02 November 2011

I’m as serious as a poutine shortage in Chicoutimi during a curling bonspiel.

I know, I moan a lot about the dearth of curling on television in the United States.  That, however, is not what I am referencing here today. In fact, quite the opposite.

“I’m as serious as a poutine shortage in Chicoutimi during a curling bonspiel.”
Dateline: October 31, 2011. The show: How I Met Your Mother.  Those who are familiar with the show will know that it is centered around a group of five friends in New York City.  One of these friends, Robin Scherbatsky, is Canadian.  This particular aspect of her character is a running joke throughout the show.  In particular, Doogie Howser Barney Stinson is one who makes fun of her Canadian heritage.

On the October 31, 2011 episode, titled "The Slutty Pumpkin Returns", it is discovered that Barney's grandmother is from.... Manitoba (gasp!). Needless to say, this sparks a rapid-fire bunch of references to Canadian things. I mean, normally, Robin does make a lot of Canadian references that her friends don't get (but I do!), but this was a lot, even for her.

About halfway through the episode, Robin let this zinger fly:
“I’m as serious as a poutine shortage in Chicoutimi during a curling bonspiel.”
Let me repeat that, so you get it.
“I’m as serious as a poutine shortage in Chicoutimi during a curling bonspiel.”
Did you get all that?  Let's put aside the curling reference for a minute - oh, don't worry, we'll get back to it.  There were THREE Canadian references of varying obscurity in less than two seconds.  Land speed record.  And, for those who are not aware, Chicoutimi is a small city in northern Quebec.  With a fairly significant curling club.

Poutine will rate its own blog post, but for those who are unaware, it is Canadian health food.  And by health food, I mean it is French fries and cheese curds covered in gravy.  Aside: I've never actually had poutine.

If you didn't get the curling reference in the quote, then I suggest you go back and read all the other posts in my blog.  Don't worry.  We'll wait.

I was very excited that a hit television show in the United States was making such a bold curling reference.  Really, the only other show in the United States that dared to mention curling was actually a Canadian show being replayed late night on Chicago superstation WGN.  Ah, how I miss Corner Gas.

Yes, that is Randy Ferbey, friends! My curling fan readers will get the reference.  For those who don't, Mr. Ferbey is a sales rep for Asham Curling Supplies.  Oh, he is also a six time Brier champion - his first was in Chicoutimi in 1988! - winning the world championship four times.  He's quite a good curler, to say the least.

On further investigation, however, I made an exciting discovery!  This isn't the first time How I Met Your Mother has mentioned curling!  In fact, it is no less than the third episode in which curling has been mentioned.  One time, mentioned in this Curling News blog entry, complete with interview, occurred in the episode entitled "Duel Citizenship" during season 5.  You'll see the brooms and stones at the approximate 2 minute point.

Why this particular women's curling team is keeping stones scattered all over their hotel room, I don't know.

The next reference is from the Season 6 episode, entitled "Glitter".  In this episode, it is discovered that Robin, already known to be a teen star from Canada who went by the stage name of Robin Sparkles..... You know what.  Let me allow the Wikipedia article to say it better:
"(Robin) Sparkles also appeared on the Canadian educational children's show Space Teens with Thicke where two teen girls traveling through space in a curling stone–shaped spaceship "solve mysteries using math" featuring the song “Two Beavers Are Better Than One” further parodying Canadians"
Robin got her own Wikipedia article.  Who knew?

I'll be watching for the next curling reference on American television. This many references on one popular television show is an excellent sign that curling is becoming more mainstream and more accepted here.  I'd like to take at least some credit for it..... but I won't.  Not today. 

01 November 2011


I've had a twinge of pain behind my left knee for about a month now.  Not too serious - I was taking it easy on it as much as I could.  It did make it rather difficult to run, but it had been improving.

12 October 2011

Curling Night in America

In the United States, there is no coverage of curling on television outside of an Olympic year.  It just doesn't happen.  It doesn't matter how many broadcast records are set by curling.  It doesn't matter that curling outdrew hockey on television during the 2010 Olympic Winter Games. It doesn't matter that, even on Wall Street, the televisions were focused on curling. Once the Olympics are over, curling is forgotten by traditional American broadcast media.

30 August 2011

The Most Beautiful Words I've Heard In A Long Time

Hi all it's that time of year The compressor seems to finally be working properly so I need folks to help with the flooding I will be at the club on Tuesday evening to show those that need to learn or want a refresher on flooding. If you have been trying to contact me through e mail mine is out so call me ..... with the delays with the new compressor I will need some serious help getting the ice ready. Thanks Phil

Our new compressor is in.  It has been tested.

We had to replace headers in the offseason.

It's time for the first layer of ice - the one before we paint and apply decals - to be installed.  That means that curling is coming really soon!  The message above was from our iceman - he is starting the process today!

Of course, this means I am now in a panic.  All those things I needed in the offseason - shoes, possibly a new broom - aren't done yet.  I am not in shape to curl.  I don't yet have an organized team...

And all those summer posts I meant to do?  Didn't happen.

What I do have is a night that I will be curling - Monday - and a night where I will be subbing frequently in late games - Wednesday.  I also have a curling event - a bonspiel, for those who are curlers - that I have been invited to participate in this coming March. 

And I do have a favicon now!  Look up!

So, come along on my journey through another season of curling.  It starts today!

25 April 2011

The End of the Curling Season

Some parts of the United States are lucky enough to have curling ice all year long.  In San Diego, where curling is played on arena ice, curling can happen all year long.  In Rochester, NY, where we curl on dedicated ice, we cannot afford to keep ice made in the warmer months.  So, from mid-April until mid-September, we melt our ice and close our club.

21 April 2011

The Spirit of Curling

"Due to an injury sustained by a member of the Scottish senior women's team during play this morning, in the spirit of curling, Ireland opted to forfeit the game. The game will not be replayed. Scotland moves to 5-4 in the standings and Ireland to 1-7."

