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Thursday, December 23, 2010

What’s on your curling wish list this Christmas?

‘Tis the season for Christmas lists, and here’s one that caught my attention.

My friend and editor at The Curling News, George Karrys, has written a night-before-Christmas wish list that hits the button. Here’s the link to his Curling Guru column in the Toronto Sun.

George knows what he’s talking about – and he’s not afraid to take some heat either. I can see competitive women curlers getting their backs up at some of his comments, but I think he’s spot on. Take some chances, Ladies!

And get your wallets out, Curlers! As a recreational winter activity, curling is cheap compared to skiing or hockey, and compared to golf fees, it’s a steal. George isn’t the only one to argue this, either.  Check out the CCA’s Business of Curling blog for a piece written by me and the CCA’s Director of Championship Service and Curling Club Development, Danny Lamoureux.

George also talks about the challenges of marketing the game. Even though the grassroots of curling is obviously where my heart lies (this blog is called Grassroots Curling, after all), I think he’s right that the image – the appeal - of the game needs to grow beyond the folksy, traditional view so many of us celebrate. This sport could be big, really big. Marketers need to get on board and promote its big guns: I mean, if you can’t sell athletes like John Morris, David Murdoch, Thomas Ulsrud, Jennifer Jones or Eve Muirhead to the world, you’re in the wrong job. Curling as a fun recreational activity is great.  But curling as a dynamic, exciting spectator sport is the next big thing.  Come on, people, buy those incredibly reasonably priced tickets to events held across Canada and convince the necessary sponsors that it’s time to bring curling to the next level.

Jack Bangay - Curling SweaterMy blog on the CCA site, Around the House, is also a list this week: a wish list for recreational curlers (chiefly me). My biggest wish? I want a curling sweater like my dad used to wear. I’ve included the picture here in case you missed it. That’s my dad, Jack Bangay, keeping score at a Ladies’ provincial competition at CFB Downsview Curling Club, sometime in the late 1950s. (I’m pretty sure there was a beer and a cigarette just outside the frame of this photo…)

But there are a few other things on my curling wish list - fairly lightweight, I know, but wishes, just the same:

1. I wish TV broadcasts didn’t cut away to commercials right after the winning last rock and handshakes. When you’re watching at home, you want to see all the back slapping and celebrating by the winners, and (voyeurs that we are) we want to share in the disappointment shown by the losers, no matter what form it takes. I know it’s all about sponsors and advertising, but can you give us at least a minute or two to watch the post-game action before whisking us away to watch another commercial for [insert product here]?

2. Okay, don’t laugh. I wish someone knew how to design curling pants for women. They need to reach our waists and stay there (are you listening, sports clothing designers?).  That means, we need to be able to get down in the hack and not feel the cool air creeping across the lumbar region. And the view from behind the glass of women of a certain age coming apart in the middle isn’t that great either.  I’m just saying.

Enough about me.  What’s on your curling wish list this year?

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Hockey books abound…but what about curling?

Tis the season of book reviews. Newspapers and magazines and even those specially printed advertorial mags in Chapters are pushing books you can pick up as gifts for Christmas.  I had some fun reviewing four hockey books for my local newspaper and scored copies of Don Cherry’s latest, Al Strachan’s tell-all, and a couple of argument-inducing “best goals ever” collections.

Hockey gets all the attention, but there are tons of curling books out there, too. It’s time they got some attention, so here’s a sample from my own shelves (with quick descriptions) to get you started. Please, feel free to suggest others so we can make a definitive list.  Here goes:

abby and the curling chicks - cover1. Abby and the Curling Chicks by Jean Mills

Ok, you knew I was going to start with my own book!  C’mon people!  It’s a YA novel aimed at young readers, set in a small town, all about girls who are reluctantly enrolled in a kids’ curling program and find out they actually like the sport. Not everyone’s taste, but younger kids seem to like it. You can find a sample chapter and ordering info here.

2. Hurry Hard! by Russ Howard

Russ’ background in curling and his run up to and including the 2006 gold medal in Torino with Brad Gushue. Lots of inside deets on the Olympic experience, and some funny behind-the-scenes stuff too. And here’s another book by Russ, Curl to Win, released this year. Read it and (presumably) start your climb to Olympic glory.

3. Curling Secrets: How to Think and Play Like a Pro by Colleen Jones

Colleen Jones knows and loves the game – and she’s had tons of success. After a bit of a break, she’s back in the competitive ranks this season.  So what’s her take on playing the game as if you, too, were headed for the pro ranks? Lowly club curlers, this is one way to find out.

4. Curling for Dummies by Bob Weeks

A classic. And Bob – a terrific writer who does not need the assistance of a ghost writer (unlike some of the other “authors” on this list…ahem…) – has another fun book as well, Curling Etc. and  Whole Bunch of Stuff about the Roaring Game.

5. Canada Curls: The Illustrated History of Curling in Canada by Doug Maxwell

The late Doug Maxwell, a journalistic giant who passed away in 2007, wrote about curling with humour and respect while drawing on a seemingly unlimited supply of knowledge and experience. This is a terrific book.  And if you want more of Doug, read Tales of a Curling Hack. Another delight.

6. Fit to Curl by John Morris and Dean Gemmel

John Morris is pretty fit, wouldn’t you say?  This book shows how you can look just like Johnny Mo. Well, maybe not.  But it’s certainly worth a try, and here’s the recipe to help.  And if you want to keep up with John’s “how-to” message, check out his blog, Fit to Curl, on the Canadian Curling Association website. Check out Dean Gemmel’s podcast, The Curling Show (find it on iTunes) for weekly interviews with curling’s best and brightest.

7. Between the Sheets by Cheryl Bernard and Guy Scholz

It’s not all on the ice, people.  See what crowd-pleasing Olympic silver medalist Cheryl Bernard – she of the many marriage proposals from besotted fans – has to say about preparing yourself for the game.  And you can follow her advice by reading her CCA blog too, Between the Sheets.

8. Books about and by other famous curlers

Yes, you can find books by/about the Ferbey Four, Brad Gushue, Vera Pezer, CBC host Scott Russell and more, but one of my favourites is Sandra Schmirler, the Queen of Curling, by Perry Lefko, the poignant story of Sandra Schmirler and her team of best friends. A wonderful woman, friend, wife and mother who also happened to be one of the game’s best-ever curlers. She won us a gold medal at Nagano, and she died far too young. This is a compelling (but kind of sad) read.


