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Curling fans labelled “the worst”

Hardcore fans of televised curling have been declared “the worst” – worse than hockey fans – according to a new book by former CBC executive vice president Richard Stursberg.

The Great TV Curling Debacle began early in 2005, after the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation had negotiated a new television deal with the Canadian Curling Association. The Sports Network (TSN), which had been first to demand a new all-or-nothing coverage deal, was completely excluded.

Cue the screaming, crying and – as Stursberg writes below – an incredible level of abuse.

Less than a year later, the deal had been broken apart and TSN was back in, sharing power with CBC.

Less than a year after that, the CCA and TSN signed a new deal and the CBC was out.

Stursberg’s time at CBC was certainly controversial and his duties started in the fall of 2004, just as the CBC was planning its exclusive curling coverage. The resulting debacle ranks as one of the most bizarre stories in sport television history in addition to one of curling’s greatest embarrassments, and the timing of this book comes just a few months after another CBC curling embarrassment. Here’s an excerpt from the book, The Tower of Babble: Sins, Secrets and Successes Inside the CBC.

Curling fan rage “utter incoherence”

by Richard Stursberg

Two weeks after we lost the Olympic bid, the roof fell in on curling.

We owned many of the most important properties, including the Brier and the Scott Tournament of Hearts. Unfortunately, we could not put all the games on the main channel. There were simply too many scheduling conflicts. In a brainwave of negligible proportions, we thought it might be a good idea to put the games that were being played during the week on Country Canada, a small digital specialty channel we owned.

At that time, Country Canada had only about a million subscribers and was located on a part of the cable dial so remote that finding it required a compass and orienteering equipment. Our plan was to use the curling properties to help sell Country Canada. We would start advertising well in advance of the tournament that if viewers wanted to watch the matches, they needed to phone their cable provider and order Country Canada.

The cable companies loved the idea, and we organized a sales and marketing campaign to support it.

We started three months ahead of the tournament. The cable companies promoted it. Their sales representatives in the call centres were briefed. We put bill-stuffers in the mail. We promoted its availability on our sports shows. We advertised in rinks around the country.

Everyone worked hard to make sure that all the curling fans knew that they had to subscribe to Country Canada. After three months, it was clear the campaign was a flop. Not nearly enough people signed up. There was no possibility that the hardcore curling fans would be able to see all the Brier matches.

With some trepidation, in late February 2005 we launched our coverage. No sooner did people discover that the games were inaccessible except on Country Canada than the shouting and moaning began.

Nobody knew where Country Canada was on their dial.

Nobody knew that they had to pay for it.

Nobody even knew what it was.

A torrent of angry letters, emails and phone calls began pouring into the CBC.

Remember this website?

The problem was compounded by the fact that the regulations governing Country Canada limited the amount of sports we could broadcast on any particular day. As a result, we sometimes switched away from the game before it was over. Thus, even those who managed to find Country Canada and subscribe to it were badly treated. Nobody could believe that we would leave the match before it ended, but we did.

The papers had a field day with the CBC’s bizarre incompetence.

There was much laughing at our expense. Even CBC radio covered the controversy in an aggressive and unpleasant way.

The principal flak-catchers for all the discontent that comes the CBC’s way are a group known as Audience Relations. They inhabit a windowless set of offices in one of the more obscure parts of the Toronto Broadcast Centre. The work is unenviable and their lives brutish.

All day, aggrieved viewers and listeners bombard them with complaints. A certain show is too sexy. Peter Mansbridge‘s tie is hideous. The correspondent in London is a communist. They hate the music on Radio 2.

Whatever. All day long, they sit there being lambasted by tidal waves of grievance and invective.

As the curling controversy mounted, it became clear that the Audience Relations department was imploding. Shell-shocked employees could be seen, trembling and glassy-eyed, stumbling out of their warren. They twitched and spooked like veterans of too many firefights.

Even their leader, normally proud and fearless, seemed tentative and jumpy, uncertain which way to direct his broken troops.

Nancy Lee and I decided to visit the wretches and buck them up with doughnuts and encouragement. They welcomed us with desperate enthusiasm. We listened to their tales. Some were near tears.

The enraged curling fans, it turned out, were the most abusive and unpleasant complainers they had ever had to deal with. One hardened veteran said she could not believe the invective.