19 April 2011

The Spin-o-Rama

Jeff Stoughton is not my favorite skip.  He's not even my favorite Canadian skip. He's not even my favorite skip from Manitoba! (Mike McEwen, if you must know).  I've watched him play several times, and never been impressed with him. I respect his curling ability - he did just win his 2nd World championship in a year when a lot of people were calling him washed up and past his prime.

11 April 2011

Arena Curling

Between the beginning of the 2009 and 2010 curling season, according to the media guides from USA Curling, our beloved sport was played in 4 more states (up to 37) and we added almost 20 more clubs.
The media guide also proudly boasts that Texas has three (!) curling clubs. (Winnipeg, to compare, has 20)   And, while it looks like memberships were down, I suspect that the 2011-2012 media guide, when it is released this summer, will show quite a jump in memberships and club numbers.

Yes, it is a sport on the rise in the United States.  But how is it growing as quickly as it is?  Doesn't a curling club cost a lot of money to build?

05 April 2011


The Women's World Curling Championships have just ended. I watched them intently, and not just because I knew someone who was participating...

And wow! Was it ever exciting! Canada has a rough start to the week, but recovered and made it all the way to the final.... only to be beaten by the machine that was Sweden.  And there were so many other stories - Deb McCormick and Eve Muirhead as alternates (and frequent participants!) for the USA and Scotland respectively, the great success of China and Denmark - too numerous to mention.

14 March 2011

Brazil - Curling's Next Hotbed

I need to preface this post by saying that I am COMPLETELY trying to score a free trip to Brazil.  No doubt about it.

Most of the readers of this blog know that I run this little Facebook fan page. Another post has told the story of that page. I have considered writing a book about it, in fact.  Today, I'm going to give you some insight on the demographics. 

12 March 2011

Watching The Brier from South Canada

It is said that, in men's curling, the biggest honor... sorry, honour.... is not to win the World Championship, but the Canadian National Championship, known as the Tim Hortons Brier, because the level of competition is higher.

That statement is less true than it used to be, but it's not entirely wrong. Recall that last year's Olympic and world champions were different teams.... from Canada.  The world champion (Kevin Koe) wasn't even strong enough in his provincial tournament to MAKE the Brier!  The silver medalist both times?  Thomas Ulsrud from Norway.  A look at the World Curling Tour standings shows that the top five teams are Canadian - two of them did NOT qualify for the Brier!

Naturally, I want to watch this tournament, despite the fact that that there are no fun pants allowed.

02 March 2011

Curling Terms For The Neophyte

I had been writing a curling primer for all of you - I was all ready to call it A Curling Primer for Americans.  I had some real doozies in there. I had based a lot of it on the curling primer at the Rochester Curling Club site. Here are a few highlights:

Sheet - The strip of ice upon which the game is being played. A reputable curling club will have several sheets of ice to play on. One that isn't so reputable will probably just stack a bunch of ice cubes in an alley.

01 March 2011

A Blowout

I won my curling match last night.  Against a skip who usually beats me.  My team had a relatively inexperienced front end (each less than 5 times out), and a decent back end - I'm a 9-year curler, my vice a 3-year curler who's pretty good.  The opposing team has a lead in his first season, but almost done with it, a 2nd in his 2nd season, an experienced vice and a 5th year skip.

I won 13-0 in 6 ends.  And I wasn't trying to run up the score.  Here's how it happened:

28 February 2011

What Curling Is Not

"Isn't that the game that looks like shuffleboard on ice?"

If I had a dollar for every person who responded that way, I'd be a rich man.  (Hey, maybe I should demand a dollar every time I'm asked that question!) As polite as I am when asked that question.....

I just don't see it.  

25 February 2011


Curling is the only sport I know of that begins and ends with a handshake.  Every match ends with handshakes, no matter how lopsided it is.  And every match begins with a good luck handshake.  After every match, at least in club curling, it is customary to share a drink and some conversation in the warm room.  (Winner buys).  Curlers get to know each other, and stick together. It truly is a game of kindness, and friendliness, and good sportsmanship.  

But it's about more than just the game.

23 February 2011

A +1 Is Awarded to TSN.... But We Still Need A Little Help!

Yesterday, 22 February 2011, I wrote a post, a bit miffed with TSN, because they took their video on demand away from those of us outside of Canada.  They took it away from those inside Canada, too, but they at least could get TSN on their TVs.  Not only did I write my post, I started a bit of a poke-at-TSN campaign on Twitter.  And I had fun doing it; thanks to everyone who took part!

Today, the CCA announced that TSN would, indeed, be bringing back the curling VOD, starting with draw 13, which is the afternoon draw of 23 February 2011, of the Scotties.  Which is today.  I'd like to think I had something to do with this. Maybe I did, maybe I didn't, but I'm going to keep thinking I did until someone tells me otherwise.

TSN, however, went one better:

22 February 2011

Help Us Out, TSN!

My Canadian readers already know about TSN.  Others might not.  For those who don't (from Wikipedia):

The Sports Network, commonly abbreviated as TSN, is a Canadian English language cable television specialty channel and is Canada's leading English language sports TV channel. TSN premiered in 1984, in the second group of Canadian specialty cable channels. TSN is owned by CTV Specialty Television, a joint venture of CTVglobemedia (80%) and ESPN (20%).

So, for those in the US, think of TSN as Canadian ESPN.  They have a SportsCentre - I do love the r-before-e spellings used in Canada! - and they rebroadcast a lot of ESPN programming, including Pardon The Interruption, a show that focuses heavily on professional sports in the US.  

They also broadcast a lot of curling.  A LOT of curling.  The Canadian Curling Association - the CCA, as I will be cavalierly abbreviating throughout this little post - has an exclusive broadcast agreement with TSN and CTVglobemedia.  This means that other networks, such as the CBC (a traditional strong partner of curling in Canada) are shut out.  CCA events include the Continental Cup, the Tim Hortons Brier (which are the men's championships) and the Scotties Tournament of Hearts (the women's championships), the last of which is currently being contested.  