9. The Black Bonspiel of Willie McCrimmon by W.O. Mitchell

Classic curling fiction from Canada’s classic Prairie author.  Grab a dram and read on – it’s a hoot, mon!

10. The Curling News edited by George Karrys

No, it’s not a book.  But it’s great reading (and I’m not just saying this because I’m the associate editor, either). Curling Olympian and Managing Editor, George Karrys, finds curling stories that matter – and entertain, too. Want your curling bits in small bites throughout the season?  Subscribe. Very simple – and very rewarding.  Here’s how: click!  There’s a blog, too.

So, take THAT, hockey!  Curling literature is well-established and growing. Read and write on, curlers!

One last note: And if you’re tracking down John and Cheryl on the CCA website, you might find my blog there too, Around the House, for recreational curlers on and off the ice.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Look how far we’ve come, curlers!

ph 586While doing some research for the blog I write for the Canadian Curling Association (Around the House), I came across this hilarious feature from the CBC Video Archives featuring the 1983 MCA Bonspiel. 

Oh. My. God.

Okay, it’s not quite as archaic as the photo (left) of some big winners at the Fergus Curling Club in days of yore.  But it has its moments.

The clothes! The deliveries! The sweeping styles – and oh, the wonderful sight and sound of those corn brooms! The drinking! The smoking! The “curling is dumb” attitudes!

But the most hilarious part is reporter Tom Alderman’s commentary.  “Turgid, slow, mind-numbing” are a few of the adjectives he uses to describe our sport – the same sport that brought thousands of wildly cheering fans to the Olympics curling show last February and thousands more to join clubs across North America in the past year.

The reporter’s focus on drinking and out-of-shape athletes doesn’t come as a surprise (curling culture was a wee bit different in 1983 it appears), but don’t despair. One curler steps up the mike to defend the sport against Alderman’s determined effort to put it down.  Can you guess who that is?

Check it out, here. Too funny!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Men With Brooms: Sort of kind of getting there…maybe?

Okay, it’s early November, and I’m not getting it, yet.  Men with Brooms, I mean.

The actors: I like. Mostly.  I especially like Brendan Gall, our hero (although it took me a couple of weeks to remember that his character’s name is Gary, and that can’t be a good sign). He gets down to throw, resembling a praying mantis – or a giraffe, I’m not sure yet – and actually looks not too bad. A typical club curler and guy with a job that requires him to wear work clothes. Sense of humour.  Sometimes cranky.  Knows how to hold a beer bottle.  Okay, this is real life.

The other actors? Well, their appeal is closely tied to the writing.  I’m trying hard, CBC, I really am.  But that Corner Gas feel just isn’t there yet.  Paul Mather is a good writer. Unique. Subtle, you might say.  So subtle that it’s just not connecting – well, not with me, anyway.

The cranky club manager, Bill. The buddy (is he stupid or just acting stupid?), Matt.  The new girl in town, non-curler April, who might or might not be Gary’s crush (still not clear). The whiny, non-meat-eating donut shop owner, Pramesh, whose wife, Rani, seems ten times smarter than he is.  The wily bartender, Tannis, who walks out on to the ice in (check them out, here) street shoes.  Really?  Fail!

But then all-star Canadian actress extraordinaire Fiona Reid showed up the other night, playing Gary’s mother, a tough Ladies’ League skip with a team of cesar-guzzling Ladies’ League players in tow. There was actually some curling humour in among the jokes about emasculated men. Some of the action took place on the ice.  The funny lines (most delivered by Reid) were – funny!

There’s hope. I hear Kevin Martin is making an appearance in an upcoming episode, and Paul Gross will show up in a later episode as well. The latest issue of The Curling News (first issue of the 2010-2011 season) features a full-page spread of stories and pictures from behind the scenes, thanks to TCN editor George Karrys who was, of course, the consultant on Gross’ 2002 trend-setting film. There’s certainly buzz. The show is getting viewers. The Globe and Mail reported on October 22: “In less than one month, more Canadians have watched this show than the movie on which it's based. The new comedy series has been generating a half-million or so viewers each week, even against tough opposition from House, Dancing with the Stars and other Monday-night staples.” That’s got to be a good sign, right?

I’m not sure yet, but I’m willing to hang around and see how this show shapes up, because I think it might be sort of kind of getting there, maybe.


Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Dominion Curling Club Championships, Year Two

I had the most astonishing conversation with a fellow curler at my club after our Wednesday night game last week.

“What’s that?” she asked when I waxed enthusiastic about the team who would be representing our club (Guelph Curling Club) at the regional playdowns of the Dominion Curling Club Championship this weekend.

“What’s the Dominion Curling Club Championship?” she asked when I mentioned this team, as well as another curler we both know who would be competing across town at the men’s playdowns.

She had no idea what the championship was all about.


“I guess you have to be an avid curler to know about this stuff,” she remarked, which is where the astonishment kicked in, because this woman is definitely what I would call an avid curler. She’s on the club executive, volunteers for all events, curls and bonspiels regularly.

How could anyone NOT know about the Dominion?

It’s Year Two of this initiative, sponsored by The Dominion of Canada General Insurance Company, to offer club curlers a chance to compete for a national championship. We’re talking airfare, hotel, pipe bands, uniforms, provincial and territorial banners – and bragging rights to the kind of national curling prestige normally reserved for the Brier or Scotties.

Last year, two teams from Ontario took home the championship plaques: Robert Stafford’s team from the Chatham Curling Club, and Kelly Cochrane’s team from the High Park Curling Club.

You can read about this year’s event in the season’s first print issue of The Curling News (and I know this because I wrote the article!). You can also check out The Dominion’s site which has news and photos from the inaugural event last year, and follow the event on Facebook (look for the link at the bottom of The Dominion Curls homepage).

In any case, club curlers across Canada should get informed.  Here’s a curling event that could take you – yes, you! – out of your club and drop you in the middle of a national championship, providing the experience of a lifetime (not to mention, lots of swag).  You don’t have to be an “avid” curler to know about it – just a curler.

