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Curling Corn Maze

Guess what?
Kevin Martin’s Corn Maze has been open since August 1.

Yup… a curling corn maze. Now you too can get lost inside Kevin Martin, which is precisely what so many curling fans were doing, quite loudly, back in April at the Ford Worlds in Moncton.

Incidentally, if you’ve never seen KMart’s exclusive sit down-and-telestrate-what-the-heck-he-was-thinking, head over to the curling page and click on “April 19: Kevin Martin Explains What Happened at the Worlds”.

Meanwhile, the official Corn Maze website is located here, and you can also follow the official Edmonton Corn Maze Twitter account, which features such gems as this one from August 8: “Never before have I been outwitted by a vegetable.”

Naturally, this is all part of the advance promo for the Olympic Trials – er, sorry, the 2009 Tim Hortons Roar of the Rings – which gets underway in Edmonton on December 6, and which has a website conveniently located here.

Thanks to make-it-known for the email notice. We had previously spotted your blogpost, but had filed it away for a rainy day. And we’ve had a few of those this summer…

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Olympic curling tickets part II

Tomorrow morning some 200,000 “new” tickets to the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games will go on sale… for Canadians-only, we believe. Curling tickets are included.

This story from the Vancouver Sun tells the tale… and also includes news of the ticket design, which was released yesterday. In this Canadian Press photo shown above, mascot Qatchi (left) holds the ticket designs for Curling and Ice Hockey.

That’s mascot Sumi on the right, in case you didn’t know.

Here’s the official VANOC release regarding the ticket designs.

More for a Friday:

• Do you watch the U.S. reality TV show The Bachelorette? The current wanting woman is a Canadian, Jillian Harris, and in this coming Monday night’s episode (June 8 on ABC) she takes her wanting womanizers back home to Vancouver, and an appearance on the ice at the Marpole Curling Club.

Here’s the show website, where you can view a sneak preview of the expected on-ice ridiculousness. You can also see the two-minute preview here, and a story on the Vancouver episode, plus a photo of Harris, is located here.

In addition, there’s this Vancouver Sun blogpost telling how the producers couldn’t use the Olympic curling facility for the show, although they tried …

• As reported earlier this week, five high-school sports – including curling – were on the chopping block yesterday, but all five have been since been spared the axe

• Also reported recently, the Cactus Pheasant Classic WCT event in Brooks, Alberta may have lost their title sponsor… but the city of Brooks just voted to kick in a $20,000 grant to support this fall’s event …

• 2006 U.S. Olympic bronze-winning curler Joe Polo will be marching alongside those Kalamazoo, Michigan curling fanatics at the annual Doo-Dah parade today.

You remember this Doo-Dah story from Ohio last year, right?

• One representative from each of the 32 teams competing in either this fall’s pre-Olympic Trials qualifier or the Trials themselves are on their way to Vancouver this weekend for a CCA-hosted orientation.

The reps will be advised on what to expect in terms of the competitions, the media, and how to prepare now to represent Canada at Vancouver 2010.

Word is that most teams are sending their coaches, but we have heard of a couple of skips who are attending on behalf of their teams: Manitoba young gunners Jason Gunnlaugson and Mike McEwen.

The full list of 32 teams can be found here

• The 2009 Australian Championships are underway in Dunedin, New Zealand today with the finals slated for Sunday. You can follow results via the Aussie Curling Blog

• The Huntsville Curling Club, located in the prime cottage country north of Toronto, wants a new building (who doesn’t?) …

• The Moncton Coliseum, host of the recent Ford Worlds, has been ripped in the local media – again – for its inadequacies …

• And final, thanks to C. Fraser and the Canadian Fermentation blog for using amoebas to explain curling for the uninitiated. In other words, thanks for providing a serious head-shake on a Friday morning!

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Curling Print: the Ferbey Four

So, Randy Ferbey and his troops went back to the future with their absolutely enormous win over Glenn Howard in the final of the Grey Power Players’ Championship.