18 February 2011


When I first started curling, I used equipment provided by my club.  One of those pieces of equipment was a slip-on slider, so I could slide when I was delivering my stones.  It was a good way to learn how to curl, but it is a sub-optimal method of delivery.

There are several major problems with slip-on sliders.  First of all, I have gigantic (size 15!) feet.  Most sliders are too short, and I could not get a good delivery as a result.  I partially remedied that by purchasing an extra large slider.  Second. it doesn't usually stay on your foot well, causing an occasional drift, especially in a curler who is just learning form.  Furthermore, they don't really slide all that well - it takes more force to deliver a stone with a slip-on slider than shoes.  Finally, it delays the game to sit down, put on a slider, only to have to take it off after delivering a couple of stones.

17 February 2011

Props Need To Be Given To The Buffalo News!

As you might recall, a couple of days ago, I posted this little entry, lamenting the lack of media coverage of Team Lank, making a run at the US Curling National Championship.  Was it heavy handed?  Yes. Did it help?


I sent a link to this post to almost every news outlet I called out in this story.  One of them wrote back.  The Buffalo News was completely unaware of these happenings, but they are certainly interested now!  They were looking for ways to get in contact with Patti Lank - not being personally acquainted with her, but knowing people who are, I was able to get the reporter who contacted me the necessary information.

So, my thanks and compliments to Tyler Dunne of the Buffalo News!  Here's hoping you get a great story here! (I smell Pulitzer!) To the other news organizations that didn't contact me - I know you haven't posted anything on your websites yet.  I've checked.

16 February 2011

That Looks More Like A Swiffer than a Broom!

In the beginning, corn brooms were the standard for the curling ice.  That's right - the same broom Grandma used to use was used to sweep in front of the stones!  That made for a noisy game - not only did the stones rumble, but the sweeping made a fun "BAP BAP BAP" sound.

14 February 2011

Local Coverage of Curling

As of this writing, the USA National Curling Championships are being contested in Fargo, ND.  Here at the Rochester Curling Club, we are following them intently, for one of our own - Caitlin Maroldo - is there, competing as a member of Team Lank.  Patti Lank herself is from Lewiston, outside of Niagara Falls, NY, as is her daughter, Mackenzie, who is also participating.  Team Lank is doing quite well - undefeated so far, and certainly one of the favorites to win it all and go to the World Championships in Denmark.

09 February 2011

So, How Did You Become "Minister of the Pants", Tony?

Right there it is.  In the title.  The #1 most asked question.  And I have a short answer:

I was bored at work.

08 February 2011

How I Started To Curl - The Very Beginning

I first learned of the Rochester Curling Club in 1997.  Actually, that's not where this story starts, and certainly not where it ends.

07 February 2011

Curling Television Coverage in the US.

According to Wikipedia (which we ALL know is a reliable source of information, right?) The Continental Cup (of Curling) "is a curling tournament held annually between teams from North America against teams from the rest of the world. Each side is represented by six teams (three women's teams and three men's teams), and compete using a unique points system. The tournament is modeled after golf's Ryder Cup. The event is held at the beginning of the curling season and is not held in the same season as the Olympics."

I debate the "beginning of the season" part of this description - maybe in other years it was - but otherwise this is pretty accurate.  The 2011 Continental Cup was held in mid-January, in St. Albert, Alberta.  Four Canadian and two American teams made up the North American squad.  Teams from across Europe, as well as one team from China, comprised Team World.  

06 February 2011

2011 BDO Canadian Open! Part IV! Or, when Team Ulsrud Meets The Pants

So.... an Olympic Silver Medalist bought me a beer.

It is important to note that I was very very nervous to meet and spend time with Team Ulsrud.  I didn't know what to expect of them.  I didn't know what their mood would be.  I didn't figure it would last all that long, and I frankly had a few things I wanted to tell them.

So it should surprise no one that I had to go to the bathroom.  

Having taken care of my business, I was informed by Lisa that George (Karrys) had walked by and informed her that it would just a few more minutes.  And indeed, at 6:50 or so, we went up to the main concourse - George, his video guy, Lisa and I.  And there was a huge crowd.

The crowd didn't stop Thomas Ulsrud from seeing me anyway.  He waved warmly, and the other three followed suit.  But, for the time being, they were a little busy - signing photos (Oh, Thomas put two aside for me. Don't worry about that).  I was ushered to an out-of-the-way place behind the table, where the guys could all see me (and several times mentioned that these crowds were my fault doing).  

The team was absolutely fantastic with their fans, signing anything people wanted, shaking hands, taking pictures.  Truly wonderful with their fans.  And while all this is going on, George and I are taping a segment, and he's taping the crowd.  I've got several pairs of pants with me, including one that I want the team to sign (more on that in a minute).  

The crowds finally die down, and the team is standing up and getting ready to move on.  The whole group of us discuss what our next plans are going to be.  And it's at this time that the guys notice that I am wearing the Dixie-A pants that made them so famous during the Olympics.  The pants aren't made like the ones I was wearing anymore. The red is far more vibrant now, but they preferred the ones I was wearing.  After the Olympics, one of the guys washed the pants in hot water, effectively turning them pink, so they did not have them anymore. They haven't revealed publicly who was the culprit that ruined the pants, but Torger Nergård did tell me not to wash the pants in 60 degree water.  

Our next stop was to walk upstairs to the suites for some photography and more video.  Lisa was kind enough to get a photo of the gaggle of pants walking.  We hijacked a suite that was empty, only to be told that it wasn't really empty and we only had a few minutes.  Nevertheless, there was another suite open, so we could move there. 

I should mention that George Karrys has a great opportunity should Joan Rivers ever retire.  I know, she won't really retire.  Ever.  But if she does, George would make a great fashion reporter.  He was asking each of us what we were wearing as we were walking.  I think the carpet might have even been red!  I should add that not everyone knew exactly what pattern they were wearing - I did, but I consider it my job to know these things.   

We finished photos in the hijacked suite.  First, the team was photographed with the family of the photographer, which I thought was really nice.   

