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Hair brushes banned from STOH, Brier

Hair today, gone tomorrow

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.

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Montreal 2014: Homan, Harper and The Flag Guy

Bring back the curlers we have lost

By Mike Fournier

Robot curling? Homan (left) and Co. crushed them all

MONTREAL – So it was as expected in the end; Rachel Homan and her team of Ontario robots destroyed the competition. Rachel did not have to throw her last rock all week. It felt like the other teams were pretty much playing for second place all week.

Val Sweeting‘s Alberta gang gave it a valiant effort in the final, but you just can’t miss shots early and get down two or three to Homan. You are fighting an uphill battle against a team that is just not going to miss many. The sixth end looked a little hairy after a few misses, but Homan threw two pistols to get out of pretty much the only trouble they were in all game.

Some random thoughts…

Stephen Harper in the House!

I was impressed to see the PM in the house for both the bronze medal game and the final. Regardless of what many Quebecers might think of his politics, it was still pretty cool to have him there. (Although I honestly thought his security detail was going to tackle the superfan who runs around the arena with a Canadian flag). However it was surprising that an Alberta guy would be wearing a Team Canada sweatshirt!

The Hairband

I need to get a hairband to curl, just like Alberta third Joanne Courtney. It just looks so cool. Maybe I can find one that comes with hair.

The Tick

Okay. I acknowledge that Homan is the best team in the country (excepting, perhaps, Jennifer Jones). I acknowledge that she calls a brilliant game, and is capable of dominating a tournament like few other women’s teams in history. But I am just going to say it: I don’t like the Lisa Weagle Tick shot that everyone raves about.

Of course when you are tied in the 10th end and you have hammer, the tick is brilliant. But in the fourth end? Really? Seems like a wasted rock – especially when you miss it.

I think there is a reason that most competitive teams play a come around to the top four instead of the tick in most ends other than 10. It’s because it is a shot you will make more often, and you force the other team to throw their next one into the rings. It makes more sense to me. Even if I thought my lead would make the tick two out of three times, I think I would still call the draw more often.

Lisa Weagle missed a few ticks in the final, and her team found herself in a lot of trouble in those ends.  I am not saying it’s not impressive when she makes them, I am just wondering why she calls them.

Don’t tell me “Mike you must be wrong – because they are winning.” I know… they are awesome. They did not come close to losing this week. But they win because they make way more shots than the other teams, not because of the brilliant tick strategy.

What hosting meant to Montreal curling

So the finals are done, the crowd has gone home. What did the STOH mean to Montreal?

I spent a large part of the week walking around – in both the arena and the Lounge. I talked to the countless volunteers, the fans from all over, the teams, the bartenders (okay maybe I spent a bit too much time with the bartenders).

Le Flag Guy!

I have to say I think the Montreal STOH was a big success. I am sure the organizers will say it would have been nice to have a few more people in the stands, and the “no beer” policy in the arena also drew more than a couple of complaints. But from Thursday on the crowds were respectable and very animated. It was a fun place to be.

Perhaps the most important success story of the event is that it seemed to re-animate the Montreal curling scene. Montreal used to be the heart of curling in Quebec. It had more clubs, more curlers, more parties and more fun places than anywhere else, by far. But this success has waned. Clubs have closed, many curlers have drifted away and many of the tournaments that drew teams from all over are but memories of a past era.

I will admit, when I heard that Montreal would be hosting this, I was afraid. I was afraid that we would not have the volunteer base or the fan required to run a national championship. I am happy to report that I was wrong to be scared. Fans came. Volunteers volunteered.

The championship was a great gathering of the Quebec curling community. I walked around and saw so many people that I had not seen in 10 or 15 years – people who love curling, but just don’t get out as much anymore. Or people who had given up the game, but were drawn out to watch a few games this week. It was great to see them all, and I seemed to hear a lot of people saying how they missed curling, and want to get back into the game.

Montreal (and Quebec) still has a vibrant curling community; I think this event showed us that all we need to do is re-engage it. The STOH showed us that it is possible.

The powers that be spend a lot of effort trying to think of how to draw new people into curling, when maybe we should spend more time trying to bring back the curlers we have lost. I think they are an easier sell, and this week convinced me that there are a lot of them around.

Let’ s hope we can keep the momentum going from what we have generated here.

And finally…

It was fun, but I am kinda glad the week is done, and for one reason: I no longer have to tell the story to everyone I see about what happened in my 10th against Jean-Michel Menard at provincials!!!