Actually, it’s been quite a season for the Ferbs.

Their increasingly desperate search for that elusive spot in December’s Olympic Trials saw them travel the country at a frenetic pace, with Ferbey and lead Rocque Marcel competing, at one point, for 10 weekends in a row prior to Christmas.

Then there was the big win at the Casino Rama Skins Game in January, which featured the Ferb’s first win over arch rival Kevin Martin in some 10 or so attempts.

Then came their second straight series of three losses, all to KMart, to lose the Alberta Tankard championship. Off Martin went, to his fourth consecutive Brier.

After licking their wounds, the squad travelled to Bear Mountain – played some golf, threw some rocks – and started gearing up for the Players’ Championship.

And the rest, they say, is history. Or in the case of the Ferbey Four, the chance to rewrite history, come December.

All of this adds value to a special collectible artwork print the Ferbs have for sale, by artist Janet Deane (above, click to zoom in). Yes indeed, the Olympic Dream is alive and well.

Fans can select a limited edition Giclee framed print in two sizes, either 22×35 or 14×22.

Order through this website.

Elsewhere in this world of curling… which is still very much active, by the way…

• The World Mixed Doubles are into the playoffs in gorgeous Cortina D’Ampezzo in the mountains of Italy, and there is tons of stories and pics available front and centre at the WCF website.

. At this time of writing, Hungary has emerged through two sets of tiebreakers to take on Finland, and the winner plays undefeated Canada in one semifinal. China and defending champions Switzerland are in the other semi.

Canadian competitor Sean Grassie is a budding journalist – as we explained during the Canadian Mixed – and Grassie is once again writing a column on his experiences for his hometown Winnipeg Sun. You can find his thoughts, in order, located here, then here, then here, and from today

• And let’s not forget the World Seniors, underway tomorrow in equally gorgeous New Zealand …

• DID YOU KNOW: that a car blog – of all things – got in on the Ford Worlds excitement in Moncton, with two postings, here and here? Well, okay, now you do.

• Speaking of Moncton, Swiss third Jan Hauser, who ranked in the top 5 of the TCN Blog’s “Ford World Hotties” competition, seems to have his very own, er, dedicated fan

• Seems that after saying something rather forceful about Scotland, Cary was forced to eat some crow

• And Canadians should eat crow. Not only did the Lockerbie four win three in a row against the red and white, the hosts then proceeded to play the wrong national anthem… a point we have previously noted, and which gets some (fortunately) good-natured Scottish griping here

• Yes, it was a victorious return for the Scots, and good ol’ Bob was there, too …

• WCF President Les Harrison sent in this letter of thanks to his hometown newspaper …

• It’s finally happened. Osama Bin Laden has appeared in a curling spoof.
Funny yes, or funny no?

• DID YOU KNOW II: that amid the hullaballoo over KMart throwing his world championship away, the Old Bear did it again, at the Players’ Championship?

• Curling has got Jackie going ARRGGHH. We know the feeling …

• And finally, poor Aaron. His curling debut was total FUBAR

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Ford World Curling: Farewell

MONCTON – The Moncton Coliseum was full to the rafters Sunday night, and I was able to witness a rather amazing 50th anniversary men’s world championship final.

From my part, I’d like to thank gk for the opportunity to blog from this event. It was a blast!

Kudos for Moncton for the organization: everyone here ensured that the event is a success. Even the nightlife of a relatively small city offered plenty of entertainment throughout the week and I must tell you, those long nights are starting to show.

To quote the three-year-old daughter of a Finnish curling legend: “Mommy… Daddy smells like curling again!”

Thankfully, I’ve got no spouse nor kids waiting at home.

In addition to sleep deprivation and liver poisoning, I will go home with plenty of memories and new friends. After seeing a major curling event in Canada, I’m definitely tempted to come and check out another… perhaps next year’s Tim Hortons Brier in Halifax?

