beside Team Martin whose lead, Ben Hebert, was enjoying a lobster tail dinner. Yes, I said lobster… oh my, the trials of a poor curling team!

One of the biggest topics of discussion was the new draw format that was designed by committee member Mark Stouffer which showed the games, scores, times and locations in a pyramid format. This took a little getting used to – curlers have always been slow to accept change – but once we got used to it was understood and although I personally commented to the powers-that-be on how it made my eyes hurt, it will be back next season.

As play continued on Saturday, our team went on a bit of a slide. We lost our A-semi to Krista McCarville of the north and we ran smack  into Winnipeg’s Jennifer Jones on the B-side. We put up a good fight, but for the second time this season she sent us into the last-chance C-side.  This set us up for an all-Ontario match up with Chrissy Cadorin; we stayed on top and finished with a W. Day 2 was in the books and we were still alive, on the C-side.

Saturday was also a tough day for Holland, Kleibrink, Lawton, Overton-Clapham, Bernard, Scott and Andrea Kelly who were out of the event. The men’s side also lost some notables, Peter Corner, Jean-Michel Menard, Braeden Moskowy and Mike Harris by the end of Day 2.

In recognition of their event sponsors, the organizing committee held a VIP reception on Saturday night which was attended by not only the sponsors, but the committee, some of the players from the participating teams and special guests. Walter Gretzky showed up again, and not only spoke to the group but also mingled with the VIPs. Various local politicians were also on site and presented the committee with accolades in honour of their success of their fourth annual event. I popped my head in after my game and it looked like a good time was being had by all, but more importantly the sponsors were able to see firsthand how important their contributions were to making this a huge event.

The hospitality room at the host hotel, the Best Western Brant Park Inn, was in full swing Saturday night. This tournament is not only known for its stellar field but for its great hospitality, and because it’s one of the last spiels in the “cashspiel season” teams look forward to letting loose… loose and by the looks of many before their first games Sunday morning, plus rumours of bedtimes spanning between 1:00am and 4:00am I’m sure I can safely say that this was a fun one.

Team Howard lead Craig Savill with superdad Walter Gretzky

You could tell that Sunday was make-it or break-it day for the teams still alive and vying for the championship titles and the $12,000 winners cheques, as the screams where higher and more desperate and the sounds of brooms banging the ice and back boards filtered across the sheets. I would be lying if I said that I haven’t, in the duration of my curling career, slammed a broom at one time or another (I can however count such occasions on one hand) but I can proudly say I haven’t broken one!

As the day carried on and teams fell away the final A-side qualifiers (Eve Muirhead and Middaugh) and B-side qualifiers (Jones and McCarville) were joined by the C qualifiers (Heather Smith-Dacey, Erika Brown, Laura Crocker and yours truly with Alli Nimik…(can I get little whoop-whoop?).  The A-side qualifiers on the men’s side (Sven Michel of Switzerland and Rasmus Stjerne of Denmark) and B qualifiers (Glenn Howard and Mike McEwen) were joined by C qualifiers Koe, Niklas Edin, Greg Balsdon and Mark Kean to round out the playoff squads.

Quarterfinal matchups slotted our team against Jones, hoping three times would be the charm; but Jones’ team got out to an early lead and never looked back and so ended our weekend. Jones then went on to lose to Middaugh in the semifinal and Sherry went on to defeat Brown of the USA to claim the Sun Life title. On the men’s side, Howard’s team fell to Niklas Edin who then went on to defeat Stjerne in the semi and Michel in the final to become the new men’s champion.

All in all the event was another big success, so much so that my sources say that Sun Life will be continuing its partnership and title sponsorship of this event for next season and, possibly, three or four more years down the road. Because this year was so big – with 64 teams – there is also talk of moving it to the Wayne Gretzky four-pad arena… now wouldn’t that be something!

Before I say goodbye, I want to personally thank all of the organizing committee members who worked so hard to put this event on and look after every detail, to the host clubs and their volunteers for their great hospitality, to the ice techs for all their hard work in preparing and maintaining great surfaces for us to perform on and last but not least to title sponsor Sun Life Financial and their supporting sponsors for their backing of this event – it wouldn’t be what it is without you. I give these thanks on behalf of all the competitors, not just my team!

Lastly a personal thank-you goes out to my editor for allowing me to share my thoughts with you, and lastly, congratulations to the winning teams of Sherry Middaugh and Niklas Edin.

As the cashspiel portion of our season comes to a close and teams set their sights on the playdown trail I would like to wish everyone the best of luck and good curling… and I hope to see you all at next years’ Sun Life Financial Invitational Curling Classic.