[STOH photo by Andrew Klaver/Kruger Products Ltd. Other image by the author. Click on images to increase viewing size]

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Montreal 2014: A tip of the chapeau

Salut to les bénévoles at the STOH

Elizabeth Anderson – with a cool Val Sweeting in behind

By Sam Corea

MONTREAL – Having volunteered for many years at the Vancouver Curling Club, I know that any successful event – from the club level to national championships to the Olympic Games – rely on the services of dedicated volunteers. Here at the 2014 Canadian women’s championship in Montreal, 400 volunteers with manteaux bleus (blue jackets) have fulfilled various roles at the Maurice Richard Arena.

Many of the volunteers have come from local curling clubs.

“We have a great friendship in curling and social interaction,” said Elizabeth Anderson, a curler from the Rosemere CC near Montreal. She’s been helping to look after the media’s needs at the event. “The media room is fabulous. It’s kind of like bees to a hive.”

And she’s enjoyed being in the centre of the action. “I think that sitting on the media bench and being able to see four sheets of ice was the best seat in the house. I will always remember it. It was very fulfilling as a volunteer job.”

She hopes that hosting the STOH in Montreal will help grow the sport her province. “Just to be able to put a face on curling and what it’s like and the friendships involved. I think that will help the sport in Quebec.”

For those who haven’t volunteered for a sport event, Anderson highly recommends it. “You can be in a totally different environment and be able to enjoy it as well.”

Stef Lawton gets it together – like a champion!

On Saturday afternoon, after the 3-4 Page playoff game, Anderson performed one of her media volunteer duties and it was a tricky one. She had to escort an emotional Saskatchewan skip Stefanie Lawton to the media scrum area for comment on her loss to Alberta’s Val Sweeting.

That’s always a tough job for both the volunteer and the athlete. The volunteer – who might have no formal media relations training – can see obvious distress on the face of the athlete, but the job needs to get done. The athlete, in most cases, hasn’t had much time – if any – to process sudden elimination from the playoffs.

“Disappointed, disappointed,” said Lawton, who missed two key draws during the game. “We will come out tomorrow and play for that bronze medal, because we would be very proud to win that one.”

Sweeting went on to beat Manitoba’s Chelsea Carey in a tight Saturday night semi, meaning the scrappy Edmontonians will take on defending champions Team Canada, skipped by Ottawa’s Rachel Homan, in Sunday’s grand finale.

[Photos by Sam Corea – click on images to increase viewing size]

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Montreal 2014: Homan roars into STOH final

It had to be done (the poutine)

By Sam Corea

Poutine and Steamie. Avec Pepsi.

MONTREAL – The 2013-14 curling season is turning out to be my “North American curling tour” with stops in Kitchener, Las Vegas and now Montreal (and Toronto, my new curling home).

I started my Montreal visit with a stop at La Belle Province – a local fast food restaurant – to have a mandatory hot dog (steamie) and order of poutine, since fellow columnist Mike Fournier blogged this week that there was no poutine to be found at the Maurice Richard Arena.

Great stuff.

After a late lunch, I took the Montreal Metro over to Parc Olympique, site of the 1976 Olympic Games.

For a westerner, I didn’t know what to expect from a championship curling event in Quebec. We’re not on the Prairies here. But all the elements of a championship curling event are present – signage, carpeting and TV lighting have dressed up the arena nicely. Built in 1962, the circle-shaped rink with the domed roof is quite similar to the Agrodome in Vancouver, site of the 1997 STOH.

Coincidentally, that’s the only other time I’ve attended a Canadian women’s championship.

Sammy sez…

Watching the round robin of the STOH on TSN this week, it was hard not to notice the lack of big audiences in the stands. But for the 1 vs 2 Page playoff game on Friday night, there was a decent, cheering crowd of 2,300 – complete with flag-wavers and cowbell-ringers, plus folks in the requisite red and white Team Canada hats.

Perhaps some Montrealers caught some Olympic fever from the Sochi Games (instead of the flu that’s been going around here this week – we have a big bottle of hand sanitizer in the media room and the press are encouraged to use it) and decided to see an Olympic sport – live! But also noticeable was a pro-Team Canada contingent as the Rachel Homan team is from the not-too-far-away Ottawa Curling Club.

As for the game, Team Canada booked a spot in Sunday’s final after a tense 5-4 win over Chelsea Carey and Team Manitoba.

“We battled through and stayed tough,” said Homan. “Their team didn’t miss.” She was right; Carey might have careered it last night, and still fell to the undefeated Ontarians.

