Happy Holidays to you all! The #curling season has been a busy one the past few months and the athletes, volunteers, rocks and rings all deserve time to reflect, relax and enjoy time with family and friends. But that doesn't mean #TwineTime quietly drifts off into the snow pile. There are quite a few interesting story lines to discuss before the holiday break, including #EppingMadness, #PowerRankings, #CurlingFashion with a special guest blogger and....*dun dun dun* #RumorGate!
Tradition dictates we look back before we look forward. Here is the quick #GunnerRunback on last week's action on the ice:
- Yorkton, SK and the curling world embraced #EppingMadness last week at The Canadian Open grand slam of curling event. John Epping and his team showcased many #EpicEpping moments. After breezing his way through the A-side (beating Bottcher, McEwen and Koe), Epping continued his hot streak in the playoffs. When the ice smoothed over, Epping eliminated home province favorite (and last year's finalist) Steve Laycock in the QF, took out red hot Kevin Koe (again!) in the SF and stopped the #1 team in the world (and defending champion) Brad Gushue in the final. A perfect 6-0 record and a Canadian Open title for Mr. Epping and his team. If you missed any of the action, simply google 'John Epping' and 'Canadian Open' or head to CurlingZone's YouTube page for some highlights of the amazing shot making Epping made all week....including shots like THIS en route to curling 100% in the final!! 100% in a grand slam final!!! Also interesting to note, John is now one title away from the career grand slam, having won The National (2008) and The Players Championship (2011) previously. Next season he will try to complete the career grand slam at The Masters. The victory also secured Team Epping a spot at the season ending Champions Cup in Sherwood Park, AB.
- On the women's side of the draw at The Canadian Open, it was a simple case of #historyrepeating with the end result. As has been the case all season, Rachel Homan continues to dominate the field and show why her team is clearly the top women's team in the world. After suffering only their second loss of the grand slam season to defending world champion Alina Paetz in the A final, Team Homan rebounded quite nicely going full #MeanGirls in winning a B-qualifier over Tracey Fleury. Once in the playoffs, it was business as usual defeating European Champion Anna Sidorova, Chelsea Carey and current Scotties champ Jennifer Jones in the final. The win marked Homan's 5th grand slam title and first Canadian Open championship. Remember this year on the tennis scene all the talk was about Serena Williams winning the calendar grand slam? Well move over Ms. Williams, Ms. Homan is in the house and ready to do the same. If Homan and company can prevail at the Players Championship in Toronto in April, the calendar grand slam will be completed. No team, men or women, have completed the calendar grand slam in the history of the sport. Homan could make history in April. Stay tuned!
- In an updated look at the Rogers Grand Slam Cup standings, Homan is running away with the title on the women's side. Leading the field with 45 points, she only needs 2 wins in Toronto to secure the title. Team Sweeting and Team Fleury are tied for second spot with 22 points with Team Jones and Team Tirinzoni tied for forth with 21 points. On the men's side, the field is wide open. Team Gushue leads with 35 points, followed close behind by Team Koe (31), Team Carruthers (26), Team McEwen (22) and Team Epping (21). Points are accumulated at grand slam events (excluding the Tour Challenge Tier II, Elite 10 and Champions Cup). The Players Championship sees point values double though so the men's cup could be claimed by a handful of teams. The Rogers Grand Slam Cup champion wins $75,000. Last year's champions were Brad Jacobs and Eve Muirhead (her second cup title). For a full list of the standings and a breakdown of the points structure, visit HERE.
As another grand slam events picks up its rocks and puts them to bed for another season, a shift in the #PowerRankings is to be expected. Some teams soared in Yorkton while others struggled. How did the results shake up the standings? Let's take a look:
(1) Brad Gushue (LW: 1)
(2) Kevin Koe (2)
(3) John Epping (5)
(4) Mike McEwen (3)
(5) Reid Carruthers (HM)
Hon. Mention: Team Edin, Team Jacobs, Team Thomas
- The Goo makes another grand slam final and while he may not have been able to repeat his title victory of a year ago, making the final continues the hot streak of a season he is having. Gushue remains the top team in the world for a reason, consistency and winning! But Koe is closing in.
- How can Team Epping not be rewarded for their outstanding play last week? Making their debut in the #PowerRankings only 1 week ago, they now find themselves up to #3 on the list. This team is on fire right now. Let's remember this current line up is only in their first season together, having added third Matt Camm in the offseason. Not a bad result for a "freshmen" line up. The question will be whether the hot streak continues post-Holiday break. The way this team is curling and the confidence they have right now, let's hope the break doesn't slow them down.
- Manitoba holds the final two spots on the rankings with #redpants dropping a spot and #Reidarama moving up a spot. McEwen missed the playoffs at another grand slam event, almost shocking to even type this. McEwen and company have looked stellar some weeks and prone to upsets the next. We are just not used to seeing this from them...but don't count them out. This is still a high calibre team capable of winning the Brier this season.
