Friday, March 6, 2015

Long Sasky drought means no expectations on Laycock

Saskatchewan joined the playoff picture on Friday.

That, in itself is an accomplishment for the Prairie province which hasn't had that much Brier success of late. In fact, the last time a Saskatchewan team made the playoffs was 2008 when Pat Simmons led his rink to a 9-2 mark before losing in the semis.

The last Brier win for Sasky? That was 1980 when Rick Folk won, using corn booms!

The drought has been so long, in fact, that in this Canadian Press story by Donna Spencer, skip Steve Laycock says there really aren't any expectations on a team wearing the green any more.

"It's almost gotten to the point where it's been so long since we've won a Brier, there are no expectations anymore," Laycock said Friday. "When it's been that long, people are probably betting against it more than for it. 
"It would be remarkable if we could pull that off. Maybe we could start a string of wins for Saskatchewan."

Relegation process might spell end of Koe's career

Jamie Koe knows the fate of his territory next year: relegation. And because of that the nine-time Brier participant might just hang up his slider, according to this article by Todd Saelhof of the Calgary Sun. 

Koe's team, still winless on Friday morning, will finish last and be dropped into the relegation scramble ahead of next year. At least, whomever is representing the Northwest Territories will. It might not be Koe:

“We’re in the relegation right now,” said Koe, 37. “So we’ll see what happens. We always play it a year at a time because curling’s our third priority behind family and work, so we’ll have to talk with the boys, because there’s only five or six of us up there that are really competitive, and we’ll see who wants to put in the time. So we’ll see who wants to curl or if we’re going to curl. 
“I’ve got a pretty busy career and a pretty busy family life — I’d have to weigh it with the wife,” continued Koe. “It’s a lot of effort to put in and a lot of travel you have to do in those two or three (preliminary) games before you get to the Brier. It’s a lot of effort to win those two or three games before you play in the Brier, and there’s no guarantee you’re in the Brier and (instead) on your way home. 
“I’m pretty disappointed now, so I’d probably say ‘no,’ but in a month or two, I might say ‘yes.’ ”

When asked about the whole relegation process, Koe, took the high road.

“The CCA is doing what they think is best for the sport, and I think right now, they think that’s best for the sport,” Koe said. “I know a lot of folks that don’t like it, but I’m indifferent to it, so I don’t really want to get into it.”

If he doesn't come back the Brier will miss one of its favourites, a guy who embraced all that this national championship is about. Koe has fun but still manages to put some wins on the board most years. This time around, it's been a bit of a struggle. Still, he seems to be the life of the party.

The Brier needs more guys like Jamie Koe.

Morning Classes still going strong

A nice story in the Herald by Valerie Fortney on the long-running (67 years!) and much-loved Morning Classes. If you've never heard of this great Brier tradition, shame on you! If you've never experienced it then you don't know what you're missing. Read on and you'll understand the fun this band of curling lovers has every year.

Fortney went to experience it first hand and reported on her visit. She traced the roots of Morning Classes back to an Ontario politician

It was in such a spirit that the first Morning Classes came to life. As the story goes, former Ontario Lt.-Gov. Colin Campbell used to serve the gin-and-lemon concoction during the Second World War, to encourage the miners under his command to show up for morning briefings; when he returned from the war, 
Campbell, an avid curler, continued the tradition, eventually bringing it to the Brier with his pals in 1948. 

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

My take on TapGate

So what do you make of the broom tap to the ankles of the Ontario team by their counterparts from the North?

Well by some accounts, it was an intimidation factor and not called for. Ontario's coach, Bryan Cochrane, was reportedly complaining to officials about the brush bump and Mark Kean told reporters later that he was not happy with the way things occurred but said there's no animosity lingering.

"I don't think it's right, but if everyone can learn from the experience and the officials are on top of that kind of stuff -- and they're on top of the knees on the ice too -- then there's no issue between either team."

Others saw it as a gentle reminder by one team to another to keep the ice in as good shape as possible.

Team Jacobs issued a statement on its Facebook page, explaining the reasoning behind the actions.

Addressing the incident in tonight's game - something was said to another player who did the same thing (not sure if they heard) then the tap came when it was done again (there was one foot tap, not two - broom never touched the foot in the video posted by CCA & again it was communicated vocally "please get your knees off the ice" ) after the only & original foot tap earlier in the game - it has happened before, it has happened to a few of us and it was not done with any ill intention - it might have been harder than intended since the person was reaching when it happened & an apology was extended for that - the intent was a reminder to not "puddle" the ice surface - not saying what was done was right or wrong as that is for individual interpretation, but it was not done with any aggressive or intimidating intent

No matter what side of the situation you find yourself, it certainly was different and not something I've seen in my time of covering curling.

My take on it is that first, it's ridiculous to call this an intimidation move. Isn't being the Olympic champions enough of an intimidation factor for a first-year Brier team?

Second, it appears that there had be a number of requests on the Ontario team to stop resting warm body parts on the ice. If that's so, then this was really a last resort -- and I bet it worked (at least I hope it worked).

To me, the bottom line here is the integrity of the ice. Every player on both teams should be doing all he can to ensure the ice is in as good condition as possible. These days, with the technology in brooms and the fitness levels of the guys wielding them, pebble breaks down late in the games. That's just inevitable.