Next, it was my turn.  And they wanted me on the couch, in the middle.  I wasn't quite sure how five grown men were going to fit on this little couch.  As an aside - I was the tallest member of the group.  But not by much.  Håvard Vad Petersson was almost eye-to-eye with me.  So, fitting all of us on the couch was cozy.  But we managed.  

After that, George wanted one more shot.  Me, across all their laps. Uh, well, sure, I guess so.... and in my head, I am going "That is the MOST AWESOME idea I've ever heard anyone ever have!!!!!" I'd be lying if I said I didn't have that idea in my head myself, but I wasn't going to suggest it. Oh, no, not me, never, I'm not that forward.  

The team was completely into it!  "Chris, you get his head, Håvard, you get his feet!"  That made for a fantastic shot!  After that great, GREAT shot, we did a little more taping, and George asked me if I had anything to say to the team.  Now, I didn't say everything I wanted to say, but I did say some. What I wanted  to do was thank them for not suing me, for appreciating what I was doing, and really, for helping in a small way to get me through a very tough year of my life.  

All I did was thank them.

At that point, we did get ushered out of that suite, but we did get ushered into a different suite, where more video was taken.  One of these videos was a promotional video for the Curling News that I hope is available online someday.  Those guys are natural actors.  The other was a personal message to Loudmouth Golf's management team, which I will not spoil (I doubt Larry Jackson is reading this anyway).   All I will say is that I agree with the sentiments they expressed, and I will be discussing those sentiments in future blog posts.

It was here that they also signed a pair of pants for me.  That's right.  I brought them pants to sign.  They thankfully all signed down one leg, with one exception.  Christoffer Svae, their second and the guy who chose the pants (and whose wedding I better get invited to when it happens) wrote an extra message in the inside waistband.  Those who visit my house will see it proudly displayed when it is mounted.  Have to mount that thing! 

But none of that is what you came to hear. You want to hear about the guys.

We all left the suite and went to the bar down the hall.  At that point, Thomas Ulsrud started taking our drink orders, because he was buying the first round.  5 (Molson) Canadians, 1 Coors Light for Lisa.  I don't think Thomas ended up buying that round - I think George did.  At any rate, it was a very VERY large beer.  He cheered (Skol!?) and then started drinking.

An executive from Capital One - Grand Slam of Curling sponsor - walked up and started chatting with us, too.  He didn't think too much of me at first - I mean, after all, who was I? - until he was told by the others about my little Facebook page.  After that he was friendlier, and gave me a bit of a behind-the-scenes look at big-time event sponsorship.  He left us to give out a large check to someone.  He had stopped by to request that the guys visit a little girl in a suite down the hall.

At that point, George told us all some stories about the curling at the Nagano Olympics.  For those who were not aware (I was by that time, but only just), George Karrys was the lead on the silver-medal-winning Canadian Olympic curling team that went to the Olympics in Nagano in 1998 (and had Mike Harris not been sick, would have won gold).  It was very difficult to follow Olympic curling in the United States that year - CBS was not covering it well at all.  Luckily, CBC, which I was able to watch via CHEX-TV in Peterborough, ON, did a better job covering it, so I saw this match!

And I got to hear yet another version of the story of how the Pants came to be worn in Vancouver.  Apparently, the Norwegian women's snowboard team were a fan of these Pants, and so they were going to be worn, and not the black ones that the Norwegian Olympic Committee had provided.

And I got to hear a lot of nice compliments from all five men about my little Facebook page. I stayed on topic, and during the Olympics (before the controversy that took the page down for awhile), I spoke in the voice of The Pants.  That was well-received, as was my handling of negative comments.

As an aside, I get a lot of comments on the page that curling is "gay", the pants are "gay", all this is stupid and I should just quit.  These comments are in the vast minority, and for that I thank people.  I leave a lot of these comments up.  On purpose.  And I try to put a positive spin on their statements, even encouraging them to go buy some pants and take up curling. Frankly, I think these statements make the people saying them look ignorant.  There are some terribly vile statements that I have removed - no good can come from those. In those cases, the user also gets banned from the page.  Finally, there are some spammers who are awfully proud that they got a free iPad in the mail, despite their initial skepticism.  Those posts also get deleted as I find them.

At this point, George has other things to do - he did have a little event going on down on the ice.  We said our goodbyes, and he ordered me to stay with the team as long as they'd let me.  So the six of us - the team, Lisa and I - went for a walk, and we talked about curling and pants.  And Thomas wanted to make sure I was having fun - he asked me that several times, in fact.  What a life - wearing pants and curling, drinking some beers.

They arrived at the suite where the little girl/fan was, and wow! She was surprised.  They talked with her a few minutes, snapped a few pictures, and gave her the thrill of her life.  I stayed outside - my presence wasn't going to give her the thrill of her life!

We walked back over to the bar together after that.  On the way, Thomas took his leave of us for a bit, disappearing behind a curtain.  I later looked over and saw him watching the matches on-ice.  I think he just needed a bit of time to clear his head.

The rest of us joined a group in a suite near the bar.  They were kind enough to let us barge in and enjoy the matches with them.  I talked mostly with Torger (who plays my natural third position, so I was getting curling pointers from him) and Chris (who is a larger-than-life personality).  Håvard was far more reserved and kept to himself, although he did also share some curling pointers.

That's right.  I was picking Olympian brains to make my club curling better.

The guys were not in a great mood.  They felt they should be still playing, down on the ice.  They had, in fact, attempted to switch their flights to return to Norway a day earlier.  They could not, and so they were in the building to meet me.  I also found out that none of them considers themselves to be professional curlers.  They make enough to cover expenses, and really not much more than that.  They all have day jobs - only Chris Svae's is curling-related.

After a bit, Thomas did join us.  He started by buying a second round of drinks - so Thomas Ulsrud did buy me a beer - and then we talked some more about curling.  And pants.  And how women love the pants.     He did admit that they were unhappy with their play on the previous day, and that Kevin Martin really does have their number (they are 1-12 against him).  And he was clear that they would be back in Canada to play with the best curlers in the world.

