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Men keep it simple

 by Margo Weber
EDMONTON – Okay, this is the situation for the dudes.

Tonight, Glenn Howard and Kevin Martin play for a spot in the final. Loser goes directly into the semifinal.

Jeff Stoughton (4-2) and both Kevin Koe and Randy Ferbey (3-3) are still in the mix.
However, if Stoughton beats Pat Simmons tonight, he is in the semi. Everyone else is out. If he loses, then he must play a tiebreaker against the winner of the Ferbey/Koe game.

See? The men keep it simple!

PS: The editor, gk, has asked me to remind you all about the TCN Twitter feed. I just checked it out myself and my gawd, there is so much extra curling stuff on there – including big news from the Euros over in Aberdeen, Scotland – that I think you could use the info to publish an extra edition of The Curling News every month.

So click here and check it out.

[CCA photo of Kevin Martin by Michael Burns]
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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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Margo Weber: The Olympic Dream

[Welcome back Margo Weber; blogstar from the 2009 Tim Hortons Brier, she is back to pontificate on the Tim Hortons Canadian (Olympic) Trials. Here’s her big-picture portrait of this amazing Olympic canvas…]
by Margo Weber

It all comes down to this, folks… because it’s finally here, what everyone has been talking about. The Roar of the Rings.

We’ve been waiting for this for years and it promises to be the best display of curling… possibly ever. This is an event with the best men’s and women’s curlers in Canada. Two teams will be crowned Olympians and go on to represent our country at home in Vancouver in February.

This is huge.

The last Olympic Trials I saw in person was in Brandon in 1997. I held my breath when Sandra Schmirler made ‘the shot’, and I sat right behind the sheet when Mike Harris casually walked away to get a drink of water, and walked back an Olympian.

I have very clear memories of sitting down with Shannon Kleibrink after her eventual loss to Team Schmirler, and with tears in her eyes she said she wasn’t upset at that moment because she’d lost the game… she just missed her kids.

This is a big deal. People put their lives on hold for this. Some wait just a few more years to start a family. Some set their careers aside, and even let them slip. Certainly most players sacrifice every vacation day they have just to prepare themselves for what might be. The Olympic Dream is a costly one.

Schmirler famously burst into tears after her final rock in that game. She was barely able to shake hands. She later explained that she simply did not know how she was going to leave her babies.

Some teams have been a threat for years. Kevin Martin, Glenn Howard, Jennifer Jones… they all qualified two seasons ago. They’ve been waiting, planning and preparing. Jason Gunnlaugson and Crystal Webster were pleasant surprises… perhaps they have less pressure on them. Maybe they will carry less on their shoulders as they march into Rexall Place. Someone like Jeff Stoughton knows he should be there… and will just take it one game at a time.

For us spectators, we sit… and wait… and, now, finally, we get to watch. And be glad we aren’t the parent of someone out there on the ice.

But we all know there are curling superstars in the making out there. Regardless of what happens, at least some of the athletes on the eventual Olympic teams will be brand new, frst-time Olympians.

They likely have no idea how their lives will change.

[CCA photo of Cheryl Bernard (nice shaaawwwt!) by Michael Burns]
• Behind-the-scenes pics of Opening Ceremonies and gab session
• Winner of our Glenn Howard curling condom trivia contest (say what?!)
… and more!
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mrnn Trials Predictions

As promised, here is yet another fearless Canadian Olympic Trials prediction from one of The Curling News‘ prognosticators.
As mentioned yesterday, no less than four TCN experts have made their calls in the current December issue, available via subscription now.
Today’s picks come from Halifax, and were calculated back in late November, when “it was 15C on my deck this afternoon and the thought of Winter Olympics seems sooo far away.” The author? Mary Anne Arsenault, skip and former second for Colleen Jones.

