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Official Word: TSN and CBC

You didn’t believe us? Hey… would we lie to you?

Word today, finally, from both CBC and TSN at 10:00am eastern time that the deal is done. A three-year television agreement with some flexibility, apparently, including a “minimum two games a day” of TSN’s round-robin coverage of the big three – STOH, Brier and Worlds (Women’s, ie. in Canada only).

Excerpts, first from the Corporation:

“Under this new deal CBC Sports will show the championship weekends of the Scott Tournament of Hearts, the Tim Hortons Brier and the Tim Hortons Curling Trials, (Olympics), as well as the Ford World Championships – which, this year, are the Women’s World Championships in Canada – plus the Junior National Championships, The Strauss Canada Cup, and the final weekend of the Ford World Men’s Championships from Lowell, Mass.

CBC has brought TSN on board to cover the first seven days of the events.

‘We’re very pleased with this deal,’ said Nancy Lee, Executive Director, CBC Sports. ‘The CBC wants to ensure curling fans see the greatest number of draws and this new deal achieves it.’ ”

And from The Sports Network:

“TSN will televise afternoon and evening draws for the first seven of nine days (Saturday through Friday) from the Scott Tournament of Hearts, Tim Hortons Brier, and the Ford World Curling Championships held in Canada. This upcoming season, TSN will also televise the highly anticipated Tim Hortons Roar of the Rings Canadian Curling Trials, the first event of the season, which takes place from Halifax beginning December 3.

‘Public support for TSN’s curling coverage has been overwhelming, and I’m thrilled to announce that we’re back on the ice,’ said Phil King, President, TSN. ‘Since Day One, curling has been synonymous with TSN and we’re looking forward to returning it to the TSN schedule.'”

The Curling News was the first – naturally – to speak with Dave Parkes, CEO of the Canadian Curling Association, and some of his comments were that “it’s been a challenging summer, but it’s a very competitive (broadcast) environment. The CCA, all of us working on this issue, stayed focussed on our objective, which was to deliver the best television solution for the sport, for all our constituents.”

See the Sept. 29 posting right here on The Curling News Blog for first thoughts on the deal, and how that landscape compares with the “official” news that is sure to flow fast and furious in the days ahead.

More from Parkes, the broadcasters, the talent and of course you, the fans, in the November issue of The Curling News… just days away!

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TV quote and Monsieur Ferland

Joe Pavia of the Ottawa Sun almost, but not quite, reveals what this here blog revealed last month (see Sept. 29 post) regarding the new TV curling scene. A good recent quote from CCA chief Dave Parkes though: “We’ve listened to the reaction of the fans and I think they are going to be happy.”

Once again – for those who are still in the dark – this guy is busy buying a new set of outrageous neckties.

On another note, we spoke to an excited André Ferland last night.

The Quebec curling pioneer is pumped about his new Performance website, which is hereby relaunched with Flash animation, all-in-one online shopping, and even an archive of some of his best curling columns from the past: topics include rock timing, meaningful practice, brushing technique (naturally) and so on.

There’s more. “After this year, I’m retiring,” André announces. He explains that son Martin will take over day-to-day operations as manager, and as owner André himself will drift away. Sort of. “I’ll still be around,” he says.

Ferland isn’t coaching any high-performance teams right now, but he still volunteers his technical and clinic expertise with Curl-Québec. Hmm… how much of a retirement is this, anyway?

On the ice, Martin Ferland is into a bang-up fall as third for the revitalized Team Pierre Charette, who rank sixth on The Curling News Gold Trail (and seventh in the weekly Top 10) with over $18,000 in winnings thus far.

Back to André. There are some great stories over the years. A strong booster of junior curling, he even stormed out of the first-ever CCA committee meeting concerning qualification for the Olympic Trials (in 1995 or so) because the committee refused to include juniors.

Now, of course, his Performance brush is used by everyone – there’s even an alliance with fellow tradesmen like Asham and BalancePlus – to the point that the Hammer and the Brownie (remember them?) are little more than stock club brooms these days.

Magnifique.

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You’re about to be exploited

Nice piece on The Black Book of Curling in today’s Calgary Herald by TCN contributor Allen Cameron. And another great story from Dallas’ trip out to B.C. It seems Calgary’s Darren Moulding rushed up to BBoC publisher Dallas Bittle just before his game against Moose Jaw’s Pat Simmons, wanting to know the stats line on his opponent.