While in the suite, I also was approached by a couple of people who wanted to buy the pants for their team.  I have their contact information, and I will get back to them this week.  Not that I see any profits from these sales anymore, but I do really feel that these are the best curling pants I've ever worn.

A few more pictures, and it was time for the gents to part.  They wanted to change - well, some of them did, anyway - but they had expressed hope to catch up with me later.  That was not to be, as I was heading home that evening.  I wish I had more time with them, but sadly, I didn't.

I did have two more pieces of business to attend to.   First, I had a tweep - Cheryl - to find.  Cheryl was a Twitter friend - she still is - who tweets about curling.  You should be following her.  I went down to the ice level to watch a little curling and look for Cheryl.  And I found her, straight across the arena.  Lisa and I walked over to meet her, we had a short conversation, and I said my goodbyes.  Very nice young lady, who really should come down to Rochester and show us Americans how to curl.

The other piece of business was to find and thank my new friend George Karrys, without whom none of this would be possible.  This was a simple task... he was in the Canadian Open war room.  We took a picture as well.  And he wished us safe travels and good luck in my new job.

This is why the curling community is so great.   Everyone is kind - even really great, accomplished curlers are kind to fans and club curlers - and everyone pays attention.  Over this weekend, I was called a "big name in the curling world."  I don't quite agree with that - I did get a few people to try curling and a lot more to pay attention to the sport I love - but I appreciated the sentiment.  And frankly, it doesn't matter who is a big name or a small one.  We are curlers (and fans).

I was not happy to have to leave, but I did leave and started on my drive home.  And reflected on what my next big-time curling event would be.  I'm not sure what it will be yet - the Brier, Worlds, or something else - but you will know as soon as I do.  And rest assured, there will be another event.  And another meeting with the Norges.

02 February 2011

2011 BDO Canadian Open! Part III

I was still dejected the next morning.  Here I was, in a hotel in Canada (where I had become Foursquare mayor) with what we discovered last night was a lot of girls junior hockey players and their families.  A group of the men met me in the lobby the evening before, and had commented on my pants.  Outside of the GM Centre, they were the first people to comment on my pants.  They, of course, referenced John Daly, and not Team Ulsrud, which I found odd in a country that I thought was curling-crazy

I was to discover this day that, although curling has its fans, my assumption about the entire country was incorrect.

On this day, I could not watch the tiebreaker rounds.  I was far too upset that they were even needed - had Ulsrud made his shot the night prior, there would be pants in the quarterfinals and no tiebreakers.  So Lisa and I had our breakfast at the hotel, packed and checked out.  Then, we visited two more exciting stores - Shopper's Drug Mart (for 400mg Advil LiquiGels, which are great and unavailable in the US) and Bulk Barn.

I have to speak a minute about Bulk Barn.  Most grocery stores have a bulk food section, where you can reach into the bins and fill you own bag of peanuts, or gummy bears, or cocoa mix.  Imagine, if you will, an entire store filled with those bins, with a much greater variety than you see in any grocery.  That's Bulk Barn.  And their prices are quite reasonable.  We came out of there with several bags of candy, baking supplies, nuts, and... macaroni and cheese sauce mix.  Let me tell you, there are trans fats in those things, and I LOVE it!

On this day, Lisa and I decided to do three things differently.  First, we did a better job hiding food and drink we brought in.  Scolded for the the day before, we weren't taking chances.  Second, we went in a different entrance, in the back.  We had All Freaking Access passes, and I was damn sure going to use it that day.  Finally, we brought in laptops and went up to the press area, where we could plug those in.  All excellent decisions.

Before we went up, though, I wanted to abuse use my media privileges to their fullest potential without getting kicked out.  So we went up, down, and all around in the arena.  I used Ottawa General exercise equipment.  I saw where housekeeping was.  I peeked in the stats area - I was looking for the brother of a fellow curler of mine, who was doing statistics for this event.  I never did find him, unfortunately, although I would like to congratulate Stewart Bond on his engagement, which happened on the ice of this very arena this very weekend.

We also walked around the concourse, and saw that Team Ulsrud was scheduled for an autograph session that evening, at 6:30pm.  I would finally get a chance to really talk to the guys, and get that picture with them.  I hoped.

Time to take our seats for the four matches to come.  Four matches to watch today - Glenn Howard in the lime greens v. Rob Fowler, Pat Simmons v. defending Brier and World champion (and nice guy) Kevin Koe, Mike McEwen v. Dale Matchett, and Jeff Stoughton v. Olympic Gold Medalist and rice eaters Kevin Martin.  Hey, Americans - did you recognize any of those names?  I was boldly predicting Howard for the win, but he had three matches to win in order to make that happen.

The crowd at the GM Centre was lively, and mascot Slider was working them like an expert.  The CBC was in the house, broadcasting the quarterfinal matches.  The semis were apparently exiled to a lesser network to make room for Don Cherry and Hockey Night in Canada.  Given that I am a fan of the loud wardrobe, I have to say I don't blame them.  Also, I'm from Rochester, where Don Cherry once coached.  Still, this was a big deal, and given that the All-Star Game was the next day, I'm not quite sure what hockey would be more important than a curling major.  Still.  Better coverage than it got in any other country.

Erin McLaughlin, Twitter friend and Curling News blogger for the weekend, joined us in Laptop Row.  We giggled and tweeted back and forth as we both did live updates of all four matches.  Each of them had a story.  For instance, the Koe match in front of me was a runaway from the start.  Koe started off with the hammer and took 1 in the 1st.  He proceeded to steal 4 in the 2nd, prompting me to tweet that he was "opening a can".  For those not familiar with the phrase, the whole thing reads "opening a can of whoop-ass."    They shook at 8-1 after 6 ends.  The other three games were closer, but still quite captivating.  I, personally, could never make such a draw to the button. Not at my level, anyway.

