Friday, 19 April 2013

Maple Leaf Gardens...awesome

Maple Leaf Gardens...awesome

Probably one of the best features of this week's  Players' Championship being held at Ryerson’s Mattamy Athletic Centre, is the fact that it's being held at the former Maple Leaf Gardens.

As a kid growing up in southwestern Ontario, MLG was my mecca. I watched it on television every Saturday night and couldn't wait until my first trip. 
The building had so much history. Not just the hockey, but boxing, basketball, lacrosse, concerts and the political conventions.

I used to do a lot of work at Queens Park in the 1990s and I would park my car near Maple Leaf Gardens and then walk the five minutes over to the provincial buildings. I remember seeing Mats Sundin and other Leafs walking down the street. I could've parked at lots closer to Queens Park, but it was always a thrill to walk past MLG.

Things like school, sports and other activities got in the way and I didn't make my first trip to MLG until the Leafs' last season in the building. They were set to move over to the Air Canada Centre and I really wanted to make one last journey to see the Gardens before it closed. I knew if I didn't get a chance to see a hockey game before it closed in a few weeks it would be a huge regret.

I wrangled some tickets for January 4, 1999. The tickets were for standing room, but I was happy to just be the building. A couple things about the building stood out:

One: It was a cozy building. I remember my brother and I wanted to see the Gardens, so we walked around. We took a left and a right and then went down a small hallway, past a security guard and then next thing I know we're standing on the Maple Leafs bench--about five minutes before the game started. Not wanted to get kicked out, we quickly soaked everything in and then turned around.

Two: In the third period a pair of fans sitting in the Reds left and signaled that we could take their seats. I am about 5'10 and my brother is 6'1, but it felt like we Toronto Raptors sitting in those seats. Not a lot of leg-room.

Three: I should mention that my lovely wife allowed me to go to the game, especially since she was 8-months pregnant with our first child. I really wanted to go and knew it was now or never.

I was glad to hear that Ryerson was able to revitalize MLG, especially since it looked like the arena could've fallen to the wreckers ball. 

As Don Landry points out (or more specifically Glenn Howard) it's still Maple Leaf Gardens.   

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Sportsnet announced three out of four Grand Slam sites for next year.

Grand Slam sites

Sportsnet released details for next year's Grand Slam sites,...well three out of the four sites. As that great philosopher Meatloaf once said---three out of four ain't bad.

Editor's note: Two out of three ain't bad. Three out of four is tremendous.

The announced sites for Grand Slams are Abbotsford, Medicine Hat and Summerside.

All lovely places, but if I can't make the four-hour drive to Toronto, it's unlikely I will attend any Grand Slams next year. However, it will be a busy curling season for me next year.

I am in the process of planning my itinerary next season.

Olympic pre-trials in Kitchener--check
Olympic trials in Winnipeg--probably not, but not counted out
Continental Cup in Las Vegas--Oh yeah. Already started counting down the days and saving up my bail money.
TSN skins game--perhaps, I emailed TSN honchos and they said to expect an announcement closer to the fall. If it's going to be held in Niagara Falls (just my random guess) it's a for sure I will be there.
Olympics in Sochi--uh, no. Unless I win the lottery.
Brier in Kamloops--nope, too far away
Scotties in Montreal--intriguing. Anyone have a couch to crash on?  

Here's the press release detailing the three out of four sites for next year's Grand Slams. Site number four to be announced soon.

As announced tonight during Sportsnet’s broadcast of the Players’ Championship – taking place now through to April 21 at the Mattamy Athletic Centre (formerly Maple Leaf Gardens) in Toronto Sportsnet has confirmed three of the four event locations for next year’s Grand Slam of Curling series, with the fourth location to be announced in the coming weeks. 

With all new venues and cities, the 2013-14 Grand Slam of Curling series kicks off with the Masters, taking place in Abbotsford, BC from October 30 to November 3, 2013, featuring 30 men’s and women’s teams competing for a combined purse of $200,000.