The Dominion Curling Club Championship takes place November 23-28, 2010 at the Charlottetown and Cornwall Curling Clubs in Prince Edward Island. Grassroots Curlers, pay attention!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Looking for Answers to Some Curling Questions

Ok, so they’re not really important questions. But all the same, I’m just wondering…

1. Why is there no curling coverage in the fancy new Globe and Mail?  Globe curling

The cash spiels have started from coast to coast. Results and stories are showing up on the internet and Twitter, including reports of the big teams launching themselves into the new season – Kevin Martin, Jennifer Jones, Jeff Stoughton, Glenn Howard, the Scots, the Americans. Come on, guys. Where are those sports reporters, anyway?  I can read column after column about soccer, football, golf, tennis.  Did any of those sports win us gold and silver medals at the Olympics, drawing millions of fans on TV and thousands of hooting and hollering – and singing – fans at the rink? Curling probably sold a few newspapers, too. I want to know why Canada’s national newspaper is missing in action.

2. How many learn-to-curl sessions are being held across Canada and the United States over the next week?

A quick online surf shows club after club after club enticing newbies to come out and give it a go. An open house at the Beaver in Moncton. My own club in Guelph. Glenmore, Wolfville, Red Deer, Whitehorse – and that’s just a quick Google search. Twitter is atwitter with announcements, too. Curling club open houses and learn-to-curl sessions are everywhere. If somebody kept a tally, what would the grand total be?

And my last question:

3. How can I get Rick Mercer to visit my curling club?

Rick mercer curling He goes ice sailing, sidecar racing, bungee jumping. He plays soccer with Toronto Football Club and sledge hockey with our Olympic team, all on national TV. He’s everywhere – including on the ice with the Olympic wheelchair curling team.  So what’s the secret? Do I have to be an Olympian? He has a gift for reaching out to regular Canadians doing regular, everyday activities.  Well, there’s nothing more everyday than a Wednesday night social league at the local club. Can somebody tell me how I should persuade Rick to come out and play a few ends with me and the girls at the Guelph Curling Club? 

Just wondering…

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Okay, I’ve had it with the “curling is funny” line

You curl. I curl. Lots of people we know curl. Are you funny?  Am I?

(No, actually, I’m not.  In fact, I’m a terrible joke teller and often need punch lines explained to me.)

The point is, “curling is funny” leaves me shaking my head. Football is funny (tight pants, crazy moves).  Soccer can be pretty darn funny with all that dramatic embellishment going on. Surely it’s all in the eye of the beholder.

And some beholders seem to have goggles on when it comes to curling.  

The Curling News blog published a piece about the new CBC comedy, Men With Brooms. I don’t need to give you the drill: same people who did Corner Gas, based on Paul Gross’ affectionate but slightly off-base curling movie of the same name, etc., etc. The post includes links to the usual media outlets giving their reviews of the pilot, reviews that were pretty predictable (“the show is more about the people than it is about curling”). All good.

But then the Canadian Press piece starts: “There is something inherently funny about curling….”

Okay, hold it right there.

Which characteristic of curling makes the sport so funny,exactly?

Is it the balance, flexibility and strength required to float a rock down the ice to the button?  Or throw a take-out that gets everything moving and clears the house?

DSC_2619 Is it the judgment required to determine – using eyeball or stopwatch, doesn’t matter – when that rock is going to slow down, where it’s going to dig in, how it’s going to finish?  And with that goes the power to drive those brushes into the ice without letting up until the rock hits its target or grinds to a halt. Try it – it’s not that funny.

Is it the skips’ hollering that seems funny?  Is it the “Hurry hard! Harder!” which has drawn far too many sophomoric innuendos from uninformed non-curlers?

Curling is not “inherently funny”. Just ask Kevin Martin, pictured above at a Grand Slam event in Guelph last January. The Olympics brought curling’s appeal to the front of the sporting stage – it also showed that “funny” and “fun” are not the same thing. Curling – and curling fans – are fun, no doubt about it.

But “funny”?  Can we move on, please, people?

(Photo: Jean Mills)

Saturday, September 18, 2010

What does a school library in Los Angeles have in common with a curling writer in Canada?

Good question! Here is the answer to this six-degrees-of-separation question:

A writing colleague of mine was visiting Ralph Bunche school in the Compton Unified School District of Los Angeles, and there she found a woefully underfunded and underequipped school library.  Helaine Becker is not one to walk away from a challenge.  She rallied her Canadian colleagues (including moi) to send in copies of our books so that she could deliver them to this very needy school - a goodwill exercise of mammoth project management proportions.

Well, Helaine has done it.  On October 2, five Canadian authors and a pile - a huge pile including thousands of donated books - will be arriving at the school for a shelving celebration.  And among those books is my novel, Abby and the Curling Chicks.

Yes, little kids in Los Angeles, California, U.S.A. (population ??? million) will be reading about a girl in Vankleek Hill, Ontario, Canada (population 1800), a girl who curls.  Now that is cool.

If you want to know more about Air Lift to L.A., you can read the complete press release with details galore on my writing blog, Writer's Life.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Curling Club Scavenger Hunt

Two weeks at the cottage in Nova Scotia means soaking in hours of beach time, reading lightweight books, exploring the shore, dodging squirts from those elusive razor clams, setting mousetraps in the cottage – and, occasionally, venturing forth into the countryside to see the sights.

The sights, for me, always include a search for the local curling club.  If you read my previous blog, you’ll know about my search for the Dawson City club while on a visit to Yukon in July. (In case you missed it, you can read it, here).

P8142424It wasn’t hard to find the new Northumberland Community Curling Club  which opened in December 2007 and appears (from the photos on its site, here) to be thriving. Check out the fireplace in the party room! Locals say the club is the result of complete community involvement, and curlers drive the winding roads around Pugwash, Wallace, Oxford and beyond to get their curling fix during the long Nova Scotia winter.Pictou curling club It’s a fine looking building, tucked in just behind the high school and easily accessible from the Gulf Shore Road.

And a few days later we spotted the New Caledonian Curling Club  (not to be confused with the Royal Caledonian Curling Club) near the wharf in Pictou, Nova Scotia, home of the Hector, the ship which brought the first Scottish settlers to New Scotland in 1773. (Okay, so it took a few years to establish the curling club. No doubt there were other important things to think about – like food, shelter and safety, perhaps?) Cool sign!

