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Curling Super Spare

Another exclusive from The Curling News, from us to you: David Nedohin is out of this weekend’s Casino Rama Skins Curling Game, and guess who is in?

The defending champion Randy Ferbey squad will have a new, very temporary fellow throwing last bricks when they take on Team Glenn Howard on Saturday (1:00pm ET, TSN). And this fellow knows Team Glenn Howard, and specifically Cliffy, very well indeed.

This fellow also knows skins curling very well. Indeed.

Recognize the face? Recognize the uniform?

(Put the two together, as our ace photog Anil Mungal has done here, and we suddenly develop a mild headache. This looks so… not right.)

Suffice to say that Ontario curling fans who are upset about missing a certain high-powered matchup at next month’s Tankard in Napanee can now head to Casino Rama on Saturday, for a very special edition of such a missing matchup.

We don’t have the details why, as of yet, but no doubt all will be explained on tonight’s all-curling Off The Record Skins Curling Special, 6:00pm ET on TSN. Hey, perhaps this fellow will even phone in to the show.

Speaking of, have you submitted your question(s) to the curlers for today’s show taping? We’ve got six stellar queries so far, but with the taping scheduled for early afternoon today, this is your last call to contribute

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No picks! No idea!

by Margo Weber
So… I didn’t make picks, aka predictions, at the beginning of the week. And I’m getting all these emails from people asking me: why not?
In short… because I didn’t fricking know! And still don’t.
This thing is a crapshoot, and I don’t envy anyone who puts their picks into the public forum: just as Jim Armstrong, Sherry Middaugh, Mike Harris and Mary Anne Arsenault did for The Curling News.
I had said in an email earlier in the week that I had good feelings about Kevin Martin and Jeff Stoughton. And on the women’s side… Shannon Kleibrink and Jennifer Jones. Seriously obvious picks so… why bother, right?

And I’m not sure why anyone cares what a self-professed couch curler thinks about the field… but I do tend to shed light on who I WANT to win; so here goes.

On the women’s side… I would love to see my girl Susan O’Connor from Team Cheryl Bernard in Vancouver. And Sasha Carter? Haha, her hilarious hairstyles would totally fit in with the international crowd… although Team Kelly Scott is now in big trouble at 1-4.
I like Team Jones… they have dominated the past few years, although they’ve been all over the place the last month, winning spiels but then failing to qualify. Their current 2-3 record leaves them in trouble, too.  I also like the Kleibrink/Amy Nixon combo and think they might be our best chance at gold, drawing on their previous experiences in Italy in ’06. And Team Stefanie Lawton seems sooooo nice!
So for the women… for me, it’s a draw.

The men? I’d love a new face to win it all. I didn’t go bold and choose Kevin Koe to win (like my friend Al Cameron did for TCN and the Calgary Herald), but I would love that! Young team, would look good for the sport. How about Randy Ferbey? That would be fun! I don’t think it’s gonna happen, but what a comeback that would be!
I’m not into the Martin thing… and as of right now I don’t think it will happen. There seems to be two Kevin Martin zones. The ‘I can do anything’ zone… and the ‘I can complain about exterior factors and let them bother me’ zone. Kevin is in the second zone. So until this changes, he ain’t gonna win.
I’ve covered Alberta… I suppose there are others… like Glenn Howard. And I’d be totally cool with the white belts going to Vancouver.

Those are my two cents. I guess I’m saying I don’t know.  But that’s okay… someone is going to win anyway.
(CCA photo of Jacquie Armstrong, left, and Sasha Carter by Michael Burns)
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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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Russ roars and so much more

Russ Howard roared, particularly on this stone (a missed draw for two in the seventh end) but to no avail, as he lost yesterday’s Bern Open finale to Norway’s Thomas Ulsrud by a 7-5 score.

The 2006 Olympic and two-time world curling champion had a 4-1 lead but watched the Norwegian 2010 Olympic hopefuls take two in the fourth end plus a big three in the sixth to assume control.

Howard previously won the event in 2007, beating Ulsrud 4-3 in the semifinal with a steal in an extra-end.

Of course, if you are following The Curling News Twitter page (aka Tweets) then you would be aware of these results, and more (check it out now for Barrie results, wheelchair curling results in Norway, and stuff about broken toes).