From November 13 to 17, Medicine Hat, AB will host the Canadian Open, which will include 18 men’s teams competing for a $100,000 purse, while the Players’ Championship, the final event of the 2013-14 Grand Slam of Curling series, will take place in Summerside, PEI from April 15 to 20, 2014 with 30 men’s and women’s teams competing for a combined purse of $200,000.

Below are the details of the confirmed 2013-14 Grand Slam of Curling series events:

Masters – October 30 - November 3, 2013
Location: Abbotsford, BC - Abbotsford Entertainment and Sports Centre
Draw:  Men’s and Women’s draws
Purse: $200,000 ($100,000 spilt)

Canadian Open – November 13 – 17, 2013
Location: Medicine Hat, AB – Medicine Hat Arena
Draw:  Men’s draw only
Purse: $100,000

Players’ Championship – April 15 – 20, 2014
Location: Summerside, PEI – Credit Union Place
Draw:  Men’s and Women’s draws
Purse: $200,000 ($100,000 spilt)

Additional details regarding the full 2013-14 Grand Slam of Curling schedule, ticket information and broadcast details will be announced at a later date.

Owned and operated by Sportsnet, the Grand Slam of Curling is an elite series of men’s and women's curling events which are part of the World Curling Tour and feature the best teams from across Canada and around the world.

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Good read about Team Howard

Good read about Team Howard

One thing about Glenn Howard and his team is they seem very approachable and accessable.

 There was the documentary (or as the creators called it --rockumentary) on the team that was shown on TSN last year.

Sportsnet magazine has a feature online that focuses on Team Howard and the trials and tribulations that the team endured this past season.

You can read it here.

Brett Popplewell stalked the team for the past year, following them around across Ontario and out to the Brier in Alberta. He was with them in the hotel room, in small curling clubs, in the car and at restaurants.

I can imagine that by following the team closely, there would be some great gems that Popplewell saw and heard. I wonder what made the story and what didn't.

Glenn Howard seems fairly candid and fairly open. Here's a few gems from the story:

The Olympics play a big part in their motivation and thought process.
It was a dream they spoke of often. They’d never represented their country on the Olympic stage. For Team Howard, and the skip especially, it was Sochi or bust. 

Team Howard used to be sponsored by Trojan condoms. How did I miss that?

I knew about and heard about Joe Frans and his suspension, but I didn't know about the dust-up in the bar.
An accomplished curler in his own right, Frans had been to the Brier twice, the last time in 2005. It hadn’t been the most rewarding experience. During the tournament, he’d taken a swing at a journalist while drinking in a bar and afterwards tested positive for cocaine. He’d been banned from competitive play for two years. But now he was back, clean and eager for a return to the Brier. 

Did I mention that the Olympics weigh heavily on Howard's mind?
 Later, after the ceremonies were done, Howard sat in the hotel lounge and reflected on all that had happened. He said he was exhausted, that the week had been gruelling and that though it hurt to lose, it wasn’t the end. “It was just a curling game,” he said. “There’s still Sochi.” 

Curling mixed doubles...meh

Curling mixed doubles...meh

Let the great curling mixed doubles debate begin now.

Do you know who doesn't like curling mixed doubles? This guy.

The debate is only going to get larger over the next few years as this specialty, is forced down our throats in the next few years.

My guess is that it will be be it's own event at the 2018 or 2022 Olympics. Might as well embrace it now.

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Nolan Thiessen can bring the heat

Nolan Thiessen can bring the heat

When I heard that Nolan Thiessen (lead for Kevin Koe) was picked to throw out the first pitch at a Blue Jays game, I knew he would do well.

Thiessen was promoting this week's Grand Slam event being held in Toronto this week.

Not a lot of people know this, but Thiessen spent some time in the United States as a college pitcher. He was named after Nolan Ryan. Thiessen can bring the heat.

Check out the pitch here:

Not too bad. Up and in. Good form. I think it surprised the catcher.

