In 2013, I began seeing TV ads showing scenes of curling action cut with the bright lights of Sin City and an announcer asking the question “Curling in Vegas?” Well, here we are four years later with the third edition of the Continental Cup of Curling in Las Vegas. And here I go again to take in the Vegas curling experience for the third time, and for your benefit, dear reader.
It seems Las Vegas has become a permanent stop on the international curling event calendar. And it’s Canadian travellers who are supporting curling in Vegas, despite the lower value of the loonie, as they look for any reason to escape the winter cold to enjoy some desert sun and curling. I am one of those Canadians this year, as the usually mild West Coast winter weather has been anything but balmy with sub-zero temperatures and half a dozen snowfalls in Vancouver since December. So, sunny skies and temperatures in the mid-teens, coupled with watching Team North America battle with Team World will help chase away the January blues.
In 2014, the teams were scouting each other in Vegas as that edition of the Continental Cup was held just weeks before the Sochi Olympic Winter Games. Last year’s edition, in my view, suggested that the teams were more focused on friendly competition and fun.
This year, with the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games just 13 months away, organizers tell us the event is a chance for curling fans to get an advance look at many of the teams who will be chasing gold in South Korea (and we’ll have lots to say about that in future editions of The Curling News).
Of course, we’ve got some curlers who’ve been to many Continental Cups and the last two editions in Vegas. But there are many first-timers this year, so I’ll be looking to get their impressions of curling in the desert (along with Elvis and Marylin Monroe impersonators escorting them onto the ice) for my social media posts this week and weekend, which you can follow on two platforms:The Curling News Twitter feed and also on The Curling News Facebook page.
During last year’s Cup in Vegas, the former director of marketing for Tourism Nevada told me that Canadians love Nevada and they love curling, so hosting these events in the land of casinos, big buffets and showgirls is a natural fit. And the slogan adopted by those involved – Las Vegas Rocks – just seems to roll off the tip of the tongue.
Attendance for the 2016 Continental Cup topped 62,000 – the most people to ever watch a curling event in the United States. Officials are gambling that the success of the 2014, 2016 and 2017 Cup events will result in even more bums in the seats in the spring of 2018, when the Orleans Arena hosts the Men’s World Curling Championship – soon after the PyeongChang Olympic Games.
I don’t think the novelty of being in an arena in Vegas filled with curling fans has worn off yet. In fact, as I tell folks I’m heading to Vegas for a curling competition, some still raise an eyebrow, but admit that it seems like something fun to do in January.
Each athlete’s photography was designed and shot according to her specifications, in conjunction with a volunteer photographer from her community. In addition, each athlete will be selling units to raise funds for a charity or cause she has personally selected.
“I didn’t hesitate to join this project, not for a second,” said Scotland’s Eve Muirhead, whose 2014 Olympic bronze medal-winning squad captured the top prize at the Curling Champions Tour event in Basel, Switzerland on Sunday. “This is all about strong women, dedicated to training, competition and accomplishment in today’s world. And it’s also about fundraising for causes that are near and dear to each of us.”
Muirhead, who has won every medal colour at the World and European Championships, is raising money for Mindspace, a mental health counselling and recovery centre in Perth, Scotland.
Free shipping is also available to curling facilities that wish to sell product to their members.
Muirhead threw down the gauntlet to the men’s calendar athletes, and to her fellow 2017 athlete models.
“I understand the men’s calendar in 2014 sold extremely well,” said Muirhead. “Congratulations to them, but now it’s our turn. I think the ladies will have the last word on sales figures, because we’re going to bring it.”
2014 Olympic champion Dawn McEwen watched her husband, Mike McEwen, appear on the cover of the men’s calendar. Now, the lead for Winnipeg’s legendary Team Jennifer Jones has made her own appearance, and looks forward to a friendly rivalry within her home.
“I might have an advantage because I can draw sales from the city I grew up in,” laughed the Ottawa-born Olympic and world champion, whose team finished second at a World Curling Tour event in Calgary on Monday night. “We’ll see how it goes. I look forward to my husband pushing for sales as he’s competing on tour as well.”
The Curling News is just two weeks away from publishing the November 2016 issue, the first release of this pre-Olympic 2016-17 season. But first, given the excitement in Canada surrounding the sport of baseball, here is Jim Corrigan’s “love-letter” column republished from our last (April) issue. And yes, provided his insurance gave him excellent coverage, of course we’d love to see Edwin on the ice…
By Jim Corrigan
What attributes of a professional athlete could turn a cynical old curling writer into an obsessed fan?
Edwin Encarnacion, first baseman and designated hitter for the Toronto Blue Jays, is my favorite baseball player of all time. For me, “all time” goes back to watching the New York Yankees in the early 1960s. Some pretty fair ballplayers have come down the pike in the past 55 years, so you might be wondering…why pick Edwin?
