Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Curling at the Canadian Winter Games in Whitehorse

Serendipity Strikes! Ms. Eclectic and I were enjoying ourselves at Walker's Landing in Walkerton at noon today, where I could down a couple of pints of draft Strongbow (my beverage of choice), when we were surprised to see curling on the television! It was TSN's telecast of curling from the Canadian Winter Games. We didn't have any sound, but it looked like junior women competing, and, to be blunt, they weren't particularly good (but of course my standard for comparison was the Scotties, which isn't really fair to these curlers). The game we watched between Alberta and Nova Scotia went to an extra end because both skips missed both of their last shots; and then it went one more end because of a missed shot!

But it didn't really matter. It was fun seeing it. Too bad they aren't showing more curling from there.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Team Canada Repeats, Defeating Saskatchewan 8-5 at the Tournament of Hearts

It was not a super difficult prediction, but before the 2007 Scotties Tournament of Hearts began, I wrote,
Going out (not very far on a very thick limb), my prediction for the champion: Kelly Scott, last year's champion.
Saskatchewan looked very good throughout the round robin and then defeated Team Canada in the 1-2 page play-off. But in the final match, Jan Betker (skip of Team Saskatchewan) misread the ice a bit, and ended up curling only 74% to Kelly Scott's 82%. All the percentages are available here at Curlcast (and, joy of joys, if you use that direct link, you can resize the window!). Betker's misreading of the ice perhaps played a role in the low shooting percentage for Inglis (Saskatchewan 2nd) as well.

Team Canada will soon head off to Japan for the Women's World Championships. And I must say that based on the week-long performances, I am happy they are representing Canada there.

Meanwhile, we have a week-long drought before the Brier begins next weekend.

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Saturday, February 24, 2007

Who Will Better Represent Canada in the Worlds?

The way Saskatchewan has played this past week, I'm surprised they lost any games at the 2007 Scotties Tournament of Hearts. And the currently reigning Team Canada, although I picked them to win, almost backed into the final, with Jennifer Jones of Manitoba missing too many of her shots, especially early in the match.

I am delighted that the final will be between the two teams that played so well during the tournament. I would be happy to have either one of them represent Canada in the worlds next month. I have to wonder, though, after seeing them play this past week, whether Saskatchewan might do a better job there than Team Canada.

I like both teams. I don't even know who I'll be cheering for in the finals.


Friday, February 23, 2007

Three Ten-Enders in One Day?

I get tired playing just one 8-ender at our local curling club (I sweep hard, whether I'm supposed to or not!). It's not too bad playing two 8-end games if there's a long break between them to "refresh" oneself at the bar. But it is possible that the winner of today's first tie-breaker at the 2007 Scotties Tournament of Hearts will have to play three ten-end games today if they defeat PEI in the second tie-breaker. What do you think their chances would be against Manitoba in the 3-4 playoff this evening? Not very good would be my guess.

Update: It isn't going to happen. PEI defeated Alberta 5 - 4 and faces Manitoba in the play-off this evening.

Ms. Eclectic and I are supposed to go curling ourselves tonight. We're hoping for a quick game and that the club will have TSN on as soon as we get off the ice.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Scotties. Can We Please Change the Rules this Year?

Because it is always possible for a weak team to beat a strong team in curling, no matter how unlikely, in the 2007 Scotties Tournament of Hearts, we could possibly see a team with a mediocre 6W - 5L record knock a strong team with a 9W-2L record out of the playoffs. That would be a travesty. Can we please change the rules this year and just have the 2nd and 3rd place finishers play off to see who faces the number one finisher for the championship?

I know such a rule change would be just as much of a travesty, but I'd sure hate to see 6-5 team knock out one of the top three.


If NL and Alberta Each Lose

As we go into the 3pm 16th draw of the 2007 Scotties Tournament of Hearts, we can see that the only way we will get a mass of play-off possibilities is if both Alberta and Newfoundland/Labrador lose at least one game each, so there would be no teams left with just four losses. If that were to happen, the maximum possible number of teams ending round-robin play with five losses is five -- wouldn't that be fun!!!

Update: Well, they weren't supposed to lose this afternoon. Now with BC playing Alberta and NL playing Ontario this evening, even though there are five teams with 5-5 records, at most only three (and at least two) teams will be tied for "the fourth and final play-off spot".