And on the TCN Twitpic page you can see – yes, actually see – a blow-by-blow account of the conclusion to the Bern Open semifinal between Ulsrud and Scotland’s Peter Loudon, in which Ulsrud took two in the eighth before producing the hit and roll of the tournament, in the extra-end, for the 6-4 win.

Meanwhile, in nearby Kuesnacht, a battle of 2010 Olympic women’s hopefuls took place at the Grasshopper Women’s Masters. When the smoke cleared, Germany’s Andrea Schoepp had stolen a 7-6, extra-end win over Debbie McCormick of the United States.

In London, more Olympic internationals are through to today’s playoffs of the Southwestern Ontario Women’s Cashspiel (SWOWC) along with two-time defending champion Rachel Homan of Ottawa, Sherry Middaugh, Alison Goring and others.

At Medicine Hat, the Meyers Norris Penny Charity Classic also wraps up today – for both men and women – and the first big U.S. Tour stop of the season took place in St. Paul, MN, with Thunder Bay’s Mike Pozihun bringing the title back to Canada.

[Thanks to Switzerland’s LAOLA TV curling channel and Europe’s Curling Champions Tour for the visuals]

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Time Warp Trulsen

It’s the early part of this weekend’s Tour action, but indications are that week three could prove to be quite… eventful.
First, France’s Thomas Dufour beats defending world champion David Murdoch and is now 3-0 in his pool at the Oslo Cup.

Second, the U.S. Olympic women’s team loses to 10-0 to Sherry Middaugh in opening draw action at the Sandra Schmirler Charity Curling Classic in Regina. In two ends. Take three, steal seven.

Finally, Norway’s Pal Trulsen (with Rocky Horror friends above) has reunited his now-retired 2002 Olympic champion squad for the Oslo Cup… and they are also undefeated at 3-0.

Wow. Talk about a Time Warp!

[Photoshop by Anil Mungal. Apologies from TCN.]

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Scottish Brits win Ontario Tour title

OAKVILLE, Ontario – Greg Balsdon’s 7-5 victory in the final over Rob Lobel signified a solid 2009 men’s Ontario Curling Tour Championship.

Both Greater-Toronto-Area (GTA) teams are provincial contenders, and semifinalist Wayne Middaugh is no slouch, either.

Middaugh, incidentally, lost to the Lobels – again – as has often been their head-to-head result over the past decade or so.

However, when Eve Muirhead bushwhacked Brantford’s Jo-Ann Rizzo 8-0 in just four ends to capture the women’s title (above photo by Anil Mungal), everything had seemed a bit… odd.

Not the fact that Muirhead’s highly skilled squad won the event, going 7-0 throughout the week. Just the fact that Muirhead represents the Great Britain Olympic team, who all happen to be Scottish, and who are now jetting home across the Atlantic ocean, about as far as away from Ontario, Canada as one could expect.

“We played very solid as a team,” said Muirhead, who was supported by 2002 world champion skip Jackie Lockhart, 2007 world bronze-medal skip Kelly Wood and veteran Wood front-ender Lorna Vevers.

“(Rizzo) missed a draw in the second end and that was our steal,” said the three-time world junior champion Muirhead, who nabbed four points after scoring two in the opening frame.

“We didn’t really miss a shot after that, I don’t think.”

Muirhead said she loves to come to Canada “to get in spiels like this, the opponents are quite good.

“And we’ll be back in a few months to come.”

The Olympians-to-be, who captured $5,000 for the victory, will compete in an exhibition series during the men’s Capital One Grand Slam of Curling event in Mississauga, to be followed by women’s tour events in Red Deer, Alberta and Saskatoon.

Rizzo, who earned $2,500, was as supported by U.S. skip Patti Lank (who replaced calendar girl Chrissy Cadorin), Lee Merklinger and Leigh Armstrong.

Rizzo went 3-1 in her pool before defeating Quebec’s Eve Belisle 8-3 in the quarterfinals and Thornhill’s Colleen Madonia 5-3 in the semifinal.

Muirhead had a cracker of a match in her semi, edging Hamilton’s youthful Brittney O’Neil by a 5-4 count.

On the men’s side, Balsdon earned $6,000 for the win while Lobel was consoled with $3,000.

Other men’s playoff contenders included Middaugh, Sarnia’s Jason Young, Guelph’s Rob Rumfeldt, Harriston’s Jake Higgs and Trevor Feil of Elora.