Homan was happy with the fan support. “Lots of people made the trip down on the train (from Ottawa) even though it’s a Friday night game and they had to probably take a half day off from work. I really thankful for all the fans who came out to see us win this.”

Indeed, Carey was shooting 100 per cent as of the seventh end. “It was a good game,” she said. “We lost, but we played really well. It was a good battle and hopefully we get another shot at them in the final.”

[Click on images to increase viewing size]

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Montreal 2014: Still no poutline

Quebec needs your cheers

Feel for these ladies. Please.

By Mike Fournier

MONTREAL – Quebec is having a tough week. I sat and watched the home team take an absolute arse-kicking at the hands of Manitoba yesterday. I believe the largest crowd of the week watched Allison Ross get absolutely pasted, by a football-like score of 15-3 against Chelsea Carey. This leaves the Quebec side at 1-8.

So you had a bad day?

Allison and her team are having a bad week. There is no hiding from it, and it seems to be what everyone in the crowd is talking about. Everyone asks me why, as if I understood the mysteries of curling slumps. All I can say for sure is that I have seen it happen to everyone, and have lived through it as well.

I have been there: games where you just can’t seem to find draw weight – games where you feel you cannot hit and stick on a takeout anywhere. It happens. Curling is a lot like golf: when you miss that first three or four-foot putt in a round, it makes it easier to miss the second one. However, when I have a bad curling weekend, it usually means we are out of a bonspiel by early Saturday morning, and we skulk out of town with our tail between our legs without anyone noticing.

But Allison is having a bad week at the STOH in Quebec. In the case of a national championship, you still need to play 11 games, and eight ends in each of them. And in this case, she is in front of pretty much the entire Quebec curling world, as well as family and friends. You have to feel for her.

To the people who say: “It doesn’t look like they are having any fun out there.” You are right. They are not. Losing is no fun, and Allison and her team are competitors. She practices hard, she plays hard. She wants to win. She wants to play well.

So keep cheering them on. It is easy to cheer for a team that is winning: “way to go, keep it going” and so on. But when a team is losing we tend to avoid eye contact, and there are a lot less positive e-mails or posts on the team Facebook page. Unfortunate, because that is when they need it the most!

They will be playing Ontario in what will likely be a meaningless game in the standings tonight – sorry, that’s the pre-relegation era talking, using the word “meaningless” (see yesterday’s blog).  But I guarantee Quebec will be giving it their all to win. I will be there cheering them on.

Eight ends? Really?

The CCA implemented a rule that during the round robin, teams must play at least eight ends. On one hand I get the logic of this rule; people are paying to watch. They need to keep the players on the ice for at least two hours. But yesterday seemed to highlight to me why this rule has no place at the STOH.

The early handshake is part of the charm of curling. It relives the team that is having a bad day from having to endure an hour of meaninglessly throwing rocks up and down the ice when they really just want to go and regroup or have a beer. It also saves the team that is winning from the uncomfortable feeling that they are clubbing a baby seal, in front of the seal’s home fans at that. I am sure Chelsea Carey drew no pleasure in running up the score, and the fans drew no pleasure from watching. It was awkward. It is just not curling. I get it for the playoffs, when there is only one game on the ice. But for the round robin, it makes no sense at all.

Big teams pulling away

The rest of the field seems to be playing out as expected in a round robin that has offered little in the way of surprises so far. The four teams that were at the Olympic Trials are predictably pulling away from the field. Rachel Homan (Ontario), Carey, Stefanie Lawton (Sask) seem all but guaranteed a playoff spot. Of the three, Homan seems to be a notch above so far, but there is a lot of curling left. Val Sweeting (Alberta) seems to be having a bit more trouble, and might bring some of the four or five loss teams back into the fold.

Some random thoughts:

  • I am guessing some of the teams and their fans got to enjoy the pleasure of Montreal traffic yesterday! Five centimetres of snow = a two-hour drive home at rush hour. Bienvenue à Montréal.
  • Strangely, in the games I have watched, nobody seems to be able to make a draw after the seventh end. It looks like the ice gets a bit flat in the slide path, and every draw seems to come up a few feet short or crash the center guard. I am just surprised the teams don’t seem to have figured this out yet.

[Kruger Products photo by Andrew Klaver – click on image to increase viewing size]

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Montreal 2014: Quebec STOH so far

Un autre virus! Pas de poutine!

