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I like sports....lots of sports...all sports!  Follow my blog as I talk about sports....if you like sports of course

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Hurry, Hurry hard.  Curling season is under way!

People who know me know I support all sports, and curling is no exception.  I have been a fan of the sport since I was a kid.  I curled with my grandparents when I was a kid.  They used to take me to the Brier and Scotties when it was in Saskatoon and Regina, respectively.  I always had a great time and enjoyed the provincial solidarity you always say at events.  People proudly waving their provincial flags, cheering on their hometown curlers, some often coming from small communities scattered throughout the province/territory.  It always had a grassroots feel to it when I was a kid.  The athletes were always friendly.  I remember Russ Howard, my favorite curler, just coming up to us at the end of a draw to sign autographs just because we were standing there cheering him on.  It was the first sport where those on the ice I was just cheering for actually came up to the fans post-game and took pictures, signed autographs and had conversations with.  What is there not to like about this sport?

Boy, has the sport grown since I was a kid!  I love it just as much, for the same reasons and more.  I have always followed the sport.  While I am not a good curler and my knowledge isn't the best in comparison to many others, I feel like I can hold my own in a conversation.  I thought it would be an interesting addition to this blog to offer up my outlook on the tournaments taking place over the upcoming weekend.  For the record, I am not associated with any curler.  I am not close friends with any curler and have no biased opinion.  I have met many curlers with most of them always being nothing short of class-acts representing themselves and their sport with the utmost of professionalism and courtesy towards the fans.  As well, this is not some attempt to get to know or become friends with curlers.  I can only hope my small opinion will maybe generate some interest in the sport with friends, family and other curling fans who may stumble across this blog somehow.  Enjoy the read...

There are two big men's curling events this weekend: The Stu Sells Toronto Tankard (Purse $45,000) and the Direct Horizontal Drilling (always a fan favorite for the name alone) Fall Classic in Edmonton (Purse $50,000).  Most of the top teams in the world will be competing at one of these two events.  I'll start in Toronto...

Stu Sells Toronto Tankard
The first team that pops out as favorites has to be defending Olympic Gold Medalists Team Jacobs from the Soo.  The boys have been on fire this season, with no post-Olympic hangover.  Sure they did not walk away victorious in Saskatoon but that doesn't derail how dominant they have been.  They should continue this trend this weekend.
Another top name any fan will notice is Glenn Howard.  A new team this year and this will be the first time we see them in action.  New team, yes! Full of experience, 100%!  You can never count out a world champion like Glenn and partnering back with old buddy Richard Hart, keeping with Craig Saville and adding Jon Mead, for sure you cannot underestimate this team.  How will they mesh on the ice for the 1st time?  My guess is just fine!
A strong favorite has to be the John Epping rink.  Newly formed this season, this team has been on fire since the first week.  They continue to qualify in every tournament they enter, most recently coming up just short against Team McEwen in the final in Saskatoon.
A few other teams worth watching:
2006 Olympic Gold Medalist Brad Gushue and his new team.  They have had a relatively good start to their season as well and should not be counted out.

A team everyone has talked about going into the season was seeing Reid Carruthers move back into the skipping position.  He has a new team as well but, similar to many newly formed teams this season, is certainly not lacking in experience.  This team has perhaps come up a bit short of expectations in the early part of the season but do not count them out.  You have a feeling this team is going to hit their stride any time now and start reeling off a few wins.

Qualifiers:  Team Jacobs, Team Howard, Team Epping, Team Gushue, Team Carruthers, Team Kean, Team Casey, Team Shuster
Final: Team Jacobs over Team Epping

Direct Hoizontal Drilling Fall Classic
If you are in Edmonton, you are in for a treat this weekend.  I am going to try to get out and watch some of the teams competing this weekend.  This is also a stellar field.
Kevin Koe is a strong favorite this weekend.  Koe made the interesting choice of leaving his former team, after winning the Brier and forgoing the new Team Canada spot in this year's Brier, to form a new team.  As has been the theme though, new team + LOTS of experience = success!  Teaming up with former Team Martin guys, Hebert and Kennedy (with Marc moving to 3rd position) and bringing on Mr. Laing (or Mr. Jennifer Jones depending on who you ask), makes this a very dangerous team.  They should be in for a good run this week.
Jeff Stoughton will be joining the field in Edmonton with his new team as well.  Jeff has a young, less experienced front end with him this year but if anyone can help create great curlers, one has to think Jeff Stoughton is the guy to make this a success.  Regardless of experience of his team, age, anything...never count out the experience of the skipper!
Steve Laycock and #TeamGreen will be joining the field.  This is a team everyone is expecting to own Saskatchewan for the foreseeable future.  They had a great result at the Brier last year, perform great together and, honestly, seem like a great group of guys!  I may be biased a bit seeing as I am from Saskatchewan originally but I have a feeling these guys can support my prediction with a strong result this weekend.
A few others to watch:
Team Bottcher has looked very consistent this season.  They will be playing in Edmonton and should have some strong fan support behind them.  Again, a young team but one that has exceeded expectations this year, finished 3rd last weekend in B.C. and should do well to qualify this weekend.
Sean Geall's rink from B.C. is coming off a successful past weekend in B.C. as well where they qualified and could take a few teams by surprise this weekend.
Brock Virtue is no stranger to anyone familiar with curling.  He has a bit of a new lineup this season but has also found success in the early goings.  The addition of 2-time World Jr. Champ Charlie Thomas as vice-skip can only help this team.  Look for them to make some noise this weekend.
Team Blandford could also surprise this weekend.  They have had a very successful start of the season as well.  Many may not be familiar with this team but they did finish 3rd in AB provincials last year, not bad considering the top two were Team Martin and Team Koe.  I had the pleasure of watching them curl in Lacombe last year and was impressed with how they play.  Again, slight biased opinion perhaps, but these guys are genuinely nice guys and I not only think they can do well...but I actually really want to see them do well also.

Qualifiers: Team Stoughton, Team Laycock, Team Koe, Team Bottcher, Team Virtue, Team Blandford, Team Geall, Team Morozumi
Final: Team Koe over Team Laycock

So there ya have it, some quick thoughts and predictions on this upcoming weekend's biggest spiels.  Feel free to share this with other sporting/curling fans.  Share your feedback as well, whether you agree or disagree.

And of course...Hurry Hhhaaarrddddd!!!!