“I could tell from her voice that she was old. It croaked and creaked. She called me ‘dearie’ and then described the CBC as a bunch of ‘poisonous toads’ and ‘s**t bags.’

“Another old lady screamed at me for five minutes. She told me to do terrible things to myself with a toilet brush. I have never been so abused by anyone.”

Our 2005 cover story on the patchwork deal

They showed me emails that consisted of strings of curses and maledictions, one expletive after another, brutal and angry. The viewers seemed sometimes in such a rage that they fell into utter incoherence.

“You are a pack of s**t-brained idiots. You cut away before the last end! What a collection of ignorant, stupid, ugly, demented, moronic pieces of crap. Death to the CBC. Death!”

The effect was startling. I had no idea that people could be so rude.

“Is this typical?” I asked. “Is this what happens if we have an outage during a hockey game?”

“Oh, no,” they said, “the curling fans are the worst. Far and away the worst. Hockey fans are never as bad. And the old ladies are the worst, far and away.”

As the firestorm progressed, the advertisers were also getting clobbered by the unhappy fans. Some seemed to feel that Scott paper was responsible – it was, after all, the Scott Tournament of Hearts.

They threatened not to buy any more Scott paper. For its part, Scott was, not surprisingly, quite upset with the whole sorry business. As the fiasco unfolded, they were being towed under with us.

I called the head of Scott’s marketing department to apologize and engage in some mea culpa. Scott was a big and important customer of the CBC. I explained that we were blitzing the country with ads explaining where to find the games, that we would never again leave a game before it is over, that all the really big matches, the finals, would be on the main network, etc., etc., woof, woof.

His response was not warm. He clearly agreed with the curling fans that we were a collection of idiots, although he was too polite to put it that bluntly. Doubtless we would pay for our stupidity in the future.

The Canadian Curling Association, which owns the curling championships, was equally unhappy. They demanded that we turn the property over to TSN. We refused.

They announced that they would unilaterally abrogate our contract with them. We threatened to sue them. They said rude things to us. We turned the whole mess over to the lawyers. Eventually we realized that the relationship was beyond repair and released them.

They signed almost immediately with TSN.

From the book The Tower of Babble: Sins, Secrets and Successes Inside the CBC, ©2012. Published in 2012 by Douglas & McIntyre: an imprint of D&M Publishers Inc. Reprinted with permission of the publisher.

[Click on images to increase viewing size]

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Men With Brooms tonight

One of these things – er, people – is not like the others...

There is lots of press oot and aboot these days concerning the new Canadian TV sitcom Men With Brooms, airing tonight (CBC, 8:30pm ET).

Some notable text come from the Winnipeg Free Press (where all but the pilot was shot), the Toronto Star, the newly redesigned Globe and Mail and an amusing, pleading blogpost entitled An Open Letter to the Creators of CBC’s Men With Brooms.

The Canadian Press also features this zinger of a quote with regard to alternate takes:

There was a little bit of streaking through the curling rink (and) the punching and the kicking and the biting and the nakedness.

Well. That certainly sounds like comedy. And for some readers who have been around The Roaring Game for a while, it kinda sounds like curling, doesn’t it?

(Hey, we did say some readers.)

The show website is now live, and features cast bios, six videos and a puzzle game. There is also the requisite Facebook fan page.

Because The Curling News was the only media organization to visit the set during filming of the pilot, way back in December in Ontario, it behooves us to publish a major feature – including behind-the-scenes content – in our upcoming November issue, which goes to press in a couple of weeks. Make sure your subscription is paid up, as you don’t want to miss it.

For now, here’s a couple of recent cast quotes, exclusive to The Curling News. Just to tide you over until the first issue…

“I hope that we do justice to this sacred sport,” intoned Siobhan Murphy, who plays April, the new girl in town. “Although we may not always have most professional-looking throws and moves, we invite people to laugh at our folly.”

“Be patient with us, said Joel Keller, who portrays Bill, the club manager. “It is a curling show but it’s not just about curling. I think people will enjoy some of the curling humour, but you’ll enjoy the comedy off the ice… people will relate to the beer afterward.”

Serendipity Point Films photo by Allen Fraser

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Men With Brooms for 2010

The new faces of curling in "Long Bay, Canada"

As we’ve known since last fall, and first revealed back in February, a new half-hour TV comedy based on the 2002 curling movie Men With Brooms has been brewing.

