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Vegas 2014: An amazing curling sight

4,300 watch Mixed Doubles curling. In Vegas.

by Sam Corea

Amazing scenes – they’re curling in Las Vegas!

LAS VEGAS – Okay, I’ll admit it… this isn’t my first visit to Vegas. In fact, I am sort of a Vegas veteran. But this is definitely the first time I’ve seen the Roaring Game played in the desert.

A few years ago, sport folks in Nevada and California had an idea that curling may be a good fit for the land of casinos, showgirls and mega buffets. Even earlier than that, U.S. curling honchos were thinking the same thing.

After all, it had been a while – some 15 years-plus – since the first-ever Vegas curling venture (see our November 2012 print edition).

Anyway, both groups took a gamble and voila, here we have the 10th edition of the Continental Cup of Curling, contested in the 5,000-seat Orleans Arena.

The unique event features six teams from Canada and the U.S.A. (Team North America) competing against six World teams (from Scotland/GBR, Sweden, Norway and Japan) in various formats including traditional curling, mixed doubles, singles and both skins and mixed skins play.

Adding to the uniqueness of this particular event is that it is a partial preview of the Olympic Winter Games in Sochi next month; nine out of the 12 teams here will be going for Olympic gold.

‘Nuff said!

Last year, event organizers were happy with the sale of 500 event passes. That figure has jumped to about 3,400, with about 80 per cent of tickets snapped up by Canadians.

The place is filled, the fans are rocking, and it’s wild stuff.

“Obviously, we’re delighted with ticket sales and delighted with the Canadian fans who have come down to the desert in the heart of a really bad winter,” said local organizing committee co-chair Anne Warner Cribbs. “I think it’s great for curling as a sport and it’s great for curling in the U.S.”

Cribbs, by the way, won a gold medal in swimming for Team U.S.A. at the 1960 Olympic Games.

My plan to come to Vegas for this event was formulated over the past year. Once we heard that curling was coming to Vegas, the talk at the Vancouver Curling Club (where I used to curl before moving to Toronto last fall) questioned how the sport would work as a showcase event in the ultimate showcase town of Sin City.

Well, we found out during Thursday night’s draw – I’m here with former Van teammates – that curling is working out just fine, thank you, and it’s doing so just a few blocks away from the glittering lights and marquees of the Vegas Strip.

The 1960 Olympian hard at work

Most of the fans are knowledgeable and applaud the great shots (from both teams), although I did hear someone in the stands behind me ask the ultimate novice question: “Why are they sweeping the ice?”

In the concourse there are some curling table-top activities. One thing I noticed about the merchandise – it’s selling fast!

As for the athletes, Winnipeg’s Jennifer Jones said, “I think it’s great for curling to have it in such a big city like Las Vegas, and any exposure we can get is fantastic.”

Debbie McCormick of Rio, Wisconsin said “The crowds here are great and it’s great training for us heading into Sochi. It is just so much fun playing in this atmosphere.”

I’m looking forward to the rest of the weekend, which also includes something called the USOC (United States Olympic Committee) “Road to Sochi” event.

For more on how the news of this event exploded onto the curling scene last fall, check out this archived blog post from October 2013, which features a great photo montage of Niklas Edin plus the requisite Hangover film reference!

[Top photo by Chris Holloman, Katipo Creative – click on images to increase viewing size]

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Banff 2014: Life at the Skins

Life is sweet at The Skins

by Colin Hodgson

’Ello, guvnah!

BANFF, ALBERTA – The Skins Game is quite a unique curling event, to say the least. Where else would you see Ryan Fry playing back end with Kevin Martin? Ryan Harnden sweeping Brad Gushue’s stones along with Brent Laing – that’s not a typical sight.

Team combinations like these are very odd to see but wonderfully refreshing in a sport where familiar faces and lineups tend to dominate television time.

However, what’s most unique about the Travellers All-Star Curling Skins Game isn’t the lineups. The entire atmosphere around the event is quite incredible… and it’s all in the details.

From the moment I arrived at the luxurious host hotel – The Rimrock – on Friday, I was blown away at the magnitude of the preparation in play to showcase the Skins. On arrival, bellhops sporting top hats greeted me warmly – in rich English accents, and swinging classic corn brooms like canes.

The fun doesn’t even come close to stopping there. Magnificently carved ice sculptures welcome fans to the hotel, as well as curling stones and other fitting related items spread sporadically throughout the lobby. Nice touch.

After checking in and heading up to my room, there was a prompt knock on my door. It was the hotel manager, personally thanking me for coming to the event and spending my time with them. A handshake was followed by a gift of hand-crafted brandy-filled chocolates by the resident pattiserie… and by now I was generally feeling blown away by the level of effort taken on by everyone involved with the event.