 WOMEN

1. Scott – if Schraeder is on I think they’ll pull out the win.
2. Jones – scrappy enough to be among the leaders; they find the wins.
3. Lawton – if they’ve developed their draw game, they’ll be tough to beat.
4. McCarville – my darkhorse pick; well coached; depends on Tara George.
5. Kleibrink – not seeing it for them again.
6. Holland – inexperienced but seem to have great team dynamics.
7. Webster – lacking in ‘big game’ experience; hard to know how they’ll respond.
8. Bernard – not seeing the consistency needed to win an event of this calibre.

MEN
1/2. Martin – proven best shooters around.
1/2. Howard – next to best shooters with better team dynamics.
3. Koe – should be near the top if they can stay in the moment.
4. Stoughton – oh so close once again.
5. Ferbey – still have plenty of talent but will the drive be there?
6. Gunner – they’ll turn a few heads but lack the experience to finish.
7. Middaugh – appear to be a team of individuals.
8. Simmons – could be a frustrating tourney.

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Margo’s pre-Trials picks

[She’s baaaaaack! Margo Weber, guest blogger during last February’s STOH (controversially) and also the Tim Hortons Brier in Calgary (archive here) has been watching the Road to the Roar in Prince George, courtesy of TSN. What’s on her mind?]
by Margo Weber
CALGARY – So, I entered a curling pool.
And this morning I had a looksee at the draw for the men’s side of the Road to the Roar, and I realized three of my qualifying picks fall to each other in the C-side.
On the women’s side, it’s not looking much better.  I did not have Crystal Webster qualifying, although I must say I’m thrilled all these Alberta teams are doing so well. I, for the record, with many others… had Kelly Scott (cue downer music).
It seems I will not win this pool. But overall, I’ve had a pretty good history of predicting who is going to do well at these things – in other sports, mind you – with a few minor blips.
However, just being in a pool raises some questions. There are curling pools? Who knew? I think it’s the first one I’ve been involved in. Maybe I’ve seen a Brier pool once or twice. The person who organized the pool itself is a well-known competitor who has already made it to the Roar of the Rings in Edmonton. Whom did she pick? Did anyone actually curling in this event enter the pool? Is that okay… or is that really, really bad?
It was only $25.00 but… let’s say someone bet on themselves, or bet against themselves… let’s say someone bet against his wife? Or his/her sister? Teams have a long history of buying themselves in calcuttas at cashspiels, so I suppose it’s all been done before.
Sigh. I believe I’m just bitter because, at best, only five of my eight picks have an opportunity to qualify. Not that any of my picks are out… they just fall to each other in the draw.

Can I get on another tangent here? Speaking of the draw…
Since when is it okay that teams which lose their first two games all get bundled up to play each other in the C-side? These teams arguably are the bottom four of twelve… yet because of the draw, one of these teams will make it to a C-final just by beating each other out. Horrible.
The only saving grace is that the loser of the B-side qualifier drops into that spot. Perhaps this is to make is easier for that team. Except it’s not easier if they are coming off a loss, and the C-side team just rattled off two wins.
So… will  I enter a Roar of the Rings pool? Of course. I’m assuming my friend – the competitor – will not have time to organize that one. Nor would she want to know who would or wouldn’t bet on her!
Maybe I will organize the pool myself. But I will inevitably struggle between whom I want to win… whom I think should win… and who I actually picked in the pool.
Maybe if I bet on who I don’t want to win… I’ll be happy either way.

Oh, and for the curious? Here were my picks:

Men:
A – Wayne Middaugh
B – Bob Ursel (CCA photo by Michael Burns)
C – Jeff Stoughton
C – Brad Gushue

Women:
A – Kelly Scott
B – Cathy King
C – Marie-France Larouche
C – Krista McCarville

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Two in, six to go

And then there were 10.

The field for December’s Roar of the Rings grew by two teams yesterday as Winnipeg’s Jeff Stoughton and Calgary’s Crystal Webster (CCA photo above by Michael Burns) qualified for the Canadian Olympic Trials.

One more will be added by about 7:30pm ET tonight, when Kelowna’s Kelly Scott finishes her battle with Thunder Bay’s Krista McCarville in the women’s B-final. That game starts at 4:00pm ET (live on TSN).

