|Photo Courtesy Curling Canada|
Catch your breath after those intense 9 days of curling action. The *Canadian* men of curling put on a show this past week. Can we do a calendar where the guys can show off those shots and keep their clothes on?
Seriously though. Imagine a calendar of just the shots and reactions from 2020 Brier? The Dunny fist pumps. The Gunner jump and smile. The Koe....stoic look. There were enough fantastic shots and moments to easily complete a calendar.
Ok maybe some of the guys can drop the pants too I guess. Sex sells right?
But mind out of the gutter....which is tough if you own a 2020 #MenOfCurling calendar and flipped over to see #MrMarch. Again...Yowie Wowie!
Focus TwineTime...focus. We have A LOT to talk about in this blog post.
The #STOH2020 Parting Rocks post seemed to be a success. People enjoyed the post-shot coverage so I thought we need to bring that back after #Brier2020.
This was a bit more difficult as the blog was not in Kingston and apparently missed the party of 2020 thus far. All the tweets and messages and replies on social media highlighted the success of this year's national men's curling championship.
Below will discuss the parting rocks the blog noticed from watching the event from my couch...or work computer but don't tell anyone.
Before revealing those rocks though I want to give a special shout out to the fans who attended the Brier. You deserve your own moment of recognition. The stands were packed. The fans looked like they were having a great time. The Patch always looked full. Curling was alive and well.
Sure there were a few head scratching moments, like cheering for one team's shots (Gushue) and for another team's misses (Dunstone). But I get it. That is sport. And I ain't mad at you all. Actually I kind of like it. I like the sportsmanship of curling, don't get me wrong. But sometimes it is fun to imagine curling being like the other major professional sports.
Can you imagine cheering "through the house" before a big draw similar to how basketball fans cheer "air ball" before a free throw? Or having some sort of "DEEEEE-FENCE" chant when a team makes a perfect guard or the opposition wrecks on a guard.
Curling fans are sports fans too. And I bet some, if not the majority of you, have yelled and screamed and chanted at other sporting events in your lifetime. Why not on the curling ice?
Yowie Wowie moments right there.
I doubt it will ever happen of course but imagine if it did. And it was acceptable. And we didn't shame people for it. Other athletes have to deal with in in other sports. I am confident our curling athletes are mentally strong enough to do the same.
But sportsmanship. Right. I get it.
Here are the 10 parting rocks from Kingston.
1st End: Glorious Gushue
Did any team fly more under the radar during the week than #TheRock? With all the outstanding shots being made and great games being played, at times it almost felt like Team Gushue was an after-thought. Not that they were playing bad of course. As a team they were shooting 90% heading into the playoffs. But it felt like not a lot of people, outside their core fan base of course, was talking about them.
And I think that worked to their favour. They slid into the playoffs as the #3 seed after dropping their final Champ Pool game to Saskatchewan. But once there they were unstoppable. Gushue curled 89%, 88% and 97% respectfully in the 3 playoff games. The team curled 88%, 88% and 86% in the victories. While they were tested they were never threatened. And that is what makes them a great championship team. Look out world!
2nd End: Almost *Again* Alberta
While we celebrate Gushue regaining this crown you feel gutted for Team Bottcher coming oh so close yet again. A third straight Brier. A third straight final. A third straight silver medal. What can you say?
The team made #HIStory of course, becoming the first team to lose three consecutive Brier finals. On the flip side, they are one of only four teams to reach at least three straight finals, following Al Hackner (1980-1982), Randy Ferby (2001-2005) and Glenn Howard (2010-2012). Of course the difference being each of those teams won at least once in that time frame.
Losing is never easy. Losing twice is hard. Losing thrice sounds unworldly. We wondered how Bottcher would recover after last year. He reached another final. How will he recover next year? Well it won't be easy. The AB provincials alone will be tough with the return of main rival Kevin Koe.
3rd End: #DunnyIsMoney
If you ask fans who watched the Brier this year, whether in person or on TV, which player/team captivated their hearts the most based on pure passion and emotion on the ice, Matt Dunstone would be the overwhelming response.
What. A. Week. Dunstone made game saving and game winning shot after shot after shot throughout the week. Look back to how the team started their Brier experience. If Dunstone does not make some amazing late game heroic shots against New Brunswick and B.C., they lose those games, sit 0-3 and probably do not advance out out of the opening pool.
Instead he makes the clutch shots, brings the crowd to their feet, captures the hearts of curling fans and gets his team on the roll they needed. Those shots early really led the team to their bronze medal finish, putting Saskatchewan back on the podium for the first time since 2015 (Bronze, Team Laycock) and only the third time since 1995.