Yesterday, Canada’s CBC-TV announced their fall show lineup and MWB is one of only two new shows featuring next season.

What’s more, the new edition of Brooms stands a good chance of capturing eyeballs, as it will air Monday nights immediately following the results show of Battle Of The Blades, last season’s runaway hybrid hit of ex-hockey players in figure skates.

Incidentally, Blades is a property of iSport Media and Management, rights-holders to the Capital One Grand Slam of Curling event series. But we digress.

There’s all kinds of media today on the new Brooms, such as this brief Q&A with original movie maestro Paul Gross – now executive producer, narrator and occasional cameo guy – and some of the new stars (click on photo to increase size).

The Globe and Mail also kicks in with this piece, from which we quote (with editing for accuracy):

Gross said he had an eerie sense of déjà-vu walking back into the curling rink outside Hamilton, where production took place for the pilot.

“When I first went back into the curling rink, I got this Pavlovian reaction, and I thought, God I’m exhausted … because that’s how I felt making the movie most of the time. I was exhausted,” Gross added.

“But the series has a lovely sort of charm. I thought the pilot was fantastic and the script was really funny. Funnier, actually, than the movie in parts.”

We also like these quotes from producer/writer Paul Mather, from Canadian Press:

“It’s set in the same small town, it’s got the same kind of spirit of the movie but what I keep saying is, it’s a little bit like ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’, ” says Mather.

“We’re not going out of our way to reinvent anything but we’re not matching the art design of the original film. We’re taking some license with that.”

Hmm. We smell a Photoshop contest coming on… captain Jean-Luc Picard gone curling, perhaps?

You can read much, much more from Gross, Mather and others directly from the set of Men With Brooms in our first fall print edition of The Curling News, which will be published in late October.

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Throwing Stones: call to arms

A couple of days ago, we told you about Canada’s Throwing Stones, a now-rejected TV pilot that airs tonight as a one-off on CBC (9:00pm eastern).

You can check out the July 13 posting, which includes an exclusive story by world champion participant Jill Officer, by clicking here.

A couple of media types have finally weighed in today, and there’s a clear feeling that if enough eyeballs tune in tonight, the show may yet find another life.

Randall King of the Winnipeg Free Press lists the negatives as a “cloying, cute tone and a generic sense of place” and suggests this is a “glossy-looking product that might just as easily have been set in Scarborough, Moose Jaw, or any Canadian burg deemed to be Nowheresville.”

But he also states that “presumably, if enough viewers respond favorably, it may induce one of those reclaim-the-airwaves movements where we, the viewing public, might rise up and dictate the kind of programming we expect from the nation’s broadcaster, instead of taking the dictation.”

You can read King’s preview/review here.

Macleans, Canada’s national magazine, says the pilot “isn’t terrible” and links to a brief review by Jill Golick, as well as a Facebook page… plus the aforementioned TCN blogpost (ahem). You can read all that right here.

TV writer Denis McGrath posted a rather simple preview of the pilot – but with another on-ice photo – located here.

Finally, Kate Taylor of the Globe & Mail points out that “new Canadian shows used to get time to find their feet and their audience. Now they are routinely smothered in the cradle. So, take a look at Throwing Stones (tonight) and see whether you think the smothering was an act of mercy or of villainy.

“Women’s curling team on the Prairies tangles with an ugly American? Too regionally sensitive, Cancon-laden to be anything more than a cliché of CBC programming? But remember, somebody liked the concept enough to order the pilot.

“… we will never know because the CBC, which is currently trying to attract more female viewers while shying away from the half-hour format, will not be ordering any more episodes of Throwing Stones – unless, of course, a million of you happen to tune in tonight.”

Taylor’s piece is available by clicking here. And hey, does that photo (also above) reveal a good old Winnipeg Slurpee being consumed on the ice? Very timely, considering this news.

(For more on Slurpeetoba, including the tale of a dastardly, failed American effort to hijack the title, check this.)

So… what’s it going to be, Canada? Will you take advantage of today’s ease of virile-marketing technology – email, Twitter, Facebook et al – to get all your friends to tune in tonight?

And where to go to let CBC know how you feel? Click here

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Throwing Stones: behind the scenes

Considering the feature story written by world champion Jill Officer in the November 2008 issue of The Curling News, we shall assume you recall hearing about a new Canadian TV comedy series called Throwing Stones.