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Olympic curling season

And just like that, the 2010 Olympic curling season has begun.
After a busy summer, which saw various camps held in Ontario, Atlantic Canada, British Columbia, and Prague and Fuessen in Europe – plus the requisite summer bonspiel circuit – the ice is in and we’re underway.

The first event on the rebranded Curling Champions Tour – the former World Curling Tour Europe – is underway in Baden, Switzerland. And we can see by the Urs Raeber photo, above, that Olympic-bound Thomas Ulsrud of Norway (in white and red) has some spiffy new uniforms, while opponent Claudio Pescia of Switzerland is still wearing his four-year old green kit. Click to zoom in!

Actually, we love green, and we assume Team Pescia does too. However, the Norwegians pummelled the Swiss 10-3 to start the new Euroseason.

In other matches of note, Canada’s Brad Gushue defeated Switzerland’s Ralph Stoeckli 3-2, while Canada’s Mark Dacey was dumped 6-2 by the defending world champions from Scotland, skipped by David Murdoch.

Canada’s Randy Ferbey takes to the ice in a few minutes, against Switzerland’s Manuel Ruch.

Follow the Baden Masters 2009 results here, and be sure to check out The Curling News Facebook group for more action photos!

Why not join the group? It’s free, with a Facebook account.

In Canada, the Ontario Curling Tour Championships are also underway in Oakville, featuring both men’s and women’s draws, the latter including the Great Britain Olympic team. Eve Muirhead’s troops took out local Lynne Middaugh by an 8-3 score last night.

Another early result of interest saw Alison Goring’s brand new squad upend last year’s provincial finalists – ie. her ex-teammates, now led by Cathy Auld – by a 5-4 count. A fun bit of drawmastering from OCT chief Gerry Geurts, we surmise.

On the men’s side, four teams are 2-0 – including Joe Frans and the Lobel brothers – with Wayne Middaugh set to begin play this morning.

Game on, folks!

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CNE Curling (and Kurling)

Celebrate the Olympic Spirit is a live winter sport demo taking place at Toronto’s Canadian National Exhibition (or CNE, or “The Ex”) through September 7.
The outdoor attraction featuring interactive Olympic sport activities in Ice Hockey, Speed Skating, Figure Skating, Skiing and Biathlon and the Paralympic winter sport of Ice Sledge Hockey.

And, of course, not one but two curling offerings: Curling and Wheelchair Kurling.

In just a week, thousands of patrons have dropped in and reports say that over 500 kids are monopolizing the displays daily, while the adults cheer them on… and look for the opportunity to throw some rocks themselves!

The Wheelchair “Kurling” demo is operated by the legendary Variety Village, utilizing the same Kurling stones used in the Capital One Rocks and Rings program.

The Curling demo is operated by the Toronto Curling Association, which is obviously keen on increasing interest in GTA curling in this critical Olympic season. Curling stars Brent Laing and Sherry Middaugh were there on the opening weekend.

The CNE venture is TCA’s first of the new season, which includes the big-league, World Cup-style championship coming to Mississauga in October. Along with the demo, visitors can learn about the 20-odd clubs in the GTA, and survey particpants can win a pair of event passes for the Masters.

In the above photo, Wheelchair Kurling is in the foreground while traditional (albeit dryland) Curling can be seen in the background. We’re not sure of the make of the TCA “stones”, but they may have been salvaged from the short-lived Olympic Spirit Toronto initiative.

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Schmirler Golf 2009

THORNHILL, Ontario – The Sandra Schmirler Foundation was the big winner as another $30,000 was raised from a day of golf at Thornhill Golf & Country Club.
The seventh annual Sandra Schmirler Golf Classic, sponsored by curling boosters The Dominion and Capital One and convened by CBC curling talkie Mike Harris, saw 34 foursomes gather on what proved to be a day of spectacular (ie. rain-free) golf.

In the Anil Mungal photo at left, three-time world champion Glenn Howard takes a whack (click image to increase size).

Other celebrity golfers taking part included Wayne and Sherry Middaugh, the rest of Team Howard, Eddie “The Wrench” Werenich and long-time teammate Neil Harrison, and Marnie McBean, the four-time Olympic rowing medallist and Canadian sport legend.

McBean found herself on the winning foursome, teamed with curling’s Al Hanks, the Dominion marketing whiz; John Shea (whose firm delivers The Dominion’s comprehensive insurance program specifically tailored to curling venues) and David Beesley, the longtime sponsorship salesman for the Canadian Curling Association.