The game one champs (including Dave Nedohin)

I decided to head down to the lounge to have a choice beverage or two before the evening’s proceedings took place. Olympic gold medallists and world champions littered the lounge floor, happily mingling with common curling fans. Honestly, for the average curler to meet the athletes they see on television – how cool is that?

It doesn’t stop there; the entire lounge menu had been changed to match the curling theme. Specials and Skins Game pricing added that little extra touch, so that you knew this was a big deal… and the competitors LOVE IT. Televisions were showing Friday afternoon’s draft show, as the All-Stars sat down as a big group and razzed each other mercilessly. Only the uniqueness of this type of event could play host to a scene like this.

Off to the Cocktail Party. A live jazz band in the middle of the room set the mood, and an ice sculpture fountain serving flavoured shots and other beverages was hard to miss – and to not visit a few times more than one should. An elegant assortment of hot and cold foods was impossible to say no to and, well, no one did.

Everyone’s favorite curling commentator Vic Rauter led the festivities as only he could, honouring Olympic representatives who were all in attendance – the Sochi-bound Dawn McEwen, Jill Officer, Kaitlyn Lawes, Jennifer Jones, Ryan Harnden, E.J. Harnden, Ryan Fry and Brad Jacobs.

Said Mark Nichols: “There is no other event like the Skins Game. I’ll never get the chance to play with some of these guys other than here. They treat us like Kings.”

Game one of three is over, and the makeshift squad of Jeff Stoughton, Dave Nedohin, Laing and Ryan Harnden (photo above) smushed Gushue, John Morris, E.J. and Ben Hebert.

The second semi goes tonight, starting at 9:30pm ET on TSN in Canada. For live in-game updates and observations, follow my Twitter feed!

[Action photo by Greg Paupst/TSN – click on image to increase viewing size]

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Olympic curling superheroes

January issue makes waves

Sorry for the tease; subscribe today!

Have you heard? Volume 57, Issue number three of The Curling News has been out for a while now… and we’ve done something new on the cover.

We’ve created curling’s first comic-book superheroes, starring Canadian Olympic team curling skips Brad Jacobs and Jennifer Jones!

There’s a cape, a mammoth (curling) weapon, some unexplained, mystic powers and even superhero logos. And although we are teasing you by obscuring the artwork (at left), we at TCN headquarters been receiving lots of enthusiastic feedback about this.

What’s next, curling-themed comic books? T-shirts? Toy costumes for Little Rock curlers?

This theme was crafted by amateur comic-book artist Adonis Howard – who has the best name EVER – in the aftermath of the Canadian Olympic Trials, where both the Jacobs and Jones squads destroyed their opponents to earn trips to next month’s Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia. The boys from Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario went undefeated – an unprecedented Trials feat – and Winnipeg’s Jones gang, apart from one messy loss, played head and shoulders above the other women’s contenders.

We’ve got more, more and MORE from the Trials and the curling world inside this January issue. Fans will note a fresh design on the cover and other new elements inside pages, and we’ve also got one the biggest Curling TV/Web Guides we’ve ever published. Believe us, this one is jam-packed with regional, provincial, state, national (multi-nation) and international curling coverage for all of January and early February, all available on one page. We’ve even got all the details on the upcoming women’s and men’s Canadian provincial championship coverage, which crosses over various networks and is joined-in-progress in a few scenarios. You can’t even find this info on some of the broadcaster’s own websites!

In our next super-sized February issue, we preview the Olympic curling spectacle like no one else can, plus everything else ongoing in this incredibly busy curling season. If you don’t subscribe, you’re not the most informed and entertained curling fan you could be…. so why not head on over to our subscriber page and hook yourself up?

[Click on image to increase viewing size]

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Vol. 57 Issue 3: January 2014

TCN_Jan_2014_lgCOVER: OLYMPIC SUPERHEROES

It was a superhuman performance from both of Canada’s Sochi-bound teams

  • JONES HITS THE HEIGHTS

    Terry Jones digs into Jennifer and Co.’s week in Winnipeg

  • CURLING TV/WEB GUIDE

    We’ve got all the provincial coverage details and more in our monthly guide to all things curling on TV and the web

  • ONE FOR THE AGE-ED

    Amid the passing of some elite curling torches, award-winning scribe Kevin Palmer is concerned for curling’s future

  • CURLING IN AMERICA

    New contributor Matt Sussman analyzes U.S. curling airwaves

  • ASHAM CLUB CORNER

    Sam Corea, new to Ontario, chooses his Hogtown curling home

  • PREPARING FOR PARALYMPICS

    Eric Eales is back with a look at wheelchair curling

  • PUMP FISTS, LIKE, TOTALLY!

    Larry Wood loved the Olympic Trials celebrations, and more – so there!

  • BE THE SKIP CONTEST

    Pinty’s launches their contest where YOU could win a trip for two to the 2015 All-Star Curling Skins Game

  • And much, much more…!

 
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