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March of time at curling worlds

By Luke Coley

EDMONTON – I always look forward to working at the world championships, but this year is extra special because the event is taking place in Edmonton, where I live.

It’s hard to walk into Northlands Coliseum without remembering the atmosphere during the 2005 Brier and 2007 men’s worlds. It still gives me chills as I remember the ovation for Team Randy Ferbey, winning their fourth Brier title at home, as the crowd was on their feet for that final shot by David Nedohin. The entire crowd singing the Canadian anthem while waving the Alberta flag.

Then to see Glenn Howard and Team Canada come out to a packed house wearing cowboy hats to a sea of Maple Leafs on clothes, hats
and flags.

How things have changed for curling and for me, since that world championship in ’07. Back then I was living the single life, working for CurlTV (remember that?) and covering my second world championship. Now I am doing commentary for the World Curling Federation and I have a lovely wife and two amazing children.

It’s been so much fun to bring them in and show them the experience of a world championship that I have now covered more than a dozen times.

Players that were participating at those ’05 and ’07 events are now on the coaching bench, like Peja Lindholm as national team coach for Sweden and Brier champ Marcel Rocque leading the Chinese team – in the same building in which he raised the Tankard for the fourth time. At this championship they are honouring all past champions to win major curling events in Edmonton, which includes Rocque’s part in the Ferbey Four win in 2005.

The World Curling Federation now also has a live YouTube channel – World Curling TV – that allows fans around the world to watch the live coverage throughout the event. There are two full broadcast trucks producing live coverage that is reaching 90 countries on TV and many more via the YouTube channel.

The building that is hosting this event will probably be the last curling event ever here as a new state-of-the-art arena, Rogers Place, has been built in Edmonton. While the Coliseum has seen its share of great curling moments, I am sure there will be new ones created as the championship continues through the week.

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2015 Worlds: Did Ping-Pong rocks squish Canada?

A three-timage sequence showing the attempted "Squish"
A three-image sequence on the attempted “Squish”

[Click on image sequence to increase viewing size]

Exciting stuff at the world men’s championship in Halifax.

USA, skipped by John Shuster, scored their first winning record (6-5) since Pete Fenson went 8-3 back at Cortina D’Ampezzo, Italy, in 2010, but lost in a playoff tiebreaker to colourful Finland. Then, Norway beat Canada for the second time this week, pushing The Pants into Sunday’s final for the second year in a row and dropping Canada down to tonight’s semifinal, where they will lock horns with the winner of Finland versus Sweden.

Earlier this week, guest blogstar Dean Gemmell was in Halifax… and he mentioned something called The Squish.

Here’s another reference to The Squish, and it comes from last night’s NOR vs CAN page playoff tilt. In the 10th end, CAN skip Pat Simmons tried a tricky hit for two that involved “squishing” the first of two red stones in the combo at left (see image sequence) into the back of the rings, for two points and the win. A single point would score only the tie.

As we all know, the shooter stuck for the tying point but that elusive second red point squished through the back of the house and out of play. It wasn’t even close, actually, and Norway went on to score their winning point in the extra end.

Would that elusive “squished” stone have stuck around in the back if Simmons had struck the first stone off centre, and rolled his shooter across (but not out) of the rings?

Here’s another question: Are the rocks these athletes are throwing and sweeping any different than stones from the past – even the near past – and would those old-school curling stones have reacted differently, as per the wishes of Team Canada?

Ask around, and you might find some past legends of the game who might say something between “maybe” and “definitely.”

We recall a lengthy, three-part interview series we published with the legendary Ed Werenich back in 2009 (Feb/Mar/April issues, Vol. 52, Issues 4/5/6). Eddie was lamenting recent differences in curling stone quality, pointing to what he believed are unnatural stone tendencies these days, which includes takeout results… and said The Wrench:

I would like to see them get rid of the magic mushroom rocks that go down the sheet and break four feet from the hogline in. It takes a person that can read ice and then call ice… it takes that stuff right out of the game. It’s just too easy, with the sweeping instruments of today, to flop one around.

We gotta get rid of the inserts and the sandpaper to get back to the way where the rocks curled on a consistent basis all the way down. Because of the rocks it’s too easy to make double, triple peels. The rocks are like ping-pong balls. I see five or six rocks in motion from throwing just one shot. We always used to talk about the quality of the granite.

So there you go. Did these “magic mushroom” or “ping-pong ball” curling stones befuddle Team Canada’s attempt to win the 1 vs 2 playoff game?

[Image sequence from WCTV coverage – click here to watch the video highlight at the 2:05 mark]


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World Curling War Averted

As readers may recall, Canada and the World were headed for a big curling war just after the Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver.

The story is long, and convoluted, and we gave it an acre of space in our gigantic April print issue (did you miss it?) but the nuts and bolts concerned the world championships – owned by the World Curling Federation at all times but managed (and sold) by the Canadian Curling Association when hosted in Canada. The new WCF, with its new branding and new Swiss-based marketing agency, wanted a new and very different deal for the Canadian-hosted championships, and the CCA wanted to hang on to the partnership formula that first started, in its embryonic state, way back in 1995.

Heading into the men’s Capital One Worlds in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy, things were getting downright ugly. And there might have been some serious political fallout.

Fast forward to late June, when Canadian Curling Association boss Greg Stremlaw told us that he was “optimistic” that his organization – the biggest national sport federation in the curling world – and the world’s official governing body of curling would be able to negotiate a new deal on the future of World Championships in Canada.

We took that as a sign that the fences had been mended, and all would soon become right in our curling world.

Indeed. Today the WCF formally announced the signing of a new agreement with the CCA, which will see Canada hosting the World Women’s Championships in 2012 and 2014 and the Men’s World Championship in 2013.

And in the nick of time, too. This year’s Men’s Worlds in Regina (2011) was an extension to the old deal, and was agreed upon at the last second barely a year ago. The 2012 World Men’s will be hosted in Basel, Switzerland.

The deal is for a minimum of three years and provides the CCA with the first right of refusal for renewal.  The sites for the events in 2012, 2013 and 2014 will be determined by the CCA in consultation with the WCF.

Naturally, the agreement has the approval of the WCF’s worldwide marketing partner, Infront Sports & Media. Infront has formed a separate partnership agreement to work with the CCA during this period.

Under the new agreement, the Canadian sports TV channel – and CCA partner – TSN will continue to hold the exclusive broadcasting rights in Canada for the World shootouts.

In a break with past arrangements between the WCF/CCA and committees organizing the World events in Canada, the new agreement now gives these host committees a percentage of gross ticket sales. The CCA will also own the presenting sponsor position for all world men’s and women’s events held outside of Canada.

From heated tempers in April… to happy campers a couple of months later. Amazing what can happen when the snow melts, eh?

“The WCF is delighted to have signed an Agreement which will run to 2014 with our largest Member, the Canadian Curling Association,” says WCF President Kate Caithness. “This will ensure that alternating World Championships will continue to be held in Canada and will be a joint operation between the WCF and CCA.”

For his part, CCA CEO Stremlaw was quoted as such: “I am thrilled that the WCF, CCA and Infront Sports & Media have agreed on a unique concept which will allow the CCA to manage and operate these world events, on behalf of the WCF, and to leverage the marketing rights to Corporate Canada and beyond. I would like to thank the CCA’s project team that worked tirelessly on this partnership agreement and express my sincere appreciation to Kate Caithness, WCF President, for her cooperation and involvement.”

And just like that, all’s well that ends well.

We’ll have more details on, well, the details at some point in the future, certainly by the time we return to printed product in late October.

And now, back to where the real curling action is… Brazil! Of course!

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WCF dumps Canadian president; bails on rule changes

Caithness (left) and Harrison

In a stunning political curling drama, Canada’s Les Harrison, a former board member of the Canadian Curling Association who has been president of the World Curling Federation since 2006, was voted out of office today at the WCF Annual General Assembly held during the Capital One World Men’s Curling Championship in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy.