Another will be added later tonight, when the men’s B-final takes place (starting at 9:30pm ET, again on TSN). That one will feature the winner of Edmonton’s Ted Appelman versus Mike McEwen of Winnipeg facing off against the winner of Pat Simmons (Davidson, SK) and Wayne Middaugh (Toronto).

What else is happening?

Well, the TCN Twitterfeed is humming again, click here (and click on Follow) to see nine Tweets from earlier this morning…

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2-0 at Olympic Pre-Trials

The action has been intense at the CN Centre in Prince George, with lots of late steals throwing the “Road to the Roar” pre-Trials race wide open.

Another example was yesterday’s show from 2007 world champion Kelly Scott. Her Kelowna team took two in the 10th end and then stole the extra frame to shock Cathy King of Edmonton by an 8-7 count.

Top seeds are falling left and right, and as a result you’ve got teams like Calgary’s Crystal Webster, Saskatchewan’s Sherry Anderson and Pat Simmons, Winnipeg’s Mike McEwen and Ottawa’s youthful Rachel Homan all sharing the lead at 2-0… and only two wins away from a berth in the Canadian Olympic Trials.

Other big names at 2-0 include Jeff Stoughton and Brad Gushue, the finalists from the 2005 Olympic Trials in Halifax.

Homan, the junior phenom we first profiled two years ago, is shown above in yesterday’s action (CCA photo by Michael Burns). In her second match, Homan gave a quick three-spot to Marie-France Larouche of Quebec but roared back to score a 7-4 win. She won her first one 8-6 over Quebec’s Eve Bélisle.

You can also see more Road to the Roar pics on The Curling News Facebook Group page – join the group!

Meanwhile, yesterday’s TCN Twitterfeed was belching smoke, as we posted 36 times, 17 of them retweets from CurlingZone’s excellent live game coverage.

Today’s Twitterroll so far includes:

• news from Wawa, Brighton, Guelph and Chatham, Ontario
• a former WCF prez is to unveil war memorial
• two Canadian Mixed preview spotlights
• viral video mixes hockey and curling (previous blogpost)
• a new Canadian athlete Twitter list has three curlers included
• a quickee look at pre-Trials co-leader Crystal Webster

And there is much, much more curling news to come throughout the day! Go to the TCN Twitter page and click on “Follow” at top right…

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Olympic curling roadsign

Our friend Terry Jones is back on the curling beat, and not a moment too soon.

The veteran Sun Media sports scribe, who also authored the 2007 book The Ferbey Four, was at a “32 days out” ceremony for the massive Roar of the Rings event coming to Edmonton December 6-13.

Otherwise known as the Tim Hortons Canadian Curling Trials, the event is basically the “Olympic Trials” which will declare Canada’s representatives for Vancouver 2010.

As Jones tells us here, many of the late week draw matchups were revealed as part of the news conference.

The much-anticipated and possibly crucial all-Edmonton battle between Kevin Martin and Randy Ferbey will be on the Wednesday afternoon draw, which also features Edmonton’s Kevin Koe versus the other pre-qualified team skipped by Ontario’s Glenn Howard.

Thursday morning features Ferbey-Howard and Martin-Koe, and Thursday night will feature Ferbey-Koe and Martin-Howard.

Winnipeg’s Jennifer Jones, Calgarian Cheryl Bernard, Saskatoon’s Stefanie Lawton and Calgary’s 2006 Olympic bronze medallist Shannon Kleibrink have their feature games against each other Wednesday morning, Wednesday evening and Thursday afternoon.

As any curling fan worth his or her salt knows, the remaining squads will be known after the Road to the Roar in Prince George, B.C., which starts up pretty darned soon.

Jonesy also tells us that ticket sales are already at 134,844 for the eight-day event, and single draw tickets go on sale this Saturday.

Tickets are $50 a pop for the women’s final (Dec. 12) and the men’s final (Dec. 13), while the semifinals are $40 each. The early round-robin draws are $30 each.

For heaven’s sake, this has got to be one of the last wakeup calls for curling fans to get their butt to Edmonton, for this showdown of the ages.