The seeds of obsession are sown when a fan identifies an athlete’s potential for greatness in its embryonic stages. Going into the last week of the 2010 season, third baseman Edwin Encarnacion had a modest 16 home runs. It was his first full year with the Jays organization. Mid-season, he had been sent down to Triple A. He was on the cusp, being a power-hitting prospect who could not seem to field a defensive position at the major league level.
Edwin wanted to hit 20 home runs. Every ballplayer wants to do that, but Edwin turned wishes into reality by clobbering five homers in the last week of the season. That got my attention. Great athletes perform at their best in the toughest moments. These are the “pressure situations” that shape the trajectory of their careers. Edwin had the right stuff.
The Jays weren’t so sure, putting him on waivers after the 2010 season. The Oakland Athletics claimed and released him. Edwin re-signed a one-year contract with Toronto as a free agent. Things got worse. After getting virtually no work at third base through spring training, Encarnacion started 2011 at the hot corner. He struggled defensively and took his troubles to the plate. Now he was seen as a defensive liability who was not contributing much offense. The window of opportunity was closing on his major league career.
This is a classic “down-and-out” story, and it illustrates the fundamental challenge of sport: Get better or go home. Through all of his tough times, Edwin continued to work hard and to “have a strong mind” (a quote from the excellent profile done on Encarnacion by Sportsnet’s Stephen Brunt in 2015). He ended up with 17 home runs and 55 runs batted in (RBI). These are marginal numbers for a power hitter, but the Jays picked up their option on him for 2012.
I first took notice of the exceptional nature of Edwin’s at-bats midway through the 2011 season. His teammate Jose Bautista was tearing up the American League. Edwin had “made some adjustments” and was putting together equally good plate appearances. Both were ultra-disciplined yet aggressive. With power.
The next step in fan obsession is prognostication. Before the 2012 season, I told friends that Edwin would hit 30 home runs. In my heart I felt that he could hit 40, but I played it safe. Edwin hit 42 and knocked in 110 RBI. That’s a big year folks, and I had called it!
The Jays and Edwin saw the potential in each other, and Encarnacion was locked into a nice four-year contract. In one of his rare interviews, Edwin sincerely thanked the organization for helping him take care of his family. As Brunt’s profile revealed, Edwin has been as good as his word on that front. Edwin loves children. He has a great smile. He appears to be a genuinely nice human being. I have become an obsessed fan.
Edwin Encarnacion may be the most controlled, cerebral and effective hitter in the game. He has averaged 37 home runs and 105 RBI per season over the past four years. He has not struck out 100 times in any of those seasons. That’s nearly unheard of from one of the top five power hitters in baseball. Although not in Bautista-land, Edwin takes about 76 walks per year. He attained these numbers despite being injured for significant portions of each of the last three seasons. This past summer, Jays TV announcer Pat Tabler confirmed something that I suspected for several years.
Tabler quoted a statistic showing that Edwin hit the ball hard two times more oftenthan the next best major league hitter. In 2014, he tied a record set by Mickey Mantle for the most home runs in May (16). Edwin had the longest hitting streak in the American League in 2015, at 26 games.
To me, he stands at the pinnacle of those facing the toughest challenge in sport – the ability to square up a ball thrown by a major league pitcher.
The essentials of hitting are reviewed daily by announcers and analysts. You must know what you want to hit, be ready, don’t swing at balls. In a nutshell, this is Edwin’s approach. I probably have watched two-thirds of his at-bats in each of the past four seasons. He is the most disciplined, consistent power hitter that I’ve ever seen.
By now you might be wondering what any of this has to do with curling? In a word, everything.
A combination of will and skill is essential for any successful athlete, but these attributes only get you to the door. The truly great athletes are those who can deliver their best when the stabbing light of great consequence is shining into their eyes. It requires a delicate balance of intensity and management of intensity to perform well in these situations. It demands that the athlete have a rigorously consistent approach to every opportunity given to them. Their approach “normalizes” what otherwise would be a mind-boggling jumble of excitement, nerves, speed and confusion.
Baseball pitchers and hitters share one critical thing with every curler. There are moments when game, season and career literally must flow through our hands. These are the pitch, the at-bat, and the shot. The game cannot go on until we have taken our turn. In terms of consequences, not all of these opportunities are created equal. In terms of approach, they must be.
From television, we take for granted that today’s curling “lead” player will make both tick shots in the last end, that the second will double-peel their team out of trouble, that the third will pin the 15-foot runback and that the skip will draw the side of the pot for the win. Let’s not forget the training, control and discipline it takes to even make a good pass at these shots.
Just watch any of the successful curling athletes on TV these days. Or Edwin’s at-bats this season. You’ll see the role mental and physical approach play in championship performance.