Scotland has once again returned to the president’s chair, as former vice-president Kate Caithness becomes the first-ever female WCF president.

As TCN correspondent Rodger Schmidt noted yesterday, this marks a rare occasion in which a sitting president has been ousted by a sitting vice-president.

Board member “At Large” Patrick Huerlimann, the 1998 Olympic champion from Switzerland who heads the WCF’s powerful Marketing and Communications Committee, moves into Caithness’ former VP role.

Yet another American, Andy Anderson, becomes Director of Finance – the third in a row, in fact.

In addition, the much-ballyhooed rules changes speeding like a freight train toward the sport – such as the adopting of eight-end games and the removal of round-robin tiebreakers and extra-ends – failed to materialize, and all remains as it was.

The official WCF news release follows.



7 April 2010

The World Curling Federation has elected Kate Caithness from Scotland as president. Caithness, who has been serving as Vice-President since 2006, was elected to the post, gathering more votes than Les Harrison who was seeking re-election, at the annual general meeting of the Federation in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy.

Kate Caithness becomes the first female president of the Olympic winter sport Federation of curling. She has been involved with curling since the early 1980s. From being President of the Royal Caledonian Curling Club Ladies Branch (1997-1998), she moved on to get involved with the World Curling Federation.

Since 2000 she has been the driving force behind the World Curling Federation’s development of Wheelchair Curling and was instrumental in obtaining the admission of the sport into the Paralympic Winter Games programme in Turin in 2006.

Switzerland’s Patrick Hürlimann was appointed Vice-President, taking the role that Caithness has vacated. Canadian, Les Harrison, steps down as president.

Executive Board:

President: Kate Caithness (Scotland)
Vice-President: Patrick Hürlimann (Switzerland)
Director of Finance: Andy Anderson (USA)

Members at Large:
Graham Prouse (Canada)
Young C. Kim (Korea)
Leif Öhman (Sweden)
Niels Larsen (Denmark)

Among the other decisions made at the annual general meeting held during the Capital One World Men’s Curling Championship WCF Member Associations also voted to:
–    Not reduce the game from 10 ends to 8 ends
–    Maintain tiebreaker games to determine playoff teams
–    Keep extra ends
–    Reduce time outs to one 60 second coach interaction with the time clock running
–    Allow electric wheelchairs at WCF wheelchair curling events
–    Prohibit communications between the coach bench and anyone who is not sitting in that designated area.
–    Move the World Mixed Doubles Curling Championship and World Senior Curling Championships from April to the month of November, starting from November 2012

These decisions will be reflected in the new WCF rule book which will be issued on the 1st of June 2010.

In other business, Slovenia was accepted as the 46th member association of the World Curling Federation.

A presentation of a silver salver was made to former European Curling Federation President Malcolm Richardson – winner of the 2010 Elmer Freytag Award.

The next WCF General Assembly will take place on Thursday 9th December 2010 in Champery Switzerland.

[CCA photos by Michael Burns]

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Political fireworks in Cortina

WCF President Les Harrison of Canada

by Rodger Schmidt

CORTINA D’AMPEZZO, Italy – It is getting to the middle of the round robin with pretty much the usual suspects staying at the top of the leader board. All the rest are trying to stay away from four losses, in order to stay in contention for a playoff spot or a tiebreaker. Good plan this year, but a bad plan for next year because tiebreakers will probably be a thing of the past in these curling competitions after Wednesday’s World Curling Federation meetings.

But what else goes – or stays – come Wednesday is anyone’s guess. There are a lot of delegates that will vote on a mass of issues and most are currently holding their votes where no one can see them. And as these votes are cast by secret ballot, all will be secret for the rest of history.

But there’s more. The impact of what could go down as Black Wednesday in Cortina for many of the curling rules we have come to work with… is also going to include a nasty election day.