Any curling club sightings in your travels? Send me your photos ( and I’ll post them here. A hint: watch for a sign along the road, like this one in Pugwash:


Friday, July 16, 2010

Dawson City: Yukon Quest…for the curling club

IMG_1412 My dad used to say that if he found himself suddenly plunked down in any small Ontario town, he’d be able to find his way to the beer store.  There’s just something predictable about the placement of that all-important supplier of refreshment.  It’s like knowing (nowadays) where the Tim Hortons is (on the strip coming into or out of town, near the gas stations and the Wendy’s/Harvey’s/McDonald’s, right?).

I thought of Dad’s talent for navigation recently as I made my way up and down the streets of Dawson City, Yukon, searching for the curling club.

Dawson, what a place: a Canadian town that owes its cheerfully independent character to the men who moiled for gold as the 19th century eased into the 20th.

First, there’s the fast-flowing Yukon River, part Yukon silt and part Klondike clear. When we were there, the Yukon River Quest race was on. Canoes and kayaks of all sizes were pelting for the finish line in the annual competition that starts in Whitehorse and ends when the paddlers reach the dock in Dawson. Throughout our days there, we would suddenly hear horns blaring and voices raised in celebration as another team of tough paddlers arrived. Out of over 70 teams that started, only 54 finished. (Winners this year, “Texans”.  We were there to see the third place team pull in – intriguingly named, “Breaking Wind”…)

IMG_1377 Second, there’s the ambience, if you want to call it that. That late-nineteenth century frontier vibe is everywhere: in the somewhat dilapidated (purposefully, make no mistake) clapboard buildings; the boardwalk sidewalks on either side of dirt roads; the overgrown lawns that nobody wastes valuable time worrying about; the well-trained, leash-free dogs who travel everywhere with their owners; and lastly, the wilderness looming at the end of every street.  River, forest, rocky hills. And some of the most friendly people you could ever meet.

That’s Dawson.

So, on my journeys around town to see Robert W. Service’s house and the old Palace Grande Theatre, I kept myIMG_1411 eyes peeled for the unmistakable signs of a curling club.  You know, long and low, a parking lot, and a sign on the front door saying some version of “Leave street shoes at the door and help keep our ice clean!”

And at last, I found it! Long, low and green. Parking lot out the back, sign on the front door. Of course, nobody  was home (this being July), but no matter. Curling in Dawson is obviously alive and well - right next to Diamond Tooth Gertie’s, one of the town’s biggest attractions (gambling, showgirls, drinking – you get the picture).

In Dawson City, where else would the curling club be?

Thursday, June 17, 2010

I want to move to Scotland – where they have a flair for reporting their curling news

Like most curling fans, I browse the internet regularly for out-of-the-way stories about the sport’s people and events. 

(Of course, Google Alerts can’t distinguish between curling as in sport and curling as in using a hot iron stick to beautify your hair, but whatever…)

Sometimes a gem will pop up, like this recent article from The Southern Reporter in Selkirk about the changing of the guard at several curling clubs in the Borders region of Scotland:

AT THE AGM, Earlston Curling Club promoted straight-talking David Mitchell to president, following in Wendy Henderson's dainty footsteps.

“Dainty footsteps”?  Really?  But I love it! (Inappropriate and possibly sexist as it may be). Is this a comment on Wendy’s leadership style?  And what about David?  “Straight-talking”? Does that mean he has a gift for telling it like it is – not always as “daintily” as he might?  Anyone who has served on a curling club executive knows what I’m talking about.  The behind-the-scenes story emerging here is fascinating.

And there’s more:

Due to various clinical and orthopaedic bothers amongst the higher echelons of the membership, this past season was not the greatest in the club’s history.They suffered a dismal Border League campaign with one or two hard-luck moments and little good fortune in the Berwickshire competitions.

You have to love it: orthopaedic bothers.  Sore knees?  Bad back?  Wrist? Elbow?  What, what?  I’m dying to know. Did someone crash to the ice during the all-important last throw to the four-foot? Did a sweeper have to bail?  Were drugs of the over-the-counter painkiller variety involved?

We have great curling reporters in Canada, in print (The Curling News comes to mind…) and on TV (TSN’s Vic, Linda and the recently-retired Ray, for example). But this kind of writing is to curling what Danny Gallivan was to hockey broadcasting.  I’d love to see more of it. 

In the meantime, I’ll be trolling the internet for more Scottish curling reports…

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Curling on TV: “Charming people being sweet, good-natured and kind.” Really?

John Doyle, the TV columnist for The Globe and Mail is one of my favourite newspaper writers. He can be quirky (writing about his wild brother and the lads, or his adventures in the “TV racket”) and very, very funny (see same), but he can also be direct and analytical. He knows a lot about sports, too, and he also covers World Cup soccer. He was the columnist who drew a country’s eyes towards the charms of Cheryl Bernard during the Olympics. (And a few years ago he did the same for Colleen Jones, believe it or not!) Apparently he gets a lot of mail and not all of it complimentary, but he tackles his topics head on and applies a clear-eyed and very articulate filter to his commentary on issues relating to both the creative and political sides of the broadcasting industry. No nonsense, with Doyle.  He tells it as he sees it, and I like that.

In today’s column,(read it here) he takes on the CBC’s new fall schedule and complains that it doesn’t have enough bite.

He refers to shows such as Battle of the Blades, Heartland and Being Erica. “The curling comedy could be great fun,” he adds, referring to the upcoming Men With Brooms (the details of which can be found at The Curling News). “But is that all there is?”

“Where’s the buzz?" he asks. “Where’s the show with the dark undercurrent, the one that has to be seen because it provokes, angers, frustrates, delights and thrills?”

John doesn’t know much about curling, does he?  Oh the storylines that a small town curling club (or large town curling club, or great big bonspiel…) can provide! And not all of them jolly and bite-free. Sex, drugs, feuds and animosities, broken and/or budding romances, over-indulgence, power, greed, nastiness...! As well as all the good stuff that we curlers just take for granted: skill, respect, a sense of humour, and the overall beauty of a sport at once graceful (Glenn Howard or Kevin Martin or any other elite curler sliding out from the hack with perfect draw weight…) and ferocious (Kennedy and Hebert pounding a dying rock across the hogline to the button, or the voice-cracking desperation of a sweeping call that could make the difference between victory and defeat).