While I was disappointed for my brother Kalle (with me in the photo) and the Finnish team, I know they enjoyed themselves, from the moment they started their training camp in nearby Amherst, Nova Scotia to the final round of drink tokens in Sunday night’s Keith’s Patch.

And now that the week is over, it is also time to announce the winner of our “Hottest Player of Worlds 2009” vote.

Although I felt like an utter and complete bimbo for organizing it, the people in Moncton seemed to enjoy a bit of cheeky fun… and even the local media was happy to feature it to emphasize a different aspect of these big curling events.

When choosing my list of candidates, I consulted the media guys who were happy to help, once they had gotten the “I’m not gay, don’t ask me!” out of their system.

In addition to the voting possibility here at the blog – check out the first six candidates (and comments) here, and the final six candidates here – there was a paper vote available at the arena, and hundreds of ballots were cast.

For starters, all 12 nominated players received votes so there truly is an abundance of hot men in this game!

Also, three other gentlemen outside of our vote had caught the eye of the female spectators, and are nited for the record: Switzerland’s Markus Eggler, French front-ender Jan Ducroz and Scottish third Ewan MacDonald.

The result of the balloting went down to the wire. The difference between the winner and the player who came second was only two votes and our top two hotties hogged more than half of all the votes for themselves.

Ladies and gentlemen, here is your Top 5:

1. Thomas Ulsrud (Norway)
2. John Morris (Canada)
3. David Murdoch (Scotland)
4. Andreas Lang (Germany)
5. Tied: Thomas Dufour (France), Jan Hauser (Switzerand) and Jiri Snitil (Czech Republic).

Thank you Moncton… and farewell!

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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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Ford World Curling: Eggi

by Katja Kiiskinen

(Click on images to increase viewing size)

MONCTON – gk told me about this story; I think it’s very cool. So here it is for you.
As the World Curling Federation website revealed yesterday, another milestone (after Burnsie’s 50th at the 50th) was reached by Switzerland’s Markus Eggler, the 1992 world champion who took over skip duties here in Moncton midway through the event.
Switzerland’s semifinal loss to Canada marked Eggler’s 125th career appearance in a Swiss uniform, which encompasses four competitions: World Juniors, European Championships, World Championships and the Olympic Winter Games. This is a Swiss curling record.

The black and white pic is taken from Dartmouth, way back in 1986. It was the first-ever World appearance for both Eggler (crouching at right) and, lo and behold, another young stallion named Kevin Martin (top left).

Obviously, the colour pic was taken last night. Both images are credited to Michael Burns. Montage courtesy Anil Mungal. Click to zoom in.

The brief story about their friendship, which also extends between Eggler and Martin’s father, Ab, is really what curling is all about.

Congratulations Markus!

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Ford World Curling: The Final

by Katja Kiiskinen

MONCTON – Since I have now successfully dodged the subject of the actual curlingcompetition for the entire week thus far, it might be time to bring it up.

For the first five days of the competition it was Canada versus The Rest of The World.

Team Martin had no problem reading the ice (which was at times a bit tricky) and they were making every shot. With the exception of their Germany game on Monday, Canada seemed to have every game won in the first five ends.

Still, their first loss was coming all week and some might suggest that Canada’s loss in that last draw against Scotland was the worst possible timing.

When you’re finally challenged and beaten after a week of “easy” games, suddenly adjusting your mental approach to the game takes some effort.

And lots more effort if you then find yourself with two losses in a row.

For the rest of the teams who still had a chance to make it in the top four, it was time to buy some beers for the David Murdoch’s Scottish boys.

Team Kevin Martin definitely knows how to win, but once Scotland had them by the throat on Thursday, we could actually see an inkling of uncertainty in the hometown team’s performance.

Then, in Friday’s playoff (CCA photo by Michael Burns) we saw more than just an inkling. And I can’t blame them – in front of this crowd, losing can seem like a scary prospect. The “Go Canada Go!” cheers we heard here on Friday sounded like they were almost demanding their boys to step up their game.

