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 RandyFerbey, 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
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.
Hello and welcome to a little piece of fluff we call “Athletes Are People Too”.
Throughout the Brier we’ve gotten to know a lot of the athletes who are competing for their various provinces and instead of treating them like cattle, we want you to get to know them too.
We’ll be tracking down some of these guys and grilling them with a series of extremely challenging questions which they’ll be forced to answer on the fly.
Today’s focus is on PEI third David Mathers, who is competing in his second Brier… and while the boys are having a bit of a tough go in the standings, he was more than willing to offer up his time. Nice guy.
Anyway, enough talk. Let’s dive in:
Favourite food: Buffet. Nothing specific type wise… just anything buffet.
Favourite YouTube Channel: I don’t really watch a lot of devoted youtube channels, but I do watch music videos on there. Can that be my answer? If so, music videos.
Favourite Video Game: Mario Tennis… and it’s a borderline obsession. Our coach has it and I’m constantly playing the damned game. It’s something that has to stop post-Brier because I’m losing way too much time to it.
Favourite Beer: Michelob Ultra. Can’t beat that low calorie taste.
Favourite Celebrity: Anne Hathaway. Next question.
Favourite Curling Club: Ottawa Curling Club. Too easy.
Favourite Twitter Feed: Girls in Yoga Pants. No specific feed but yeah, girls in yoga pants.
Favourite Super Hero: I’m not really in to super heroes… so I’ll say Batman.
Who’s your dream curling team? Oof, that’s a tough one. I’d put Wayne Middaugh at skip, Mark Kennedy at third, myself at second and Scott Bailey throwing lead.
All curlers eh? Very smart. How about an all non-curler curling team? I can do that? Okay here we go: Tiger Woods has to skip because he’s Tiger Woods. Then have Bartolo Colon throwing the heat at third, myself at second again, and for lead… I’m not too sure… how about Wayne Middaugh again?
What’s your dream job: To be a pilot.
How do you kill time in the summer? Golfing. I golf a ton.
Any celebrity crushes? Aside from Anne Hathaway? Jennifer Aniston. Love me some Jen.
What’s your biggest pet peeve? Roommates who take long showers. Like… what are you doing in there? Get in, scrub up, get out already.
Favourite brand of shoes: B-52s because I’m wearing them right now.
Patch or Heartstop Lounge? Patch.
Good or evil? Evil…. NO, NO. Good. I meant to say good.
Sure you did. Morning or night? Morning actually. I may not be saying that after the Brier but for now, morning.
Front end or Back end? Front end.
Blonde or Brunette? Brunette.
That’s a wrap on this edition of “Athletes Are People Too.” Want to see your favourite player profiled and grilled with a series of skill testing questions in our next edition? Let us know on twitter via @curling or @denny_613 and we’ll deliver.
Until next time, good curling and remember… athletes are people too.
Don’t let the Canadiana of curling’s crown jewel hinder your perception of the event. The Brier is the ultimate battle of attrition where victims of all forms are swallowed up daily. And while The Patch™ may be the final stand for many of the fans of this year’s event, it’s the players who ultimately have to prepare for all out battle.
Indeed, what was projected to be one of the greatest Brier fields ever assembled has not disappointed after three days of competition. Matches have been hotly contested with few surprises in the standings thus far.
But this is the Brier, and anything is possible. Just ask the Pat Simmons’ Team Canada foursome, who had an abysmal start to last year’s event before ultimately winning in grand fashion.
To predict a winner in a field as tough as this would be a fool’s errand – although no less than six curling wizards did so in our March digital edition – however, many performances stand out in the early going as intriguing.
Impressive have been the efforts of the Glenn Howard’s Ontario team, who have played giant-killer in a field where their competitiveness was hotly debated, taking down both the Alberta and Newfoundland heavyweights. Their only loss comes at the hands of Manitoba’s Mike McEwen, who seems to be handling the rookie jitters extremely well.
While there are a few Brier rookies in the field of competition, another Brier rookie is cutting his teeth in the curling scene.
I caught up with Eric Burant, a non-curler and first time curling event attendee, and shadowed him for the duration of his time at the event. What started out as an innocent pilot project, a scoop if you will, turned in to a complete day of non-stop entertainment.
We started the day where any good Brier fan would: the Patch.
“Everyone here is smiling. They look like they’re having a great time and maybe that’s helped along the amount of beer flowing,” quoted Burant, a young professional from Ottawa. “Angus McStone is giving me some weird vibes though.”
Burant was taken aback by the atmosphere, complimented by the amount of individual provincial pride that was on display.
“I really dig the (provincial) jackets. It’s amazing how much individual culture each province offers.”
We quickly enjoyed a refreshing beverage before making our way to the draw, where the focus of our attention was the Ontario vs Alberta match and the final relegation game of NT vs NS. While the majority of our time was spent laughing and explaining the rules, we were treated to some extremely tight matchups, including a wild finish in the relegation final.
“You could hear a pin drop when Nova Scotia missed their final shot. The crowd’s reaction summed it up perfectly,” said Burant. “I thought that curling would be this relaxed attitude affair but in the end, it was high drama and extremely heartbreaking.”
When asked what he would say to the Nova Scotia squad if he had the chance, he offered some warm words: “You made it to the Brier. You made it to the big stage and that’s better than a lot of teams. You’re capable and you’re going to be back in the future.”
I did my letter best to find the Bluenosers in the Patch post game in an effort to introduce Burant, but had no luck. In the end, the spirit of the game became obvious to the Brier newbie, who quickly fell in love with the camaraderie and sportsmanship that curling offers.
“It really is the game of the proletariat. These are all regular guys with families and lives off the ice. I don’t think anyone curls with the objective of being on a Wheaties box.”
And in a few simple hours, a man who had never set foot in a major curling event had the entire culture and hospitable nature of curling figured out.
That’s the power of the game we all love so much.
As the Brier continues throughout the week, we’ll be bringing you more blog updates. Hit me up on twitter @denny_613 if you want to see or hear anything specific. After all, without the reader, we writers have no purpose.
In the meantime, I need to grab a nap after a weekend of fun and excitement with old friends, and especially new ones. Cheers.
The expanded and enhanced digital version of our March issue was released to subscribers today, and there are mucho goodies to consume, including:
• Great journalism from award-winning Brier columnist Kevin Palmer
• Sam Corea‘s very cool story about a Syrian refugee’s first time on the ice
• Another stellar “how-to” guide to curling facility management from Mark Inglis
• The tale of curling development in Tempe, Arizona
• More from Warren Hansen on the Brier’s future
• A rebuttal to Warren’s position, from B.C.’s Andrew Komlodi
• Brier memories from a grizzled veteran (Randy Ferbey) and a youthful scribe (Andrew Denny)
And more, including Brier previews from our star-studded panel of experts… Hall of Fame media guru Terry Jones, Two-time Brier champion Craig Savill, the new Canadian women’s champion skip Chelsea Carey, Brier champion Mark Dacey and world champion and Olympic finalist Håvard Vad Petersson of Norway.
And… here now, as a Blog Bonus, we present an additional round of Brier predictions from none other than Sherry Middaugh, whose injured husband Wayne is still with Team Glenn Howard at the Ottawa Brier, albeit now as team coach.
If you don’t yet subscribe, do so now from our subscription webpage and you’ll receive a hyperlink to unlock your digital edition within hours. Don’t miss out on our super-sized March “Brier” issue!
Sherry’s 2016 Brier Picks
This has to be the best Brier field ever!!!
