Bring on the Canadian Beef. No, no I don't mean the now outdated Men of Curling calendar. And no, I don't mean the newly released Women of Curling calendar either...although you should hit up any of the athletes in the calendar to buy a calendar from them at a great deal and help support their fundraising efforts towards some outstanding causes. The full list of charities can be found HERE.
The Canadian Beef I am referring to is the new title sponsor for the first major Grand Slam of Curling event of the season. Welcome to the now referred to as #CanadianBeefMasters. Quite the hashtag hey?
15 of the top men's and women's teams will hit the ice in Truro, Nova Scotia this week in hopes of landing the often elusive #gsoc championship. As mentioned, this is unlike the Elite 10 contested earlier in the season. The Masters is one of the original Big Four in #gsoc history, earning it the prestigious "major" moniker.
The Masters has quite the story to tell when looking back over the now 15-year history. Being offered twice in one calendar year. A variety of different formats and name changes. Sponsor names coming in and going out. The original World Cup of Curling? Did you know the current iteration of The Masters is actually an amalgamation of two other events?
Oh yes The Masters history lesson is quite an interesting one folks. So you know what that means #TwineTime fans? Time to go back to school for a little history lesson. Get your pens and papers ready, there may be a test later on.
- The Masters began as a part of the Grand Slam of Curling in 2012 as a men's and women's major event. However the first iteration of the event for the men happened ten years earlier in 2002, then known as the Kia Masters of Curling. The inaugural Masters of Curling took place in Gander, NL and was won by Saskatchewan's Bruce Korte over Manitoba's Jeff Stoughton.
- Over the years the event has seen quite a few name changes due to differing title sponsors. From The Kia Masters of Curling to Home Hardware Masters of Curling to Rogers Masters of Curling, there have been 7 different title sponsors. The 2018 sponsor, Canadian Beef, will be title sponsor #8.
- While the sponsors have changed, the Masters of Curling name has been the most consistent, running from 2002 - 2008 and again from 2012 - 2015. It was only back in 2016 where "of Curling" was dropped in favour of the current Masters title.
- What made this event even more odd is the fact it was double offered in 2003, 2006 and 2008. In 2003 it was held in January and December. For 2006, February and December. And in 2008, January and November. This results in 2018 being the 15th calendar year of running this event but the 18th historic offering. 14 years of competition with 17 champions. And this includes the event not being offered in 2005 and 2007. Now of course the double offering is by calendar year but due to the curling season being held between two calendar years (i.e. 2007/2008 or 2018/2019).
- What about 2009 - 2011 you ask? How about this for random trivia knowledge? During this time frame the event was renamed the "World Cup of Curling". Sounds a bit familiar right? Remember when the Curling World Cup was originally pitched to curling fans/teams over a year ago? It was actually presented as the World Cup of Curling and was later changed to the current Curling World Cup due to wanting to avoid any confusion with the old historic World Cup of Curling events, now known as The Masters.
- The 2009 World Cup of Curling event used a truly international theme, in preparation for the upcoming 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. The event, hosted in Mississauga, invited each Olympic qualified nation to send one team into the field while host Canada rounded out the field with 5 teams. Some notable contenders included: Niklas Edin, Thomas Ulsrud, David Murdoch, John Shuster and Andy Kapp. Ultimately Canada ended up the dominant nation with 3 of the 4 SF teams (Ulsrud being the only international team). In the end, Glenn Howard defeated Kevin Koe for the title.
- While the women first competed at The Masters in 2012, the 2009 World Cup of Curling actually did host a women's event titled the "Three Nations Cup". This was a four-team RR event featuring Scotland's Eve Muirhead, China's Bingyu Wang and Canada's Stephanie Lawton and Shannon Kleibrink. Muirhead would emerge victorious with a 3-1 overall record and, unofficially, claim to be the first female winner at a Masters event.