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…
Here we go again…
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.
Curling Morphs in Quebec!
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.
[Click on images to increase viewing size]
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STOH 2013: A Dad Experience

Nedohin: Little Gemmell backs a winner

by Dean Gemmell

KINGSTON, Ont. – For the first time, I’m at a major curling event with my almost 10-year-old daughter. The two of us arrived at the Tournament of Hearts today, catching half of the afternoon draw and all of the evening games.

My kid likes the sport quite a bit, and will watch it on television or online with me. She has some sweet shoes from BalancePlus with 1/4” hinged teflon. But I don’t push it on her. I once heard Kevin Martin say that you shouldn’t start kids curling before they can really enjoy it — it’s too slow a game and not an especially easy endeavour for a youngster. I tend to agree. So, for now, I just bring her to the club with me when she wants to go, let her slide a mile on those slick shoes and help her enjoy learning how to throw the rock.

I hoped seeing a big-time event in an arena might spark something in her…. but I wasn’t completely convinced. I thought she might find it dull. I figured she might notice that many in the less-than-capacity crowd were five or six decades her senior. I worried that the quiet passages that plague curling at times might make her think the sport was a snoozer.

But it’s working. She wanted to sit in the very first row, about eight feet from the hack on Sheet D. (It was actually kind of odd for me to watch a game from a vantage point that close instead of from a more distant spot in the arena, like the media bench or, say, the Patch.)

So there we were, watching and listening to Heather Nedohin and Kelly Scott, closer than most other sporting events would ever let you get. My Continental Cup teammates were nice enough to say a mid-game hello, which might help me when it comes to imparting a bit of curling wisdom in the future. My daughter was nervous because she was cheering for Team Canada — she loves to back a winner — and the outcome wasn’t decided until the last rock.

We’ll see how things go on Wednesday but so far, so good.

After that, how about a look at the STOH through the eyes of a jaded player and media guy? Let’s start with what looks to be some serious separation between the Big Three — Canada, Manitoba and Ontario — and the rest of the field. Huge separation, in fact. Bob Weeks started a debate on Twitter about where the gap was bigger between the top and the bottom of the standings — at the STOH, or the Brier? Well, it sure looks big here. Ontario’s Rachel Homan and Co. are playing with brutal efficiency, Jennifer Jones is pouring on the offense early and Heather Nedohin has the confidence that comes from being a defending champion. I’ll be shocked if the final includes a team from outside of this group. It’s curling, and you just never know, but this bet seems like Locksville.

Alberta: They’ve gotta believe

Alberta is on a Misery Tour. I hate seeing that, when what should be the highlight of a curling career starts to turn into a nightmare. They have to believe they can salvage the week with some wins down the stretch.

Other thoughts? Well, maybe it’s because I’m here with my nine-year-old and I’m back at the hotel shortly after the last rock was thrown, but I have no idea where the Patch is. I hope that’s because it’s not a priority for me on this trip and not a problem of poor wayfaring.

The media bench isn’t exactly packed, but that’s more of a statement about the media business than it is about curling.

Many in the crowd are kind and friendly, sort of like grandparents, which they inevitably are.

The shotmaking is very good — lots of papered guards and some nice big-weight hits — even if the tactics are, at times, a bit dull.

Even on a night when a few games were over early, it was pretty damn entertaining. I’m pleased that my daughter is engaged and excited about watching elite female athletes compete. I’m glad I made it here. I hope a few more Ontarians decide to do the same.

Dean Gemmell is a U.S. curling champion (with Team Heath McCormick), a curling author (Fit To Curl with John Morris) and a podcaster at thecurlingshow.com. He also writes occasional columns for The Curling News, one of which appears in the upcoming March “Brier” issue.

Kruger Products/CCA photos by Andrew Klaver

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STOH 2013: Bodogh shoots from the lip

Bodogh on the 2013 STOH field (above)

She has spoken. And we’re passing it on.

Marilyn Bodogh, once known as Marilyn Darte, won two STOH and world titles for Ontario in 1986 and 1996. She also lost an infamous Battle of the Sexes tilt against a modified Ed Werenich team (with Rick Lang at third and Paul Savage as a kilted chef – long story) at a packed arena during the ’86 men’s worlds; a one-off that was televised live to huge ratings, raised tons of money for charity and cemented Bodogh’s legend as a certified Wild Woman of the Roaring Game.

As many rabid curling fans know, Bodogh then moved to Sportsnet as a Grand Slam analyst (with Lukowich) from 2001 through ’06, and has also worked occasional Rogers TV Ontario curling gigs since then.

