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Opening Weekend

Aaaaargh. Our eyes!

The 2011 curling season, if you haven’t noticed, is now underway.

In some ways, that glorious 2010 Olympic season never really ended. After the various world championships wrapped up in early May, the European summer spiels took place… followed by various World Curling Federation camps and clinics… then the regular winter season for Australia and New Zealand, as well as various U.S. summer recreation leagues.

Followed by Canadian summer camps, spiels and leagues… the Great Brazilian Curling Adventure™ right here on this blog (of course)… and now, the “official” fall season.

And there’s lots to watch, too. On Thursday night, CurlingZone launched online webstreamed coverage of the Ontario Curling Tour Championships in Oakville, Ontario utilizing the UStream platform. That first recorded game is archived here, and their live channel coverage (including a chat board) can be found here.

Just a few hours later, on Friday morning in Switzerland, the Baden Masters event kicked off Europe’s Curling Champions Tour. And by the time folks on Canada’s west coast had gone to bed, the new Brad Gushue/Randy Ferbey combination had won their first game of the season, 8-7 over Switzerland’s Dominik Maerki (the Swiss held leads of 3-0 and 5-2 early on).

The second round of play sees Norway’s Thomas Ulsrud taking on Russia’s Andrey Drozdov, with the Olympic silver medallists displaying new lime-green pants worthy of their Loudmouth Golf sponsorship (screen shot above). At this time of writing the match was being streamed live on LAOLA1.tv, with the Russians holding a 3-1 lead after five ends of play.

Some 10 matches will be streamed online during the tournament, including all pre-playoff games scheduled on sheet two. So there you go.

Want more curling, all the time? Make sure you follow The Curling News Twitter feed, with daily postings on The Roaring Game. There was no summer vacation there, trust us!

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Big bucks for Sick Kids

Toronto Cricket Skating and Curling Club played host

TORONTO – They came, they curled (and played golf, tennis and croquet) and now they’ve departed… and the SickKids Foundation is a lot richer for it.

24 celebrity curling skips joined 72 other curlers/fundraisers and, together with a fine collection of event sponsors, raised over $65,000 for charity at the Capital One Celebrity Bonspiel in support of SickKids Foundation.

Not bad for a first-time event, which had an initial hope of some $30,000 in monies raised.

“We are delighted with the response from the participants and our sponsors,” said co-chair Jeff Steski. “We were also pleased to announce the return of the event next year, on June 3-4, 2011.”

Capital One marketing honcho Ian Cunningham confirmed his company’s continued support next season.

“We’ve been involved in the sport for three full years now,” said Cunningham. “And one thing that continues to impress us is the people.

“Curlers and curling fans are fantastic, they love to give their time and effort for great causes and we love to work with them.”

Funny? You should see the pics before this one

What turned into a multi-sport weekend in T.O. finally ended when Laura Crocker’s team upended L’Equipe Brenda Nicholls (funny photo at left) to capture the title. The second event went to the Glenn Howard foursome, while Geri-Lynn Ramsay and friends earned third event honours.

In the Odyssey White Ice Challenge, event qualifiers attempted to putt a golf ball down a sheet of ice into a carved-out button. 2006 Olympic champion Brad Gushue came closest, stopping the ball directly on the tee line… albeit in the 12-foot rings.

In addition to major sponsors Capital One, The Dominion and Callaway Golf, the event was supported by Campbell’s, iShares, Mackenzie Investments, Bruno’s Fine Foods, DELSO Group of Companies and Paulin, plus a host of team sponsors, including The Curling News.

As U.K. Olympic ice queen Eve Muirhead declared, “It’s for the kids!” And it certainly was.

[The Curling News images by Anil Mungal. Click on an image to increase size. See event website later today for additional images]

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The Olympians are coming

EDMONTON – Oh, the stories they’ll tell.

The Olympians are coming. No, not the handful of medallists among the competitors at the Roar of the Rings, which starts Sunday… they will soon be the stars of the show, as we all know.

We’re talking about the members of teams Sandra Schmirler – minus one, sadly,  of course – and Mike Harris (Karuizawa, 1998)… and teams Kevin Martin (incl. the two Dons) and Kelley Law (Ogden, 2002)… and even a couple of bodies from teams Kleibrink and Howard-slash-Gushue, from Pinerolo, 2006.

