By David Gravelle
BRANTFORD, Ont. – Here I sit, high above the ice surface at the Wayne Gretzky Sports Centre in the hometown of “The Great One”. And at this Masters Grand Slam shootout, you realize there is a new look to the ancient sport of curling.
The elite game has gotten younger, with fresh new faces nipping at the heels of the senior cohort of Glenn Howard, Kevin Martin and Jeff Stoughton – sorry guys, but it’s true. The game has also become more fashionable as athletic bodies (on both the men’s and women’s sides) make those uniforms look good.
Team Howard’s bright yellow jackets feature their new sponsor Weed Man, and with green grass growing up from the waistline, it all looks good on Hi-Definition television. Watching yesterday’s tilt against Winnipeg’s Stoughton, who was wearing basic black with white trim, offered a stark comparison. While black may be slimming, it sure doesn’t have the pop of the yellow and green of the new Howard corporate colours.
The apparel worn by Glenn, Wayne, Brent, Craig and Mike is certainly eye-catching. Oh, and who the heck is Mike, you may wonder? Michael Kernaghan is the CEO of Weed Man and he is here, sitting in the stands with fellow staff members from his company’s Mississauga offices, and many of his franchise owners are flying in from around the country to experience the Grand Slam of Curling.
“Who knew we had so many closet curlers?” Kernaghan asked rhetorically, while trying to understand the importance of the hammer and the sport’s scoring system. “I’m a hockey fan. But when we looked at the target audience and the fit with our franchisee businesses, (curling) made perfect sense.”
The Weed Men spent most of Wednesday following Team Howard around with video cameras and photo crews, and then came “Curling 101” as they met with volunteers and fans. Within 36 hours of Kernaghan’s arrival, his initial reaction to hearing of a curling sponsorship opportunity (“You’ve got to be kidding: a company that takes care of lawns… sponsoring a winter sport?”) was long gone.
Now, the ladies have hit the ice here at the arena (Friday at 3:30pm ET, live on Sportsnet) and it’s another barrage of bright colours and patterns… along with some of the same old, same old.
The evolution continues…
David Gravelle is the owner of the HOT SHOTS Curling Camps and a principle in PROCURLINGwear
Sportsnet image is copyright ® by Anil Mungal – click on image to view larger