There is a coup in the works intended to take out the WCF President, Canada’s own Les Harrison (CCA photo by Michael Burns) in the form of the sitting Vice-President running for election against the sitting President. This is something rarely heard of in a sport federation such as the WCF, and word on the street is that the junta orchestrating this hostile takeover may indeed have enough votes to take power.

More on this one later!

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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: 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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Boat on the Hill

GANGNEUNG, Korea – Have you heard about the boat on the hill?

Yep, the Sun Cruise Hotel is one of the host hotels here at the Mount Titlis Women’s World Championship 2009, and apart from some iffy wine choices, the place is utterly spectacular.

True, the concept of designing and building a landlocked cruise liner for a hotel seems a bit odd. But everything from the rooms (with heated floors) to the grounds – full of walking gardens and sculptures etc. – to the breathtaking views of the Sea of Japan is simply… well, breathtaking.

Hotel website located here.

On the ice, China’s Bingyu Wang just defeated Denmark’s Angelina Jensen in the 1 versus 2 playoff by a 6-3 score. The Chinese will appear in their second straight world final on Sunday.

Tomorrow it’s Canada versus Sweden in a battle of women’s curling titans, with the victor battling the Danes in the evening’s semifinal.

The World Curling Federation game summary should be posted shortly.

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World Junior Curling

VANCOUVER – Yes, The Curling News is here, too. But of course.

It’s World Juniors semifinal night, starting up at about the sixth end of tonight’s Brier semifinal, and Canada is involved in one of the matchups.

Kaitlyn Lawes of Winnipeg, last year’s 2008 world bronze medallist, will take on Martina Baumann of Switzerland with the winner meeting two-time defending champion Eve Muirhead of Scotland in Sunday’s final (9:00am Pacific time).

Tonight’s men’s semifinal features Denmark’s Rasmus Stjerne taking on the defending world junior men’s champion, Chris Plys of the United States. And faithful bog readers will recall that Plys is, of course, a Dude.

Canada’s Brett Gallant awaits the winner in tomorrow’s men’s final (1:00pm Pacific time). Gallant smucked Denmark in this afternoon’s page 1-2 game by stealing six in the sixth end. Eurp.

You can see a great “mad face” photo of Gallant at this WCF story page. The WCF photo above, shot by Yadranka, is a little less psycho-looking.

The WCF – the Fed – have been here all week, as they were the previous week for the World Wheelchairs. Backtrack through their site for all the stories of the past two weeks.

Swedish skip OskarThe ProfessorEriksson, last year’s men’s silver medallist, still has a crack at bronze, as does Russia’s Margarita Fomina on the women’s side.

It’s been an awesome tournament, here at the official Olympic and Paralympic curling venue at next year’s Games. And yet another world championship wraps up tomorrow… to be replaced by faraway Gangneung, Korea

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More athlete scrutiny: ice marks

TORONTO (Not Calgary Again) – More whispers abound, this time that the CCA is looking closely at what curling countries are doing about the new World Curling Federation rule regarding athlete “damage” to the ice surface.

The rule came out in the fall – highlighting a three-step disciplinary process for said damage – and Scotland, for one, jumped on it immediately.

That’s right, folks. The final step in the process is heavy: player expulsion from the game!

There are also reports that the CCA has quietly spoken to certain athletes (and they have been doing so throughout the season) about their own chances – or likelihood, barring changes to personal tendencies – of being nabbed in this web.

It’s a web which gets spun very seriously a little over a week from now in Gangneung, Korea at the Mount Titlis World Women’s Championship and then next month at the 50th anniversary Ford World Men’s in Moncton.

The above funny photo (by Anil Mungal, of course, courtesy of Capital One) is from the fall Tour season, and is light in tone.

But John Morris took some serious flak at last year’s Brier – and the one before that – regarding knee and hand prints on the ice and to be perfectly fair, he “didn’t do anything different than (he’d) been doing all year.”

Check out some of the players in Calgary after they’ve released their stones, or as they sweep, particularly with dual grippers on their shoes.

As the worlds draw closer, have you noticed any differences?