The Canadian Curling Association is flying them in for the opening weekend, which starts tonight with the Opening Banquet; continues Saturday with opening night At The Patch; and peaks with the start of play on Sunday, with the Opening Ceremonies and appearances in the Keith’s Patch for some interactive “Up Close and Personal” sessions.

Good on the CCA for celebrating its Olympic Trials past, and welcome to The Roaring Game’s heavy medallists.

And the stories they’ll tell!

Missing out on Edmonton? Sure, TSN TV – in High-Definition all week, for free – will help make up for it, but there really is no substitute for watching the games live in person. In our humble opinion.

As for these Olympic stories, rest assured that The Curling News will take care of you… be your fly on the wall… through this here TCN Blog, and/or through the @curling Twitter feed, and/or via the post-Trials January issue, in our popular They Said It department.

And also through the lateral efforts of our commander-in-chief, The Curling Guru, who also writes a weekly Sun Media column.

All we ask in return is for you to subscribe to The Curling News, which is delivered six times per annum to your door in a protective polybag, via first-class mail. Please support us in our quest to provide the ultimate in essential curling news and information, across multiple media platforms.

We guarantee different content in all these deliverables mentioned, and your patronage will help us consolidate our position as number one in the curling media world.

And those who give the gift of The Curling News, aka subscribe a friend or family member over the next couple of weeks – say by December 18 – will see that recipient receive a gift card notice in time for the holidays, explaining your gift.

Tomorrow, later in the day, another TCN expert gives her Trials predictions, in addition to those four who have already seen their fearless forcasts appear in the December issue – world wheelchair champion and six-time Brier skip Jim Armstrong; TCN columnist and Calgary Herald curling wizard Allen Cameron; CBC talkie and Olympian Mike Harris; and four-time bronzed STOH skip Sherry Middaugh.

That’s a fifth expert, tomorrow, right here on the blog.

Sunday, just prior to the opening ceremonies, ace blogstar Margo Weber weighs in  with her first of many Trials postings. You remember Madge, and her partner Dalene Heck, blogging from last March’s Tim Hortons Brier in Calgary, right? (use search box at top left)

We’ll have lots from Margo, and some other surprise blogstars, throughout the week here in Edmonton.

And we do it all for curling. We simply love curling, and we know you do, too. Thanks again for your support, folks.

POSTSCRIPT: Have you been following our tweets? If not, make way and follow, because you have missed the following:

Jennifer Jones, Glenn Howard first to arrive
Randy Ferbey’s alternates anger; Glenn says relax
• Will the Mythbusters blow up a curling stone? Vote for it…
• Trials predictions: what does the math say?
• Another curling calendar gal takes it off (NSFW/age warning)
• Canadian provincial playdowns in high gear this weekend
• Mammoth European championships ready in Aberdeen
• Geez, this guy seriously dislikes The Ferb
Hec Gervais, St. Albert native, would have been proud
• World Curling Tour event results and wrapups
• Ferbey credited with finding new CCA/WCF sponsor
• Curling meets Tailgating in Green Bay Packerland

… and more!

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What’s the difference?

Q: What’s the difference between an Olympic curling year and any other curling year?

A: Media. media. media.

Curlers in San Jose, California managed to get NFL football player Vernon Davis out onto the curling ice earlier this month, and in any other year, the story would have run in local media only. Perhaps with a photo.

We know this because various celebs have tried curling in the past couple of years… and we’ve promoted their experience, right here at The Curling News. Us, and local media where the experience took place.

However, with Vancouver 2010 less than three months away this story has exploded in this viral media universe, complete with video and multiple still pics.

Example: between 9:00am and 9:30am eastern time this morning, no less than 45 media outlets had posted the story online, and the counter was still running.

May we suggest more of these kinds of promotional efforts, from now until Games time. The recipe is simple: grab celeb; apply to ice; write and film.

Rinse and repeat.