An exclusive online excerpt of that story follows… in a bit.

The show tells the tale of five women trying to stay afloat amidst the chaos of life: demanding children, high-maintenance husbands, mortgages that keep them awake at night, uninspiring jobs, and all the challenges that come from being a wife, a mother and more significantly, a woman.

And all is forgotten, all is left behind, when they meet weekly at the West Kildonan Curling Club in Winnipeg.

The show uses the principles of curling as a metaphor for life. Patti (played by Academy Award winner Patty Duke) believes that all the lessons, rules and wisdom you need in life, you can learn from curling. Every episode begins with Patti philosophizing about one aspect of curling. It is this principle of curling and its larger application to life that is explored in each episode.

Throwing Stones
was an original pilot developed and produced for the CBC. We heard earlier this spring that CBC had turned down the show, due to both the economy and new programming guidelines. This, of course, totally sucks.

But it also means that the pilot will be airing on July 15 – this Wednesday – with very little publicity or promotion. As such, the show producers are asking curlers to tune in on July 15 and, if you like the show, send your feedback (ie. your righteous anger) directly to CBC via this webpage.

So do tune in. Meanwhile, here’s an excerpt or two from Jill Officer’s behind-the-scenes column back in November… which you would have received, along with the photo above (taken by Joey Isford) if you had subscribed to The Curling News

Patti Duke, the Hail Mary and 21 bucks an hour

Standing on the ice pretending to talk to my pretend teammate, I felt a little ridiculous. My lips were moving, but no sounds were coming out. I also had more expression than when I’m really talking – and I think I’m generally pretty expressive.

This was my first experience as an actress – no wonder it’s called acting; youre not really doing anything, at least for the “extras” on set, which is where I fit in. A curling-themed pilot for a CBC TV series was being shot on location at West Kildonan Curling Club in Winnipeg. The rink was turned into a film set in September when film producers took over the building, painted some touch-ups and set up shop for three days of shooting Throwing Stones – a series with a very Men with Brooms feel to it (ie. a little unrealistic).

The series stars Oscar winner and three-time Emmy Award winner Anna Marie “Patty” Duke. Well, she at least *edited to prevent spoilers* until she *edited to prevent spoilers* which I know my editor would want me to point out *edited to prevent spoilers* and was very similar to *edited to prevent spoilers* the Scotties in 2005 – and then *edited to prevent spoilers*.

Weeks before the shoot, an email circulated by a local casting company (and editor gk) was asking for female curlers between the ages of 20 and 60 to bring their skills to the set as background curlers. Given that the pay started at $21 an hour (overtime was more) I thought, hey, why not? That way I could throw a few rocks, see what this was all about and, of course, have something to write about for The Curling News.

The call time for us “skilled” workers was about 9:00am. I showed up to find a number of my fellow local competitors – Chelsea Carey, Kaleigh Strath, Cheri-Ann Loder, Jill Proctor – and many more. For some of the younger girls like Kaleigh, it was a chance to change their status as a starving student – for a couple of weeks anyway – and make a few hundred bucks in a day even though they had to skip class to do it. Can you blame them? Heck no!

As extras, even we had to go through wardrobe, make-up and hair. Wardrobe was a challenge. We were asked to bring clothing with no logos and we couldnt bring anything black, white or red. That was a problem for me as it would be for many competitive curlers who have sponsor logos plastered all over their curling gear and the stuff that doesnt have logos consists of the popular colours of… black, white or red.

I raided my closets of sweatshirts, curling clothes, etc, but I couldnt find anything that fit the rules. The only logo that was approved was Asham, but even then my Asham sweatshirts were red and black. Ugh! I eventually had to raid moms closet where I found a plain pink sweatshirt that ended up being my wardrobe of choice by the pros.

After pretending to talk to someone, doing monotonous tasks in the background, faking yelling “hurry” while my pretend teammates avoided the huge lighting equipment that covered half of our sheet, playing cards in the downtime and then basically being on the ice for five hours straight not really doing anything – including never throwing a rock – it was time to call it a wrap for the day, some 14 hours later!

We think actors and other entertainers live the good life, but getting a taste of what its like to be on a film set has proven to me that its not all that easy. Granted we didnt get the golden treatment, like our own trailer nor a bed to rest our head on, but having to “hang around” all day is, believe it or not, absolutely exhausting. By 11:00pm my legs were stiff, my back ached and the sound of “thats a wrap” was enough to make me peel right out of there despite the discomfort I was feeling.