- Amalgamation you say? Explain. Gladly! While the women were not competing at The Masters prior to 2012 (outside aforementioned 2009 gimmick event of course), top female teams on tour were competing in the Sun Life Classic. The Sun Life Classic was an annual #wct event held in Brantford, ON and was known to be a highly competitive event. The decision was made to amalgamate the Sun Life Classic with the Masters of Curling to form the new major #gsoc event: The Masters. Past Sun Life Classic winners include: #TwineTimeFam member Julie Hastings, Jennifer Jones and Sherry Middaugh among others.
- When the first event was held in 2012, the men's purse was set at $100,000. This was consistent with past offerings as each iteration of the event since 2002 offered a similar purse. The women, however, made their debut and had to settle for a less than promising $50,000 purse. The first female winner was Rachel Homan defeating Chelsea Carey in the final. Of course the purse amounts would be corrected the following year to match the men at $100,000 and then ultimately both raised to the current $125,000 purse starting in 2016.
- Speaking of Rachel Homan, she is the most successful female skip in Masters history collecting 3 titles in the short 6-year history of the event. Homan has been the last female skip standing in 2012, 2013 and 2015 while also reaching the final in 2016. Pencil her in for another final in 2018?
- On the men's side of history, Glenn Howard is the most successful skip winning 6 titles. In fact he won four straight Masters titles from 2006 - 2009 (remember no tournament held in 2007 calendar year). His two other wins came in 2011 and 2013. While Howard celebrated The Masters, Kevin Koe may feel like he has a Masters curse. Of those four straight wins by Howard, three straight (Jan. 2008, Nov. 2008, 2009) came at the expense of Koe in the final. Koe would finally claim his first (and to date only) Masters title in 2012. Brad Gushue, defending champion, claimed his second Masters title last year over then-defending champ Niklas Edin. Gushue's first win was in 2014.
- Two players in the 2018 field will look to collect a Masters title this season to complete the career #gsoc major accomplishment. Team Koe lead Ben Hebert has 12 #gsoc titles but has yet to win a Masters. Of the majors won, he has 3 National, 3 Canadian Open and 5 Players Championships. A win here would also put Hebert alone in fifth spot on the all-time #gsoc titles list with 13, trailing Kevin Martin (18), Glenn Howard (16), Wayne Middaugh and Brent Laing (15). John Epping has 3 #gsoc titles and they are all majors but he is missing The Masters win to complete the career major milestone.
*Ring, Ring, Ring* History class is now over and you are dismissed. Ok but don't actually go away or close your browser quite yet. We know the past, lets discuss the present and try to foresee the future. It is time for our #CanadianBeefMasters Preview!
Canadian Beef Masters
2017 Champions: Team Gushue (men) and Team J. Jones (women)
Format: 15 team RR with 3 pools of 5 teams. Top 8 qualify.
Favourite: Tough to go against the Olympic champions and winner of the season opening #gsoc event here. The #SwedishVikings will look to make it 2 for 2 in Truro, following up their W at the inaugural Elite 10. In fact, Hasselborg already is 2 for 2 this season....as in she has played 2 tour events and collected 2 tour titles (minus the Curling World Cup gimmick event). The Elite 10 win was followed up with the championship run in Stockholm. We have not seen this team compete on the ice since but they are methodical in their thinking. The schedule may appear light but they are fighting off post-Olympic hangover and you really cannot blame them for smart scheduling. Besides, if you are only going to play two events you might as well win them both right? With the slam monkey off their back now, confidence at an all-time high, can anyone stop them?