Did you miss The Curling News Blog? This may be our first post since last Thursday, but there’s been lots to follow on our Twitter feed. Such as:

Rizzo beats Kleibrink for 11K; McEwen wins on a measure
Glenn Howard, Mike Harris and “Buttons” open The Dominion Curling Club Championship tonight
• When will they curl on Vancouver’s super-cool new/old city rink?
Wayne Middaugh would like to set the record straight:
• Canada loses to Japan at Vancouver wheelchair curling exhibition
• You can follow the Olympic Torch journey online
• No tolls on Team Gushue highway
• 30K raised in little Carmen
Kevin Martin moves into top spot on Tour money list
• The Daceys are off to Chelyabinsk, Russia
• Vernon, BC gets a Grand Slam
• TSN HD channel available free during Olympic Trials

And so very much more. Click on “Follow” at the top left of this page

[Photo by Associated Press]

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Olympic Trials to Edmonton

by Jill Officer

WINNIPEG – It’s finally official. The Canadian Curling Association announced today that Edmonton will host the 2009 the Tim Hortons Canadian (Olympic) Curling Trials at Rexall Place, December 6-13, 2009 at the 15,000-seat arena.

The CCA also announced that the pre-trials qualifier – the last chance for those teams that haven’t earned a direct Trials berth – will be held in Prince George, British Columbia in November of 2009. The dates have only been tentatively set for this event.

The format for the Trials will be an eight-team round robin with only three teams making the playoff round, unlike the usual four-team page-playoff that you see at all of our national championships. Moreover, the Trials used to feature 10 men’s and women’s teams, but that’s been chopped down to eight.

And for the pre-trials qualifier, it will be a triple-knockout: the A and B winners and C finalists will all qualify for the Trials in Edmonton.

Back to the Brier and the on-ice action!

British Columbia’s Bob Ursel defeated Olympic Gold Medallist and 2007 Brier finalist Brad Gushue of Newfoundland this morning in a tiebreaker. So that sets up our first round of playoffs… they’re in the first end right now, with B.C. taking on Ontario’s Glenn Howard in the 3 vs 4 playoff game. This is also a sudden-death match that could eliminate the defending champs if the Lotuslanders – who are now 8-1 after a poor start to the Brier – have anything to say about it.

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Brier Blog stars an Officer

Where, oh where, are we supposed to start?

It’s the Brier, the Canadian men’s curling championship. And there is just so much out there to surf to, consult, read up on, etc. And, of course, to watch on either TV or your computer.

We can’t cover everything, but we will point you in a few directions. Then, we’ll wrap up some other curling stuff, and finish with our famous curling linkfest.

Item one: Jill Officer. The all-star second and Ford Hot Shots champion – not to forget 2008 Canadian women’s champion – can now throw a rock with her eyes closed (Kruger products photo by Andrew Klaver, above). That’s how easy the sport has become for this Sport Canada carded athlete. Just say “oooohhmmm”, open your hand, and be the rock. Oh yes, yogi, it’s that easy.

Now Jill will take a break from Ford Worlds preparations and staff the official Curling News-desk at the Brier media bench, blogging daily, right here, for one and all to read. She’s also writing an occasional column for the Winnipeg Sun (see points to follow) and ensuring the stacks of TCNs are on display in the Patch, Purple Heart Lounge, et cetera. Oh, and you might see this budding photographer out on the carpet, too, snapping some still images of her male counterparts. Naturally, the TCN servers will explode as viewers click here often to see how many of Jill’s favourite butt shots make these pages. Oh, behave!

So there you go. The Curling News Blog becomes Jill’s official playpen, starting tomorrow. Check back often.

Now, for those two Winnipeg newspapers, the Freep and the Sun. These guys will both go wall-to-wall over the next nine days, and while the Freep’s Brier portal just plain looks better than the Sun’s aging appearance, the Freepies are also boasting of AM draw coverage streamed live from their website. But then again, both CurlTV and CBC Sports Online are doing that, too.
Oh, and TSN.ca, too … after their live TV games you’ll be able to call up any games you missed online.

Like we said… where to start?

We’ve also decided to cut through the chaff and spotlight some cool Brier pre-stories, just for you. And they are:

This feature on Manitoba’s quiet second, and the incident which drives him

This look at curling’s true Odd Couple;

This peek at curling’s Gambling Man;

– This mention that the fifth-end break of the semifinal – on the afternoon of March 15 – will feature a tribute to the big three of curling journalism, who all passed away in the last eight months: Don Wittman, Don Chevrier and TCN’s own Doug Maxwell. Don’t miss it.