Imagine that, huh? I could write the headline for gk right now: “Elite athlete isnt even in good enough shape to stand around for 14 hours.”

Really though, I would challenge any high-performance athlete – from any sport – to stand in the cold for hours on end, dressed for a regular curling game, but not doing any throwing or sweeping. Somehow I think anyone would feel the same way.

I wonder how Connie Laliberte fared: as the “consultant” helping out the production crew, she was there longer than anyone, but at least she had things to do… including setting up. And I think about that Men With Brooms flick, too… amazing to think that nearly a hundred of my fellow competitors went through something similar, some of them for multiple days. My “extra” sources tell me that for those who returned to filming over the next two days – I could not – also spent 12 to 14 hours on set… including one night which finally wrapped at 4:00am! OMG!

I was so exhausted after the first day I was actually thankful I didnt return to the miming, standing around in the cold and passing time.

I was, however, thankful for the $350 cheque that arrived in the mail a few weeks later.

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Ford World Curling: Near-final thoughts

MONCTON – Some thoughts on the 50th anniversary Ford Worlds in Moncton, before we hand the last word(s) over to ace blogstress Katja Kiiskinen:

• We (The Curling News) printed a loud warning to Canadian curling fans on the front cover of the January 2009 issue, when we described David Murdoch as the “Neo” of curling and explained that his full-time curling duties are now focussed specifically on beating Canada for Olympic gold next year in Vancouver.

Three wins in a row over the hosts in Moncton, for his second trophy in four years, is a good start to his ultimate goal.

• Having said that, we note that the young Scots’ two major wins this season came on steals in the championship final: a heavy draw from Norway’s Thomas Ulsrud at the Europeans and Kevin Martin’s shanked raise takeout last night.

What does this mean? Like all the curling greats, these Scots can find a number of ways to win.

• Speaking of Martin, the questions will continue to come all this week as the Grey Power Players’ Championship gets underway tomorrow – yes, tomorrow – in Grande Prairie. Martin is in the hunt for big bucks, but will his head be in the hunt?

You can find many of these questions online, such as the 62 comments posted (at this time of writing) listed below this CBC Sports Online story.

Other queries come from Terry Jones, who is a big fan of John Morris’ “Gong Show” quote, and who gathered quotes from rival Randy Ferbey and even The Old Bear Cubs from the on-ice microphones for this interesting story.

Here’s another from Dan Barnes, another Edmonton writer who is joining in on the pile-on atop one of his town’s favourite sons.

There’s also this one here from Al Cameron, although we beg to differ that “not a soul” in the Coliseum could see Martin’s non-throw coming.

We did. And we told our media bench neighbours about it, and we were vindicated when it happened.

KMart is known for this kind of thing. Skins Games, in which he throws tens of thousands of dollars away just to keep the hammer coming home. Extreme corner guards, just off the carpet, when trying to steal… just to make the other skip pause and think a little.

We saw it coming. And we called it.

This Cameron finale points a finger at Scottish second Peter Smith, who also had some struggles in earlier matches in Moncton …

• Yet another Al Cam piece – this one from his blog – also points out the cringe-worthy anthem that was played at ice level during the closing ceremony. Ye Gods.

Scottish people do NOT like hearing Ingerlund’s national anthem in place of their own.

Ye Gods!

• As for the Scots, what do they think? Mike Haggerty’s words – which include the classic “mayhem” – are located here, while Bob Cowan wondered if it was all a dream

• Yes, the opening ceremony dragged on far too long but it was quite a thrill to see something so “big” and glitzy to start the week. The legends who were there – all four Richardsons, The Owl, Eigil Ramsfjell, The Ferb and more – were a fantastic addition. The ancient trophies – from the Scotch Cup to both Silver Brooms – were amazing to see.

• Funny stuff you TV viewers never get to see: veteran curling arena announcer Stuart Brown screaming KMart’s pre-game (semifinal) intro before a crazed crowd: “Kevin HOWARD!”

This on live television, beamed around the world.

Martin’s teammates collapse in gales of laughter.

Martin himself looks befuddled, then smiles, shaking his head.

Stu drops to his knees in disbelief.

Russ Howard is, of course, loving it.