The Wild Woman of Curling recently gave some 2013 STOH predictions to Tim Baines of the Sun Media/QMI Agency chain, but alas, the story seems to be unavailable online. This is unfortunate, as Bodogh was anything but shy (as usual) in declaring – for starters – that Quebec’s Allison Ross “is not a skip”, that last year’s champions “weren’t ready to wear that maple leaf on their backs (at the worlds)” and that Team Ontario, skipped by Rachel Homan, are her “IT girls, I want them to win so badly.”

Love her or hate her, Marilyn always has something to say. Here, above, is the full account of impressions she passed on to Baines, as published in the February 16 print edition of the Toronto Sun (click on image to increase viewing size)…

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Huge curling changes for Brier and more

Could this be ALTA vs CAN at the Brier?

by George Karrys

The world’s biggest national curling association issued a news release today, but the news itself was unlike any released in years. Indeed, the Canadian Curling Association is charting a new path into undiscovered waters – and with that, a harsh blow has been struck against curling’s biggest and loudest gorilla in the room.

We’re talking about tradition.

“The 2012 National Curling Congress was an excellent opportunity for our members across the country to come together in Ottawa (last) week,” said CCA boss Greg Stremlaw. “Our sport has so many success stories from the past year so it was rewarding for us to provide updates to the membership as well as celebrate accomplishments, including the CCA’s Hall of Fame Luncheon – the organization’s latest initiative.”

“With the final equitable opportunity to access Canadian Championships now approved, we were able to formalize exciting changes to the CCA’s two marquee properties, the Tournament of Hearts and the Brier.”

After decades of coast-to-coast arguments and more recent coast-to-coast-to-coast hyperbole – which led to a 2010 commitment to make the Canadian championships more equitable – the Canadian men’s (Brier) and women’s (STOH) grand events are finally in for big changes. The 2014 Brier winner will receive an automatic entry into the 2015 Brier as Team Canada, while a Northern Ontario women’s team will be added to the 2015 Tournament of Hearts.

This means that the Brier and STOH will become 15-team championships that are then whittled down to a “main” – and more familiar – 12-team event, echoing the changes made to the 2012 Canadian Mixed and Canadian Seniors. And the teams at the bottom of the Brier and STOH standings will have to play a qualifying event to win their way back in for the following season.

For traditionalists, this is surely the End Of The World come nigh. The most holy Brier Tankard could be lifted in triumph by a team that did little more than win the trophy the previous year. Thirteen of the 14 teams will still have to battle over weeks and months, from December through February, in city and zone and regional and provincial championships in order to qualify for the Brier – while one team gets a bye.

This has, of course, been deemed just fine and dandy in Canadian women’s curling since the early 1980s, when that Team Canada was first created. But the men, as befitting their proud status as the ultimate power base of the sport, have always approached the concept of a Brier Team Canada with something between curiosity and abject, red-faced horror.

And now the women get to keep their Team Canada, and like the men, will also have a Northern Ontario team to go along with separate squads from the Yukon Territory, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut.

And there’s more.

Jones and Howard: will they or won’t they?

Canada will finally join the rest of the world and host a national Mixed Doubles championship. This will happen very quickly, ie. this coming season, as the next World Mixed Doubles Championship will be hosted by Fredericton, New Brunswick, in April 2013. This is a rush job as the new championship has no dates, site location nor event structure to announce, and whatever gets thrown together will be reviewed after a two-year trial period.

The CCA will also be reviewing something else after 2013 and ’14 – the most interesting decision that normal Canadian residency rules will not apply for Mixed Doubles. This means that Ontario’s Glenn Howard can compete with Manitoba’s Jennifer Jones (photo at left); that Alberta’s John Morris can team with British Columbia’s Kelley Law; or that some city rivals – like Edmonton’s Kevin Martin and Calgary’s Cheryl Bernard – can perhaps bury the NHL hockey hatchet.

Presumably, until we hear otherwise, just about anything like this now goes – at least when it comes to Canadian Mixed Doubles.

But wait, there’s still more.

The biggest change to a new 2012-14 Rule Book will see the CCA incorporate “reverse timing” for all of its championships, where each team will be given 40 minutes of “thinking time” in which to play a 10-end game, plus five minutes to play an extra end.

This is the reverse of the traditional timing approach when each team was given 73 minutes to play, with the clock running from the time the opponent’s stones came to rest until the playing side’s stone stopped. The new approach marks the amount of time it takes to put a stone into play (or thinking time) versus the time a team is actually taking to play a shot.