So John, you can lump Battle of the Blades, Heartland, Being Erica and Debbie Travis’ series “showcasing good Canadians” together if you want.  But you might want to hold fire on Men With Brooms. I suspect it’s not going to be a show about “charming people being sweet, good-natured and kind.” At least, I hope not!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Men With Brooms coming to a TV near you this fall

Okay, I confess that I have a thing for Paul Gross.  Due South was brilliant – great idea, great writing, subtle shifts between drama and comedy (see the episode “A Hawk and a Handsaw”) and wonderful performances from some of Canada’s best – Callum Keith Rennie, Gordon Pinsent, Wendy Crewson, Brent Carver, Colm Feore come to mind.  And how about Getting Married in Buffalo Jump and Slings and Arrows and Gross’ performance as Hamlet at the Stratford Festival?  And then, more recently, there were all those Genie Awards for his writing, producing and acting in Passchendaele.  He’s also a musician. And not too hurtin’ in the looks department, either. 

So when the film Men With Brooms came out in 2002, I was in heaven.  Paul Gross and curling.  Kind of silly curling, kind of rough-around-the-edges Paul Gross, but still a combination of two acquired tastes, nicely melted into a bad-boy-makes-good sports film including the improbable (really? throw it so hard that he smashes the rocks – twice?) and the impressive (familiar faces of Canadian curlers like The Curling News’ George Karrys and spinerama ace Jeff Stoughton). Ok, maybe a bit over the top.

Who cares, said I.  Paul Gross and curling.  Does it get any better?

It does.

Now CBC is actually going ahead with a sitcom based on the film, including Gross in the show, although not as the central character. But that’s okay.  He got the stone sliding, so to speak, and now other creative types, including producer/writer Paul Mather can sweep it along – hopefully into a something with the charm of Corner Gas or Little Mosque on the Prairie. (Interesting but not terribly important fact: Both shows did curling episodes:  “Hurry Hard” and “Jihad on Ice”.)

Want to know more about the TV version of Men With Brooms?  Check The Curling News for all the deets. 

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Curling in the Zoo

It was snowing here in Southern Ontario a few days ago, an unusual weather report for mid-May. And although the leaves are almost all out and the tulips are done – which means Spring has sprung and moved on – I couldn’t help thinking of curling.  So to say a final farewell to the winter, I revisited some mail I received from Jason Hall of the Kalamazoo Curling Club.  This past February, Jason sent me some great photos of Kalamazoo curlers playing the game “au naturel”.

Now, now – don’t get too excited.  This is what he meant:

Kalamazoo outdoor curling 1No, this isn’t a shot of the Kalamazoo Curling Club.  It’s an afternoon of throwing some rocks on real Mother Nature-created ice, just the way it was done when the sport first came to North America.  Here are some Fergus, Ontario, curlers doing the same thing on the the Grand River in 1890.

Curling - 1890 on Beaver Meadow All you have to do is gather some usable rocks, shovel off a stretch of the lake or river, and Game On!

See the house rings scratched into the ice?  Obviously the technique had to change a bit.  The curlers above used chunks of granite from rocks found in their fields, or blocks of wood smoothed and weighted.  The curlers from the Zoo appear to be using a set of Little Rocks. Smart!  Although the current thrower does look a bit as if he’s thinking “bowling” instead of “curling”…?

Kalamazoo outdoor curling 2 “We've been having a great time down here in Kalamazoo,” Jason wrote to me in February, just as the Olympics were winding down.  “Being able to watch curling on TV is a real treat for us Americans. We're very much looking forward to hosting the US Curling National Championships here in another week or so, and looking forward to the direction in which our new club is headed.”

Curling in the Zoo appears to be headed in the right direction.  Check out the Kalamazoo Curling Club website, here.  Thanks for the pics, Jason!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Job insecurity happens in curling too

Jennifer Jones had a so-so season.  Sure, she won the Scotties, but she and her team just didn’t get it done at the World Championships. Winning that bronze medal took a lot of guts, but that was never the ultimate goal.  And let’s not even talk about the Olympic Trials, which were a (pick one or all):

1. disaster

2. disappointment

3. unfortunate example of a team not getting its act together at the right time.

In a sport with a short season and only a few high-profile events – with small but growing financial rewards – a curling team needs to be practical and forward-thinking. So teams change their personnel all the time.  Ask Brad Gushue and Kevin Martin, both Olympic gold medalists.

It’s really not that different from staffing in any other organization.  You go with the “players” who will meet the organization’s goals, who can be counted on today, tomorrow – and next year – to deliver the talent, energy and strengths required.

We can look at Jennifer’s decision to drop Cathy Overton-Clapham from the roster as a nasty way to treat a valued, contributing teammate and friend, or we can see it for what it is: a management decision with a goal in mind.  Jones wants to go with a team that will get her to the 2014 Olympics, and in her opinion, that means taking steps  “to ensure we will have a complete set of skills and strengths come 2014.” 

Yes, it hurts Overton-Clapham.  She was given the unexpected news at a team meeting and that’s shocking. But in the business world, downsized employees are asked to hand over their keys and are then escorted off the premises. Now that can be shocking.

Perhaps more devastating for Cathy O is the realization that this late in the season, it will be hard for her to pull a viable team together for next year.  Not only that, but despite her own great performance this season, she now misses out on returning to the Scotties as Team Canada and competing with the Jones team at the Canada Cup and Continental Cup. In business there’s a severance package, but not for curlers, unless you count the Scotties’ diamonds and seeing your name in the official records of the sport. That probably doesn’t provide much consolation to Cathy right now.

In the end, we can look at this move as a harsh reaction to a disappointing season. Or we can see it as the painful but necessary decision-making that’s required to help an organization meet its long term goals.  And in sport as in business, I’m guessing that no one involved particularly enjoys the process.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Curling Cold Turkey: How to survive the off-season without your regular fix


DSC_2204Kevin Martin has walked off into the sunset, somewhat bent over under the weight of all that loot, and you’re looking around with a lost expression on your face wondering how the heck you’re going to get through the next few months without watching any curling on TV, or reading it in the Sports pages, or (unless you live in a town with a summer league) finding some on-ice action at the local club.

It’s a challenge we face every year, Grassroots Curlers, and here are a few tips to help you cope.

