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Sportsnet signs four curling provinces

More curling = more Sportsnet

The notice came out of British Columbia and Toronto at the same time, and the news involves four of the strongest curling provinces in Canada.

Sportsnet has signed 10-year agreements to broadcast the provincial championships of BC, Alberta, Manitoba and Ontario. The agreement with Curl BC begins with the 2013-14 season, while the other agreements are effective immediately, ie. they start with the upcoming 2012 championships in January and February.

Here is the Curl BC news release:

The 10-year agreement gives Sportsnet the rights to air all Curl BC curling championships, including the Canadian Direct Insurance BC Men’s Curling Championship, the Scotties BC Women’s Curling Championship and the Tim Hortons BC Junior Curling Championships.

The deal is huge for curling in BC.

Curl BC CEO Scott Braley said: “This is fantastic news for BC curlers and all fans of curling. The 10-year agreement gives us the opportunity to promote the roaring game on network television and to put our provincial curlers on the national stage. It’s a great opportunity.

“Sportsnet is a premier broadcasting organization and we know the coverage will be superb.”

Navaid Mansuri, Vice-President of Finance and Sports Programming at Sportsnet said: “As curling’s popularity continues to grow at an impressive rate, Sportsnet is committed to providing curling fans with increased access to high-calibre events such as the Provincial Curling Championships.”

“By building on the growing popularity of the sport, these agreements allow us to expand our curling coverage while elevating the profile of these events, as well as the sport of curling across Canada.”

The deal begins in the 2013-14 season.

Sportsnet has also signed a 10-year agreement with the Alberta Curling Federation, Manitoba Curling Association, and Ontario Curling Association. They will be delivering the men’s and women’s championship events on television, online and for mobile platforms.

As part of an existing agreement with Curl BC, Shaw TV will broadcast the 2012-13 championships, including the Scotties BC Women’s Curling Championship in Surrey from January 14-20, 2013, and the Canadian Direct Insurance Men’s Curling Championship in Parksville from February 5-10, 2013. Shaw will also be televising the Tim Hortons BC Junior Curling Championships for the first time in 2013. The event is from January 1 to 6, 2013, in Coquitlam.

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2013 Women of Curling Calendar

The third annual Women of Curling Calendar is now on sale

For a third year in a row, female curling athletes are showing pride in their sport, and support for charity, in the Women of Curling Calendar.

12 athletes-turned-models from seven countries have developed and produced their own images for the 2013 edition of the calendar, which promotes the positive image of curling’s female athletes while raising proceeds for the Canadian Spinal Research Organization’s “Shoot For A Cure” campaign.

The calendars, which begin shipping in November, are on sale now at womenofcurlingcalendar.com for CDN $29.95. In addition, the athlete models will be selling the product in person at a substantial discount, with additional revenues going to a charitable cause of their choice.

That discounted sales price is also available to curling facilities that wish to use the calendar as a fundraising tool.

Edmonton’s Jessica Mair, who won bronze for Canada in 2012 with Team Heather Nedohin, says she was “pumped” to participate in the 2013 Women of Curling Calendar.

“I thought it would be a really fun experience to get all dolled up and have my picture taken,” said the 27-year-old Canadian champion. “I am not camera-shy.”

After planning her photo session, Mair recruited a friend, Oksana Steinborn, to shoot the outdoor images.

“It was a fun afternoon,” said Mair. “She did really great work and the results are awesome. Her boyfriend acted as her assistant, and she even wrangled my boyfriend into helping out.”

The other Canadian athlete models are two-time national university champion Sara Wilkes of Edmonton (by way of Toronto and Kitchener, Ont.), 2012 Newfoundland and Labrador champion Jennifer Cunningham of St. John’s, two-time New Brunswick club champion Shannon Tatlock of Moncton, 2011 Ontario champion Lisa Weagle of Ottawa, recreational curler Priya Shah of Toronto and 2011 Canadian champion and world silver medallist Kim Schneider of Kronau, Sask.

The international athlete models are Russian national team skip Anna Sidorova (main cover photo), 2010 world champion Sara Carlsson of Sweden, 2011 European champion Anna Sloan of Scotland, Hungarian national team skip Ildiko Szekeres and 2006 U.S. Olympic women’s skip Cassie Potter.

“It’s all for a great cause,” said Mair. “Some incredible women have been a part of this project, and I’m so happy to be involved this year.”

Each athlete is represented with three images, and each month also includes curling event listings from around the world, colour-coded according to the type of tournament.

Shoot For A Cure, which is also supported by the National Hockey League Players’ Association (NHLPA), is the official sport-focussed fundraising and awareness campaign of CSRO. The charity is committed to finding a cure for spinal paralysis, and also seeks to increase awareness of the Paralympic sport of Wheelchair Curling.

One of the 2012 Women of Curling Calendar athlete models, Sonja Gaudet of Vernon, Canada, is a two-time Paralympic gold medallist (2006 and 2010) in wheelchair curling.