[Photos COPYRIGHT by Robert Wilson – click to view larger]

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Brantford Sun Life is one big curling event

Online or in person, you need to be in Brantford

by Kimberly Tuck

STRATHROY, Ontario – As I rush around at home doing laundry and packing up the family for the weekend, hubby Wayne and co-founder Jay Allen are having a final meeting with their committee regarding the 2011 Sun Life Financial Invitational Curling Classic in Brantford, Ontario. No doubt they are hammering out some last-minute details in preparation for this year’s event, which is set to begin play tonight.

This event started four years ago as another last-minute effort; in this case to keep a dying cashspiel in Brantford alive. Now, the World Curling Tour event has grown to become the biggest event on the Ontario curling circuit and arguably the biggest event in Canada! Spectators are in for an amazing treat, and online fans won’t have to search hard to find where some of the game’s biggest stars are competing this weekend – they are all in Brantford!

The impressive list includes two-time defending men’s champ Mike McEwen, Olympic men’s champion Kevin Martin, Olympic women’s silver medallist and curling sweetheart Cheryl Bernard, Ontario favourite Glenn Howard, reigning Canadian women’s champ Amber Holland, European greats Eve Muirhead of Scotland and Niklas Edin of Sweden, and the beat goes on… Jones, Overton-Clapham, Smith-Dacey, Middaugh, Nedohin, McCarville, Scott, Lawton, Kleibrink and more on the women’s side, and Koe, Jacobs, Gushue, Epping, Stjerne, Moskowy and more in men’s play.

No less than 64 teams in total competing at three area curling facilities… yes, this field would rival that of any Olympic Trials or Grand Slam!

The Sun Life Financial Invitational Curling Classic has become a must-attend event for these high-profile teams due to the hospitality, good ice conditions and hard work of the organizing committee. Let’s not forget about the amazing support from the event’s title sponsor, Sun Life Financial, and the group of subsidiary sponsors: without them this event would not be possible, and I hope that each sponsor can appreciate the true enormity of this event and what it brings to the local curling community.

So hats off to all involved, and on behalf of all the participants – thank you, life truly is better under the sun! (Love that tagline, you’re welcome Jay!)

Yes, I am a competitor – I play second for Team Ali Nimik – so that’s how I fit into all this, and how I got this blogging job. Of course, as already mentioned, I happen to be sleeping with one of the co-convenors (is that how rumours get started?) so I am also hoping to report in between games and carousing with some unique behind-the-scenes stuff for you good fans of The Curling News.

So if you are in the area, and even if you’re not, I suggest you get your butt out to one of the host clubs – Brantford Golf & Country Club, Brant Curling Club or Paris Curling Club – and buy a ticket (proceeds go back into each club’s junior programs and also to the Brant Community Health Care Systems Foundation) and catch a few games of this world-class World Curling Tour stop. And if you can’t make it out, do follow along with live scoring on the event website as well as my updates on this blog.

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RIP Jim Sullivan

Event pin from the 1988 World Juniors in Füssen

Jim Sullivan, the tall, quiet skip of the 1988 world junior men’s curling championship team and finalist at the 1990 Brier, died on Saturday in Fredricton, New Brunswick at age 43.

Sullivan skipped his New Brunswick squad to victory at the 1987 Canadian Juniors with a victory over Wayne Middaugh of Ontario in the final. The following year, his team scored world junior gold at the global championship in Füssen, Germany.

Just two years later his squad made an impact at the Labatt Brier in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. After an exciting victory over hometown hero Al Harnden of Northern Ontario in the semifinal, Sullivan lost the championship final to a resurgent Ed Werenich of Ontario.

Team Sullivan was elected into the New Brunswick Sports Hall of Fame in 1994.

Through much of his competitive curling career, Sullivan was accompanied by his cousin Charlie Sullivan at third stone. Jim’s father, David Sullivan, represented New Brunswick at six Briers, winning the Ross G.L. Harstone Trophy in 1972 as voted by his fellow competitors.

Jim Sullivan is survived by his wife, Sonya, and two daughters as well as David and Carol Sullivan, amongst other family members.

Visitation takes place at Brenan’s Funeral Home in Saint John, New Brunswick on Wednesday and Thursday, November 16 and 17 from 2:00-4:00pm and 7:00-9:00pm.  The funeral service will be held on Friday, November 18, 2011 at noon from the Church of St. Andrew and St. David in Saint John.  Interment will take place in Ocean View Memorial Gardens. For those who wish, remembrances to the Sotos Syndrome Support Association of Canada or the Canadian Mental Health Association would be appreciated by the family.

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Vol. 55 Issue 1: November 2011

    Layout 1

  • REMAIN CALM

    Easy folks, the 2012 Women of Curling won’t bite

  • Our TSN Skins Game Contest

    How about a VIP hosting package, live at the Skins Game?