Thursday, 11 April 2013

RIP Shorty

RIP Shorty

Shorty Jenkins, probably the most famous icemaker ever, and once of curling's most famous ambassadors has died.

What more could be said about Jenkins? He made icemaking an art. However, unlike some innovators who hoarded their secrets, Shorty shared his ideas and experiences with anybody.

I never met Shorty, but from what I've heard, he was very engaging and not afraid to share his ideas with anybody that had 10 minutes to talk to him.

The Shorty Jenkins Classic, the Brockville, Ont. bonspiel that is held every fall in his honour, will be a little bittersweet this year. Jenkins was 77.

Here is some thoughts from the Twitterverse on Shorty's curling.

@EMontford rest in peace my friend. Will miss the king of swing. thanks for everything. We would of got no where with out you.

@TSNVicRauter sports has lost an original...have a Timmy's in memory of icemake Shorty Jenkins.

@AshamCurling Curling loses a legend: Shorty Jenkins, the man in pink, passes away. Our thoughts and prayers are with his...

@BalancePlus RIP Shorty Jenkins.Thank you for everything you did for curling

@CurlingRumors #rumorhasit  The ice in heaven just got a whole lot better. RIP Shorty

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Toronto Brier

Toronto Brier

With the Player's Championship being held in Toronto next week, expect the curling media to jump on the story of curling in Toronto and more specifically, whether Toronto should host a Brier or Scotties championship.

There is a lot of pros, but there is a lot of cons as well. It will be interesting to see whether Toronto could host a major curling championship.

 I am not exactly breaking new ground, as Don Landry has gone here before.

Toronto is a big-league town. People won't bat an eye at paying outrageous prices for Toronto Raptors, Toronto Blue Jays and especially Toronto Maple Leaf tickets.

However, fans don't flock to junior hockey in Toronto, as the St. Mikes, Mississauga and Brampton franchises will tell you, as two of the three Toronto franchises have left town for North Bay and Niagara, and if rumours are to be believed, expect the third OHL team to head out to heaven-on-earth, or as I call it, Chatham.

Even the CFL's Argos have attendance issues, as they can only fill up the Stadium Formerly Known as Skydome to less than half capacity. The Buffalo Bills however, despite being a horrible team and having little ties to Toronto, can just about fill up the Skydome/Rogers Centre.

The difference is that the NFL, along with the NBA and NHL are considered A-list products.
The CFL and junior hockey and (sigh) yes, curling, are considered B-level products. A Brier, from an attendance standpoint, would probably be a disaster, which would be a shame.

Saying that, it will be interesting to see how Toronto treats next week's Players Championships being held at the Mattamy Athletic Centre.

I hope the curling die-hards, and there are tons in Toronto, make their way downtown to watch some curling.

It will be interesting to see how the Toronto media treat having a major curling event in their own backyard. I assume most of the major players will ignore the Players Championship, other than a small story at the beginning of the week, with the Brier speculation, and then ignore it the rest of the week. If TSN shows highlights in minute 57 of Sportscentre I will be impressed.

I also expect the morning talk show types to do a preview-type segment. If you've seen them once you've seen them a million times,--morning host comes down, gives curling a try, yuk it up for a bit and then says "this is much harder than it looks."

Would they do that with baseball or hockey? Nah, it's an A-list event. Can't make fun of that.

Monday, 8 April 2013

Ryan Fry...he's okay in my books

Ryan Fry...he's okay in my books

I don't know Ryan Fry. Met the guy once and he gave me and my kids an autographed picture with him and Brad Gushue and Randy Ferbey. It's hanging up on my office wall.

Judging from this story, it seems that what he thought was a small gesture, meant the world to a little girl and her dad.

From the Victoria Times-Colonist:

He may not be a true world champion, suffering a loss with his Canadian teammates to Sweden on Sunday, but Ryan Fry will always be one in the eyes of two B.C. curling fans.

