Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Morris to skip Team Canada, Bailey to fill in for Rycroft

Yup. Just a few weeks after announcing he was going to take the year off, Johnny Mo is back. In a release from the CCA, Morris said has agreed to skip the three remaining Team Canada players although the schedule will be quite limited. 

“My plan was to take the 2014-15 season off as I move ahead in my career as a firefighter,” said Morris, a resident of Chestermere, Alta., just outside of Calgary. “But to be able to play for Team Canada, and considering the Alberta events are so close to home, it was hard to pass up on this offer. I talked it over with Jim, Tyrel and Rick and they were very understanding. I can’t thank them enough for the season we had, and I wish them nothing but the very best going forward.”

As well, Carter Rycroft will be appearing in a limited fashion for the team, with Scott Bailey taking his place outside of the Brier, Canada Cup and Continental Cup.

The announcement comes after Kevin Koe left the team. Many expected Kevin Martin to take over but he retired after last weekend's Grand Slam. 

Agenda for the OCA's meeting could spell fireworks

This Sunday is the special general meeting of the Ontario Curling Association, the one that was called by Dale Curtis, the former vice-president who was ousted from her position by the current board. The meeting is at 1 p.m. at the Mississaugua G&CC (NOT High Park which was the original location). For those planning to attend, please note there is a dress code at the club.

As of this morning, any notice of the meeting has not been posted on the OCA's web site. There is a notice about the minutes from the last SGM. Anyone interested in getting a draft version of those minutes can e-mail the OCA and it will send them on.

Below is the official agenda for the day. Although all the items look interesting, I suspect the afternoon will focus around items E to I. At the last meeting, the board had enough votes and proxies to control things. Will that happen again? And if it does, what will the reaction of the membership be? Already, we've heard from the Toronto Curling Association along with the Ottawa Valley and Hamilton and Area associations looking for some change. As well, the Canadian Curling Association will be heard from.

It is possible that if the board controls the voting and remains intact, it could very well mark the start of the end of the OCA as we know it. No club has to pay its dues to the OCA and it's possible there could be a move afoot to leave.

On the other hand, the current board might show enough that it will indicate some change will happen.

It should be an interesting day.

1.  Call to Order, Welcome and Explanation of Meeting Protocol                                                                                           

2.  Notice of Meeting and Proof of Distribution

3.  Report on Credentials of Delegates and Quorum

4.  Approval of Agenda

5.  Motion to accept minutes of March 30th, 2014 SGM as distributed

6.  Business

a)     Presentation of information from the “in camera” session of September 2013

b)    CCA Presentation

c)    What steps has the Board taken to insure this situation does not happen again?

d)    Explanation of current Policy Governance

e)    Board Action Plan on items from March 30th SGM

f)     Motion of re-instatement of Bill Rourke to Member at Large due to incorrect removal procedure

g)    Motion of re-instatement of Dale Curtis to Vice President

h)    Motion of non- confidence in President of the OCA

i)      Motion of non-confidence in Board of the OCA

7.  Adjournment

Monday, April 21, 2014

Back to the future for Team Gushue

No big surprised here but Brad Gushue announced today that Mark Nichols, late of the Jeff Stoughton rink, is heading home to re-join his gold-medal winning skip.

Gushue made the announcement on the team's Facebook account:

"I am very pleased to announce the return of Mark Nichols to our team. It will be great to be teammates once again, as Mark brings experience and talent that will certainly benefit our team as a whole." said Brad Gushue. “Really looking forward to having a world class player like Mark join our team next season,” added Geoff Walker.
Mark Nichols, originally from Labrador City, played with Brad Gushue from 1998 to 2011. Having achieved a number of successes including winning a Canadian and World Junior Championship in 2001, and most notably winning the Gold Medal for Canada at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Torino, Italy.
"I am looking forward to joining Team Gushue," said Mark Nichols. "I’m excited to be returning home, and excited to help the guys achieve our goal of winning a Brier and return to the Olympics. They have shown they are a world class team and I hope to build on the success they have had over the last three years.”

With Nichols stepping in, Adam Casey becomes the odd man out. The new lineup will be Gushue, Nichols at third, Brett Gallant playing second and lead Geoff Walker.

He got the send off from his former skipper:

“We want to thank Adam for his hard work and dedication to the team over the past three years,” said Brad Gushue. 

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Kevin Martin's legacy: easily one of the best

Now that Kevin Martin has announced his retirement, it’s fair to look back at his career and wonder where he fits among the greats and what his legacy will be.

I was lucky in that K-Mart’s time on the ice more or less paralleled my years at the Globe and so I spent a lot of time interviewing him. I don’t think our reporter-athlete relationship started off all that great. I found him to be a bit arrogant and he felt I was biased against him.

As time went on we both matured at our skills and developed a good relationship. He jokingly called me his favourite fiction writer, something he’ll still bring up to this day.

On the ice, I think K-Mart is easily among the best of his generation and probably of all time. Four Brier titles, two Olympic medals and a world championship is a pretty damn good resume. There is also a Canadian junior championship and 17 Grand Slam titles, not too bad. Obviously winning gold in Vancouver would be the pinnacle and the performance of that team was among the best I’ve ever seen anywhere, anytime.

I think the only spot where Martin lacked success was at the world championships where he had three silver medals in the men’s and one in juniors. He finally won in 2008 but the Olympic gold medal probably trumps all anyway.