It's here where I will go off on a couple of tangents.  First of all, the ice at the GM Centre was among the best I had ever seen.  I would have loved to curl on it myself.  I had my shoes with me in case I got that opportunity.  Asham, Size 14, Red Brick slider.  They are a little small on my size 15 feet, and I do need to replace them, because they are wearing out (especially the gripper foot).  Still, I love my shoes.  My next pair will have sliders on both feet.  I can throw ambidextrous.  I just don't, because only my left foot has a slider.  I had a point here - I would love to see Glenn Howard throw on Rochester's ice, to see if he still looks as good as he did in Oshawa.  While I think he would still look pretty good (he is, after all, Glenn Howard), I do think the perfect ice made him look better.  That was professionally groomed ice.

My second tangent is a bit more introspective, but related to my first.  My delivery is pretty good.  I'm not a great curler.  I'm a good curler.  I occasionally miss the broom, and I occasionally flub a weight call, but in general, I make the shots that are called.  I tend to skip at my club, so the shots that are called are usually the shots I want to call, but that's another story.  After watching one draw.... one end, in fact!....I felt rather inadequate.  My internal comments were "wow.  I suck at curling."

This is not the reaction I had while watching Olympic curling on TV, and it was that type of reaction I got back to having after watching for a couple of days. I had a lot of trouble watching the Olympic curling, in fact, because I was second-guessing the Olympians and their strategy. (Especially John Shuster's, but everyone was questioning his!)  I wasn't usually wrong on my questioning of strategy - sometimes I was, of course.  And this day was no exception.  I thought some skip choices were flat-out wrong, and I was right every time.

During this round was also the semifinals of the Capital One Million Dollar Button.  For those who are familiar with the NFL in the US, think Field Goal competition, and you've got the concept.  However, instead of having to kick a ball through some uprights, the contestant needs to throw a stone unassisted and hit the middle of the house (the big target!), known in the curling vernacular as the button.  This was qualifying for six people from across Canada - closest to the button gets to go to the final the next day!  Six contenders tried their luck, but it was Teri Schiman, a non-curler, who almost landed it right on the button and got to come back the next day.

During this round, there were a lot of between-end pauses.  It took me a little while to figure out why, but I did eventually link the breaks to CBC commercials, thanks to my friends on Twitter.  Of course, these matches also had a halftime break (for the Million Dollar Button).  I was quite thankful for these respites - they gave me a chance to catch up on my Twitter updates.  Thankfully, unlike the first two days, I did not have to update the Facebook page as much.  I did have to update it a little - there were a lot of people wearing Loudmouth pants that day, and I wanted to make sure pants fans got as much out of their experience as curling fans did.  I will come back another day to discuss pants and curling fans, but know that there are clearly people who are fans of one or the other.

During the 2nd half, I was told by Erin that George Karrys wanted to see me in his office after the match.  I knew he was working on getting me together with the Norwegians, and it seemed like those efforts had paid off.  So, after the matches gave us the Stoughton-McEwen and Koe-Howard (Lisa the Curling Librarian's wish come true) semis, Erin brought us down to the office, which was just a locker room with tables set up - nothing glamourous, but completely functional.

And George met us there to tell us our evening plans.  Not only would I get my photos with Team Ulsrud, but I would be filming more footage for our little webcast.... at their autograph session.  And they'd be wearing Loudmouth pants (two of them did not want to - obviously downtrodden).  And they were really looking forward to spending some time with me.

So Lisa and I got a quick dinner, took care of essential business, and got back to meet George for our evening plans.

2011 BDO Canadian Open! Part II

We woke up the next morning, road-weary.  We were not staying at the same hotel as the curlers - I really wish I could have afforded to stay there, because apparently Team McEwen was a great taxi service - but no matter. We stayed in nearby Bowmansville, right across the street from my favorite store, Tractor Supply Company.  After breakfast, we got ourselves stretched and cleaned up, had an early lunch, and headed BACK to the GM Centre.

We missed the first draw of the day - it wasn't intentional that we did that, but it kind of happened that way - but made sure we were early for the 2nd.  It was at this time that we took a walk around the concourse.  There, we found the Saybon candy booth.  Now, these guys were giving away free candy to everyone - and it was pretty good candy!- but they were doing it while wearing Loudmouth Golf pants.  I had to get a picture with these guys, and they were happy to do it.  The brooms and the hats were all them, by the way, but they work exceptionally well. 

Back upstairs we went for the matches.  I was quite happy with my seats - I could easily see all five sheets of play - but did want some closer shots.  I knew that other friends (from Twitter) were sitting in the stands, and one in particular, Erin McLaughlin (@ErinMclaug on Twitter, and you should be following her) had been sitting in section 101.  I had resolved to go down and say hello, and maybe watch from down there for awhile, halfway through the match.

I never got the chance.  More on that in a moment.

I sat directly behind Sheet E, where Team Ulsrud was about to start.  Well, as I sat down, Thomas Ulsrud looked up, tapped all three of his teammates on the shoulders and pointed me out.  They all waved warmly.  I thought that was really really cool.  And I, of course, immediately gushed!  

Let the match begin! It was Team Stoughton as the opponent this time.  Sitting where I was, I could see all sorts of little things that most people wouldn't.  Ladies: Thomas Ulsrud does a butt shake before several deliveries.  Significant enough for me to see 40 feet away.

I had some issues with my Verizon Wireless phone service in Canada - it turns out I had data roaming turned off, but I didn't discover that until later - but I wasn't checking my phone as a result.  So when I looked down to see George Karrys walking around with a young woman in the crowd, I thought nothing of it.... until he looked up very quickly.  And then went OUT ON THE ICE and interrupted Thomas Ulsrud.  Presumably, his question to the skip was, "Where's D'Orazio?!"  That's right.  I caused a game interruption.  And then George looked up, gestured toward me.... and that's when I checked my phone.  He had been texting me, seeking me out, and Erin has been looking for me on Twitter - I was posting via WiFi from another device and didn't see her tweet.

George and Erin came up, got us, and directed us to a seat near the ice.  And when I say near the ice, I mean right next to the ice.  Think hockey player's bench-close.  And right next to sheet E.  You know, where Team Ulsrud is playing... Incidentally, George also scolded me (jokingly) for hiding when I have an All Freaking Access pass.  I underestimated what that meant.  Now I knew.  As we are walking down, he also suggests I have a Caeser with him  Apparently, a Caesar is a Bloody Mary made with Clammato instead of tomato juice.  Er, sounds delicious?

We all sit on the bench next to the ice - Lisa, George, Erin and I.  And the camera guy.  And the 3 or 4 people already there courtesy of the Capital One Million Dollar Button competition (more on that a bit later).  Turns out, George wanted to shoot a little video piece about my little Facebook page.  What fun!  

For those of you who have never been interviewed by George Karrys before, let me tell you that it is an experience.  He is a natural light-hearted interviewer, quick with the questions and the facts.  And he knows curling - not just Canadian curling, but curling everywhere.  He's probably the #2 fan of The Pants - let's be honest, I'm #1 - and he really wants some.  Anyone out there reading this want to send him some pants?  And, he was practically sitting in my lap, a fact that had Erin and Lisa giggling behind me.   

The interview itself was brief - just a couple of minutes - and should be posted in the near future at http://www.grandslamofcurling.com.  After the interview, George shot a bit more footage of us watching Team Ulsrud in their match.  One scene we shot was of George.... grabbing Torger Nergård and BEGGING him for pants.  Torger told George to ask me.... and then politely introduced himself.   Such a nice guy.

After all that, George, Erin, and the videographer took their leave of us, but insisted we stay on the bench to watch the rest of the match.  And it was a great match!   Once again, came down to Thomas having to make a double takeout.... only one stone went, and so Team Ulsrud loses a really close match.  

The bigger story.... one by one, each of the guys DURING THE MATCH slid over to me, chatted me up, and made sure I was going to be around for "some beers later".   Incidentally, Christoffer Svae told me I had to contact Arnold Asham if I wanted one of their cool argyle brooms, because "he had made an extra one."  So, Mr. Asham, you'll be getting a call from me! 

Oh, and if you hold onto the boards, you can feel the roar of the rocks.  It's amazing.

Ever so slightly disappointed, I knew that my new friends from Norway would pull it out in the evening session.  I took this opportunity to go for a little tour of Oshawa.  Aside: I am a bit of a grocery store junkie.  Every time I'm in a new city, I will go to a couple of grocery stores, pick up some reusable bags - I have quite a collection - and probably buy a few thing I cannot get at home.  In this case, those things involved a lot of dill potato chip-type things and strange candies.  It WOULD have involved the cookies we in this country know as Caramel De-Lites, sold under the No Name brand in Canada, but the Real Canadian Superstore wasn't quite super enough to have any left in stock.  
Back at the arena a bit early, we took a tour of the Oshawa Sports Hall of Fame.  Bobby Orr, who happens to be one of my favorite hockey players of all time - someday, I'll do a post on all the historical players I think are better than Wayne Gretzky - played for the Oshawa Generals.I had not known that.

I also found a lot of curling relics in the Hall.  The naughty-looking relic in this picture is but one example. It is a wooden curling stone.  It appears to sit on a ball-bearinged base, but I could not be sure.  I can be sure it doesn't weigh as much as the stones we have at my home club - the Rochester Curling Club, in Rochester, NY - because I of course broke the rules and hefted it for weight.

I decided that, for this draw, I was going to sit down in the stands, like anyone else, for as long as I could.  I was also resolved to stay out of their way - not get in their face and tell them where I was. I sat in the corner of the arena, close to sheet B, where Team Ulsrud was going to be playing.  With a 2-2 record, this was a must-win match for them.  Win, and they would qualify for the quarterfinal round.  Lose, and they were probably out of the running.  They were up against the 1-3 Peter Corner rink, so I liked their odds

While I was waiting for the match to start, I was spotted!  This fine curling event was graced with not one, but TWO mascot curling stones.  This one was far more in-your-face, and he was kind enough to take a photo with me.  Noteworthy is the fact that he is wearing Loudmouth Golf pants.  A look back at earlier photos from the event show that he was in black on the first day. 

For those who are interested in such things, he was wearing Danger-A, while I wore Blue and White-A.  Both fantastic patterns, but neither worn by the Norges, who hit the ice in Shagadelic.  

It was an exciting match, that once again came down to a last shot by Ulsrud.  A draw to the button and he's in the playoff.  His rock drifted about 6 inches too far... I'm sorry, I mean 15 cm too far... and gave Team Corner the win.  Needless to say, the team looked dejected.  I might have taken it even harder than they did. Probably not, I suppose, but I was really upset.
After that was done, Lisa and I walked around for awhile.  We took a stroll down to the Silver Bullet - the Canadian Open had their own Brier Patch, complete with Wii Curling.  I need to get me some Wii Curling.  However, not seeing anyone I had met over the week, including my new Norwegian friends, and not really in a happy-go-lucky mood, I left and went back to my hotel.

I was hopeful that the next day would end up being a gooder.  I had no idea what was to come.  I did know that Team Ulsrud would not be curling.  I did not know if they'd be at the arena anyway.  I was determined to be there, and enjoy as much curling as I could.

31 January 2011

2011 BDO Canadian Open! Part I

I was fortunate enough to be invited to the 2011 BDO Canadian Open in Oshawa, Ontario. How did an American club curler from Rochester, NY, get such an invitation. Well, I think my Facebook page had something to do with it. It all started with this message from Norwegian lead Håvard Vad Petersson:

"We`re over to Canada three more times this season.
Edmonton in January, Oshua(?) near Toronto late January and Regina in April...
You`re on the east coast right?