(1) Rachel Homan (LW: 1)
(2) Jennifer Jones (4)
(3) Anna Sidorova (2)
(4) Eve Muirhead (5)
(5) Val Sweeting (3)
Hon. Mention: Team Fleury, Team Paetz, Team Carey
- Homan wins, Homan stays on top of the mountain and has probably secured her spot up there for the rest of the season. Interesting to note with Homan, while she dominates every team on the planet, perhaps Switzerland is her achilles heal? In her two grand slam losses, both came to Swiss teams (Tirinzoni and Paetz). A possible concern if she wins the Scotties and advances to the World Championship (just ask Jennifer Jones last year).
- A great run by Jen in Yorkton showed signs of a potential battle at the Scotties this season. Could we see Jones, Homan and Sweeting battle it out at the top once again? I for one would be all for this! Jones is always dangerous and looks hungry for winning once again...if only she could solve the Homan Curse!
- Muirhead moves up while Sweeting moves down this week. Muirhead beat Sweeting in the Canadian Open QF. Based on this head to head victory, for this week at least, Muirhead takes the upper hand in the rankings.
As we close the conversation on one set of rankings, let's open up discussion on a different kind of ranking. The joy of social media my friends. This season I have been quite fortunate to connect with curling fans around the world via social media. One fan, Rebecca in Arizona, and I have been discussing the teams and results of the season week in and week out. Last week, Rebecca mentioned some of the fashion choices of the men's teams on the ice in Yorkton. I thought, "What a great blog topic" and invited her to do a guest blog spot this week to discuss #CurlingFashion. Without further adieu, here is Rebecca!
As our Season of Champions is off too a great start with Teams Koe and Homan securing berths to the Olympic Trials, I think it's a great time to take a look the team uniforms that we see each and every week. Many thanks to #TwineTime for inviting me to be guest blogger this week. We connected on Twitter back when
Team Jacobs is a team of many different uniforms. They are proudly sponsored by Pinty's and
Thank you Rebecca for joining us on the #TwineTime blog and offering some insight on #CurlingFashion. Toss Rebecca a follow on twitter and share your thoughts on #CurlingFashion with her and I on the comment section below or via social media. The best way to continue to #growthesport is engagement and conversation among athletes and fans.
Oh #RumorGate how I love and loathe thee sometimes. Rumors are always circulating in sports. It is the nature of the beast and people love to speculate on what will happen next, whether it be about players or events. This week offers up yet another juicy segment on #RumorGate. The conversation of Scotties/Brier relevance and competition has increased in recent years. With attendance numbers on the decline at both national championship events, is the current format to determine Team Canada at the World Championships the best way to ensure we send our top team to complete for gold? The Canadian Curling Association (CCA) might not think so. Rumors have been swirling more and more on a new way to determine Team Canada. And how you ask will this be decided? Well from the Canada Cup of Curling of course. Could we see the men's and women's teams who emerge from the Canada Cup as the rightful holders of the red and white jackets? The CCA seems to think so...and they are not alone. A few players have been talking about this for a few seasons now and the train of support seems to be filling fast. But what does that mean for the Scotties and Brier? Well these two events could still continue but the prize at the end of the week may be a little less shiny. Rumors have also been swirling around the Canadian curling world for years on the format of having provincial champions come together for a national event may not be the best format for determining Team Canada. Are we really ensuring the top teams in the nation are competing for a national title this way? Or are we seeing every year a group of 12 teams come together where, in reality, only 2 or 3 of these teams actually have a realistic shot at not only winning the national title but competing for a world championship title as well? Perhaps teams in Alberta and Manitoba might think so. But what about teams in PEI or Northwest Territories? Is this just a movement by top contending teams to try and find a better road to world championship opportunities and eliminate the provincial playdowns and provincial championship path, where sometimes upsets can occur (ask Glen Howard or Kevin Martin) or one province having a few heavyweight contenders with only 1 advancing to the national stage (ie: Alberta)? It is a tough call here. The historian side of me and purist part of me would hate to see an end to the tradition of the Scotties and the Brier. However, evolution is sports in a natural way of life and shouldn't curling try to do the same? Whether the rumor of the Canada Cup of Curling being the right answer however is debatable. What say you curling fans? Are you for a change in determining your Canadian Champion or do you enjoy the provincial/territorial battles we see every year at the Scotties and Brier? Perhaps this could turn into a future #TwineTime poll...hmmmm?!
Normally the focus of the blog would shift to #TourLifePredictions right now. However, with the upcoming holiday season upon us, many teams taking time off and the fact I am behind on Christmas shopping due to heavy work schedule the past few weeks, can we all agree to take a pass on #TourLifePredictions this week? Don't hold it against me though ok?
I can say best of luck to those teams competing overseas in Japan (Karuizawa International), China (Yichun International Ladies) and Scotland (Dumfries Challenger Series). Also best of luck to teams competing south of the border at the Curl Mesabi Classic in Eveleth, MN. Last but certainly not least, best of luck to all the teams who start their road to a provincial championship in Alberta and Ontario with Scotties and Tankard qualification events.
I would like to wish each and every one of you a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!! I truly appreciate all the support over the past year and half towards this blog. The opportunity to engage with athletes and fans of a sport I love is truly humbling at times. While we may not all agree at times, I know we can both agree and disagree with respect towards one another and the sport we all love. Enjoy this time of the year with your family and friends. As we move into 2016, let's all continue to come together and #growthesport!