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Poor TSN

Well, I can imagine that TSN would much rather have let CurlTV have this morning's draw instead of having to pay overtime for its cast and crew to cover all three draws today. With three games ended early by lopsided scores, and the only remaining game being between teams that will not make the play-offs, TSN will not have made much, if any, money on this draw (especially not if one assumes it was the one they'd have dropped if they had decided to cover only two draws today).

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TSN's Broadband Coverage on Thursday

I'm stuck in the office today, but I confess I'm taking a peek, now and then, at the TSN broadband coverage of Draw 15 from the Scotties 2007 Tournament of Hearts.

As I posted earlier in the week, the resolution of the coverage and the use of their regular large cast and crew and many cameras makes the telecast superior to that of CurlTV.

At the same time, though, the number of times the video freezes up is annoying. And if there's a massive freeze-up, and you have to start the reception de novo, then you have to sit through over a minute of loading time and promos for TSN, which is pretty annoying.

Also, TSN does not allow the viewer to play the video in a pop-up window, as does CurlTV, and for some reason it is only via the pop-up window that we are able to watch the matches using our television as a monitor.

I expect that the drain on the server at times causes the freeze-ups, but I may be wrong. If so, as broadband telecasting becomes more popular, either commercial or subscription, we should expect to see increasingly bigger and better servers. As a commenter noted earlier, broadband telecasting may not be all of what we'll see in the future, but it will surely play an important role.

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Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Let's Hear It for Neon-Orange Skips' Brooms

Most of you have probably known about this for quite some time, but only during the 2007 Scotties have I noticed that nearly all the skips (and vices, when they are skipping) use a neon-orange coloured brush/broom to provide a target for the curler who is delivering the rock.

I expect they use these brooms because they stand out and are much easier to see when settled into the hack. And from the perspective of a television viewer, the neon brushes certainly are much easier to see. It looks as if each team has just one of these brooms/brushes, and it is used by whomever holds the broom.

It reminds me of the time when a catcher in major league baseball (who? Lance Parish, maybe?) had a pocket of neon orange sewn into his catcher's mitt, hypothesizing that it would make a more visible target for the pitchers. It didn't catch on in baseball. I expect it will in curling, though.

At the club level, I've often threatened to put some neon-orange tape on my own broom for when I'm skipping, just so the other players can see the broom more clearly.

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Scotties: The Field is Spreading

Going to Draw 9 of the 2007 Scotties Tournament of Hearts, it looked as if the field of competing teams had pretty much divided itself into two groups: the contenders and the others. Saskatchewan looked unbeatable, and Manitoba, Team Canada, Ontario, and BC all had very good records. But now the field is beginning to spread out a bit, with a few of the weaker teams with good records losing and a few of the better teams with bad records picking up a win or two. And who knows how Saskatchewan will perform after having two draws off in a row.

Nova Scotia and New Brunswick are clearly not as good as the other teams, and they are still winless. And Newfoundland's performance seems more in line with their abilities, confirming the suspicion that their making the play-offs last year was a feat that would not likely be repeated this year.

PEI has some flashes of brilliance at times and looks tremendously over-matched at others. I remember having the same impression of their rink last year, when they played in London. With a record of 2W and 4L, they are not likely to make the playoffs, but they might be good enough to cause trouble for some of the contenders along the way, as they did for BC this morning. The NWT seems about the same.

Alberta, on average, looks better than PEI, but I'm not sure they are good enough to crack the top four.

The real puzzle for me is Ontario. They have a great record so far, but their wins have mostly come against the weaker teams. They were blown away by Saskatchewan, but they looked quite good in their 11-end loss to Canada. They certainly seem to have improved considerably since last year.

And although Manitoba started with a loss to Saskatchewan, they have come on strong. Here's hoping I get to see more of the head-to-head matches between the top teams as the week progresses.

I had the opportunity to sneak a peek at the Ontario - Canada draw in my office, now and then this morning, via CurlTV. It sure is nice having that service available, even though there are many ways in which it can be improved.

Another information source that Alan and I discussed at length last year is CurlCast, which provides regular updates of scores and tonnes of other data. I see they still have not made their window resizable (which I would love, so I could put it up top of my screen and keep working), but the information they provide is absolutely amazing.

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Sunday, February 18, 2007

CurlTV vs. TSN

We watched the TSN broadband telecast of the 2nd draw on Saturday night, and we are watching the CurlTV broadband telecast ($) of the 4th draw on Sunday afternoon. Here are my reflections.