“We can’t believe this event is only a month away,” said host committee woman Jackie-Rae Greening. “Probably in our lifetime we won’t have the opportunity again to watch a trials where the winners get to represent Canada on their home turf at the Olympic Games. Now it’s getting so close, it’s getting so exciting.”

The last word goes to K-Mart, who unveiled some kind of countdown road sign, along with Kleibrink, at yesterday’s newser (photo by inews880AM, click to zoom in).

“I think the level of curling has increased significantly, the curlers have been training harder and have all become better than we were four years ago,” said Martin.

“That’s going to make this event even better and hopefully is going to make Canada even better at the Olympics.”

NOTE: have you signed up to follow The Curling News Twitter account?

If not, you’ve already missed today’s info on New Brunswick’s mixed team; Stoughton and Burtnyk on their Road to the Roar (and McEwen and Gunnlaugson, too); the husband of Sandra Schmirler and his honour at carrying the Olympic Torch; and Brad Gushue as an “interesting choice” to publicize the Tim Hortons Brier… considering that he hopes to not compete in it!

Head to the page and click on “Follow” to get tuned in to the digital curling world!

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Brier: Blog Babes say Buh-Bye

by Margo Weber and Dalene Heck

[Margo says:]

Buh-Bye.

When my old friend gk contacted me to see if I’d be interested in blogging it up at the Brier, I was, like, ‘Hells Yeah!’ A whole week at the Saddledome goofing aroundand showering the curling world with my crazy opinions?! Alas, reality hits. I have a couple of young ones at home and this was not possible. Enter my good friend Dalene Heckwho has been nothing short of fantastic. Definitely the Brier Media Rookie of the Year! I’ll never forget Crotch Cam, Stalkergate or the crazy games we played with our new media friends.I have managed to go to a few games, hit the Patch in style (Oh my GAWD) and send in a post now and then. I’ve met people from across the country, reconnected with old friends, ate too many chicken fingers and had way too much to drink.

gk, hope we didn’t trash up your site too much. You kinda asked for it. xoxo

[Dalene says:]

Peace. Out!

And there you have it. Despite a final substitution when Jeff Stoughton ousted Glenn Howard in Saturday’s semi-final, the 2009 Tim Hortons Brier ended as many suspected it would – with a dominating win by Alberta’s Kevin Martin. What a thrill to be at the Saddledome and watch Martin’s foursome earn their second consecutive Brier, and in front of an excited hometown crowd!

A few weeks ago, if you would have asked me what I’d be doing the week of the Brier, I would have said that I’d be catching most of the games on TV while lounging in my giant-baby-one-piece-footed-pink-camouflage-fleece-pajamas. I never would have expected to meet so many great people (including a new BFF!), take so many pictures of crotches, become a stalker, become a stalkee, do an interview in the CBC Radio studios or help pick the All-Star team.

It’s been an incredibly fun week, that ended with a weekend of exciting curling moments. While I am sad to see it all come to an end, there are many things that I am looking forward to: sleep, spending time with hubby and the kitties, detoxification, sleep, reintroducing vegetables to my diet as a replacement for pocket dawgs, sleep, catching up on all my recorded TV shows, getting back on the treadmill, and sssssllllleeeeeppppp!

Thanks to everyone who helped make this experience what it was, especially my hawt partner in crime, Margo Weber! And to our hubbies for putting up with it all (XOXO).

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Brier: I say Johnny, you say Mo

by Dalene Heck

CALGARY – I say Johnny, you say Mo!

Johnny!

Mo!

Johnny!

Mo!

What a crowd!

Given the complete blowout that was the final game, I’m happy to say that I stuck it out and watched Alberta’s Kevin Martin, John Morris, Marc Kennedy and Ben Hebert get to enjoy their historic Brier victory with such amazing hometown support.

And let’s give a big Hells Yeah to Jeff Stoughton and his Manitoba foursome for the class act that they were in that final game. Jeff’s token spin-o-rama gave the fans one more chance to stand on their feet and salute their tremendous efforts at the end of this week.