The event came four days after a Schmirler Foundation fundraising tournament in Winnipeg. Future Schmirler golf events are scheduled for Edmonton (August 6), Regina (August 13), and Halifax (September 17 & 18).

The Dominion and Capital One both sponsor dozens of curling events and teams. Major properties include The Dominion Curling Club Championship and the Capital One Grand Slam of Curling.

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Curling Camps: the HOT SHOTS

Our second posting in a series on summer curling camps focusses on the original “Fantasy” camp which has since dropped the moniker: the HOT SHOTS.

Now in it’s 15th year, the HOT SHOTS Curling Camp was the first camp to pioneer the “fantasy” concept of pairing high-performance elite competitors with the participants, who of course range anwhere from brand-new rookie to pretty accomplished competitive player (and all points in between).

The subtle name change has, in the words of veteran camp director David Gravelle, come about because “you the curlers, have demanded more from us. And, we’ve delivered.

“We’ve moved away from the celebrity participation to bring you more intense curriculum with highly qualified instructors and some of the top national and international coaches.

“This transformation has been a natural and gradual evolution of our sport with increased participation in the game but the lack of qualified instruction to keep our new curlers progressing on the path to increased enjoyment of this great game.”

There are three HOT SHOTS Curling Camps running this summer-slash-fall, and there are limited spaces available at all three.

First up is the traditional home of the HOT SHOTS, the Oakville Curling Club in Oakville, Ontario (one half-hour west of Toronto) on August 28-20. The second camp is on Ottawa, Ontario at the RA Centre on October 2-4, and the final camp is in the United States for the second consecutive year. The Utica Curling Club in Utica, New York is one of the oldest curling clubs in the USA and it hosts the HOT SHOTS from October 16-18.

Click here for the camp website and here for the registration page.

Anything else going on? But… of course…

• Those crazy Kiwis are working to launch another season of outdoor curling at Naseby, following a $200,000 rink upgrade

• Here’s a report on the recent Rocky Top Bonspiel held in Knoxville, Tenessee …

Joel Retournaz – that Italian Olympic hero from three-plus years ago – is back with a new youthful team, ie. an “ambitious project: …

• PEI’s world junior runner-up Brett Gallant has picked up two local awards

• CTV News says the Banff curling rink is being torn down and a new facility is scheduled to open in late 2010 …

• Can you guess the name of the influential curling coach who dropped this zinger on us recently…?

“I must talk far too much. Dean Gemmel put my interview into two parts.”

It’s Quebec’s Dan Rafael, of course, who is the head coach of the Chinese national curling team program. Indeed, he has a two-part show posted to The Curling Show and the occasionally blunt Canadian is always a good interview. You can listen to part one here, and we can direct you to part two here.

Rafael, by the way, has been in China for a couple of weeks already, as this is officially the start of the 2010 competitive season (say what?). Fresh from Beijing and then Harbin, Rafael is now in Qinhuangdao and will train with the teams until the inaugural New Zealand Winter Games in August. After that, Teams China head to Canada for September, October and part of November until the Pacific Curing Championships in Karuizawa, Japan …

• And finally, there is movement within the foundations of the World Curling Players’ Association. At last.

Nominations for new board positions have closed and several new board members have been acclaimed. Now representing women on the WCPA are Calgary’s Heather Rankin and Ontario’s Sherry Middaugh, while Europe’s single position has gone to Switzerland’s Simon Struebin, who throws lead pucks for front-running Olympic hopeful Ralph Stoeckli.

Voting will decide the men’s reps. Vying for a seat at the table are the following:

• Quebec’s Pierre Charette (currently Interim President)
• Vancouver’s Brent Pierce (a former WCPA regional rep)
Scott Pfeifer, second man for Team Randy Ferbey
Craig Savill, the Team Glenn Howard lead
Garth Smith, who is Kerry Burtnyk’s opening rocker
Nolan Thiessen, yet another leadman who plays for Kevin Koe.

The United States’ position features a pair of nominees, with John Benton taking on Bill Todhunter.

The new WCPA Board will consist of eight elected members, with a minimum five positions reserved for Canadian representatives. The group of five Canadian representatives will feature three male and two female members.

Read all about the nominees, their positions and the URL to go to to vote at this link