Click on image to increase viewing size

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Toronto scores Slam curling

Ice level at the new Mattamy Athletic Centre

After decades of being ignored, the city of Toronto – Canada’s largest – will finally host a major curling championship.

Sportsnet announced today that the third and fourth events in the 2013 Grand Slam of Curling series have been confirmed. The National takes place January 23-27 in Port Hawkesbury, Nova Scotia and the season-ending Players’ Championship, featuring both the top men’s and women’s teams, will be hosted April 16-21 at the Mattamy Athletic Centre in Toronto.

The first two Slams are The Masters, headed for Brantford, Ontario in November and The Canadian Open, announced yesterday for Kelowna, BC in December.

The Hawk, as it’s known, is familiar turf for the Slammers – this will be the third such event hosted there since 2003.

Meanwhile, the Toronto ice surface they call “Mattamy Home Ice” at the Centre is, for those who aren’t aware, rather hallowed ground. For this is the new home of the historic Maple Leaf Gardens.

It’s certainly changed since the glory days of the Toronto Maple Leafs and NHL hockey. The Leafs now play down the road at the Air Canada Centre (or are supposed to, at any rate) and following years of neglect the Gardens was recently cleaned up and reopened as a part of Ryerson University – with a Loblaws grocery market on the main floor.

But the ice surface survived, as did the famous ceiling – which is a lot closer to the action these days. And where hockey legends such as Eddie Shore, Rocket Richard, Mario Lemieux and Wayne Gretzky once skated and scored, there will be curling sweeping and shotmaking from teams Kevin Martin, Jennifer Jones, Glenn Howard and more.

The Players’ Championship will mark the first honest downtown T.O. curling event – not including suburban events, ie. Mississauga – since, well, the last days of the Royals Classic tour stop at the Royal Canadian Curling Club. Prior to that, the city hosted the 1986 men’s worlds, aka the Silver Broom, at the CNE Coliseum. Prior to that, there was the 1941 Brier, following the inaugural series of Brier championships between 1927 and 1939.

It’s been a while, but big-league curling is back in The Big Smoke.

For more on the history of the Toronto curling conundrum, be sure to catch the November 2012 print edition of The Curling News, coming soon.

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Mixed Doubles: Resistance is futile

CAN vs ITA at World Mixed Doubles 2009

As predicted by many (including us) dating back to last fall, the Canadian Curling Association has formalized a dedicated national championship for that newfangled offspring of traditional four-player curling: Mixed Doubles.

This was a step the CCA simply had to take, particularly upon agreeing to host the upcoming world titleshoot at Fredericton in April 2013. As such, the provinces should now follow suit and create regional championships – such as Curl BC, who are already out of the gate and running.

Until this season, Canada’s winners of the standard four-player national Mixed have had to either choose which two players will compete for Canada in World Mixed Doubles play, or compete amongst themselves in a best two-out-of three series to make the decision.

Most athletes agree that the previous methodology “sucks”. In a November 2011 column in the Toronto Sun, TCN publisher George Karrys quoted an angry Alberta Mixed skip Kurt Balderston:

If they’re going to (send a team) Canada has to send all four curlers, and then decide who is playing in each game. You cannot, CANNOT, tell two people to stay home from a world championship. It’s absolutely ridiculous. It’s just wrong in every sense. You have to send all four players. For the countries that don’t play mixed doubles, that’s the only thing that makes sense.

Eve Muirhead and Niklas Edin mixed it up at the Con Cup

Now, the optimum solution has been found – the CCA is biting the cost bullet and creating a proper mixed doubles national championship. The official newser is located here, and we’ll also point to a Yahoo! Canada story, located here.

[Blogger Don Landry must have enjoyed our Facebook post from September 19, in which we declared, in Star Trekkian: Canada – This is Mixed Doubles. Resistance is futile. You will be assimilated.]

However, “that sucks” is what most curling traditionalists generally think of this newfangled curling format. Not necessarily those who have tried it, mind you, but the pontificators who have not and who have no plans to (and you know who you are).

So, if you are a confused and confounded Canadian curler and/or curling fan, here are two suggested ways of looking at Mixed Doubles:

1) It’s being pushed hard by the World Curling Federation – for both internal and Olympic competition – so Canada simply has to be there. And if Canada is there, shouldn’t Canada be more of a medal threat than it has been to date?

2) Perhaps the CCA can push this discipline as an entry-level attraction for new curlers? With only one additional player necessary to create a team, any novice who is interested in the sport might find it easier to try the sport with one friend or spouse. In addition, the games are shorter than traditional eight-end curling games – these matches last only six ends, and there are only five stones thrown per team. That sounds like a decent introduction for a newbie.

Your thoughts?

Top photo by Mario Facchini / Newspower • Second photo by Michael Burns / Canadian Curling Association [Click on images to increase viewing size]