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2016 Brier: Athletes are people too – Mathers

David Mathers at far left with PEI mates. One of 'em takes looong showers.
David Mathers at far left with his PEI mates. Sadly, none of them resemble Anne. Or Jen.

By Andrew Denny

Hello and welcome to a little piece of fluff we call “Athletes Are People Too”.

Throughout the Brier we’ve gotten to know a lot of the athletes who are competing for their various provinces and instead of treating them like cattle, we want you to get to know them too.

We’ll be tracking down some of these guys and grilling them with a series of extremely challenging questions which they’ll be forced to answer on the fly.

Today’s focus is on PEI third David Mathers, who is competing in his second Brier… and while the boys are having a bit of a tough go in the standings, he was more than willing to offer up his time. Nice guy.

Anyway, enough talk. Let’s dive in:

Favourite food: Buffet. Nothing specific type wise… just anything buffet.

Favourite YouTube Channel: I don’t really watch a lot of devoted youtube channels, but I do watch music videos on there. Can that be my answer? If so, music videos.

Favourite Video Game: Mario Tennis… and it’s a borderline obsession. Our coach has it and I’m constantly playing the damned game. It’s something that has to stop post-Brier because I’m losing way too much time to it.

Favourite Beer: Michelob Ultra. Can’t beat that low calorie taste.

Favourite Celebrity: Anne Hathaway. Next question.

Favourite Curling Club: Ottawa Curling Club. Too easy.

Favourite Twitter Feed: Girls in Yoga Pants. No specific feed but yeah, girls in yoga pants.

Favourite Super Hero: I’m not really in to super heroes… so I’ll say Batman.

Who’s your dream curling team? Oof, that’s a tough one. I’d put Wayne Middaugh at skip, Mark Kennedy at third, myself at second and Scott Bailey throwing lead.

All curlers eh? Very smart. How about an all non-curler curling team? I can do that? Okay here we go: Tiger Woods has to skip because he’s Tiger Woods. Then have Bartolo Colon throwing the heat at third, myself at second again, and for lead… I’m not too sure… how about Wayne Middaugh again?

What’s your dream job: To be a pilot.

How do you kill time in the summer? Golfing. I golf a ton.

Any celebrity crushes? Aside from Anne Hathaway? Jennifer Aniston. Love me some Jen.

What’s your biggest pet peeve? Roommates who take long showers. Like… what are you doing in there? Get in, scrub up, get out already.

Favourite brand of shoes: B-52s because I’m wearing them right now.

Patch or Heartstop Lounge? Patch.

Good or evil? Evil…. NO, NO. Good. I meant to say good.

Sure you did. Morning or night? Morning actually. I may not be saying that after the Brier but for now, morning.

Front end or Back end? Front end.

Blonde or Brunette? Brunette.

That’s a wrap on this edition of “Athletes Are People Too.” Want to see your favourite player profiled and grilled with a series of skill testing questions in our next edition? Let us know on twitter via @curling or @denny_613 and we’ll deliver.

Until next time, good curling and remember… athletes are people too.

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2016 Brier: The war of the proletariat

#godshouse #temple #patch
#godshouse #temple #patch

By Andrew Denny

The Brier is a war.

Don’t let the Canadiana of curling’s crown jewel hinder your perception of the event. The Brier is the ultimate battle of attrition where victims of all forms are swallowed up daily. And while The Patch™ may be the final stand for many of the fans of this year’s event, it’s the players who ultimately have to prepare for all out battle.

Indeed, what was projected to be one of the greatest Brier fields ever assembled has not disappointed after three days of competition. Matches have been hotly contested with few surprises in the standings thus far.

But this is the Brier, and anything is possible. Just ask the Pat Simmons’ Team Canada foursome, who had an abysmal start to last year’s event before ultimately winning in grand fashion.

To predict a winner in a field as tough as this would be a fool’s errand – although no less than six curling wizards did so in our March digital edition – however, many performances stand out in the early going as intriguing.

Impressive have been the efforts of the Glenn Howard’s Ontario team, who have played giant-killer in a field where their competitiveness was hotly debated, taking down both the Alberta and Newfoundland heavyweights. Their only loss comes at the hands of Manitoba’s Mike McEwen, who seems to be handling the rookie jitters extremely well.