Armin Harder, the High Performance Director of the Swiss Curling Association, has announced his resignation after eight years of successful involvement with the national association.
“I have enjoyed serving the interests of SWISSCURLING and I know I am leaving with the organization in excellent shape,” said Harder. “The future of Swiss curling is as bright as the present.”
Harder served a total of eight years with SWISSCURLING; two years as a delegate, and six years as Sports Department Chief which included four years as a delegate to the World Curling Federation.
He first made waves by fighting for an open and fair (but challenging) qualification system, thus averting the plan of SWISSCURLING’s then-leaders to embrace a new selection system for the national teams. As the architect of the current system, he completely changed the elite program and introduced a major overhaul of the junior program, which required the hiring of new personnel and budget streamlining to divert more funds to development, coaching and athletes.
The results have been spectacular, as Harder leaves as the most successful High Performance leader in Switzerland’s curling history. Since 2010, a total of 25 medals have been won by SWISSCURLING teams: 14 gold, three silver and eight bronze. Furthermore, gold medals have been won across varied disciplines: Youth Olympic Games, Women’s Worlds, World Mixed Doubles, World Mixed, European Men’s and Women’s, and World Junior Men.
“Armin had a clear vision when he started and six years later we are definitely on a very good path,” said Andreas Schwaller, Head Coach for SWISSCURLING and a 2002 Olympic bronze medallist. “With our system we gave athletes transparency and encouraged them to tour, so they gained experience and became stronger. When Mirjam Ott won the worlds in 2012 and Sven Michel won the 2013 Euros, it was a big message to all Swiss teams, and it made them believe.
“It’s hard to prove, but SCA would never have reached the latest successes without Armin. He will be missed and I wish him nothing but the best.”
“I want to thank the staff at SWISSCURLING for a great eight years,” said Armin Harder. “Also particular thanks to Andi Schwaller, Al Moore and Marco Battilana, as well as my EC members in particular SCA President Louis Moser, whose leadership made all the positive changes even possible. Finally, great thanks to all the athletes, coaches and support staff I have worked with and represented so proudly over the years.”
Harder plans to consider new challenges, but expects to continue his key role with the Curling Champions Tour, which recently announced new championship events taking place in Korea and China.
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.
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.
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
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.
Lyme disease is increasing throughout the northern hemisphere. Canada reported 500 cases of it in 2014, but the expectation is that 10,000 Canadians will be infected annually by 2020. It is difficult to diagnose, which only adds to the problem, and there is pressure on governments to acknowledge that they are lagging behind in modern diagnosis and treatment programs.
Pop singer Avril Lavigne revealed her struggles with the disease earlier this year. We are here to reveal the name of another who suffers from this disease, this time from the curling world, and we are inviting you to help her out.
Stefanie Clark has won numerous Prince Edward Island championships in her career, and captured a world junior title for Canada with skip Suzanne Birt back in 2001. She has also given back to the sport numerous times, by travelling to celebrity/charity bonspiels or guiding some 600 students and teachers to experience a national championship.
Sadly, Stefanie cannot compete in curling anymore, because Lyme disease has knocked the stuffing out of her. “I wish I could play,” Stefanie told The Curling News. “It is just too hard on me. Last year, after a weekend of curling, I was done for 12 days afterward.”
While she’s determined to make her life better, Stefanie is facing a five-week treatment plan that will cost her and her family upwards of $50,000 because no government agency will help.
Guess who will? Stefanie’s supporters. They have created an online auction using Facebook, located here, where people can bid on more than 75 items and all revenues will be directed to offsetting Stefanie’s treatment.
What do you say, curling world? Will you help one of your own?
We at The Curling News are casual fans of Stephen Colbert‘s new late-night U.S. TV talk show. The veteran host recently took over from David Letterman and is finally portraying himself, and it turns out he is, in fact, oddly warped… something we first suspected from his previous right-wing political persona.
So when Colbert broke down and accepted his writing room’s determination to do something on the never-ending saga of #broomgate #brushgate #broomhaha #brushapalooza #doomandbroom misery – no doubt this past week’s New York Times feature was the last straw – we were optimistic that Colbert and his talented team would deliver.
The verdict? Meh.
In our opinion, the stampede to cliché humour was simply too much… typical, in fact, of U.S. attempts dating back to the late 1990s and early 2000s. That’s right, Stephen, your troops brought old-school corn husks to this here modern comedic battlefield.
We did appreciate the effort, however. And we rather enjoyed, in no particular order:
• The rip on everyone, including Canadian media
• Fish Soccer
• The wireless-controlled curling stone (and backstage hand)
• The shoutout to Gerry Geurts (correct spelling). Stephen is with you, Gerry…