Dunstone is exactly what the sport needs. A young up and comer with championship pedigree who wears his heart on his sleeve. This was Dunstone's second Brier appearance but feels like it was his true coming out party. The #DunnyPit gained traction and the fan base grew. The question no longer is "if" Dunny will win a Brier but "when". And remember he is only 24 years old (turning 25 in June).
4th End: Ga-Ga for Gunner
You want to talk amazing shots and high energy? What about rookie skip Jason Gunnlaugson?
Heading into this Brier Gunner had the biggest question mark with fans and prognosticators. We know Gunner has the skills. We know the team has put together big results this season. But will they wilt under the rookie Brier pressure?
Well when Gunner made a double-double even Tim Hortons was envious of for a W, fans around the world jumped up and down with the Manitoba skip and a star was officially born on the big ice.
Those who have watched Gunner over the years are familiar with his fun personality, curling knowledge and high skill. To see him succeed on the Brier ice in his debut was magical. Sure the team came up short once they reached the Championship Pool but it was still a successful week.
Similar to Dunstone, we can only hope we get to see more Brier appearances from Gunner. The sport needs his infectious laugh on (and off) the ice. Plus, sit and talk to him for a bit and realize he is a great guy. What you see is what you get and we are loving what we are seeing.
5th End: Tier II Gap?
So when the last rock made its final curl for the opening RR portion of the Brier, the elite Tier I teams remained while the Tier II teams were sent home early. Was anyone else a bit disappointed?
Not that some didn't have their chance though. Take New Brunswick's Team Grattan. Had they defeated one-win NWT Wednesday morning, regardless of the result vs. WC that night, they would have clinched at least a TB against Ontario. But giving up 3 in 2 and the #StealPants in 8 was the difference and they lost to #PolarPower 6-8.
Nova Scotia's Team Murphy also had some control over their own fate. They needed one win in their final three games vs. AB/NOnt/MB to secure at least a TB. After losing the first two, they came into their final RR game vs. MB knowing a win would secure at least a TB sitting tied for third at 4-3 (w/ MB and NOnt). A MB #StealPants in 8 proved the decider though and MB won 7-9.
Did the gap widen at the Brier or close? Tough to say. It depends on your perspective. Two Tier II teams had their chance to make some noise and rock the boat. So the gap maybe closed. But, then again, they failed to make it happen and lost so maybe it widened?
6th End: Best Brier Ever?
Unbelievable shots. Fist pumping reactions. Large sell-out crowds. Top contenders. Tough Tier II challengers. The 2020 Brier could be considered the best Brier.
It is always tough to compare curling events. Different era's had different strengths. The game changes so quick comparisons are often flawed in one way or another. But, top to bottom, this 2020 Brier field left it all on the ice and captivated the hearts of curling fans around the world.
People were emotionally connected to players and teams, more than ever before it seemed. Of course the increasing presence of social media and teams increasing their social media engagement helps that along. But people were talking about curling and that is what we want. That is what the sport needs. The 2020 Brier truly pushed the #growthesport rock forward.
7th End: Wardrobe Malfunction?
Alright we cannot sit here and pump the tires of everyone and the entire event for the full duration of the parting rocks can we? There was one glaring question mark at the Brier. What is up with the uniforms?
Now before you all freak out and attack me and get John Cullen to rage on me because of his love affair with all the uniforms, hear me out. This is not a comment against the Brier uniforms but rather a question as to why they were adapted to fit the host city while the Scotties uniforms were not.
The Scotties uniforms were the exact same as last year. The Brier uniforms were not. What is up with that? Why couldn't the Scotties uniforms be adapted to reflect the home city/province in some way? Ok sure the addition of Mac the Moose to the uniforms may not be flattering or welcomed by the female competitors but you could have done something. Pay homage to the Al Capone era and the hidden tunnels under the city. Something. Anything.
As the sport continues to move forward with equality, this was a bit of a miss. And I am not the only one who noticed. I did have a few curlers, who competed in Moose Jaw, take notice as well and ask the same question.
Dynasty continues to try and innovate the runway of curling fashion but making host city edits to one championship while failing to do the same for the other is a big miss. Hopefully this can be corrected for the 2021 championships.
8th End: The Future Is Bright
We have already talked about Dunstone. But he isn't the only up and comer who turned some heads this week. What about the young Quebec team? Only a few years removed for junior competition, this team came to play and raised some eyebrows along the way.
Sure Team Bedard finished the RR with a 1-6 record and probably were a bit disappointed in the end result but the potential percentage for this team is high. They game MB a run in their second game, giving up the 2-point #StealPants in 10 to lose 8-10. They were down 4-5 with hammer in 10 vs. PEI and, again, gave up the double #StealPants to lose that game. They were that close to finishing 3-4. Do not be surprised to see them back on the Brier ice in the future and making a push for the Championship Pool.