1. Relive the magic

An Internet search of “Olympics” and “curling” pulls up over 20 million hits.  You can surf the web all day, and all night, and all day – and never come to an end.  And that’s just the Olympics!  Try “Grand Slam”, “Brier”, “Scotties” and – well, you get the picture.  There’s the Canadian Curling Association site, the fan-friendly and very newsy folks at, and all those other wonderful links which you can see listed on the left-hand side of this page.  And let’s not forget The Curling News blog, source of wild and wonderful curling news, rumours, stories and links. Go forth and surf, Grassroots Curlers. 

2. Get in shape for next season

One of the biggest strides the sport of curling made this year was to sell itself – and be recognized – as a sport that requires fitness, strength, flexibility and all that jazz. John Morris’ Fit to Curl made a splash, as did the obvious (and much-admired) fitness level of Cheryl Bernard at the Olympics.  Real curlers know that you need sturdy legs, arms of steel, a back that doesn’t creak and enough gas in the tank to go eight ends – or more – several times in a day or weekend spiel. The required level of fitness doesn’t just happen, no matter how much we think we’ll be 20 years old forever.  Now’s the time to hit the road, the bike, the weight room, the yoga mat – whatever turns your crank and will show results on the ice next season.  Don’t wait for August – start now.

3. Embrace curling’s alter ego, golf

A lot of curlers are golfers, too: Wayne Middaugh, Russ Howard, Mike Harris, to name three.  I know it’s not a game played on ice, but golf does have its attractions. Fresh air, cool clothes, the 19th Hole.  (We don’t have to mention Tiger Woods, do we?) And it can be a cruel game too, just like curling.  Four members on a “team”. A long implement that helps propel the playing piece (ball, as opposed to rock) forward. Celebratory drinks when the game is done.  Not so far away from the things we love about our own game, right? If you’re suffering the night sweats and trembling associated with curling withdrawal, golf might just help ease you through to next season.

4. Take a break

And if all else fails, bury your equipment in the back of the sports closet until next year and just, simply, walk away for a while.  This was a season of highs and lows, excitement and drama.  It was fantastic, exciting, exhausting and draining.  The number of shots we had to call!  The number of games we had to analyze!  Oh, the times those players on TV just didn’t listen to us! Let it go and take this time to regroup and recover.  It might just be time to take a break…

Until next season, when you can fire up your curling engine, refreshed, recharged and ready to give ‘er, all over again.

(Photo by Jean Mills)

Friday, April 16, 2010

Life Lessons I learned from CURLING

1. How to lose with grace

When Cheryl Bernard’s last shot ended the Gold-medal Olympic curling final – ended it badly for her – did Cheryl cry? Did she stomp? Collapse? Blame someone?  No. After gracious handshakes, she turned to her team and they closed ranks, supportive, calm, and in control of what must have been overwhelming disappointment.  This is how to lose, people.  

AND she won a Silver Medal at the Olympics. I wish I could do that.

2. Never lose faith

Everyone knows Kevin Koe’s story. Years and years of trying to get out of Alberta. Years and years of watching Kevin Martin and Randy Ferbey walk off with the Brier trophy and the shirts with the maple leafs on the back.  Years and years of coming oh so close.

This year?  Brier Champs.  World Champs.  It does happen, even when you think it never will.

3. There’s a little humour in everything

Norwegian pants. Enough said.

4. Use it or lose it

Okay, she’s not a household name.  And okay, you’ve probably never heard of her.  But my skip in the final draw of the Monday Night Business Ladies’ league at the Guelph Curling Club this year was the incomparable Hilda Peterson. She’s 94 years old and still curling.  Not only that, but she’s good at it, and she makes the game fun.  When I grow up, I want to be just like Hilda.

5. It’s okay to wave the flag

And chant.  And cheer. And sing our glorious anthem so loudly that an Olympic curling game has to grind to a halt to listen. Wave the flag, Canada.  We. Are. Just. Awesome.

6. Many hands make etc etc

How many people does it take to run a Grand Slam curling event? A club’s 175th Anniversary? A Little Rocks bonspiel? Lots. Curlers are experts at stepping up and taking on the often thankless role of volunteer. Other segments of society could learn a lot from this selfless, generous, fun-loving curling culture. Ever seen a 50-50 Ticket seller who’s not smiling?  I rest my case.

7. You don’t get anything if you don’t ask for it

I write and I curl.  I wanted to write about curling, so I got in contact with George Karrys, the editor of The Curling News, pointed him to my blog and asked if maybe I could sort of kind of try to maybe write something for his publication…? He said yes.  In fact, he not only said yes, but he gave me a number of cool assignments during the year, made sure I had access to the behind-the-scenes madness at a Grand Slam curling event, and edited my work with finesse and skill, making me look good in print. George, thank you!

I’m feeling pretty empowered now. I think I’ll ask Jennifer Jones if I can join her team…

8. How curling has made me a better person

See 1-7 above.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Curling is cool and getting cooler – thanks to a big bonspiel called the Vancouver Olympics

DSC_2639 Curling is so cool right now.  Of course you and I knew that already, but apparently the World needed some prodding.  And oh, did the Vancouver Olympics ever deliver!

Word from curling clubs around Canada and the U.S. is that interest is on the rise.  Watch for an article in the April issue of The Curling News for more, but here are some early indications that curling is more than alive and well:

Judy MacKinnon, General Manager of the Cloverdale Curling Club in Surrey, B.C. says:  “My phone has not stopped ringing for ice rental, minor hockey windups, young 15-30 guys and gals looking to try the sport.  It seems that curling is not referred to as an old person’s game as it has [been] in the past.”

Arnold Mallais, Past President of the Beausejour Curling Club in Moncton, N.B. says:  “Since the Olympics, the Brier and our provincial events, our ice bookings have certainly increased.”  He adds that ice rentals are ahead of last year, “and all in all, I would have to say that the awareness is up!”

Doug Jaixen of the Aksarben Curling Club in Omaha, Nebraska, describes an Open House held at his club just after the Olympics: “From the e-mail and phone inquiries we were receiving prior to and during the Olympics we anticipated a total of 100 to 150 people were going to show up.  We have a sign-in list with 355 names and contact information.  At least 450 people stepped onto the ice and learned how to curl that evening.  We were not quite prepared for 450 people but we adjusted quickly.”  Guests were given only 15 minutes of instruction on the ice – not much time, but it was the only way the club could give everyone a chance. And it worked!  Doug adds: “We had five full teams from the open house sign up for our season-ending bonspiel.  At least three of these teams said they will be playing in our leagues next season!”