“That was hilarious,” said Martin afterwards.

“You know what? The problem is I don’t hear very well. I actually didn’t hear it. Had to ask the boys what happened and they were killing themselves.

“That’s a good blooper. But I don’t think he (Brown) mixed me up with Russ (Howard). I’ll bet he mixed me up with Glenn (Howard).

“Glenn and I have the similar hairline.”

• What does Moncton think? Here’s not one but two pieces in today’s local blat. And we agree: great show, folks.

• A reminder that you can watch highlights and full-game rebroadcasts through TSN’s Video On Demand player, via this page.

CCA photo by Michael Burns

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Full Contact Curling

Rick Mercer is probably Canada’s most successful political TV funnyman. His previous show, This Hour Has 22 Minutes, has had some fun with curling over the years… from spoofing a widely-panned CCA commercial to Raj Binder’s brilliant appearance at the 2005 Olympic Trials… which featured a flummoxed Wayne Middaugh, Jeff Stoughton, Shawn Adams and Russ Howard.
Now, the Rick Mercer Report has produced a curling item… a mock commercial spot for the mock CBC-TV show Full Contact Curling, which we now present for your viewing pleasure.

And there’s more. There’s always more…

This poor fellow from Massachusetts looks like he was the victim of Full Contact Curling… and the debacle ocurred on his second stone of two back-to-back games! We love his opening line: “Let it never be said I’m not completely honest, even when it involves my total humiliation.”

• Well, looks like the Mississauga News figured out that Ontario provincial competitor Chrissy Cadorin is a calendar girl

• Meanwhile, the Ontario STOH blog has some funny stuff posted. First, a good zinger was dropped by one of the competitors at the team meeting. Second, they’ve posted a request for info on Jenn Hanna’s choice of pants. Finally, one match from Tuesday night was interrupted by a “Beer Time Out”, we kid you not. Okay, the writer actually called it a “bar” time out (look under “9th end”) but all we can think about is… KEGGER! …

• Calgary’s Shannon Kleibrink is fuelled by the fire and Al Cameron handicaps the Alberta STOH field

• Here’s a preview of the Sask women’s titleshoot now underway – new format and all – in Swift Current. Clearly, the “Miller” sisters have a lot on their minds these days …

• And here we have a preview of Team Rob Lobel, set to begin play at Monday’s TSC Stores Tankard Ontario men’s championship …

• DID YOU KNOW: that an Ottawa heart attack victim was saved at the RCMP curling club?

• Speaking of Ottawa curling, we see that Joe Pavia now has his very own mugshot… woot!

• They’ll be Jam Pail Curling in Smithers, B.C. next month …

• Damned snow… no backyard curling for you!

• Riverview, NB will buy a corporate package for the massive Ford Worlds in Moncton (good choice, guys) …

• Here’s a cute kiddie curling pic… with the requesite helmet, of course …

• The story of Scotland’s Fife Curling Trust and it’s million-pound plan for a new rink in Cupar has hit the mainstream news, but of course curling fans have long been informed, courtesy of Curling Today

• Clubs across PEI are going hard with The Dominion Curling Club Championship… is your club involved?

• Team Vic Peters is done for the year, in a mild blow-up fashion

• Geez guys, that house is a mess… and we LOVE IT …

• And finally, congrats to Zach, an avowed “LifeGetter” from Binghamton, New York.

Feeding off a rather interesting conclusion – namely, that “when it comes to a lot of cool things, America is lame and nobody participates” – Zach and his brother made the long trek to Rochester, NY for a day of open house curling.

Make sure you click on the link above. Nice story and pics, Zach. Welcome aboard.

And just like that, slowly but surely, curling’s gradual conquest of the United States continues its march …

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Curling Cuties

Goodness us.

We have found the cutest curlers ever – yes, even cuter than these two – and they happen to live in Seattle, Washington.

Watch them in action right here, courtesy of this KOMO-TV episode of Eric’s Little Heroes.

As you can see, today’s quickee blogpost is aimed at merely applying a smile to your face.