While there are a few Brier rookies in the field of competition, another Brier rookie is cutting his teeth in the curling scene.

I caught up with Eric Burant, a non-curler and first time curling event attendee, and shadowed him for the duration of his time at the event. What started out as an innocent pilot project, a scoop if you will, turned in to a complete day of non-stop entertainment.

We started the day where any good Brier fan would: the Patch.

“Everyone here is smiling. They look like they’re having a great time and maybe that’s helped along the amount of beer flowing,” quoted Burant, a young professional from Ottawa. “Angus McStone is giving me some weird vibes though.”

Burant was taken aback by the atmosphere, complimented by the amount of individual provincial pride that was on display.

“I really dig the (provincial) jackets. It’s amazing how much individual culture each province offers.”

We quickly enjoyed a refreshing beverage before making our way to the draw, where the focus of our attention was the Ontario vs Alberta match and the final relegation game of NT vs NS. While the majority of our time was spent laughing and explaining the rules, we were treated to some extremely tight matchups, including a wild finish in the relegation final.

“You could hear a pin drop when Nova Scotia missed their final shot. The crowd’s reaction summed it up perfectly,” said Burant. “I thought that curling would be this relaxed attitude affair but in the end, it was high drama and extremely heartbreaking.”

When asked what he would say to the Nova Scotia squad if he had the chance, he offered some warm words: “You made it to the Brier. You made it to the big stage and that’s better than a lot of teams. You’re capable and you’re going to be back in the future.”

I did my letter best to find the Bluenosers in the Patch post game in an effort to introduce Burant, but had no luck. In the end, the spirit of the game became obvious to the Brier newbie, who quickly fell in love with the camaraderie and sportsmanship that curling offers.

“It really is the game of the proletariat. These are all regular guys with families and lives off the ice. I don’t think anyone curls with the objective of being on a Wheaties box.”

And in a few simple hours, a man who had never set foot in a major curling event had the entire culture and hospitable nature of curling figured out.

That’s the power of the game we all love so much.

As the Brier continues throughout the week, we’ll be bringing you more blog updates. Hit me up on twitter @denny_613 if you want to see or hear anything specific. After all, without the reader, we writers have no purpose.

In the meantime, I need to grab a nap after a weekend of fun and excitement with old friends, and especially new ones. Cheers.

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Our 2016 Brier Predictions

Our experts have spoken
Our experts have spoken

The expanded and enhanced digital version of our March issue was released to subscribers today, and there are mucho goodies to consume, including:

• Great journalism from award-winning Brier columnist Kevin Palmer

Sam Corea‘s very cool story about a Syrian refugee’s first time on the ice

• Another stellar “how-to” guide to curling facility management from Mark Inglis

• The tale of curling development in Tempe, Arizona

• More from Warren Hansen on the Brier’s future

• A rebuttal to Warren’s position, from B.C.’s Andrew Komlodi

• Brier memories from a grizzled veteran (Randy Ferbey) and a youthful scribe (Andrew Denny)

And more, including Brier previews from our star-studded panel of experts… Hall of Fame media guru Terry Jones, Two-time Brier champion Craig Savill, the new Canadian women’s champion skip Chelsea Carey, Brier champion Mark Dacey and world champion and Olympic finalist Håvard Vad Petersson of Norway.

And… here now, as a Blog Bonus, we present an additional round of Brier predictions from none other than Sherry Middaugh, whose injured husband Wayne is still with Team Glenn Howard at the Ottawa Brier, albeit now as team coach.

If you don’t yet subscribe, do so now from our subscription webpage and you’ll receive a hyperlink to unlock your digital edition within hours. Don’t miss out on our super-sized March “Brier” issue!

Sherry’s 2016 Brier Picks

This has to be the best Brier field ever!!!