And keep those eyes on Yukon's Thomas Scoffin. Again, a disappointing end result going 0-7 here but the team really challenged many of the top contenders. They lost to New Brunswick by giving up a #StealPants of 2 in 10. They gave up a steal of 3 to NWT and trailed 3-7 at the break only to come back and tie the game in 8 before falling short giving up a steal in 10. They were also tied 3-3 with B.C. after 8, again giving up a steal in 10 to lose. This is a good team and Scoffin has potential to make some noise on Brier ice. This was his second appearance. The future can still shine bright up north.
We enter an interesting stage for Canadian curling. After this upcoming Olympic cycle, change will be on the horizon. Will the current batch of players/teams continue to play at this high level in hopes of competing at the 2026 Winter Olympics? Will some of these #NextGen players, including those who have not been to the Brier yet (ahem Tyler Tardi ahem) makes their move? The #NextGen movement has a lot of force behind it and those "experienced" players on the ice right now better recognize the gap between Tier I and #NextGen is closing fast.
9th End: But what happened to B.C.?
The Brier will head out west next year, finding a new home in Kelowna, British Columbia. And maybe home ice will finally bring some luck back to #TeamPacific.
The 2020 Brier was not kind to Team Cotter/Laycock. The team struggled in finishing a disappointing 2-5, well outside the Championship Pool. And it was a bit of a surprise.
This is an experienced team. These guys have been here before. These guys have made the playoffs and went home with medals in the past. Ok sure with different teams but still. The experience factor was on their side. What went wrong?
They never gained solid traction under their sliders. They won their opener only to lose their next three. They would finally win their second game but then lose their next two. As the blog has stated many times in the past, the key word to success is consistency. This team never found it.
And the extra disappointment has to be in missing out on a key opportunity. A win this week would have meant two home province teams on the ice next year. That would be HUGE for the province. For the host committee. For ticket sales. For everything.
Sure the team came into the event as an underdog but with an outside chance at reaching the Championship Pool still. When we do the parting rocks though we are just left asking "But what happened to B.C.?"
10th End: All Star Awards
Oh yes, my favourite topic to debate. Remember how the comments made in the #STOH2020 Parting Rocks post? Similar response here?
Look I get it. The award voting is subjective. Everyone takes into consideration different factors when casting their votes (minus the transparency around WHO is even voting?!?). But could we not attach some qualifiers to this decision?
What I find interesting is when the all star selections are the top percentage curlers at their position, the response is "well they were the top curler at <insert position here>". When the award goes to a player not first or second in percentages, the response is "well they played high percentage/more difficult shots and made more clutch shots to help their team win" or "they played on a playoff contending team". And then some people throw in "I look at +/- as a key factor". Ok great. Also a key indicator for consideration.
When, in actuality, it appears more along the lines of a simple high school popularity contest. How can you argue Position A above for one player/position but then argue Position B for another player/position? This is a case of voters thinking they can have their cake and eat it to.
Pick a formula on how you will base your vote BEFORE the event starts at least. It is not like you are surprised you have a vote. Most of the media bench at these events are the same year in and year out. You all know the sport. You know the players. You know you are voting. Why would your qualifications and rationale change event to event? This is the pure definition of subjective voting....sprinkled with a side piece of popularity.
Again, take nothing away from any of the players who received the awards. There was outstanding shot making across all the sheets by all the teams all week. The level of curling on display truly seemed to be elevated as a collective. But come on here?!? How did Brad Gushue not get an all star nod? He finished top of the percentages and curled amazing. What about Matty Dunstone? His performance was the definition of all star, coming through clutch with big shots to save games and keep his team alive.
For the record, and because I did this for the #STOH2020 post, here would be my votes if I was ever asked for my opinion. For transparency, stats mentioned include playoff games where voting takes place at the end of Championship Pool.
First Team All Star
L: Connor Njegovan (MB) - 92%, +6, 3rd overall
2: E.J. Harnden (NOnt) - 90%, +7, 1st overall
V: Marc Kennedy (NOnt) - 91%, +9, 1st overall
S: Brad Gushue (NL) - 91%. +6, 1st overall
Second Team All Star
L: Colin Hodgson (WC) - 93%, +7, T1st overall
2: Derek Samagalski (WC) - 88%, +3, 2nd overall
V: Mark Nichols (NL) - 89%, +9, 3rd overall
S: Matt Dunstone (SK) - 87%, Even, T3rd overall
Ross Harstone Sportsmanship Award: Jason Gunnlaugson (Skip, Team Manitoba)
With the Brier and Scotties wrapped up, along with national championships in Sweden/USA/Switzerland/Scotland/Japan, it is time to update the Power Rankings. Can those teams previously atop the mountain hold their position? Did some teams use those national championships to make their move?