And as an added bonus, here’s another Friday Fingerfest – please stretch your digits before attempting any strenous linkclicking…

• Brantford Expositor sportswriter Ed O’Leary is having fun, we think. Of Glenn Howard’s opening SunLife match this morning against unheralded Darcy Garbedian, O’Leary theorizes when Howard’s second game might take place “If Howard manages to eke out a victory”…

• The 2010 Ford World Women’s is going to Swift Current, Saskatchewan. The official announcement is here and a local CTV news story can be found here. Meanwhile, the town also has this season’s women’s provincial, and they’re looking for more volunteers and sponsors …

Joe Pavia has this on young superstar Rachel Homan

• Here’s a Jim Armstrong wheelchair feature for you …

• Speaking of wheelchairs, Germany and – yes, China – are off to the Worlds in Vancouver

• The Mixed is over, and we have wrap-ups from locals townie bastard and also Clare, a local from Arctic Bay in Nunavut who wants big numbers… so, let’s give it to him, people!

We also have a final column from the champ, Sean Grassie… he’s quite a writer, somebody should hire this guy! Hmm…

And finally, we have this note on the Nunavut legacy

• Bear Mountain is close to confirming their top-notch field

• Okay, we lied… looks like she is playing (a little) …

• Only a mere decade into his career as the curling guy at the venerable Globe and Mail, it was still a real shame to see some Globe desk jockey misspell Bob Weeksfirst byline of the season

• Although they did repost a corrected version later …

• Nice scarf!

• Nice license plate!

• Sorry! but this might as well be labelled a new curling board game

Lisa led 52 youngsters out onto the ice recently …

Janet, from Japan, tried curling in Germany

• The Virden CC welcomes two new bartenders. For what it’s worth, we love curling bartenders!

• Golden Ears needs a new club manager, and right away …

• CBC curling host Scott Russell loves that Million Dollar Button thang …

• Grey Power Insurance is back in curling, as the new title sponsor of the Players’ Championship …

• Look who’s coming to Clermont, Quebec …

• The Little Mosque on the Prairie curling episode “Jihad on Ice” (remember this? And this?) is now posted on YouTube. It can be viewed in three parts, all of them located here

• And finally, here’s a major, humungeous U.S. wrapup:

they’re pumped in Kalamazoo, Michigan as the U.S. Nationals are headed their way in 2010;

– KXMC in the Dakotas has a promo story here – including a slideshow – and even a video, located here;

– there’s this spotlight on Indy;

– and this one on Colorado

– and in Simi Valley, California …

– and in Sweet Home Chicago

– and this, on radio and transcripted, from Detroit Rock City

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Russ Howard: Swiss curling coach

After reading this here chat thread about Canadian curling coaches, Russ Howard flew his star pupils – Switzerland’s Team Ralph Stöckli – over to Moncton and then into Toronto yesterday.

Okay, we’re kidding, this Canadian Tour has been planned for a while.

Following a week of training in Moncton, with the Stöcklis bunking in at Russ’ house, the squad made a pinch-hit appearance for Team Steski in the Toronto Major League last night at St. George’s. They lost a close one to defending provincial Silver Tankard champ Bill Duck, the club manager.

In the TCN photo taken by Anil Mungal, that’s skip Stöckli at left, followed by third Jan Hauser, The Olympic Champion Yelling Guy, second Markus Eggler (who himself skipped Switzerland to the 1992 world championship) and lead Simon Strübin.

Today the Swiss hit the 401 for the short drive to Waterloo for the first Capital One Grand Slam of the year, the Masters of Curling.

More on Russ and his charges in the December issue of The Curling News, which goes to press next week. Are you a subscriber?

Lots to say about Slam number one:

• There’s a CBC Slam season preview located here;

Glenn Howard, who has a new interview posted over at The Curling Show, comes in ranked number one, ahead of Kevin Martin (according to us, anyway);

• As Brian Belfry writes, this could be Ontario’s last chance to see the once-previously-retired Kerry Burtnyk throw a live stone;

• Did you catch the announcement of the brand-new $170,000 Capital One Cup …?

• And the one regarding world’s first Curling Rewards credit card – click on the ad banner atop this fine website (and this one, too) …?

• How about the Million Dollar Button contest, now underway and which climaxes at the third men’s Slam at Winnipeg in January?

• What about the not-yet-publicized reveal that next fall’s mammoth Toronto 2009 event – hosted at the Air Canada Centre – has been rebranded as the Masters of Curling Toronto 2009?

That reveal also shows that a secret All-Star men’s team will round out the field – that’s the good news – and that a new $14.00 facility fee has been applied to ticket purchases. That is most certainly the bad news.