And yes, even the guy wearing the orange shirt in the photo above (in action at The National Grand Slam event in Guelph, Ontario in January) was a beginner once too.  Now?  Now he’s just cool … and an Olympic gold-medalist, of course!

(Photo by Jean Mills)


Monday, March 15, 2010

Undefeated Curling Masters Off to Nationals

GCC Masters Curling champs A team from the Guelph Country Club is off to St. John, New Brunswick, for the Canadian Masters (age 60+) Curling Championships, and they have yet to lose a game in bonspiel or competition play: that means 18 straight wins this season.

Skip Mike Dorey, third (“mate” in Saint John) Brian Henderson, second Gary Houghton and lead Paul Knight knew they had something good when they got together early in the year and the wins started flowing.

“We have curled against one another for years at the Club,” says Knight. “I played with Mike and Brian last year in the Masters but we didn't do well. So, since Brian and Mike curled with Gary in Senior Regionals, and I was already on the team, we asked Gary if he would play 2nd (he's a great hitter) and then Mike would skip as he normally does with Brian as vice, and me as lead. The combo really clicked.”

Although they’re not familiar with the teams they’ll be curling against, they’re not worried. They know what they’re capable of, and that’s what matters.  All four have ice-reading ability and a high level of fitness.  As Dorey said in a local Guelph Tribune article, “We think we’re quite capable of playing guys 50 and over with this team.  We don’t feel that we have an old-folks attitude or ability.  In fact, all of us throw the rock pretty good.  I could say “given our age”, but I would say we throw the rock pretty good period.”

The Masters may not get the attention that other Canadian curling championships (such as the Brier) do, but that could be changing.

“The CCA sanctions the event in Saint John,” Knight explains, “but we are probably one year away from full financial support; the OCA rep believes we are very close. And with 13 men’s teams and 12 women’s teams this year at the Canadians, from every province and territory, that has to get the CCA attention.”

What will get more attention, most likely, is the record this team has coming into the competition.  When word gets out – 18 straight wins and undefeated in OCA playdowns – the target may be squarely on the backs of this Ontario foursome.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Abby and the Curling Chicks: Curling fiction on the way

Abby on keyboard All the attention that women’s curling garnered at the Olympics lit a flame (ha ha) under me to get working on some projects that have been lying around untended for a while.

A number of years ago I published a novel for teens called Abby and the Curling Chicks, a story aimed at a group of curling girls in a small town in Ontario. Using my experiences running a junior program at the Vankleek Hill Curling Club, I told the tale of Abby Chisholm who agrees, reluctantly, to join a junior program at the local club in exchange for attending a summer writing program. (Hmm, a girl who curls and writes – sounds somewhat autobiographical…) Of course, Abby and her friends turn very quickly from being ho-hum to being gung-ho, with thrills and spills along the way. The book sold very well through Goldline Curling Supplies, as well as through the Canadian Curling Association online store. A niche story for a niche market.

Readers have asked me when there’s going to be a sequel, and my response has always been “I’m working on it.” But now I can say yes, really, I am. With the recent post-Olympics rise in attention to curling – in particular women’s curling – I think it’s time I really got down to work. I’ve got six chapters written on the next installment of Abby’s story, tentatively titled Abby and the Curling Chicks: Trouble in the House.

Not only that, but my story about a Little Rocker named PT McReady, who “shoots the lights out” is underway as well.

And don’t get me started talking about the mystery I’m writing, set in a small town curling club where everyone knows everyone, and secrets abound…but be warned: I don’t do blood very well, so it will be a “cozy” mystery rather than a hard-boiled, gritty police drama.

The possibilities are endless for curling fiction, and I’m on the job. Stay tuned to Grassroots Curling for updates. If you’re interested in reading Abby and the Curling Chicks, you can order it through Pugwash Publishers.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

We love our hockey, but….



Photo by Anil Mungal, The Curling News.

Noisy fans at Olympic Curling games: Yes? So?

Some of the competitors at the Olympic curling games have been complaining about the noise fans are making before, during and after key shots.  Funny thing, the Canadian curlers love it!  And why not?  The noise demonstrates that the fans are really into the game, excited and engaged and, most importantly, following the action.  What’s to complain about?

Well, apparently there’s lots to complain about: just Google “Olympics curling noise” and you’ll find a whack of articles from news sources around the world, some simply reporting, some offering editorial comment on the tendency of the crowd to cheer or boo throughout the action.  It’s a new topic of conversation for the curling world, since in Canada and at other international events, the fans tend to be older, curling-savvy spectators who follow the unspoken rule: silence while curlers are throwing.

I wonder what baseball pitchers would think if the crowd buttoned it down for every pitch?  Or hockey players taking a shot during overtime?  Or a kicker in football? Why are we silent in some sports (golf, tennis, curling) and raucous in others?

(I can tell you that when I get into the hack to throw a shot in my Monday Night League, it’s not exactly silent.  I bet any of those Canadian curlers out there on the ice have been playing in noisy club leagues and bonspiels all their curling lives, and the noise isn’t going to bother them.)

The issue might be trickier when it comes to partisan fans booing opposing players as they get down to throw.  The traditional etiquette of the game calls for respect for one’s opponent on the ice, and yes, that should extend to the stands as well.

But good-natured, enthusiastic, roof-raising noise – or 5000 voices singing O Canada?

Love it or hate it, this could be the new trend in curling as a spectator sport.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

TV Scribe praises the attractions of women curlers at the Olympics, and I’m ok with that

Curling takes a lot of abuse. Boring, watching paint dry/grass grow, not an Olympic sport – these are some of the comments thrown our way by the uninitiated.

But Globe and Mail TV columnist John Doyle has an open mind. Readers know that soccer is his game, but he’s not above giving a few plugs for curling. Now, John is approaching the game as a TV critic, remember, so his take on curling has much to do with the visual rather than the sporting aspects of our sport. And he finds lots to comment on about curling as a TV sport: in particular, the attractions of women curlers. Remember the whole Colleen Jones thing a few years ago?

He’s moved on, and today’s article in the Globe and Mail is worth a look.

OK, so he has to make the “hard, harder” joke. Yes, yes, very funny. But he also refers to our “dead cool” Canadian team, led by Cheryl Bernard, and makes an indignant reference to the deadbeat who stole Miriam Ott’s uniform and curling shoes from the team van in Winnipeg. In other words, it’s not all “poke fun at the curlers” in today’s article.