Luke(?), the announcer for CurlTV is clearly knowledgeable about the game. But Lethbridge isn't all that far from Edmonton (home of CurlTV), and it is a puzzle to me that they don't have someone else there to help out with the telecasts. Also, and I know this is picky, but he develops a catch in his play-by-play, hesitating slightly at times, which is distracting.

TSN was technically far superiour to CurlTV's telecast. The resolution was better, and they had more cameras.

CurlTV is better than nothing, but why don't they go out and sell commercials to raise some money so they can put on a better show? I know they're interested in improving the technology of their telecasts, but they seem to be leaving a major revenue source on the table.

Addendum: Also, no replays? I realize that CurlTV is operating on a small budget, but if they'd show replays, maybe people would be more likely to subscribe and they could charge more for ads (again, a plea for them to sell ads).

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The Glenn Howard rink has lost a key member - it is the RIGHT thing for the player to go join his wife, giving birth; but WHAT timing!

After two ends Middaugh has a 2-1 lead.

UPDATE: This is proving no farce. Both teams tied after 5!

UPDATE: Middaugh misses an important double in the sixth end. 6-3 Howard now.

UPDATE: 6-5 Howard after 7 ends.

UPDATE: Bad miscue from Middaugh in the 8th - now Howard leading 8-5.

UPDATE: 9-5 Howard after 9 - counting the rocks down now.

UPDATE: It is over. Glenn Howard NEVER had to throw his final rocks in the whole tournament. Stunning.

Hard Choice Might be Coming

I'm watching the Scotties Tournament of Hearts' Sunday Morning Draw (and I still find that diminutive a pain to write), with the feature match Team Canada vs PEI. It has been a very sloppy match, and it seems it is more a matter of who has the greater will to lose.

It is sad in a way; only recently (well, for me, a few years ago is recently) did I attend my first national championship draw, in a Scott Tournament of Hearts, and it was the Gaudet rink from PEI that amazed me with their aggression and daring. Since that year her rinks have not performed so well. It is early in the week and I hope for the best for them (just for the amazement they delivered that morning).

As for Team Canada, well it will be interesting to see how this goes. But neither team has looked solid this morning.

And what is my choice problem? If this match gets interesting heading into the tenth end, I have to worry about the conflict of the coverage with that of the Howard-Middaugh Ontario Championship Match. Judging by Howard's recent play, that match could end after one end!

UPDATE: Problem solved - PEI manages to lose. (That is a bit unfair - both teams also have to struggle with confusing ice conditions and the like, and Gaudet's rink seem never to have solved weight. )

The good news for me is that I can now go focus on Howard-Middaugh!

Howard-Middaugh yet again!

Doc's jealousy may simply have to deepen, as the Ontario final will feature the Glenn Howard and Wayne Middaugh rinks yet again, their third match of the week, an interesting artifact of the Page Playoff system (which, by the way, I rather like, rewarding success in the round-robin section of the tournament).

Both previous meetings were essentially over by the fifth end, the first time as Howard took three in the fourth and Middaugh never found a way to come back from that, and in the first Page Playoff, as Middaugh yielded at that point behind 9-2. Howard's rink did not simply win all their matches so far this week, but have won essentially all of them very convincingly, with only one really being a match where the tenth end was worth playing.

In any case, I shall happily allow the much-loathed Rogers Cable company to provide me this benefit of suffering as their customer.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

TSN's Alternative Coverage of the Scott(ies)

As Alan said, TSN will be providing alternative coverage of the Scott(ies) Tournament of Hearts this evening. Those of you who have satellite (which we must consider soon) will be able to watch it live. Others may be able to watch it on Rogers television if you have Rogers or Shaw Cable (excuse me while I cry). The TSN alternative schedule is here.

Also, for those of us unfortunate enough not to be able to pick up the alternative telecast via satellite or cable, the broadcast will be available via broadband at It will be interesting to see how that broadcast is in comparison with the internet telecasts of CurlTv. If I were CurlTv, I'd be concerned about TSN's movement in this direction. The only reason I can think of for CurlTv not to be concerned is that TSN will be unlikely (due to having high costs for two full crews) to broadcast, even over the internet, a third draw each day.

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Alan had it exactly right when he said that he watched the first draw of the Scott(ies)* Tournament of Hearts with some nostalgia. Regular readers of this blog remember that he and I covered the Women's finals for CHRW radio last year. Many of the same teams are back. In many ways I miss the fun and excitement we had that week.