Plus we have updated Nation rankings as well from the World Junior Curling Championships and the World Wheelchair Curling Championships. Did Canada hold onto the top spot? Maybe increase their lead? And who made a move into the Top 5?
- Team Jacobs - 6660.25 (LR: 1)
- Team Bottcher - 5845 (2)
- Team Edin - 5445 (5)
- Team Gushue - 4986 (8)
- Team Mouat - 4714 (4)
Hon. Mention: Team Epping, Team De Cruz, Team Koe, Team McEwen, Team Matsumura
We have movement among the Top 5 on the men's mountain. With Team Koe unable to #DefendTheIce in Kingston, they take a huge hit on the points (also failing to reach the playoffs). Koe drops from #3 to #8.
Koe's loss was Gushue's gain. The new #TeamCanada move from #8 to #4 with their championship win and they are closing in on the top echelon. Team Edin, winners of the Swedish championship, also get a bump up to #3 from #5.
Team Jacobs and Team Bottcher hold strong atop the mountain however. Both teams replicated their point totals from a year ago so they did not lose any points....but also failed to gain. With the three teams close behind them all competing at the world championships, the top spot is right for the taking.
- Team Hasselborg - 9480 (1)
- Team Einarson - 6384 (2)
- Team Fleury - 5420 (3)
- Team Tirinzoni - 5025 (4)
- Team Fujisawa - 4850 (5)
Hon. Mention: Team J. Jones, Team M. Kim, Team Homan, Team Stern, Team Walker
Bit of a surprise here? The Top 5 remain exactly the same, thanks in part to Teams Hasselborg, Einarson and Fujisawa all winning their national championships. Props to Team Fleury though who remain at #3 even after losing the Scotties wildcard game and not picking up any points.
The big drop could be coming after the world championships though. Team Tirinzoni will not be in Prince George after losing the Swiss championships to Team Stern so they will lose all those points earned last year. Team Hasselborg has some pressure as well to hold onto those silver medal points from a year ago. Advantage Team Einarson and Team Fujisawa?
The big climber was newly crowned Swiss champs Team Stern, who rejoin the Top 10 for the first time since Week 14. And they have more room to climb heading into the world championships. They could hit the Top 5 with a strong performance and deep playoff run.
- Canada - 5610 (1)
- Sweden - 4225 (2)
- Switzerland - 3130 (3)
- South Korea - 2440 (6)
- Japan - 2205 (7)
- Scotland - 2163 (4)
- Russia - 1965 (8)
- China - 1570 (5)
- Germany - 1465 (HM)
- Denmark - 1401 (10)
Hon. Mention: Italy, Norway, USA, Czech Republic, Australia
We have some movement among the Top 5!
Canada retains the top spot in thanks to the double gold at #WJCC2020 and the silver medal win at #WWhCC2020. They increase their lead over Top 3 rivals Sweden and Switzerland.
The big winners were #PACC nations South Korea and Japan, both moving into the Top 5. South Korea was bolstered by Team Kim's run to the world junior final and a playoff appearance for their national wheelchair champions. Japan's junior women also reached the playoffs, finishing 4th overall, to increase their point total.
The biggest drop came from China as their wheelchair champions were unable to #DefendTheIce this weekend. What a #TeamUpset result with Russia knocking them off in the SF. China went into the game undefeated and looked unstoppable. China went 0-for in the playoffs, losing the bronze medal game to Sweden.
Plus we have a NEW debut in the Top 10. Welcome Germany! Team Totzek's run to the junior men's playoffs helps Germany make the climb from #11 to #9, leaping over idle Denmark and helping push previous #9 Norway into the HM category.
What say you rock heads? Surprised by any of the rankings above? Which teams and/or nations do you think will make a move up the mountain in the final months of the season? And which teams/nations do you think are in danger of taking a tumble?
Tired of curling yet? Well you better not be because the championship party rolls on this week.
The Women's World Curling Championships hit the ice this weekend in Prince George, B.C. The blog will bring you a preview of the event later this week.
But we also have some more Canadian championships to crown. The mixed doubles, senior's, USPORT and CCAA championships take the ice in Portage, MB.
From the playdown party to the championship party, the fun continues from house to house.
Rest up folks....and hopefully you survived the time change (for those who do it...we see you Sasky!).
And if you want to keep the curling fun going, use the Hunter Brothers Born and Raised lyrics as your hand washing song. Here are the lyrics per the commercial for reference: