Posted on

Election 2011

Canada votes; our political curling notes

Subscribe now! I command thee! Oh, and go vote.

Good day curling fans. We have something intensely Canadian today.

We have talked politics before – Canadian, American and international – and always with some degree of a curling angle.

The most notorious was our Curling Politics post from September of 2008, which essentially endorsed Prime Minister and curling-mad Conservative leader Stephen Harper (photo). This garnered a few critical comments, including a scolding from one reader who declared “There’s no place for politics in the the curling magazines of the nation.”

Oh, please.

Another reader hoped that our “choice of the Conservatives (had) a little more depth to it than the quality of curling-related press releases.”

Okay, fair point.

Within a month, our Curling Politics II posting attempted to quantify our support for, quite simply, all things curling. When we compared two different government curling grants, for example, we suggested that:

The question now seems to centre around identifying ‘good’ pork from ‘bad’ pork. When it comes to curling, says us, it’s all good.

We shall not spend much time on the issue of today’s Canadian federal election, which is the third in the last six years and fourth since 2004 (sigh). But in the spirit of the above, we decided to see if there were any recent and substantive “curling” reasons to support one party over another… with that word – substantive – not including personal appearances at curling championships (sorry, PMH).

Indeed, we might have found something. According to the website for Canada’s Economic Action Plan, often referred to as the stimulus spending spree that followed the recent U.S.-driven economic recession, the search term “curling” returns a whopping 11 pages of results. Apparently the ruling Conservatives haven’t ignored The Roaring Game, as this results sample indicates:

Upgrades to Capital Winter Club (NB)… Replace the roofing at the North Grenville Curling Club (ON)… St. Benedict (SK) curling rink upgrades… Rehabilitation of the Rideau Curling Club (ON)… Construction of a three-rink curling arena connected to the recreational centre in Chapais (PQ)… Modernization of the twin arenas and curling rink in Whitecourt (AB)… Upgrade to the Victoria Curling Club (BC)… London Curling Club (ON) – Replacement of windows and lighting… Upgrades to Granite and Fort Rouge Curling Clubs (MB)… Start of construction on Maniwaki multipurpose curling centre (PQ)… Upgrades to the Cornwall and Montague Curling Clubs (PEI)…

The list goes on and on, and this might be food for thought, Canadian curling fans… but that’s all. This year The Curling News will not endorse any political party, although we will urge all Canadian citizens to do their civic duty and go vote.

In the words of one of the country’s better political writers, “it is better to risk buyer’s remorse than to let others do the shopping in your place.”

Posted on

London Brier: Stephen Harper in the house

by Kimberly Tuck

Subscribe now! I command thee!

LONDON – The Brier is off to a roaring start, with Saturday’s attendance attracting over 12,300 people into the JLC for the first two opening draws.

The first matchups were definitely pro-Ontario. With the crowd still buzzing from Richard Hart‘s Hot Shots win they were looking for more to cheer, and the players didn’t disappoint. The loud roar that went up as Team Ontario marched into the arena was electric. Even our own Prime Minister, the Honourable Stephen Harper took in the games!

Rumours travelled quickly through the volunteer corps that he was going to be at today’s game, and the RCMP officers dressed in jackets and ties with ear buds was a good giveaway that he was indeed in the building. Sure enough, just before the teams were piped onto the ice, he appeared. You would think that the PM would be sitting in one of the corporate boxes, right? In fact, he was in the stands just off to my left as I sat at my statistician station behind sheet A.

He spent a lot of time shaking hands and posing for photos as people passed by on the way to their seats, but as these are curling fans, he was able to watch the action – most of the fan interaction took place between ends. I wondered: did the Canadian Curling Association know he was coming, and did they gave him tickets? So I did some investigating, and one of my sources said that yes – he had been invited months ago, but the CCA weren’t aware that he was going to attend until yesterday. And no, he wasn’t given tickets, he bought his own… eight of them, in fact. London Mayor Joe Fontanna was also there, as was our area MP Joe Preston.

It was pretty funny to watch the players as word trickled out that he was sitting in section 102! They each took their turn gawking and gave a sort of smile, as if to say “that’s kind of neat.” I even bugged one of my fellow statsies to use his binoculars – not to check out the result of shots at the away end, but to check out how and what the PM was up to – I won’t mention any names, he knows who he is! 😉

Turns out Harper been a curling fan for years, and he’s been going to Briers and other curling championships for a long time (see this story and video). Lo and behold, I spotted a photo of him late last night (above) posted on this webpage – LOL!

For the record, the PM was in London for his son’s high-school volleyball tournament (Ha. As if that was random. We think next year’s volleyball tourney will take place early in March, in Saskatoon – ED).

Enough about politics! As the games began it wasn’t hard to see that the rain – soon turning to snow – was causing not only havoc on the roads outside but also on the ice inside… as the theme for Saturday was HOLY FROST! At least two sweepers bit it as they hit the frost line and the look on the faces of ice techs Hans Wuthrich and Mark Shurek faces told me it wasn’t a minor problem.

The Curling News media bench view

Apparently the JLC has three exhaust fans but no dehumidifiers. With the big crowd, the frost moved in quickly and heavily. On every sheet you could find hair brooms in use and from sheet to sheet you could see ice that was a discoloured, thicker shade of white – not at all shiny as it typically looks. Normally you experience a little frost in arena settings but that is usually on the sides closest to the fans sitting by the outside sheets. This frost was everywhere, and it made draw weight a guess for the thrower and judging weight for the brushers even more difficult.

So it was surprising to me that in the 10th end of the Ontario versus New Brunswick match, ON skip Glenn Howard didn’t try the double, or even a little hit n’ roll on his last shot. He elected to draw, and despite all 6,500-or so fans urged on Laing and Savill with calls to sweep, the throw came up short and the Ontarians gave up a steal of two and the game. Ouch. On any given day Glenn makes that draw but today wasn’t like any given day… based on the conditions alone, it was a tough shot.

The frost seemed to be much better the night game. In the latter stages the CCA put out an news release about the frosty situation at JLC.  Seeing as the weather report is calling for more of the same, “the CCA made the decision to import a portable de-humidification system which will be operation on Sunday through to the conclusion of the event”.  The price tag for rental cost of the equipment required, along with its installation, is estimated to be approximately $40,000 and will be paid out of the event operational budget. As I left the building, word was that the unit was on route and that it would be installed overnight. Sounds like the ice crew had a late night… as did I!