“He (Moulding) decided they had to go all out early because Simmons likes to take control of the game and shut people down from the sixth end onward,” quotes Bittle. “They went out and beat them 9-5. Players are realizing that teams have tendencies that can be exploited.”

What’s next? Will curling team coaches get fired for failing to research opposing team scoring trends? Will Black Books and watching game films become an integral part of off-ice prep?

Cameron goes on to reveal what The Black Book says about scoring late points with hammer on Calgary’s John Morris. But we won’t share that here; you’ll have to pick up a copy yourself. Obviously few of Johnny Mo’s opponents last weekend were BBoC readers, as the young turk won the spiel and has $17,000 in the bank this year already…

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The Last Laugh

“You can’t really insult us anymore. It is an Olympic sport.”
– Maureen Brunt, 2006 U.S. Olympic curler

That great line is just part of another journo’s story as discussed below (Oct. 14). Yes, the story – this latest one by Nancy Armour of Associated Press – has been picked up by another 40 markets, including San Fran, Detroit, San Jose, Albany, Philly, Biloxi, both Carolinas, Myrtle Beach, KC, Gainsville FL, Tuscaloosa AL, Fort Wayne IN, Kentucky, Georgia, plus both CNN and SI online, and of course in the regular curling bastions of anywhere-in-Wisconsin, anywhere-in-Minnesota, or Seattle WA.

That settles it: this PR tactic is hereby declared an unqualified success, and mucho congrats to USA Curling for making it happen.

As for Ms. Brunt (far right in photo) and her entry for zinger-of-the-year, you can read more about her and her Turin-bound U.S. champs on their nifty website, CurlGirls.

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London, BAH-ston, Ventura and The Peg

It’s a busy weekend on the various regional Tours and naturally, the Ultima World Curling Tour. And, also, in the world of oft-ignored recreational curling. Here’s your friendly neighborhood Media Watch for Friday:

London, Ontario is hosting the big women’s Tour stop this weekend and the local Freep is on the scene. Nice to hear that Jenn Hanna is still dealing with JJ’s mahvellous last rock (photo) aka The Shot in her usual way – with a huge smile. We would certainly expect nothing less.

• Two typical journalist-tries-curling stories from the U.S., one from the greater Boston area and another from sunny Ventura, California.

Such tales first sprouted with regularity during and following the Salt Lake 2002 Olympic Games, and they’re often a fun read. In fact, as the Cal story illustrates, US Curling hosted an on-ice funfest just for media as part of a recent Torino 2006 orientation session, and if the story gets picked up in other markets, their PR effort can be called an unqualified success.

Pickup has already occurred in tiny Wichita Falls, in northern Texas, which is just 15 miles from Oklahoma and boasts soccer star Mia Hamm as its proudest export. Wichita Fallsians (?) would have to travel far – Dallas/Fort Worth or Houston – to actually try the sport, but Rome wasn’t built in a day, or so they say.

We’d expect the upcoming men’s worlds in Lowell, Mass. to create more stories like this in the months to come… go get ’em BAH-ston!

• Finally, Winnipeg hosted a news conference Wednesday to announce that ticket sales have started for January’s BDO Canadian Open of Curling, the second of four Grand Slam of Curling events. Last year’s whopper of a spiel truly did rock the new MTS Centre, as records were set for both live attendance and TV viewership.

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The Black Book in B.C.

TCN partner CurlingZone, specifically Dallas Bittle of Calgary, was in Vancouver over the holiday, on contract with the Allied Westcoast Classic Tour stop on the Ultima World Curling Tour.

Dallas was brought in to help the local organizing committee run a sparkling new event website, focussing on realtime results. He reports the site scored over 850,000 page views, which is a high number for a non-Slam or non-CCA event.

Question: when’s the last time you heard about a contractor being hired to run a cashspiel website? This truly is the dawn of a new curling era.

While there, Dallas talked up his new book, The Black Book of Curling, and even managed to sell two boxes on site.