At the beginning of the week, if you had asked me who would win this thing, I would not have hesitated to say Canada, even though Scotland and Norway were also standout squads. Despite a couple of losses, Scotland and Norway were both performing consistently and seemed like sure candidates for the top four, and the ones to challenge Canada.

However, after having the courage to mix it up, Russ Howard’s Team Switzerland found the confidence and started improving their play, game by game, and became part of the equation.

After a much more convincing performance, Canada will be part of the final after all.

For me, this week has clearly shown the importance of a team’s mental strength and willpower. The body language and commitment of Team Martin tonight was miles away from what we saw yesterday against Scotland. They have been able to pull it together.

Still, if you ask me now, I think Scotland is no longer merely a contender. Because they were able to shake the ground under Canada, it will be an even, and hopefully entertaining, championship final tomorrow, and the pressure is definitely on Canada.

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Ford World Curling: Men in Pink

by Katja Kiiskinen

Just in case you were wondering, I do realize that so far three of six Moncton Worlds stories on this blog deal somehow with men or their underwear.

However, there is one more “underwear story” I just have to write about. Then I’ll focus on something else. I promise.

When you’re sitting on the media bench for 12 hours a day you notice pretty much everything that’s going on. One thing that has had the media types and the players wondering are the pink belts that the Norwegian team is wearing.

Here is some of the speculation I’ve heard during the week. Note, they’re all said with nothing but love and admiration (even if not all of them may appear so) and they run from the sweetest to the rudest:

1. They’re doing it to support a cause, like breast cancer research

2. They’re wearing them as a fashion statement, like the Glenn Howard team with their white belts and matching shoes

3. Because Canadian girls just looooove the colour pink…

4. They’re all pretending to come out of the closet simultaneously so that they wouldn’t have so many girls chasing them

5. They’re all coming out of the closet simultaneously.

The real reason, according to Team Norway second Christoffer Svae (photo above) is just this. To make people wonder about such things, when in fact there is no particular reason.

So, in your face. Um, literally.

Ever the good sport, Svae had no problem posing for a sexy undoing-of-belt picture. For those of you who are not yet familiar with his reputation, Chris – or Bompi as he is known – is not only a curling party legend, he also organizes one of the funniest bonspiels in Europe.

It takes place in Oslo around mid-September and is meant for players under 28. It gathers all the young, fun-loving, talented teams from Europe and despite the continuous parties, it offers a great level of curling.

So, if you young Canadian players want a good party in Europe, you know where to go. The Bompi Cup, with a website that is hopelessly out of date (why is this not a surprise?).

The funny thing was, I had to wait an extra day for the pic, because this fashionable player wanted to wear matching underwear. Enjoy.

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Ford World Curling: Let’s Dance

by Katja Kiiskinen

MONCTON – Who is that dancing behind the President of the World Curling Federation, Moncton’s own Les Harrison?

Or, steering the President, more likely?

It’s a young fellow who simply won’t take “no” for an answer. Particularly when it comes to dancing.

You shall dance with him! Oh yes, you shall!

More on this fun fellow in the next blogpost …

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Ford World Curling: Spring part III

by Katja Kiiskinen

MONCTON – It’s the always-crazy Thursday night draw, the final match of the round robin, and the last time all four sheets will be in use.

It’s a jam-packed, rowdy crowd, and the heat is on! Again!

And another definite sign of spring is the sight of all the men taking off their pants.

I’ll save the hot, hot Man in Pink for a later post, but tonight I’ll indulge you with a picture of the infamous CurlTV crew that consists of, left to right, Luke Coley, Ryan “Mojo” Hrycun and Kevin Mandrake.

Luke and Kevin were inspired to work in their underwear during the Mardi Gras – aka steambath – that was the Moncton Coliseum on Saturday. Obviously Mojo did not want to miss out, so he too brought out a pair of funky shorts.

Apparently the crew feels that the no-pants-strategy has brought the missing ingredient to their commentary and camera tactics, so they have decided to stick with it.

It’s getting hotter in here! Click on the image for the, er, enhanced view …