1. Ontario – For obvious reasons and they have Scotty Bowman behind the bench 2. Alberta – If they get indecisive they may run out of time in a game or two, other than that we should see them post-round robin 3. Newfoundland – Having a great year but is Brad suffering from post-concussive trauma? Harrrd… whoa….. maybe? 4. Manitoba – Finally at the Brier, now it’s time to show they belong 5. Northern Ontario – Not a great year just yet but it can all be turned around with one good week 6. Team Canada – Always cheer for Team SK, but they maxed out last year, enjoy your week 7. Sask – Dark horse. They can beat anyone, just not sure they can do it for the entire week with this amazing field 8. B.C. – An even darker horse. Normally cheer for the nicest guy in event but Crusher (Adam Spencer) is now that person. 9. PEI – Boys from the Island have some close games but the skipper can’t pull out the magic every game. Two certainties are that Robbie has a great time in the Patch and Dave is in the running for the Ross Harstone Award 10. Québec – Sorry I’m not bilingual or I would rate them higher… in French 11. NWT – Make it out of relegation and everyone is cheering for them to do well… but not much left in the tank 12. New Brunswick – Off to relegation, sorry boys
The Curling News has learned that hair brushes – manufactured with horsehair and/or hoghair – have been banned from the upcoming Tournament of Hearts and the Brier: the Canadian women’s and men’s championships.
To be specific, hair brushes have now been added to the previous sweeping equipment moratorium(s) issued by Curling Canada.
This latest initiative was led by the athletes – following numerous testing videos such as this one from Team Brad Gushue (Newfoundland and Labrador) – and as a result, Curling Canada has decided to support the player action in full. The organization’s official adoption of the no-hair movement means that monitoring and enforcement now falls under each competition’s official rules… clearly the optimum scenario.
However, the wording might be due for some additional fine-tuning, for the inclusion of hair in the moratorium is not absolute.
For example, athletes are permitted to bring hair brushes onto the field of play, and use them in pre-game practice sessions with the exception of the last-stone draw. The brushes are then not permitted during the game… but again, there are two exceptions.
The first is that hair brushes can be used as sliding devices.
The second sees skips and thirds permitted to use hair brushes in the house at the playing end, but those skips and thirds can only sweep behind the tee-line.
An official news release on this expansion of the moratorium is expected shortly.
The Tournament of Hearts begins Saturday in Grande Prairie, Alberta while the opening draw of the Ottawa Brier is slated for March 5.
In the March issue print edition of The Curling News, you’ll find Brier predictions from senior columnist Terry Jones.
In the digital version of that issue, you’ll find Brier predictions from six-time champion and TCN columnist Randy Ferbey.
Now, as an added bonus, we present another round of Brier predictions from none other than Wayne Middaugh, a three-time champion (at three different positions) who always has an opinion. Over to you, Wayne!
By Wayne Middaugh
Let’s start with what’s important and then see who is left standing at the end.
Prince Edward Island – Adam Casey … This team has put in the work this year and deserves to be part of the Brier… the entire Brier.
Nova Scotia – Glenn Macleod and Yukon – Bob Smallwood … Enjoy your three games in the big building and milk it for all it’s worth. You deserve better.
12th – New Brunswick – Jeremy Mallais … The goal is no relegation… sorry, I didn’t know who to pick in this spot and when I looked at the teams, I thought if not you… then who?
T7 – P.E.I. – Team Casey, you paid your dues on tour this year and if you keep doing that I only see you moving up on this list.
T7 – British Columbia – Jim Cotter … One of the nicest guys in the game and I want more for him, but just don’t see it.
T7 – Northwest Territories – Jamie Koe … The curling gods like you as you are what curling is all about, but unfortunately, even with everyone on your side, it doesn’t make you a Brier champion. #guyhemmings
T7 – Ontario – Mark Kean … He beat us twice en route to winning his first Purple Heart and this is where I would have put us in this field.
T4 – Manitoba – Reid Carruthers … Reid was great when he became a WFC with Team Stoughton, then took a few years off from making shots. Looks like he’s back and knows how to win.
T4 – Québec – Jean-Michel Ménard … Has won this before and knows what it takes to trick the front-runners. Question is: How many tricks does he have left?