  • Special Offer for U.S. curling fans

    It’s a two-for-one deal from The Curling News

  • Macdonald Brier pins worth big bucks

    We go inside the world of curling’s most expensive online auction items

  • The Curling News TV Guide for November

    All you need to know about television coverage this month

  • Curling in America

    Our monthly U.S. column: the Bond Girls go big

  • Cheryl Bernard is not happy

    Neither is Brad Gushue. And others. What’s got their goat? Larry Wood explains

  • Euro Curling Crisis: Rodger Schmidt on what ails the old world

  • The Dominion Club Corner

    Manage your facility at a .625 batting average

  • Richmond ready to rock

    Canada’s 2011 recreational curling championship comes to British Columbia

  • Newsdesk for November

    The Black Bonspiel, Colleen Jones, Kong Curling, Ferbey in China, Burtnyk to the Hall of Fame, NBA basketball star Dwight Howard, The Sheepdogs and more

  • Cookie Gilchrist Part I

    Great memories from a “broken-down curling reporter”

  • Curling pregnant: how do they do that?

    Jill Officer on timing (hers was not perfect)

  • They Said It

    Our monthly collection of quotable quotes from around the curling world – including from Twitter and Facebook

  • … and more! Don’t delay, subscribe today!
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URGENT: Conan Blimp by 2pm ET

Vote for curling before 2:00pm ET today

We interrupt your Thursday with this special news bulletin!

The delightfully wacky late-night TV host Conan O’Brien is apparently flying a blimp all ’round the United States, engaging in endless tomfoolery along the way.

Team Coco, as his minions are known, just tweeted a query that will decide the next sport the Conan Blimp shall be “covering” and the choices the public can vote for are: Grand Prix racing, Curling, and Topless Anything.

Here’s the rub: the voting closes at 2:00pm eastern time TODAY, which was just one hour away from this time of posting. The curling world is hereby urged to rally hard and fast, vote for Curling and – who knows, perhaps there will be bonus coverage of Topless Curling?

The point is this: you need to vote NOW. There seems to be only one way to vote, and that’s via Twitter, so log onto your account, head over to @TeamCoco and send them a tweet that reads, simply:  #Curling

Then, why not consider forwarding this notice to any friends who have Twitter accounts and ask them to vote for #Curling too?

Hurry hard!

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How I Met Your Mother

What happened? She “went Canadian”

Yes, we’re back… and we’ll have more on where the heck we’ve been in a little while. For now, we must explain that odd headline.

The curling Twitterverse suffered a slight eruption last night after another episode of the popular U.S. TV sitcom How I Met Your Mother. Apparently, one of the characters let fly with a curling zinger:

“I’m as serious as a poutine shortage in Chicoutimi during a curling bonspiel.”

This is no surprise to us. Back in late 2009, the HIMYM show writers lobbed their first curling bomb at their millions of fans, and we ran a brief TCN Newsdesk feature on it.

This was previously available only in the December 2009 print edition of The Curling News, but here it is for you now. Along with another reminder that if you don’t subscribe to The Curling News, you are missing out on tons of monthly curling news bits and bites – serious and offbeat, modern and historical, cultural and pop-cultural.

Just sayin’ …

A recent episode of the CBS TV comedy How I Met Your Mother was titled “Duel Citizenship” and poked fun at both Canadians and curling.

Robin (Cobie Smulders) is a Canadian in New York City, and finds herself slightly out of sync with U.S. cultural customs. Even her American friends have never quite understood her Canadian colloquialisms or the horrifying sports fan that hockey brings out in her. After one particularly stellar performance in a bar, a U.S. citizen presses assault charges against her for throwing the chair that broke his nose (photo above by Karen Neal/Fox). The legal charges force Robin to contemplate becoming an American citizen in order to avoid deportation. Her boyfriend Barney (Neil Patrick Harris) does his best to help her prepare for U.S. citizenship… and eventually shows her a picture of people curling.

Barney: “What’s taking place in this picture?”

Robin: “Oh, that’s curling. It’s a sport where…” 

Barney: “Wrong! The answer we were looking for is: ‘I don’t care. It’s dumb.’ Now let’s go buy something that’s bad for us, and then sue the people who made it. That’s American, Robin.”

The night before the test Robin decides to visit the Hoser Hut, a Canadian bar in New York City, for one last beer. She gets drunk – with a women’s curling team – and Barney wakes her up in a wrecked hotel room in Toronto, where she was sleeping on the floor, amid curling brushes, cuddling a curling stone.

“What happened last night?” she asks.

“You … went Canadian,” Barney replies.

“Since we poke fun at Canada every chance we get, it was only a matter of time that curling got a shout out,” quipped Beth Haiken of CBS Television to The Curling News.

The episode scored a 5.2 rating, worth 8.07 million viewers.