The Golden Season of curling has finally left the hack and started sliding down the house. If this is a long-term game consider this opening weekend of the season the slider warm up part to the game. This is going to be a long season and teams need to be ready to peak at the right time, gather momentum as the season rolls on and, should the train fall off the track at all, correct the little things as early as possible.
The fun part of the season for fans is to keep an eye on the teams looking to make their mark on PyeongChang. As we often see in college football and professional sports leagues like the NHL and NFL, weekly #PowerRankings help track those teams on the rise and those trending the opposite way. This season #TwineTime wants to bring that excitement to the Golden Season of Curling.
Now sure I could have kicked off the season with the same rankings we ended last season with but what fun would that be? Curling is a sport where the fans feel part of the action on the ice and really are the heart and pulse propelling the sport forward. Therefore, it only made sense to allow the fans to vote for which teams they believed were deserving of a Top 5 ranking. After weeks of the #fanvote, the Results. Are. In.
#ButFirst....before we can unveil the debut Power Rankings for the season, let's take a quick look at the results from this past weekend on the ice in a traditional segment I like to call the #GunnerRunback:
- At the Baden Masters in Baden, Switzerland, last year's top team in the Power Rankings showed an off-season back surgery would not derail their season of revenge as the #SwedishVikings Team Edin defeated their rivals from Norway Thomas Ulsrud in the championship final. The Olympic race in Norway is going to be tough though as defending champion Steffen Walstad reached the SF (losing to rival Ulsrud). The Swiss did have a home team reach the Final 4 with Marc Pfister also making the SF. The Swiss Olympic race could be fun as well as four of the either qualifiers were from Switzerland.
- The #StuSellsOakville women's event saw a repeat of last year in the winner's circle when Switzerland's Silvana Tirinzoni welcomed back vice Manuela Siegrist from surgery last season and defended their championship with a finals win over Sherry Middaugh. Anna Hasselborg and Jacqueline Harrison had strong starts to the season in reaching the SF. We saw 5 international teams qualify for the playoffs in Oakville.
- Also in Oakville, the Stu Sells Oakville men's event saw another international champion crowned when Scotland's Bruce Mouat defeated Korea's Chang-Min Kim for the title. USA's Heath McCormick and up and coming Northern Ontario team Tanner Horgan made the SF round. Overall again 5 non-Canadian teams reached the playoff, showing #TeamWorld is ready to play this season.
The results this weekend certainly show top teams from last season look to show no signs of slowing down (Edin, Tirinzoni, Hasselborg) while a few surprise teams look to make their mark this year perhaps as the new #TeamUpset (Horgan, Israel's Freilich and #TwineTime Surprise Team candidate Czech's Kubeskova). And of course a few teams are already starting to put notice towards the Olympic dream (Ulsrud, Walstad, Pfister, Kim).
Overall, #TwineTime had a fairly successful opening weekend in the #TourLifePredictions category. A successful 8/8 on qualification in Baden, including predicting the championship final and title holder. While Stu Sells saw #TwineTime go 5/8 with the men's draw and only 4/8 on the women's qualification. It was a swing and a miss on the men's final while I did have Tirinzoni reach the final but come up short in the repeat. Overall Grade: B
Ok let's get to the main feature attraction of this blog post....the Fan Vote! To get us started, a HUGE Thank You goes out to each and every one of you rock heads and stoners who participated in the vote. The number of votes received was overwhelming and higher than I ever expected. If anything this just proves fans are involved, engaged and passionate about cheering on their favourite teams this season. In total we saw 469 women's votes cast and an amazing 804 votes cast for the men!
Here are your season opening #PowerRankings....as voted by YOU the fans (with percentage of votes case in parenthesis):
1. Brad Gushue (14.3%)
2. Niklas Edin (12.56%)
3. Brad Jacobs (12.31%)
4. Mike McEwen (10.45%)
5. Kevin Koe (9.45%)
Hon. Mention: Team Carruthers (7.84%), Team Smith (6.34%), Team Morris (5.72%), Team Laycock (5.6%), Team Epping (3.61%)
1. Rachel Homan (18.34%)
2. Anna Hasselborg (16.43%)
3. Silvana Tirizoni (13.22%)
4. Jennifer Jones (11.09%)
5. Eve Muirhead (9.38%)
Hon. Mention: Team Sidorova (5.97%), Team Scheidegger (5.76%), Team Sweeting (4.48%), Team Paetz (3.2%), Team Flaxey (2.99%)
When looking at YOUR results, it would appear everyone is in agreement we have a three horse race in both the men's and women's rankings with Gushue, Edin and Jacobs pulling away for the men and Homan, Hasselborg and Tirinzoni dominating the women's vote. These were the top six teams at the end of last season and many of you agree they will continue their momentum into this season.
We also make note fans expect to see Canadian teams dominate the men's rankings this season while the international teams seem to be the stronger side on the women's tour. Canadian teams own 8 of the 10 spots in the men's rankings while only have 5 of the 10 women spots. It would also appear we are all anticipating a dual Canada vs Sweden battle for Olympic gold?
The men's Power Rankings closely follow the OOM rankings to start the season with the biggest rise coming from Team Morris. Johnny Mo and Jimmy Cotter put together a magical run to the Olympic trials final four years ago and many seem to feel a similar run could be in the cards to the B.C. team. Another interesting result was the high amount of votes for teams like Glenn Howard, Heath McCormick and Pat Simmons. All three received more votes than regular top contender Thomas Ulsrud and John Shuster.
When analyzing the women's results, the biggest stand out is the strong support for Russia's Anna Sidorova. Sidorova had an up and down season last year and has dipped to #18 in the rankings to start this season. However many of you believe last season was just a detour for the Russian fan favourites and, given the world silver medal performance at the end of the season, should be considered a Top 5 team once again this season. Differing from the men's vote, the women's vote also saw a few write-in votes for Team Feltscher, Team Carey, Team Einarson, Team Moiseeva and Team Birchard. While the Top 3 in the women's game seem to be set in stone, and perhaps even the Top 5 or 6, the rest of the Top 10 is WIDE open this season with many expecting to see more #TeamUpset results this season.
The fan vote page is going to stay live all season so feel free to continue to add your vote throughout the season and perhaps we will compare the end of the season numbers to the beginning of the season to see if there are any shake-up's in how YOU the fans saw the season unfold on the ice.
If you want to know additional results or are interested in discussing the #fanvote, send me your questions and comments below or on twitter. And again, THANK YOU for voting! When I started this I wasn't sure if people would be interested in a #TwineTime poll like this but the results certainly show your interest in the season is at a record pace.
And #StayTuned curling fans, this week we kick off the first grand slam of the season with the Tour Challenge in my home town of Regina, SK. The preview blog post will be sweeping into your house very soon.