Fry will be forever be remembered for his generosity by Brad Sheridan and his five-year-old daughter, Georgia, who ventured over from the Lower Mainland during the 2013 Ford World Men’s Curling Championship in Victoria.
“She had never been to a sporting event before, let alone a curling match, but she was excited to cheer for Canada and we watched some games on television together before heading over,” Sheridan said in an email to the Times Colonist.
“We got to the arena a little early and I took her down to ice level. I pointed out the various teams including, of course, the Canadian group. We talked at the railing for a few minutes and had just turned away to go and find our seats when I heard, ‘Here, sweetheart, this is for you.’ ”
That’s when Sheridan turned around, with Georgia in his arms, and saw Fry was giving his daughter his broom.
“She was more astute than I was and was able to say thank you,” Sheridan said. “I was too stunned to do anything.”
Fry then rejoined his team in the warmup.
“It was an incredible gesture and had a profound impact on both of us,” Sheridan added of the encounter that took place prior to Canada’s win over Russia. “Georgia carried the broom with her everywhere that day, being careful that it didn’t touch the floor while she carried it.
“She absolutely could not wait to show it to her mom, running into the house when she got home,” he said. “She has spoken about it every day since.
“I will try and find an address for Mr. Fry so that I can contact him to say thank you, but this amazing act of kindness and thoughtfulness will stay with both of us forever,” Sheridan said. “This was a class act by a Canadian champion.”

It's gestures like this that make a youngster a curling fan for life. I know part of the reason why my son likes curling is was because a junior curler (who later represented Canada at a junior world championship) spent some time with him at Little Rocks and went above and beyond in encouraging him on.

Little things mean a lot.

Like I said, I don't know Ryan Fry, but he seems like a classy guy. The reason I am a curling fan is because of stories like this.

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Getting hot at the right time

Getting hot at the right time

I read somewhere, and I forget now where I read it, where they compare the Brad Jacobs rink with a hockey team getting on a roll during the Stanley Cup playoffs.

It' a pretty adept analogy, as Jacobs' team kinda stumbled into the playoffs, but they look like they're hitting their stride now.

It's important for a curling team to peak at the right time. It looks like this team is peaking.

Final is tonight at 7pm (EST).

For a detailed game summary, read this story from Victoria Times-Colonist.

UPDATE: Should also mention game is on TV. I will also try and live blog or tweet (@hurryhardblog) if my kids don't steal the TV or if the dog continues to drive me nuts wanting outside every 10 minutes.

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Ferbey's Jacket

Ferbey's Jacket

If you're like me and you browse Kiijii or eBay for curling memorabilia, make sure you keep on the lookout for Randy Ferby's jacket.

Here's the Edmonton Sun story about Ferby's stolen jacket.

Mounties in Strathcona County need help tracking down a thief who stole a sentimental jacket that belongs to a Sherwood Park curling star.

Someone broke into a vehicle that was parked in the Clarkdale Meadows neighbourhood of Sherwood Park March 11 and stole a blue Team Alberta Curling jacket that belongs to Edmonton-area curler Randy Ferbey.

The jacket is blue in colour with yellow trim and it has eight purple hearts sewn on the left sleeve.
The purple hearts represent the eight appearances the curler has been in the Brier.

The jacket also has “FERBEY” embroidered across the back.

Jeez, I guess if the thief is stupid enough to steal it, he would be stupid enough to wear it around.

“The jacket is extremely valuable to the owner as it holds sentimental value from his experiences representing Alberta and Canada at major curling events,” said Strathcona County RCMP spokesman Wally Henry in a release.

Ferbey, who is now retired, has played in eight Briers, six world championships, four Continental Cups.

He is a six-time Canadian champ and a four-time world champ.

Just a question, and in no way am I trying to judge, but why leave something so valuable in your car? Does Ferbey still wear it around?

Either way, let's hope the person who stole this does the right thing and bring it back and quietly leaves the jacket on his porch overnight.

About Me

southwestern Ontario, Canada
I am a curling junkie. Wanted to create one spot to bring fans of the roaring game together, for information, news and thoughts about curling.