This welcome change comes just two-or-so years after the World Curling Players’ Association adopted “thinking time” for its Capital One Grand Slam of Curling series, and gained immediate and near-universal support from athletes and coaches.

In other news, the CCA announced:

• A fifth consecutive year of positive financial outlook, to the tune of a $227,508 surplus;

• A $250,000 allocation into the Curling Assistance Program (CAP) in support of capital projects and membership growth;

• That Alberta won both the Dominion Member Association Cup (for excellence at national championships) and the Governors’ Cup, which marks the biggest year-to-year improvement (average point basis) at national championships;

• A formal Hall of Fame Induction Luncheon (held June 14) to honour the recent inductees to the Canadian Curling Hall of Fame – Pat Sanders of British Columbia, Millard Evans, Marv Wirth and Ken McLean of Alberta, and André  Ferland of Quebec;

• An updated Business Plan and Organizational Strategy for the Association; and

• The annual shuffle of Members of the Board of Governors, which sees New Brunswick’s Ron Hutton appointed as Chair; Nova Scotia’s Hugh Avery appointed as Vice-Chair; new Governors (five-year term) Yves Maillet of NB and Shirley Osborne of NS plus one-year term replacement Jim Mann of British Columbia; and retiring Governors Bernadette McIntyre (Saskatchewan) and Mitch Tarapasky (Manitoba).

One thing is certain: curling continues to embrace change, and the latest changes to CCA competitions show that very little in this ancient sport is sacred. Be sure to subscribe to receive your copy of the upcoming November 2012 issue of The Curling News for much more on these changes, as we’ll have updated details, poll results and tons of feedback from the names behind the game.

Event photos by Anil Mungal are copyright ® Capital One (Martin/Koe) and The Curling News (Howard/Jones). Click on each image to increase viewing size.

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STOH Curling 2012: Women wear the pants

WATCHING AND WAITING: Mike McEwen

by Colin Hodgson

RED DEER, Alta. – You’ve probably noticed that my blog posts don’t really reference what’s happening on the ice at the Tournament of Hearts. I intend to keep it that way because: who cares what my opinion is of the curling that’s taking place? Am I right?

You may also have noticed various men’s curling stars taking in the live STOH action – guys such as Dave Nedohin, Mike McEwen, DJ Kidby, Mark Dacey, Brett Gallant and myself (although I am confident none of The Curling News readers know who I am, and I am most definitely not calling myself a star).

What do all of these former champions have in common, in Red Deer, you might ask? Well, all of these men’s kings of various events – be they Briers, worlds, Grand Slams, Canadian juniors et cetera – are here supporting their significant others. The other point that seems a bit overwhelming in my mind is the reason I labelled these giants “former” champions. Not one member of this group was able to keep up with the women we share beds with in the 2012 playdowns, ie. the road to the Brier, although three guys came darned close (McEwen, Dacey and Gallant all lost their provincial finals). A little emasculating, you ask? The answer: oh, yes.

This leads me to another realization, one that was kindly and swiftly brought up by my significant other’s father: We just don’t wear the pants in the relationship anymore. Now that is a tough pill to swallow when it comes to a player like Mike McEwen, merely the world No. 1 in CTRS points and in total money earned, and his relationship with Manitoba lead Dawn Askin, who has six recent STOH appearances and three wins, and is gunning for 2012 bronze this morning.

Yep, this can be an occasional raw spot in the pride of the male curlers. As Mike himself says: “I’d like to take credit for Dawn’s success over the last five seasons we’ve been together, but the reverse is probably more true… and her success has started to rub off on my team.”

It's a great view but NL coach Korab still gets stressed out

When I asked DJ Kidby what it’s like to live in the shadow of Manitoba third Kaitlyn Lawes, his blunt answer was: “I might not ever get out of that shadow. She tosses a pretty hard out-turn, that one.”

So Brett (Gallant), what’s it like losing a provincial men’s final and coming directly here to support your girlfriend (Nova Scotia third Danielle Parsons)? “Its always tough not coming through on the provincial final,” says Brett. “But I really enjoyed watching this women’s team play together, and watching this national event makes me wanna get to a national event myself.”

Newfoundland coach and 2006 Olympic champeen Jamie Korab had this to say: “My wife was a good curler from Ontario, but once I started to coach her last year, I made her a great curler. At least there is still one good curler in the house!”

Essentially, this entire week has been a little uncomfortable for us guys in the stands… because we’re usually the ones out on the ice. There is a definite consensus that all would prefer to be out there playing, rather than squirming in our seats and holding our breath.

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