What of last fall’s club ticket drive? Those ducats didn’t have a facility fee applied to them at the time…

“TCA will pick up the cost of the facility fee for the package offered last year,” said Toronto Curling Association president Elizabeth Woolnough. “That cost will not be passed down to the clubs, nor to the ticket holders.”

Finally, don’t forget the webcast and television coverage: CBC Sports Online has live streaming of the weekend playoff round (action starts tonight) and both CBC-TV and BOLD will combine to cover those playoff games – three of them – on television.

Anything else, you ask?

• At the Canadian Mixed, the wheat chaffers were undefeated at 7-0 as of Tuesday night and Manitoba skip Sean Grassie even wrote this introductory column for the Winnipeg Sun.

Meanwhile our friend townie bastard is working behind the scenes as a member of the organizing committee… and despite his previous fretting, his photos are just fine!

• You heard about the 2010 Tim Hortons Brier heading to Halifax, right? if not, read this and this

• Guess what: Rainy River will survive

• It’s just a guess, but it looks like the Toronto Curling Association might be behind this Vaughan Today feature. The participation message is strong among three different sources …

• Here’s a cool idea: check out Hamilton, Ontario’s “Club 64” league for juniors …

• 2006 Olympic wheelchair curling champion Chris Daw is in a Newfoundland hospital recovering from a broken hip …

Stefanie Lawton is taking a year off work to chase her Vancouver Olympic dream

• Wisconsin curling hero Bob simply did a great job

• We’ve got just one more Midland, Michigan TV story for you …

• Crash! They’ve had their first injury at the new club in Columbus, Ohio; and congratulations, by the way …

• DID YOU KNOW: that the venerable Wall Street Journal gave us a call today? Nope, we don’t know why either. We’re playing voicemail tag right now …

• Napanee, Ontario is gunning to host either the 2010 or 2011 Ontario Men’s TSC Tankard at their newish $9.8 million Strathcona Paper Centre …

• More madness in Moose Jaw as local politicians are threatened over the proposed $61.3 million sportsplex, which would include a new home for the local Hillcrest Curling Club …

• Finally, Bob Weeks has been dishing on an interesting webstrategy quoted by the Canadian Curling Association (follow-up located here) …

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Curling in the Dragons’ Den

Beware the Dragons… they have lots of money and are ready to invest in your business idea, but you might get your hand bitten off while asking for the cash.Dragons’ Den, the successful “Angel Investors” TV show, now in its third year on CBC in Canada (there is also a UK edition) showcases lightning-quick investment pitches made on-the-spot to a panel of major high rollers. These guys – and one gal – are looking to shell out their own shekels to fund the Next Big Thing, and they often do just that.

For example, last night’s show closed with two gals pitching a street-smart acrobatic show – a small-scale version of Cirque du Soleil – and after getting thoroughly stomped on by four of the five Dragons, the final one ponied up a quarter of a million dollars. Just like that.

Still with last night, quiet and humble Joe Dumouchelle from Windsor, Ontario (image above) also made it into the Den… but came away with nothing. The Dragons weren’t too fond of his invention: a curling rock with wheels, suitable for play on non-ice surfaces.

Joe also showed off a small mockup of a transportable wooden indoor curling sheet… which ships in two massive pieces, totalling 24 feet in length. The Dragons had a howl over that one, with designated Dragon badboy Kevin O’Leary imagining the sight of “a 24-wheeler show(ing) up at your house; ‘Honey! Your curling rink is here!’”

Sadly, the magic of TV editing did not tell us precisely what the Dragons thought of Joe’s main idea: the rocks themselves. Nor did Joe or the Dragons indicate any knowledge of existing dryland rocks – if so, we assume Joe would have been asked about owning a patent.

How about this, folks… whether or not you’ve ever seen the show, or this particular episode, how about helping out poor Joe? The show website features an Armchair Dragon Contest where the public can vote on their favourite unsuccessful “pitch” of the season. If Joe wins this week’s voting, he is in the running for an eventual $75,000 prize and you, dear reader, could receive $10,000 and a trip to Toronto – just for voting.

All you have to do is register – its free – with the CBC website, which can done through the contest page located here. You can also view a 30-second video promo for the contest, located here.

This week’s contest is open until Monday, Oct. 13 at 4:59 ET.

Good luck Joe… and to all curling voters, too!