– And finally, can it be true that TCN’s own Matt Hames was the only person to notice that the ice at the Scotties featured the brand new World Curling Federation expanded ice size of 15’7” (up from 14’2”)? We think so, and hold on to your seats folks, because the Brier features the same expanded ice, too.

And now, for your linkfest …

• DID YOU KNOW: that Canada’s William Dion finished first in the round-robin at the World Juniors, while Kaitlyn Lawes’ Canadian women are down 6-3 to Denmark midway through their tiebreaking match?

• DID YOU KNOW II: that the World Junior semis and finals are available on Curlingkanalen (which is Swedish for Curling Maniacs) and also on Eurosport’s Swedish website? The news is here

• DID YOU KNOW III: that Kevin Koe has next year’s bye to the Alberta provincial? His squad is now thinking about a trip to Perth, Scotland next January for the big Masters cashspiel …

• Scotland’s Michael McCreadie plans to be back

• Stranraer is rejoicing over two of their own

• Teflon sandals? Vinyl brushes? Enthusiasm? You bet

• Wow, these folks are organizing themselves early …

• And these guys, too

Dave curled in Finland the other day… maybe he’ll drop by Vierumaki tomorrow?

Catester is quite peeved over the ridiculous slights to Colleen Jones and Kelly Scott

Here’s John Gushue, from St. John’s. And what are the chances there’s no relation?

• Was this truly the shot of a lifetime?

• Dude, you need a little more rotation on your throws …

More pricing in Moose Jaw… will they ever see the finish line?

Ken Peterson went curling in… Korea!

• A nifty curling graphic from SINC located here: topical as many a curling fan shall be dining in front of the TV in the coming days!

• DID YOU KNOW IV: that 2002 Olympic champion Rhona Martin appeared before a special Scottish sport participation committee inquiry last week (here and also here)? Here’s the wrap-up, but you can apparently view the proceeds online, too …

• And finally, it looks like we forgot about our Ithaca friends and their glorious championship, held in late December. News story here, and a plea from the ARSI for Olympic status in 2010 located here.

Our apologies …

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Here in the Hat

MEDICINE HAT – We’re here in the Hat, for their second Con Cup hosting in the past four years.

This one is the rubber match, with North America and Europe tied at two Cup wins each.

Yes, the NA’s look all-powerful on paper, and well-rested, while the Euros are tired. They just got in from Füssen, which is literally their biggest event of the season. Key players are missing, like Uli Kapp… and Euro champion skip David Murdoch even has a Swede, Niklas Edin, playing third for him.

Mixed Doubles was fun to watch, and as the WCF reports here, it was fun to play, too. At least for Russia’s Liudmila Privivkova and new Mixed Dubs teammate Murdoch (standing), although they did lose to NA’s Jennifer Jones (holding the brush) and Bill Todhunter. This CCA photo is courtesy of Michael Burns, BTW.

Latest results from this afternoon saw Privivkova upset Jones 6-5, Deb McCormick smack Angelina Jensen 11-3, and Kelly Scott avenge yesterday’s loss to Kelly Wood by a 5-4 count.

North America currently holds a 48-24 lead. The winning team is the first to get to 201 or more points.

Allen Cameron is here, naturally, and is doing a bang-up job on his blog, which now sees him toting a camcorder around to add a new video angle to things.

Anything else?

• Wanna design the Vancouver 2010 medals? Why not?

ConMan is braying for Edmonton to host Canada’s 2009 Olympic Trials, but it’s gonna be a battle… meanwhile, he also previews this weekend’s women’s Canada Cup Qualifier here

Joe Pavia has a neat report in from Ottawa’s men’s Canada Cup Qualifier, including the news that The Gushues are being followed around by the Rainbow Rockers. Here’s another report, too …

• The latest webisode of Mike HarrisCapital One Curlers Corner is online now, and the show just keeps getting better and better. And not just because of The Curling News references…!

Dan says we must vote for curling. We agree with Dan!

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Couples wins!

RAMA – Couples wins!

In the pre-game, Wayne Middaugh called himself the Fred Couples of the Casino Rama Skins, meaning organizers invite him to Skins games regardless of his current curling record. Still, he’s proven he deserved the invite by defeating Glenn Howard in the first semi-final.

The picks helped.