So if you're kneeling on the ice after a shot then you are hurting the ice. Further, you are not being respectful of that ice. You're being lazy, inconsiderate, selfish and downright rude. It's like tromping across a green and leaving spike marks in golf.

I'm not specifically talking about the Ontario team here, I'm talking about any player in any curling game anywhere.

So if the Ontario players hadn't heard the requests from others to get off their knees, then I think a gentle reminder with a broom tap that didn't appear to a) affect the delivery or b) do anything other than serve as a reminder, then I'm OK with it. Whether it's a broom tap or a face-on delivery of the message, I think it has to be sent and I wish more people did it, to be honest. Let's face it -- these Ontario guys are far from the only ones in this Brier to rest on the ice. It's a practice that is unnecessary and should be stopped

This is all about the ice.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

The Rock or the Soo? The battle for the 2017 Brier

In addition to knocking heads on the ice, Brad Gushue and Brad Jacobs are also shaking hands and kissing babies off of it. 

Of course they do that everywhere, but this time it's with the purpose of trying to win over appeal for bringing the Brier to their region.

As the Sun's Terry Jones reports, it appears the decision of host site for the Brier in two years comes down to St. John's or Sault Ste. Marie.

Jacobs said his team is at the call of their coach Tom Coulterman when it comes to the Soo bid. 
"He's the chair of the committee and we're basically on board to do everything we can to help to promote the Brier and bring it to Sault Ste. Marie. 
Gushue is actually spearheading the bid for St. John's trying to convince everybody he meets here into putting $50 down on tickets to bring the national rock concert to The Rock. 
He said they came here with about 1,000 sold and hopes to leave here with more than 1,500 and get 2,000 when they close it off at the end of the month. Winning the Brier might make it an even bigger number. 
"Our goal was 1,500. If we can top that it will show Curling Canada that the interest is there in Newfoundland and St. John's. And we have some government guarantees that we've put forward.
The Brier was last in St. John's in 1972. That was also the only time it was held there. And the Soo hosted the last time in 1990. Both venues would be termed smaller centres, but that seems to be where the Brier is going to be played more often than not for the next little while.

So two questions: Where would you rather go to attend a Brier? Where do you think Curling Canada would rather hold it?

Monday, March 2, 2015

Koe's puking over, Alberta starts winning.

Once the puking stopped, Kevin Koe's curling touch returned. 

In what was probably the story of the opening weekend of the Tim Hortons Brier, the Alberta powerhouse, the team that Koe created after jumping ship from his defending champions, was not winning. In fact, the rink started 0-2 and looked mediocre at best.

So what was the problem? It appears the skipper was dealing with a case of the bad tank, possibly food poisoning, that had him upchucking between ends in his first game. But according to George Johnson of the Calgary Herald, he recovered in time to get Alberta into the win column.

Kevin Koe’s back to fighting trim, fully over a bout of flu/food poisoning that had left him occasionally emptying the house during the curtain-raising 8-7 extra end loss to B.C.’s Jim Cotter on Saturday night. 
Team Alberta’s position was as unsettled as its skip’s tummy had been heading to the evening draw Sunday. But staring down the barrel of potentially ruinous 0-3 start, Koe recaptured his championship form, finishing at a that’s-more-like-it 93 per cent, and the hosts posted their first win, a must-have, 7-3 triumph in nine ends over the youthful Mark Kean rink from Ontario during Sunday’s 6:30 draw.
Marc Kennedy said the barfing skip was at the point where they had to look at Plan B/

“Oh yeah, there was some puking going on between ends,’’ revealed third Marc Kennedy. “We had discussed him not even playing, what our backup plan was. We left the option up to him, whether to play. And he did. But how do you compete against some of these skips when you’ve got wobbly legs. 

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Should curling be one of Canada's official national sports?

One of my favourite writers, the great Roy MacGregor of the Globe and Mail, turned his attention to curling this weekend and penned a wonderful article based on the premise that curling should be made one of Canada's official national sports.

Right now, there are two in that category: lacrosse and hockey. Hockey became official after a private member's bill by MP Nelson Riis passed.

Back in 1994, Mr. Riis’s intention was to name only hockey, by far the most popular sport, but a determined lacrosse lobby fiercely argued that the country’s original game must not be ignored. 
“During debate, that almost derailed the legislation,” remembers Mr. Riis, who in 2000 left federal politics for private business in Ottawa. “So we compromised and made hockey our national winter sport and lacrosse our national summer sport. I suppose we could continue that process and name curling our spring sport.”
MacGregor said part of the sport's appeal comes down to the players.

From a reporter’s point of view, curlers are profoundly more interesting than today’s hockey stars. They not only try to answer your questions, but they do so without hiding behind clich├ęs. There is no mention of “playing the right way,” “at the end of the day” or “it is what it is.” In curling, “going forward” doesn’t require saying because it’s the only way to go. 
They are also much easier for fans to relate to, as unlike today’s fabulously rich young men who play professional hockey, curlers are considered amateurs who might be lucky to cover expenses through bonspiels. “Curlers need jobs,” says Mr. Jacobs, who makes his living in banking. 
MacGregor even suggests the Bank of Canada turn its attention to the Roaring Game.

The Bank of Canada inexplicably dumped hockey from the back of the five-dollar bill and replaced it with something from outer space. Next makeover, which cannot come fast enough, they should consider curling – Canada’s third national sport.