I knew where Oshawa was. In fact, in my youth, I had been to Oshawa, as a Boy Scout. I had to find a way to get to Oshawa for this event! A combination of the kindness of the Norwegians (two of whom have become my Facebook friends) who were eager to meet me, and George Karrys, the Director of Communications for the Capital One Grand Slam of Curling (among other titles he holds - hardest working man in curling, but more on that in a later post) and Fan of the Pants, who took care of credentials, got me into the event.

Now, I just had to get there. I was quite excited. This started to become even more real for me when I started getting the FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE press releases on Wednesday. I was quite honoured to be on such a distribution list. And yes, I did just spell "honoured" with a U.

The event started on Wednesday, 26 January 2011. There was no way I could get there so early, but I was determined to get there by Thursday night. I set off on my drive (my girlfriend Lisa in tow) on Thursday afternoon, leaving me plenty of time to get over the border, get currency exchanged, and get to the arena. However, that also got me to the 401 in Toronto at about 5pm. Anyone familiar with big city traffic should know that, although Toronto traffic is not the worst I've ever experienced (DC, Boston, San Jose all top it significantly), given that I had to be in Oshawa well in advance of an 8:00 match... well, let's say it was frustrating, and we'll leave it at that.

We arrived at the arena at 7:40pm. Temperature at gametime was 0 degrees outside. That's Canadian temps - it would be 32 in the States. How's that for an exchange rate?! After picking up our badges and credentials, I immediately checked the round robin standings - Team Ulsrud (the Norwegians, for those not in the know) was 2-0, and had three more matches to play, including one that evening (hence my haste in getting there) against Team

Now, it is here that I pause. Most of us who followed the Olympics know who Kevin Martin is. He was the Olympic Gold Medalist in Vancouver - in fact, he beat Team Ulsrud to get that medal. I, having followed curling a bit since that point, knew about 1/2 of the teams listed. In fact, many of the best curlers in the world were there - World champions, Brier champions, current big-time teams. In Canada - or at least in this arena - these guys were well-sponsored rock stars. In the US? I'd be willing to bet that Glenn Howard could walk the streets of Chicago unbothered. Or even Pete Fenson.

For those who don't know, Pete Fenson was the 2006 Olympic bronze medalist, the skip for the US team, and a six-team national champion. I'm told he also owns a pretty good pizza place in Bemidji, Minnesota, which is the US capital as far as curling is concerned. I hope to visit someday.

After getting a quick bite to eat at the snack bar - I had a slice of pizza - I went to look at the ice. And I saw Team Ulsrud, warming up prior to their match. They had no idea I was in the building, and I had no idea I was going to see this.

My first instinct was to take a picture right from where I was, and so I did. This was a cell phone picture (as you will see, several of my picture are), but it was necessary to take it.

Now that I have seen them warm up, and taken care of all my necessary errands, it was time to find my seat. Of course, being a credentialed journalist, I could have just gone anywhere I wanted to. However, I didn't yet know this fact, so I sheepishly asked some of the security folks where I could go. They eventually directed me to the upper level, which is where I sat for the remainder of this match, as well as part of their first match the next day.

We have taken our seats, and the teams are introduced. Clearly, I am there to see the match on sheet B, but there are five going on. Most of the teams are wearing colours that are somewhat subdued, but there are exceptions. Team Howard, sponsored by Swiffer - and what a great curling sponsor! My next broom is a Wet Jet! - is wearing bright green shirts; Team Martin, right in front of us, are wearing Uncle Ben orange. Oh, and of course, The Pants. Loudmouth Golf is, of course, a major sponsor of Team Ulsrud, and tonight, they wore Blue and Gold. Ironically, I almost wore Blue and Gold, but settled for Red Houndstooth instead.

I did get up to take a quick picture with one of two mascots I saw over the weekend. I did not get this guy's name. He was a quiet fellow, but he enjoyed my fashion sense.

Let the curling begin! Ten teams on the ice.... each of them filled with curlers better than me. I am being a little hard on myself - I'm not as good as these guys, but I really am not that bad. As I discovered later, their skills - and the way they make tough shots look really easy - is partly a factor of the ice they were using. The match I am watching is the tightest, and the most exciting - Kevin Martin eventually won it, but he had to make a fantastic final shot in the 8th (a triple!) to make that happen.

However, I found myself watching two other matches as well. Team McEwen, who eventually won this event, started off with three blank ends. For those not well-versed in curling strategy, a team will sometime intentionally blank an end, to hold onto the hammer, until they can get more than one point in the end. Takes a hammer away from the other team, and makes for a bigger score jump. In the 4th end, McEwen dropped a 4 on Team Middaugh. He followed that up by stealing 3 in the 5th, which ended the match. That was just complete and utter dominance, and I found myself awed by that.

The other match I was watching was the Glenn Howard rink. After 3 ends, they were up 5-1 on Team Walchuk, a match he eventually won 9-2. After watching that utterly dominant performance, I thought to myself "wow, I hope Team Ulsrud doesn't meet them before the final, because they are REALLY tough!" I was right - they ended up being runners-up.

For those so inclined, defending Brier and World Champion Kevin Koe defeated local boy Mark Kean and his squad 6-3 in 7 end, and Jim Cotter took Randy Ferbey by the same score. The only thing about those two matches that caught my eye? Kevin Koe himself. His delivery is the lowest to the ice I have ever seen. I want to curl like that. I am not that flexible, so of course I never will, but it was impressive to watch.

At this point, I go on a search for the Pants. I have been clued
in that my badge is All Access (a term I fully came to understand about 18 hours later), and so I could go downstairs to the player's area and try to catch the team... and I saw Thomas Ulsrud, giving an interview. I waited patiently, of course, for him to finish, and then I introduced myself.

Except I didn't really. Thomas said something along the lines of "Heeeey, look who's here! I know this guy! Hi, Tony!" Er, ah, um, eee.... yeah, he knew who I was. We made small talk for a minute, and then he had to run to catch up to the rest of the team. He did promise that we would get together later on.

And so went my first evening at the BDO Canadian Open. It
was a great evening of curling, and I was really jazzed for the next day's events. Nothing could have prepared me for what exactly it would bring.