Three picks in all. The first came on both of Glenn’s rocks in the sixth. That gave Middaugh a skin. Then Glenn’s first rock in seven picked, leaving a tough straight-back double for the skin. It was a makeable shot, but after three straight picks, Howard was shaken.

It’s new ice, and a new carpet, too. The rug was put down a few days ago after a Rita McNeil concert.

Perhaps Brad Gushue was being prophetic. The first part of his prediction has come through. Now he simply has to beat K-Mart.

This game had another interesting anomaly. More guys on the ice lift the rock in their backswing than don’t.

Glenn Howard, Richard Hart and Ian Tetley lift on every shot. Jon Mead and Wayne Middaugh lift on hits. Scott Bailey, and Brent and Craig don’t lift.

But if you’re counting, that’s five lifters versus five no-lifters. And these days, it’s not often you see that.

You won’t at tonight’s second semi-final game. Both skips are no-lifters. In fact, Martin is one of the most famous of the no-lifters, given his shocking ability to throw massive hit weight with mere leg drive.

Enjoy it while it lasts. Because we think it will be a rarity to see more lifters than no-lifters.

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Forgetting

RAMA – They just did a little feature about Wayne Middaugh between ends.

Wayne has the most TSN Skins Game experience of anyone in the field. Anyway, in what appears to be a line he might regret, Skins rookie Brad Gushue said that he is looking forward to playing Wayne at this Skins game.

We overheard Craig Savill give a chuckle at Gushue’s line. He, of course, has something to say about who plays tomorrow.

We’re not sure if Kevin Martin heard Gushue’s comments, but his front end sure did. They’re sitting in the stands scouting the game. Why is it always the front end that has to sit in the cold and scout?

Anyway, you don’t see Wayne miss too many out-turn peels. Give him an out-turn center line ripper and he’ll make it nine times out of 10. Maybe 99 times out of 100. This, however, was one time he missed, giving Howard a steal of one in the fourth end. It was an end that Middaugh controlled from the get-go.

We think he’s still thinking about it.

There’s a chance that Wayne will come back and win this game. Ends six, seven and eight are where the money is. However, to win, Wayne is going to have to forget.

And that isn’t easy.

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Casino Rama Skins: Preview

by Matt Hames

RAMA, ON – When you’re watching the TSN Skins game, you’ll be watching an ongoing debate unfold.

A few years ago, Kevin Martin famously gave up a steal, on purpose, to Jeff Stoughton in order to get last rock in the last end. That was in the days of the three-rock rule.

In fact, we’ve seen him do this a couple of times. The last time he tried it, I think his effort went for naught.

Anyway, I forget how many times he’s tried it.

Kevin forgets stuff, too. Like when he brought out the corn broom, not once but twice, at the 1991 Safeway Worlds in Winnipeg. Kevin forgot all about that on yesterday’s TSN talk show Off The Record which pitted the four Skins skips – KMart, Glenn Howard, Wayne Middaugh, Glenn Howard and Brad Gushue – in the debating pit (photo courtesy TSN). Wayner called KMart on it, and KMart said nothing. Did you see that? No? Then go here and watch it… look for the EVENTS tab/link. Wow.

Four of the best teams in the world will, starting tomorrow, help us answer this question: would you rather be up one coming home without, or down one coming home with last rock?

The Skins Game is really just the last end played over and over. If you have the hammer, you need two. If you don’t, you need to steal. Essentially the situation in the last end of a one-point game.

The BDO Black Book of Curling says the odds favor the team up one with. But I think we’re all still working out how to play the last end. In a non-skins match, the team up one without last rock throws it top four foot. If the team that needs two wants to generate offense, they need to throw a guard. In doing so, they leave the team that went first with a free guard on the possible steal point.

I know. It’s all so technical. But I can’t wait to see how the team without the hammer plays the end. I suspect they’ll just throw a center guard and get with it. But, they do have some options. And in thinking about the options, they’ll let us know if they like the hammer, or if they don’t.

Anyway, I’ll be there, blogging live right here at The Curling News Blog, with ace TCN photographer Anil Mungal alongside. That means you need to watch it on the telly and also keep a free hand on your computer. It’s going to be fun, so hit “Refresh” often.

I’m off to play some blackjack; we’ll see you here tomorrow. And the TSN show will be on High-Definition TV, a North American curling first …