1. Ontario – For obvious reasons and they have Scotty Bowman behind the bench
2. Alberta – If they get indecisive they may run out of time in a game or two, other than that we should see them post-round robin
3. Newfoundland – Having a great year but is Brad suffering from post-concussive trauma? Harrrd… whoa….. maybe?
4. Manitoba – Finally at the Brier, now it’s time to show they belong
5. Northern Ontario – Not a great year just yet but it can all be turned around with one good week
6. Team Canada – Always cheer for Team SK, but they maxed out last year, enjoy your week
7. Sask – Dark horse. They can beat anyone, just not sure they can do it for the entire week with this amazing field
8. B.C. – An even darker horse. Normally cheer for the nicest guy in event but Crusher (Adam Spencer) is now that person.
9. PEI – Boys from the Island have some close games but the skipper can’t pull out the magic every game. Two certainties are that Robbie has a great time in the Patch and Dave is in the running for the Ross Harstone Award
10. Québec – Sorry I’m not bilingual or I would rate them higher… in French
11. NWT – Make it out of relegation and everyone is cheering for them to do well… but not much left in the tank
12. New Brunswick – Off to relegation, sorry boys

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Hair brushes banned from STOH, Brier

Hair today, gone tomorrow

The Curling News has learned that hair brushes – manufactured with horsehair and/or hoghair – have been banned from the upcoming Tournament of Hearts and the Brier: the Canadian women’s and men’s championships.

To be specific, hair brushes have now been added to the previous sweeping equipment moratorium(s) issued by Curling Canada.

This latest initiative was led by the athletes – following numerous testing videos such as this one from Team Brad Gushue (Newfoundland and Labrador) – and as a result, Curling Canada has decided to support the player action in full. The organization’s official adoption of the no-hair movement means that monitoring and enforcement now falls under each competition’s official rules… clearly the optimum scenario.

However, the wording might be due for some additional fine-tuning, for the inclusion of hair in the moratorium is not absolute.

For example, athletes are permitted to bring hair brushes onto the field of play, and use them in pre-game practice sessions with the exception of the last-stone draw. The brushes are then not permitted during the game… but again, there are two exceptions.

The first is that hair brushes can be used as sliding devices.

The second sees skips and thirds permitted to use hair brushes in the house at the playing end, but those skips and thirds can only sweep behind the tee-line.

An official news release on this expansion of the moratorium is expected shortly.

The Tournament of Hearts begins Saturday in Grande Prairie, Alberta while the opening draw of the Ottawa Brier is slated for March 5.

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2015 Brier: Middaugh makes the call

In the March issue print edition of The Curling News, you’ll find Brier predictions from senior columnist Terry Jones.

In the digital version of that issue, you’ll find Brier predictions from six-time champion and TCN columnist Randy Ferbey.

Now, as an added bonus, we present another round of Brier predictions from none other than Wayne Middaugh, a three-time champion (at three different positions) who always has an opinion. Over to you, Wayne!

Middaugh in Tankard action
Middaugh at the 2015 ON Tankard

By Wayne Middaugh

Let’s start with what’s important and then see who is left standing at the end.

Relegation:

Prince Edward Island – Adam Casey … This team has put in the work this year and deserves to be part of the Brier… the entire Brier.

Nova Scotia – Glenn Macleod and Yukon – Bob Smallwood … Enjoy your three games in the big building and milk it for all it’s worth. You deserve better.

Main draw:

12th – New Brunswick – Jeremy Mallais … The goal is no relegation… sorry, I didn’t know who to pick in this spot and when I looked at the teams, I thought if not you… then who?

T7 – P.E.I. – Team Casey, you paid your dues on tour this year and if you keep doing that I only see you moving up on this list.

T7 – British Columbia – Jim Cotter … One of the nicest guys in the game and I want more for him, but just don’t see it.

T7 – Northwest Territories – Jamie Koe … The curling gods like you as you are what curling is all about, but unfortunately, even with everyone on your side, it doesn’t make you a Brier champion. #guyhemmings

T7 – Ontario – Mark Kean … He beat us twice en route to winning his first Purple Heart and this is where I would have put us in this field.

T4 – Manitoba – Reid Carruthers … Reid was great when he became a WFC with Team Stoughton, then took a few years off from making shots. Looks like he’s back and knows how to win.

T4 – Québec – Jean-Michel Ménard … Has won this before and knows what it takes to trick the front-runners. Question is: How many tricks does he have left?

Top pick: Team Jacobs/NONT
Top pick: Jacobs/NONT

T4 – Team Canada – John Morris … Fan favourites and good guys playing in a hometown Brier. However, they didn’t put in the time on tour and on the ice this year, meaning their week on the Saddledome ice will end in a tie-breaker about Friday.

T4 – Saskatchewan – Steve Laycock … This team can throw it hard and if they get a lead on anyone they can run out the scoreboard… although that’s not enough to win the Brier. Getting better every year and I expect to see them in the playoffs.

3 – Newfoundland & Labrador – Brad Gushue … You go every year it’s only a matter of time before you win this thing… and Brad makes enough last shots to do just that, so I expect him to be playing after the round robin… but not sure this is the year.

2 – Alberta – Kevin Koe … This team was built to win games and the 2018 Olympics, but before you win you’ve gotta learn to lose as a team (and hate that feeling). This week will be a learning experience even though I expect them to be there at the end of the week.

1 – Northern Ontario – Brad Jacobs … JJ started the mojo with the current Olympic gold medallists winning the STOH and I’m funny/superstitious that way. Watching these guys is kind of like watching Pros versus Joes; the Joes win sometimes but not often… and Team Jacobs are pros in every way. Congrats Team Jacobs!

First image by Robert Wilson; second image copyright ® The Curling News by Anil Mungal. Click on images to increase viewing size

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Morris announces curling sabbatical – perhaps

No Mo Johnny… unless…

John Morris has spoken.

The finalist from both the Brier and the Canadian Olympic Trials has issued a statement today on his immediate curling future, and here it is:

This ad appears in our April issue

After a lot of thought and deliberation, I have decided to take a step back from the game of curling next year.

I had the tremendous pleasure of playing with three great, genuine teammates in Jim Cotter, Tyrel Griffith and Rick Sawatsky as we made it farther than I think anyone would have predicted for a team playing its first year together. You were all amazing, as was our coach, Pat Ryan, and our alternates Jody Epp and Jason Gunnlaugson.

I am extremely proud of our squad for what we accomplished, and would like to thank my guys for helping me recover my passion and heart for the game of curling, and for providing me with one of the most memorable years in my career.

I will be taking some time off to pursue an educational course that I’ve been wanting to take for a few years now, as well as to secure a career in the fire service. If our team happens to be awarded the default Team Canada berth at the Brier next year, then I will consider coming back to play a light schedule.

Thank you to all our true fans, friends, sponsors and to all of our families for being there every inch of the way and showing us the support we needed to almost make the improbable happen!

 

[This Team Morris advertisement appears in the April 2014 issue of The Curling News; click on the image to increase viewing size]
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Team Shuffle 2015: Disrespect for the Brier?

Koe blows up team – before the worlds

By George Karrys

From yellow to purple (with apologies to both)

Okay, the annual team shuffle didn’t really begin today. There have been team lineup changes for next season that have been announced already, with one of the bigger ones ones coming well before the STOH (Team Kelly Scott disbanding) and this one fairly recently.

But today’s triple reveal is a whopper, and for very big reasons.

While watching daughter Carly Howard compete at the Canadian University championships in Regina, Glenn Howard confirmed to the Regina Leader-Post that his longtime second Brent Laing is moving to Alberta, and will compete next year with Team Kevin Koe.

We spilled it on Twitter and there was the expected reaction. But then came word that Kevin Martin‘s longtime front end of Marc Kennedy and Ben Hebert, Olympic champions all back in 2010, have split from Martin and joined Team Koe, too.

All of this is big news in any curling year, but this is particularly stunning given a couple of facts.

First off, Team Koe is also Team Canada, newly-crowned Brier champs (Koe, Pat Simmons, Carter Rycroft and Nolan Thiessen) and soon headed to the worlds in Beijing. Second, thanks to the new Brier (and STOH) format changes, that Team Koe was already pre-qualified for next year’s Brier in Calgary as Team Canada.

If Laing had constituted the only team change, that meant someone else was out, from a Brier championship team, whether he would soon be leaving of his own accord or soon be released. But now, given these seismic changes, the skip of the defending Brier champion team has just forfeited his 2015 Brier berth. In the very first year of the berth taking effect.

Wow.

It’s pretty much unprecedented that news of such team changes are revealed this early, before a squad departs to wear the Maple Leaf at the worlds. It’s also utterly wild to think that numerous players have actually considered – with one now deciding – to give up a confirmed berth in the Brier.

This leaves Simmons, Rycroft and Thiessen with some thinking to do. If they stick together an add a fourth, they keep the Brier’s Team Canada berth, despite the absence of Koe – or so we think?

However, Rycroft has already declared his intention to retire or at least take the 2015 season off from competition – will that now change? Simmons, we know, has maintained a business and residence in Alberta for three years now – does he want to return home to Saskatchewan?

If Koe is willing to take a pass at a Brier berth, how many other high-performance curling athletes are?

Yes. Many are boggled.

This is what we’re getting at. A few years ago, all this would be unthinkable. The Brier was a huge, huge championship curling event – the biggest, bar none, of which every Canadian male curler dreamed about.

Nowadays, and the ongoing Team Koe machinations prove this, the Brier’s primary function – as far as the nation’s top teams are concerned – is merely to provide a qualifying route into the Olympic Trials.

And indeed, 2015 is the (non-Olympic qualifying) season where unusual team moves might be made – such as Koe’s stunning changes… such as John Morris (Brier finalist, and next in line – we assume – to get the Brier berth) either taking the year off or relocating to the B.C. coast (both are rumours, by the way)… and such as Richard Hart returning to play third for Team Howard on a one-year, fun-filled farewell tour (another rumour, folks).

All of this boggles the veteran curling mind. Since when have we seen the legacy of the Brier so – what’s the word we’re looking for – disrespected, however unintentionally this may be intended, by the top high-performance competitors in the land?

And how does this help the Canadian Curling Association challenge various opinions that are swirling about, everything from “relegation sucks” (see the upcoming April issue of The Curling News) to the Association’s present high-performance event focus being a dangerous game (see “Are the Olympics killing curling?” on the cover of our November 2013 issue and also “What the Olympics and Slams have done to Competitive Curling” by Mike Fournier at a later date online)? Not to mention obvious problems within the CCA’s own house, represented by the six-months-and-counting conflict with its Ontario member organization?

Disrespect is, I admit, a pretty strong word, even if couched by “unintentional”, and it’s one the top competitors would never use nor intend to. But the question remains: Is this continuing decline of the Brier brand really the cost of doing business in this 21st century world of curling – a world in which our sport, like many others, is changing at a rapid pace?

Perhaps. But the mind still boggles.

What on earth could be next, lurking ’round the curling corner?

[Composite Laing/Koe image by Gary Darakjian; original Sportsnet images by Anil Mungal]

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Montreal 2014: Quebec STOH so far

Un autre virus! Pas de poutine!

Mike Fournier is a columnist for The Curling News and also blogs – impressively – at In The House. He is in Montreal for Quebec’s first hosting of the Canadian women’s curling championship in decades, and we have republished his most recent blogpost below…
Here we go again…
MONTREAL – Why are all the teams the same colour as Saskatchewan’s jackets?
So far, the big story at the STOH has been the flu, or food poisoning, or the plague, or whatever has been passed around more than a cold sore at the Brier Patch.
Here is a pic of me at the event, at left – Day 4.
Definitely the worst job this week: Hotel Cleaning Lady at the Westin! Almost every sheet has a fifth player on the ice, and Saskatchewan and BC are competing with only three players. The Quebec second just left her game after the fifth end, looking a lovely shade of Saskatchewan green. The players are in full sanitizing mode – no more shaking hands or sharing lip gloss in the locker room.
I actually saw someone Purell her rock before throwing.
As for the actual curling, Rachel Homan seems to be back to her juggernaut form from last year, tearing through the competition only slightly less violently than the flu. Val Sweeting has looked good as well. If Saskatchewan can manage to keep finding three or four people healthy enough to curl, they are looking good for a playoff spot as well.
Feel good story of the week is definitely the Sarah Koltun team from the Territories, who have quickly become the crowd favourites (apart from Quebec of course). They are all younger than my sliding broom, and cuter than an internet cat video. You have to cheer for them.
Curling Morphs in Quebec!
There will be an interesting battle at the bottom as teams fight to avoid finishing last or second-last, as these provinces will have to face RELEGATION. This means that they will have to return home and tell all of their peers that as a result of their bad week, next year’s provincial champion will have to play a pre-STOH playdown in order to get into the tournament. Not an enviable position. I am hoping Quebec can pull a few wins out in the next few games to avoid that pressure at the end of the week!
So how is Montreal doing so far as a host?
Well, hit and miss. The site is awesome, the ice is awesome, the crowds have been okay. The HeartStop Lounge has been fun. And we have fans in Morph suits.
However, the concessions stands have been a bit shaky. I am sitting in the only arena in Quebec where I can’t buy a hot dog or a poutine. I was unaware that you could call yourself a Quebec arena if you don’t sell poutine. The local rink in the park sells poutine. The churches sell poutine. How can the Quebec STOH not have poutine available in the stands?
And did I mention we can’t buy beer in the arena? Really. I believe I have never watched a live curling game without alcohol. It is a strange experience. I saw Dan Gregoire walking around the crowd looking lost. I barely recognized him without a beer in his hands.
[Click on images to increase viewing size]
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Winnipeg 2013: Game of the week

Jacobs versus Morris is bigger than you know

by George Karrys

“They all want us to lose, right?”   “That’s right.”

At 2:30pm ET today, less than an hour from this time of posting, defending Brier champ and world silverado Brad Jacobs (4-0) takes on defending Olympic champion third John Morris John Morris (3-1) at the Canadian Olympic Trials.

You should know the storylines.

Both came out of the last-gasp Trials qualifier in Kitchener a couple of weeks ago.

Both are in the top men’s three, and there are only three teams that will make the playoffs.

Both squads scream youth and vitality, and represent a continuing and definitive changing of the guard from the legendary Kevin Martin – Glenn Howard – Jeff Stoughton power trio.

Three of these eight guys – Jacobs, his second E.J. Harnden and Morris – are super-hunk models in the hottest curling product in the world right now, the 2014 Men of Curling Calendar.

Morris, the veteran, has been filling the curling souls of his British Columbia teammates with unprecedented confidence.

Jacobs’ 2012 lineup changes – Ryan Fry in from Newfoundland to play third, Harnden now at second – have driven the Soo squad into the stratosphere.

This should be a great show, which Canadian fans can watch live on TSN. But there is far more at play here, enough to arguably make this clash the official Game Of The Week… even acknowledging the upcoming Martin/Morris tilt in the final round-robin draw.

If Morris loses, a number of things happen:

• Jacobs is guaranteed a spot in any tiebreakers or the semifinal…

• The fallen titans of last night’s heartbreakers, Howard and Stoughton, are still alive…

• Even Kevin Koe, 0-4 and widely written off with Olympic dreams dashed, ain’t out of it.

Now just let that sink in for a moment.

Oh, my. Oh, my.

[The Curling News photo copyright ® by Anil Mungal – click on image to increase viewing size]

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Winnipeg 2013: Roar of the Weird

No. I don’t know what’s going on.

by Colin Hodgson

Geurtez (left) and Hodgy. And weird computer curling gloves.

WINNIPEG –  It’s early, and this could be a little bit premature, but something weird seems to be going on over these first two days. Take all the odds and predictions from the “experts” and throw them out the window, because we don’t seem to have any favourites anymore.

For instance, Manitoba teams are merely mediocre at a combined 4-6, even with the huge crowd support at the MTS Centre.

Many of the expected favourites coming in are already off to the dreaded two-loss start – which doesn’t allow any room for error.

As I sit here and report from the media bench, my phone continues to buzz as the upsets continue. “WHAT IS GOING ON???” is the general theme of the 47 texts I receive each hour.

The thing is… I don’t really know how to answer that question.

The ice looks pristine and has been in exceptional condition since day one. Yes, the stones are papered which makes them curl sharper early in the week… but no more so than any at other event. Yes, the crowd is big and loud, but not to the point of unleashing air horn blasts during player backswings.

And yes, these in fact are the stones that were so criticized for inconsistency at the start of the Edmonton Brier back in March. That problem has been addressed, though, by a) flipping the stones and b) “evening” through continued use, including at the recent Road to the Roar in Kitchener.

Well, friends. The only thing I can think to say at this point in the week is more of a reminder.

This isn’t a provincial playdown. This is not a World Curling Tour event. This is not the Brier or the STOH. This is the Canadian Olympic Trials, and weird things happen when it comes to this amazing, thrilling quadrennial show.

[Canadian Curling Association photo copyright ® by Danielle Inglis]