T4 – Team Canada – John Morris … Fan favourites and good guys playing in a hometown Brier. However, they didn’t put in the time on tour and on the ice this year, meaning their week on the Saddledome ice will end in a tie-breaker about Friday.
T4 – Saskatchewan – Steve Laycock … This team can throw it hard and if they get a lead on anyone they can run out the scoreboard… although that’s not enough to win the Brier. Getting better every year and I expect to see them in the playoffs.
3 – Newfoundland & Labrador – Brad Gushue … You go every year it’s only a matter of time before you win this thing… and Brad makes enough last shots to do just that, so I expect him to be playing after the round robin… but not sure this is the year.
2 – Alberta – Kevin Koe … This team was built to win games and the 2018 Olympics, but before you win you’ve gotta learn to lose as a team (and hate that feeling). This week will be a learning experience even though I expect them to be there at the end of the week.
1 – Northern Ontario – Brad Jacobs … JJ started the mojo with the current Olympic gold medallists winning the STOH and I’m funny/superstitious that way. Watching these guys is kind of like watching Pros versus Joes; the Joes win sometimes but not often… and Team Jacobs are pros in every way. Congrats Team Jacobs!
First image by Robert Wilson; second image copyright ® The Curling News by Anil Mungal. Click on images to increase viewing size
The finalist from both the Brier and the Canadian Olympic Trials has issued a statement today on his immediate curling future, and here it is:
After a lot of thought and deliberation, I have decided to take a step back from the game of curling next year.
I had the tremendous pleasure of playing with three great, genuine teammates in Jim Cotter, Tyrel Griffith and Rick Sawatsky as we made it farther than I think anyone would have predicted for a team playing its first year together. You were all amazing, as was our coach, Pat Ryan, and our alternates Jody Epp and Jason Gunnlaugson.
I am extremely proud of our squad for what we accomplished, and would like to thank my guys for helping me recover my passion and heart for the game of curling, and for providing me with one of the most memorable years in my career.
I will be taking some time off to pursue an educational course that I’ve been wanting to take for a few years now, as well as to secure a career in the fire service. If our team happens to be awarded the default Team Canada berth at the Brier next year, then I will consider coming back to play a light schedule.
Thank you to all our true fans, friends, sponsors and to all of our families for being there every inch of the way and showing us the support we needed to almost make the improbable happen!
[This Team Morris advertisement appears in the April 2014 issue of The Curling News; click on the image to increase viewing size]
Mike Fournier is a columnist for The Curling News and also blogs – impressively – at In The House. He is in Montreal for Quebec’s first hosting of the Canadian women’s curling championship in decades, and we have republished his most recent blogpost below…
MONTREAL – Why are all the teams the same colour as Saskatchewan’s jackets?
So far, the big story at the STOH has been the flu, or food poisoning, or the plague, or whatever has been passed around more than a cold sore at the Brier Patch.
Here is a pic of me at the event, at left – Day 4.
Definitely the worst job this week: Hotel Cleaning Lady at the Westin! Almost every sheet has a fifth player on the ice, and Saskatchewan and BC are competing with only three players. The Quebec second just left her game after the fifth end, looking a lovely shade of Saskatchewan green. The players are in full sanitizing mode – no more shaking hands or sharing lip gloss in the locker room.
I actually saw someone Purell her rock before throwing.
As for the actual curling, Rachel Homan seems to be back to her juggernaut form from last year, tearing through the competition only slightly less violently than the flu. Val Sweeting has looked good as well. If Saskatchewan can manage to keep finding three or four people healthy enough to curl, they are looking good for a playoff spot as well.
Feel good story of the week is definitely the Sarah Koltun team from the Territories, who have quickly become the crowd favourites (apart from Quebec of course). They are all younger than my sliding broom, and cuter than an internet cat video. You have to cheer for them.
There will be an interesting battle at the bottom as teams fight to avoid finishing last or second-last, as these provinces will have to face RELEGATION. This means that they will have to return home and tell all of their peers that as a result of their bad week, next year’s provincial champion will have to play a pre-STOH playdown in order to get into the tournament. Not an enviable position. I am hoping Quebec can pull a few wins out in the next few games to avoid that pressure at the end of the week!
So how is Montreal doing so far as a host?
Well, hit and miss. The site is awesome, the ice is awesome, the crowds have been okay. The HeartStop Lounge has been fun. And we have fans in Morph suits.
However, the concessions stands have been a bit shaky. I am sitting in the only arena in Quebec where I can’t buy a hot dog or a poutine. I was unaware that you could call yourself a Quebec arena if you don’t sell poutine. The local rink in the park sells poutine. The churches sell poutine. How can the Quebec STOH not have poutine available in the stands?
And did I mention we can’t buy beer in the arena? Really. I believe I have never watched a live curling game without alcohol. It is a strange experience. I saw Dan Gregoire walking around the crowd looking lost. I barely recognized him without a beer in his hands.
WINNIPEG – It’s early, and this could be a little bit premature, but something weird seems to be going on over these first two days. Take all the odds and predictions from the “experts” and throw them out the window, because we don’t seem to have any favourites anymore.
For instance, Manitoba teams are merely mediocre at a combined 4-6, even with the huge crowd support at the MTS Centre.
Many of the expected favourites coming in are already off to the dreaded two-loss start – which doesn’t allow any room for error.
As I sit here and report from the media bench, my phone continues to buzz as the upsets continue. “WHAT IS GOING ON???” is the general theme of the 47 texts I receive each hour.
The thing is… I don’t really know how to answer that question.
The ice looks pristine and has been in exceptional condition since day one. Yes, the stones are papered which makes them curl sharper early in the week… but no more so than any at other event. Yes, the crowd is big and loud, but not to the point of unleashing air horn blasts during player backswings.
And yes, these in fact are the stones that were so criticized for inconsistency at the start of the Edmonton Brier back in March. That problem has been addressed, though, by a) flipping the stones and b) “evening” through continued use, including at the recent Road to the Roar in Kitchener.
Well, friends. The only thing I can think to say at this point in the week is more of a reminder.
This isn’t a provincial playdown. This is not a World Curling Tour event. This is not the Brier or the STOH. This is the Canadian Olympic Trials, and weird things happen when it comes to this amazing, thrilling quadrennial show.
[Canadian Curling Association photo copyright ® by Danielle Inglis]
EDMONTON – What an experience. Here at the Brier, on site at Rexall Place in Edmonton, I’ve witnessed many amazing sights. In the last 24 hours we’ve seen Ontario’s Glenn Howard fall to both Manitoba and Northern Ontario in the playoffs, and a few hours before that we witnessed a sight neither seen nor heard since the bedlam that was the Vancouver 2010 Olympic curling competition: insane crowd noise and wild behaviour.
And on that note, the debate is on. Is it really worth it to spend the money to watch the Brier (or any other curling event for that matter) live, in person at the arena, or should you just watch the game on television from the comfort of your own home?
This has been a hot topic of debate among many, especially on the CurlingZone forums and in the media, during the STOH and now re-ignited during the Brier.
I’ve decided to follow up with some of the comments that I’ve been hearing, based on my own observations from this week.
Disclaimer: This is my first time at a Brier for more than a single draw, otherwise I have been a perennial TV watcher – mainly due to school, work or curling commitments not allowing me to be there in person. The last time I was at a Brier was in 2011 for the final in London, won by Jeff Stoughton.
Sure, a few draws worth of tickets can start to add up, but compare that to what you would pay for an average NHL hockey game. People don’t hesitate to shell out a pretty penny for that – usually a few hundred dollars for tickets to a single regular-season game – but many will still balk at the thought of spending $500 for 17+ draws plus playoffs at a curling championship.
I’m not a math girl, but that amounts to about $20.00 to watch Canada’s best and be thoroughly entertained for at least three hours – plus whatever post-game merriment you wish to take in, at the Patch or the Purple Heart Lounge, that your ticket got you into. That sounds like a pretty good deal to me! If you have the funds, why not use them to support curling? Point to live.
I can’t deny that television commentators really add to the experience of the game, as they pass along expert analysis and tidbits of information throughout the broadcast. I do, however, see that there are ways to get that commentary at a live event.
Method number one: Go with a friend who is knowledgeable about the sport, and who can explain the ins and outs of curling (bonus if they have inside information). Method number two: Find one of the curling celebrities in the crowd and ask their opinion.
Too shy? Here’s method number three: You can always tune in to the broadcast via your portable radio or smartphone radio app, and listen to Vic, Linda and Russ while you watch, right there in the arena. Point to live.
This ties in with the TV commentary. Need to find a little extra information about a player, or want to see what people are saying on Twitter? Smartphones are so prevalent that it makes getting such info so easy. Simply click a button and the info will appear right in front of you. Bonus: When you’re at the event live, you can add to the information superhighway by posting your own photos or comments for others to read – more often than not, they will be jealous that you’re there and they’re not!) Point again to live.
This is a definite plus for live curling – no TV commercials! In your living room, you’re forced to watch the same commercials over and over… and as much as I love the new curling commercials, seeing them for the thousandth time during a single season gets old pretty quickly. At the live event, there is some entertainment during the break including prize giveaways, live music, the always popular kiss cam and more… and the minutes just seem to fly by. And it’s yet another point to live.
My food experience thus far has included a lot of expensive, unhealthy arena food that leaves something to be desired. Although you have the option to dig deep for the $17 international buffet, if you can stomach paying that much for a meal each time. If you’re lucky, and you’re either an event sponsor or a guest of a sponsor, you might have access to higher-quality food in the VIP areas (wherever they are).
Numerous arguments were made on the Hurry Hard Blog supporting the author’s choice to watch the game at home. Though I don’t agree with everything said there, I do agree with the point about the food. You could save some serious costs there, not to mention that you could reach in your fridge and grab fresh fruit, or a variety of other healthier options, instead of only having limited choicees between fries, nachos, pizza and so on. First point to TV.
Front row seating at home? That’s guaranteed, but what if I told you that you could have the opportunity to watch the Brier from multiple angles during a single live draw? From what I’ve experienced at the Brier, people have been changing seats more than a game of musical chairs. I happen to believe that variety is the spice of life, so being able to watch the games from different seats in the arena gives a new, fresh perspective. Point live.
It can be very comfortable sitting on your couch either by yourself or surrounded by friends, but absolutely nothing can beat the feeling of electricity that you get by being part of the crowd watching and cheering on these players. Sure, you can see crazy fans like The Sociables in snippets on TV when the camera pans towards them, but they are MUCH more entertaining and active than your big screen lets on.
One of the most incredible experiences this week for me was observing the energy and excitement of the crowd during Friday night’s games. The chanting and jeering was like being at an Oilers game! It was second only to the atmosphere at the Olympics in Vancouver.
And then there’s the “I was there when” factor. Yes, you saw Jennifer Jones’ famous in-off or Howard’s legendary Runback-Ricochet-Double something or other on TV, along with thousands upon thousands of other people, but… big deal.
There is something to be said for actually being there and experiencing it with the whole crowd, at that moment. Big, big point to live.
Need I say more? Point live.
The verdict: To borrow a line from the Canadian Curling Association TV spots – You Gotta Be There! This experience has definitely changed my mind and given me a fresh new perspective. A live curling event is something that every curling fan should get to experience at least once, if not multiple times in their life. As one person pointed out to me this week, “live curling is all about the people.”
Come support your home province or country or simply your favourite team, but more importantly, come to enjoy the people and the atmosphere. I promise you, it’s worth it.
[The Curling News photos ® by Anil Mungal – click on images to increase viewing size. Subscribe to The Curling News here]