Martin also did a great deal off the ice to promote and enhance the sport. He was part of the group that started the Grand Slam with the Brier boycott, a move that may have been controversial at the time but clearly has paid off with the legitimacy of the Slam. In many ways he became the face of the players’ side of that battle while Randy Ferbey carried the flag for the other. I think the creation of the Slam and its subsequent takeover by Rogers really paves the way for the next generation of curlers. Martin always talked about that and it seemed a little patronizing at the time, but clearly the work of Martin and other such as Stoughton, Middaugh and Glenn Howard really has paved the way for that. 

I think Martin also did more off the ice in terms of turning curling into a business than anyone else. Everything from schools to apps, he had a big enough profile among not just curling fans but sports fans to build up his business interests. And he was able to draw big companies into sponsoring him, something few players have had as much success with.

And after that bumpy start with the media, I think he grew to become pretty savvy in talking to the press. He loosened up enough with those he knew to become a good quote and he learned how to build a relationship that would benefit both sides.

Big shots and big moments? Well winning the gold, as I mentioned is on top. It's funny but when I look back, sometimes the big moments aren't the winning shots. I think of his missed draw in the final of the Salt Lake Games and I think of the famous non-call in the world championships against David Murdoch. To be fair, there are also a ton of great shots made in clutch situations. Martin was as good as anyone with those.

I think Martin could also be a polarizing figure with is teammates. He demanded a lot and expected a lot. He wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but when the cheques rolled in and the titles piled up, no one seemed to mind. Really, he just won and he did it a lot. 

In his new position as an analyst, I think the Old Bear will do pretty well. I think it will take him a little time to get use to the job but he has done some work before, including a stint for NBC on the recent Olympics.

It will be curling’s loss when Martin packs it in after the Players. He’s clearly one of the best. The game will miss him.

Friday, April 18, 2014

K-Mart retires to become a broadcaster as Grand Slam adds fifth event

Big release today from Sportsnet about the Grand Slam of Curling, with the four-event series moving to five for next year. As well, the bigger news is that Kevin Martin will join the on-air team, calling it a career on the ice.
“It has been an amazing run.  I am closing the chapter on my playing career in the sport of curling that has been so good to me,” said Martin. “I can't wait for what lies ahead in my new role with Sportsnet as we work together to elevate the sport to new heights, inspiring our curling youth.”

There had been some thought that Martin might take over the duties of skipping the remaining three members of the Kevin Koe team, but this certainly ends that discussion.

In addition to his on-air job, Martin will serve as a sort of ambassador for the Grand Slam, helping out with the players and host communities.

The other part of the announcement is interesting -- the move of an additional Grand Slam -- which is being called the Elite 10 for now (I understand it may end up having Martin's name in the title in the future, much like golf has the Arnold Palmer Invitational). There was a lot of Sky Is Falling talk from curling fans when Rogers signed the big hockey deal, but this would seem to indicate that curling is not going anywhere in Sportsnet's lineup.

The newest event, the Elite 10, joins the MastersNationalCanadian Open and Players’ Championships to round out the Grand Slam of Curling series for 2014-15. Total prize money for the Grand Slam of Curling events will be increasing to a total minimum of $700,000, with the $1 million bonus still available to the men’s team who can win all five Slams in a season. In addition, Sportsnet’s curling broadcast coverage will increase to up to 200 hours for next season.

I'll have more on Martin in a future blog

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Knives come out for OCA board as regional bodies speak out

The Ontario Curling Association's board received a kick to the pills this morning when the Toronto Curling Association issued a press release stating its unease with the actions of the provincial board.

It's joined with similar associations in Ottawa and Hamilton to express serious concern about the OCA board's operation.

The TCA Board has been watching the Ontario Curling Association and its challenges very carefully over the last eight months.  Our concerns have mounted and we have begun actively communicating with the Ottawa Valley Curling Association (OVCA) and the Hamilton Area Curling Association (HACA) about an unconscionable state of affairs. It is apparent the organization is not operating efficiently or effectively and the credibility of the OCA’s leadership is currently in question.  We are all very concerned with what we have been witnessing.

It's urging all curlers to attend the special general meeting April 27 at the Mississaugua G&CC to speak out. At that meeting, of course, there will be votes of non-confidence in the OCA's president and the board and the TCA made no mistake about where it stands on the matter.  

The Toronto Curling Association believes that the OCA must clean house in a significant manner.  The OVCA and HACA hold the same general belief. 

You can read the full text of the release here. 

While the CCA and other provincial organizations have expressed concern with the OCA board, this is the first time a group that is directly affected by the Ontario board has spoken out. It turns up the heat considerably on president Ian McGillis and the rest.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Music stops, players grabbing chairs

It has certainly been a busy spring in the player movement front, hasn't it?

Teams changing, players retiring, moving vans hired . . . and so far there doesn't seem to be too much in the way of bad blood

The latest news came in a Tweet from Paul Wiecek concerning Jeff Stoughton.

It's my understanding that of the top 15 men's teams, only two will not have any sort of change. I believe those would be the rinks skipped by Brad Jacobs and Mike McEwen. Anyone know any differently?

The women's side isn't much different. In fact, there are so many changes the CCA released a notice saying that Jennifer Jones team will remain intact for next year. I know that sounds sort of silly but when you think about it, both teams that won the Canadian titles this year will return as changed rinks.

Actually, for a good rundown on who is going where, we turn to McEwen who penned this blog for the Grand Slam site.

I wonder what effect that will have on the Players Championship getting underway in Summerside, PEI? Might be a bit like the curling version of The Farewell Tour.