After the first draw, I was very impressed with the play of Jan Betker's rink from Saskatchewan. And while we were told that Jennifer Jones rink is the top team on the money circuit this season, if they keep playing the way they did in the first draw, the Manitoba Jones rink doesn't have much of a chance of winning.

Going out (not very far on a very thick limb), my prediction for the champion: Kelly Scott, last year's champion.

*Also, I agree with Alan's question about why the name change to the diminutive for Scott? I know they call their tissues, "Scotties", but it just doesn't sound right or look right to call it the Scotties Tournament of Hearts.


It is happening

One great annoyance historically with TSN's curling coverage is their eagerness to broadcast some stupid hockey or basketball instead of the guaranteed-to-be-exciting curling match running simultaneously.

Now on the broadcast TV tonight they are making this exact tradeoff, but they have also told me that I can go to their website and get live coverage on their broadband offering. I am sure I must partly thank CurlTV for this, but let us first see how good it is!

Technology is SO great at undermining assumptions.

A Hot Day in Curling

The Ontario Men's Championship Page Playoffs are underway. Glenn Howard's rink continued to display its utter dominance of the whole week, crushing Middaugh 9-2, with Middaugh yielding after 5 ends. I watched casually, and it was impressive seeing how beautifully they were placing their rocks.

To make the day even more perfect, we now have what is apparently now the Scotties Tournament of Hearts (why the diminutive?) beginning, with coverage on TSN. Feature match from the first draw - Jennifer Jones and Jan Betker - currently Betker is up 4-1, with 3 of the points stolen.

I am filled with a certain sense of nostalgia, which I am sure Doc shares.

UPDATE: Saskatchewan 4-2 after 5 ends.

Jealousy in the Hinterlands

The Ontario Men's Curling Championships are taking place this weekend in Sarnia, Ontario. Some lucky folks who are on Rogers cable or on Cogeco cable get to watch many of the matches from there (or more likely, get to flip back and forth between it and the Scott Tournament of Hears). But up here in hinterlands, we are on a local cable company (which I keep praying will eventually sell out to Rogers), and so we have little idea what's happening with the Ontario Men's Championhips except from this site. I would love to have been able to watch the Howard-Middaugh games, and I would love to be able to watch the final on Sunday afternoon. Maybe I'll have to go visit some friends or relatives who are on Rogers or Cogeco cable (and who will let me control the remote).


Thursday, February 15, 2007

Ontario Championship

The local cable channel is doing the kindness of broadcasting the Ontario men's championship. Tonight we have the stunning treat of the Glenn Howard - Wayne Middaugh match!

I shall do my best to keep updating this post with the the latest news.

UPDATE after End 1: A great battle of freezes. One call with the ice slightly wrong. A brilliant first shot by Howard. Middaugh's first shot had to be quite strategic but he wrecked on a guard. Howard has three rocks lined up vertically in the 4-foot, now not badly guarded. Middaugh can only draw against this configuration. He missses and Howard steals 3!! What a start.

UPDATE (7:35pm)

Wow! 3-3 now - count on Middaugh, I guess. What a match this may be!


Howard blanks the end.

Going to tape this and record results later!


Monday, February 12, 2007

Curling Videos

Via my sister, and what should not amaze me, there is a curling section on YouTube, and even better, it includes the Hammerfall videos with the Norberg Rink.

Your jobs, of course, are to watch, and contribute!

Even the CBC hosts as I drove home today were gradually starting to admit that the appliance of interest at parties was the home computer and the available videos, rather than the TV.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Gay Lea Bonspiel: Draw B Champs

This weekend, I curled in my very first bonspiel. It was called the Gay Lea Bonspiel because Gay Lea dairy products sponsored the event and provided huge bags full of dairy products as prizes. I gather they do this for lots of clubs, and it's a great promotion.

I curled lead for our rink, which was so desperate in their search for a fourth member that they called me when they couldn't get anyone else. Fortunately the rest of the rink is very good, so we ended up as Draw B Champions (experienced club curlers know what this means, I guess):

What a fun weekend!

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Appropriate and Inappropriate Use of a Stick

I curl with a push stick. My knees and joints just don't agree with getting down in the hack.

At the Vanastra Curling Club last Friday, the third on the opposing team made an astoundingly good shot; it was completely buried behind a guard. Our skip asked how much of it we could see, and I joked that if I walked way over to the side and then pushed the rock back toward the centre-line, then I could see all of our opponent's rock.

I doubt if that's legitimate, though. It seems that the curler is expected to follow a line from the hack to the broom -- serious deviations are considered unsportsmanlike, at best.