In fact, he gets it absolutely right: “Tuesday’s Canada-Switzerland matchup was thrilling. A tense, tricky 5-4 victory for Canada,” Doyle writes.

Now, I wonder if he noticed that wonderful moment when Bernard accidently stopped a Swiss rock after a take-out, and Ott – in the spirit of curling that is unmatched by any other sport – simply moved the stopped rock to where she thought it might have rolled to: the back of the 12-foot. Ott could have chosen to leave her rock in the 4-foot, where it might have counted in the score. That’s her right as the non-offending skip in a burned rock situation. But of course, she didn’t. And she lost the game by 1 point.

Women curlers are great to watch, John; you’re absolutely right.

And if you want to check out some great photos of men and women curlers at the Olympics, check out the VANOC curling site, here.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Olympic Competition, Grassroots Style

We Canadians all hope the final game in the Olympic Curling competition comes down to Kevin Martin's last rock (against Great Britain's David Murdoch probably). And (of course) we all hope that the rock doesn't slide a couple of inches deep, as it did the last time Kevin had a shot at the gold medal.

(On that occasion, our entire Monday Night Curling League at the Guelph Country Club dropped our brooms and came into the club room to watch the final rocks of the last end. When it was over, and we had recovered a little, I found it very hard to return to my game. The disappointment was so intense - and I was just a lowly club curler watching it on TV in Ontario. I couldn't begin to imagine what Kevin and his team were feeling...)

So here's to Olympic curling, and the hours and hours and HOURS of practice and competition and dedication it took these athletes to get there. Those of us who have dabbled in competitive curling might understand how tough it is. So few of us actually get to those elite levels. That's ok, though, Grassroots Curlers. Competition is competition - a test of skills, both physical and mental - no matter what level you compete at.

My short-lived career as a "competitive" curler happened in the small town of Vankleek Hill, in Eastern Ontario. I joined a team with three other novices and we entered bonspiels and events intended expressly for "new" curlers with less than 3 or 5 years' experience. We had a blast travelling around to clubs in our region and as far away as Ottawa and Montreal.

And we won our share too! See us proudly holding our trophy at the Navan Curling Club near Ottawa, some time in the early 1990s (I'm second from the right). And we posed on the ice with our competitors at the Lachine Curling Club after winning some other event. That's me, far right, looking pretty cool in my team jacket and (fashionistas, please turn away now) hat.

So cheer for Kevin (or John, or David, or Cheryl, or Annette - whoever draws your Olympic allegiance) but don't forget to dream your own competitive curling dreams, no matter what modest heights you achieve.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Guelph’s Alma Laidlaw has the button – and $1 million - in sight!

DSC_2724 A few weeks ago, my curling buddy Alma Laidlaw came closest to the pin at The Swiss Chalet National Grand Slam event at the Sleeman Centre in Guelph.  There, during the fourth-end break, she out-drew five other contestants and won a trip to Winnipeg for the big, really big, chance to draw the button for $1 million in the Capital One Million Dollar Button contest.

“So what’s your strategy?” I asked her before her draw in Guelph.

“Throw it and pray!” she answered. (There’s Alma, bottom right in the the photo, taken before the draw at the National on January 10).

Well, her “prayer” has been answered.  She’s done it again and out-drawn five other semi-finalists to earn the chance for $1 million.  During the fourth-end break of the final game on Sunday, she’ll be out there in front of the crowd, throwing and (I’m pretty sure) praying.

She’ll be nervous, that’s for sure.  But she also told me that the trip to Winnipeg with her husband, George, being treated like gold by the Capital One folks, and simply having the chance to participate in this event is all the prize she needs: she already feels like a winner.

And she is!  Go Alma!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Rhythm and Flow

DSC_2719 There are those – the Uninitiated – who say that watching curling is like watching paint dry. Of course, curlers know how true that isn’t. The game has its own rhythm and flow depending on the strategy, the conditions of the ice and the players themselves.

Watching the first eight (unbroadcasted) draws at The Swiss Chalet National Grand Slam event in Guelph was an exercise in constant motion, action, energy and sound. Five sheets of ice, forty players – there was always something to see and hear, something happening. The eight-end games took two hours or less to play (unless there were extra ends) and some draws felt as if they were over much too soon.

Enter the CBC (who we love, don’t get me wrong!) and the demands of bringing the excitement of curling to the fans watching at home. That means camera crews trailing lines of cable, bright lights illuminating the ice, an on-air crew, and the importance of putting on “a show.” But camera crews often stand in the best spot possible to see the action – great for the fans at home; not so great for the three rows who now can’t see the house. Lights produce glare. Announcers need time to talk, whether providing a pre-game commentary, or interviewing a player on the ice between ends. The result: a loss of rhythm, flow and energy – at least for the fans who had become used to the game au naturel (i.e. seen only in the arena, not on the airwaves).

The players obviously appreciate the attention that curling now receives on television; in fact, it’s a crucial part of the game’s current high profile. National championships, international events like the Continental Cup, Grand Slams – all good. All fantastic, actually. So when the commercials are rolling and the broadcaster asks the players to chill between ends instead of getting right down to it, what do the curlers think? From the looks of it (above, Team Howard and Team Appleman wait for the ok to resume) they don’t mind a bit.

The game is growing, and television is an important and welcome reason for that growth. Now if broadcasters could just find a way to keep the flow of the game intact for the fans in attendance, that paint-drying image would be put to rest forever.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Hilda Holds the Broom

With the National coming to Guelph this week, my friends at The Curling News asked for a quick preview of how the Guelph Curling Club (members of which make up the local organizing commitee) is getting ready. No sweat. After my regular Monday night game, I talked to a few of the more involved members of the club and heard about the fantastic response from volunteers, right from Day One.

But the best conversation was with one of my Monday night colleagues, Hilda Peterson. She's a long-time curler, originally from Manitoba, but celebrating 47 years with the Guelph Curling Club. Yes, that's what I said: 47 years.

Hilda's big moment is coming during the opening ceremonies of the National tomorrow night when she'll hold the broom for the ceremonial first rock (thrown by another veteran Guelph curler, Bernie Austin).

"Be sure to get a picture of my broom!" she told me, and I did.

After all, when you're 94 years old, who's going to say no to you?

Certainly not me! Go, Hilda!