Four copies were purchased by Kevin Martin, on behalf of his team (photo). Later, during a game, Martin couldn’t resist gabbing with Dallas on ice – right in the middle of the match – about the new statistics CurlingZone has pioneered and which feature heavily in the new 300-page tome. The eventual spiel champion – his squad beat Toronto’s Mike Harris in the final in a battle of the previous two Olympic silver medallists – Martin also ordered a couple of crates for his curling shop in Edmonton.

Other competitors, like Vancouver’s Brent Pierce, offered continuing support. “Just tell us what we can do and we’ll do it,” Pierce told Dallas. “This is great for the sport and we’ll support it.”

At this point, it’s very simple… go to the Black Book website and purchase your copy today. Along with a subscription to The Curling News, this is the best way to show your support.

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TSN is back… and CBC… and Sportsnet…

The news first appeared yesterday in a Toronto-based newspaper, which means the word had leaked directly from a major all-sports broadcasting office located ridiculously close to another major all-sports broadcasting office.

Of course, The Curling News had confirmed it a day or so earlier… but of course we do not publish until November, and we’re still on vacation. Sort of.

And today, the Calgary Sun is reporting actual quotes from Canadian Curling Association honcho Dave Parkes regarding negotiations with CBC on the upcoming TV contract for Season of Champions coverage.

The point is what?

TSN is back. Yes, it’s a done deal, and who knows why the news hasn’t been shouted from the rooftops and spun madly out of Ottawa. Probably something to do with lawyers. But it’s done. Agreement has been reached with CBC for final weekend coverage and the Mother Corp has in turn sold off weekday and weeknight – but not week-morn – coverage to The Sports Network. You wanted it, now you’ve got it, people.

It will be interesting to see how the broadcasters treat curling this season. Will the loss of exclusivity mean a lighter coverage effort by CBC… perhaps less online content? Perhaps no more Championship Curling DVD? Maybe the CBC On Demand crew will no longer throw old archived curling games and features onto their pay-per-view channel?

As for TSN, you can expect the Big Three of Rauter/Turnbull/Moore to be back behind the mics, and a solid presentation to appease the masses. But will those masses snap back when their live curling becomes pre-empted on Monday nights… and Wednesday nights?

One thing is for certain… the “other guys” are also back, with the fifth season of Grand Slam of Curling coverage debuting in early November. And with the actual Olympic Games scheduled for February, this means 2005-06 will definitely be a year of TV coverage to remember.

So relax, and just let each issue of The Curling News tell you what’s on the tube, and when, and on which channel. It was a rocky road, but the sport’s fanatical base of TV fans have made it to their destination. And not a moment too soon…

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Gushue in Norway

The 2005-06 season is fully underway.

According to The Curling News Top 10 men’s ranking from Sept. 27, Brad Gushue of Newfoundland did well in his first-ever Norwegian tournament, losting the semi-final to eventual spiel champ Nils Carlsen of Sweden.

However, nobody seems to realize that the young Gushies went overseas for two events. As such, the previous weekend marked an outright Norwegian victory, as the squad won the Bompi Cup in Oslo, beating Thomas Lovold 5-4 in the final. Team Gushue went 7-0 overall.

Bompi might not have been an official World Curling Tour event (nor a World Curling Tour Europe event) but credit goes to the young screechers for a win and a semi-final finish in their first big trip of the year. Olympic Trials in Halifax, here they come.

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Hot Shots in Oakville

Welcome to The Curling News Blog. First post: dateline Oakville, Ontario.

It’s the second Hot Shots Fantasy Camp of the summer – the first was Aug. 26-28 – hosted for the first time at the Oakville CC. The Hot Shots sees “campers” invade for a weekend full of curling coaching, training, hits & tips, advice and fun both on and off-ice, accompanied by a small army of “celebrity” curlers and certified national coaches.

Kudos to Hot Shots organizer David Gravelle and of particular note was the remarkable ice conditions at Oakville. Truly gorgeous ice – 25 seconds with tremendous curl in all four directions – is a rare thing before October, and particularly during the hottest summer in many years. There wasn’t a hint of condensation on the viewing glass, and a quick convo with ice guru Scott Foster – congrats on the new arrival Scott and Melissa! – revealed the key: Oakville’s power plant is so enormous, they were using only 1/3 of their total power output to run the ice plant… even in thirty-degree heat. Hey now.

A fun weekend… and what’s more, roommate Glenn Howard didn’t even snore. Much.