#TeamUpset: The new-look Laura Walker team may appear to be the odd one out in this Pool A line-up but when you look at the players on the team you may second guess that thought. Yes Hasselborg opened the season with a slam. Yes Sinclair won a slam last season and Scheidegger the season before. And yes Fujisawa is the current Olympic bronze medal winner and past world championship silver medal winner. Resume wise skipper Laura Walker appears to be the #TeamUpset flag bearer for Pool A. But weren't we saying the same thing at the Elite 10? And didn't this team prove us wrong with their QF appearance? With the other 4 teams boasting strong resumes, and being teams who have the same line-ups as last season, Team Walker would appear to be the underdog. They have some solid W's under the sliders this season (vs. Einarson, Sinclair, Fleury, Carey) so perhaps the under the radar flight path is exactly what they enjoy.
Projected Standings: 1. Team Hasselborg 2. Team Scheidegger 3. Team Fujisawa 4. Team Walker 5. Team Sinclair
Favourite: The defending champ reserves the favourite tag here. Jones is the current Canadian and World champ and has won more slams as a skip than any other player, active or retired. The resume alone trumps the combined resume of the other 4 teams competing in this pool. The change in line-up this season doesn't seem to be an issue either. The team reached the SF at the Elite 10, the final of the Autumn Gold and the SF of the China Open. The only "concern" for the team may be the jet lag of flying to Truro from China with little to no rest in between events. But again this is an Olympic, World and Canadian champion here. Jones knows travel and knows how to mitigate the travel issues with high performance results. Remember they also don't step foot on the ice for their opening game until Wednesday evening so they have some time to catch up on rest and do some ice and competition scouting. A slow start in their opening game vs MB rival Robertson may be expected but so is another deep slam playoff run.
#TeamUpset: Speaking of Robertson, she will be making her fifth slam appearance with her most recent being last year's Canadian Open. Prior to last season she last competed at a slam in 2009 (Players Championship), so it has been a long time coming for her to get back to consistent slam consideration. The 3-time MB Scotties champion has been a strong up and comer over the past few seasons though, excelling on tour and reaching the MB Scotties final last season. They started this season strong, winning their season opening event in Winnipeg and following it up with another title a few weeks later in Saskatoon. Since then however they have struggled, failing to qualify in their past two events (Calgary, Portage). Their end result will come down to which team shows up: the one at the start of the season when they were on fire or the one who has struggled the past few weeks. If they can get back to the magic from the beginning, they could be a dangerous playoff contender in this pool.
Projected Standings: 1. Team J. Jones 2. Team Robertson 3. Team Muirhead 4. Team Carey 5. Team Roth
Favourite: The Pool of Death! Pool C has three teams are with strong cases to make on why they are favourites not only to win this pool but win the entire event. Team Einarson, or #TeamSkipper, has been the hottest team on tour this season already capturing 4 #wct titles and reaching the final last weekend in Portage. Team Tirinzoni reached the final of the season opening Elite 10 slam and have qualified in all 5 tour events played, including another finals appearance in Oakville (losing to Einarson). Oh and then we have this team named Homan. This seems to be Homan's slam as she eyes up her 4th title in the 7-year history of the event (in addition to one finals appearance). There is a threat here when one of these top 3 teams will miss the playoffs due to the draw gods blessing us fans with a true Pool of Death. This is going to be fun!
#TeamUpset: Local invite Kaitlyn Jones and her young squad return to the #gsoc ice as home province favourites. For the current Canadian and World junior champs, this will be a bit of a different experience at a grand slam compared to their debut appearance at the Champions Cup at the end of last season. Any team will tell you the first time you step on the #gsoc ice can be a bit daunting and overwhelming. You are competing with the best of the best in front of larger crowds than you are probably used to and with TV and media coverage around you. Outside competing at a Scotties or Brier, the grand slam events draw the next biggest audience and interest. Those butterfly's and nerves should be more controlled the second time around. This is a strong up and coming team who could surprise a few teams in this pool. Jones will also be familiar with the names in her pool, having competed against Tirinzoni, Einarson and Sweeting in Calgary at the end of last season. Champions Cup they finished 0-4. In front of home support fans and with the nerves in check a 1-3 or 2-2 record is not out of the question.
Projected Standings: 1. Team Einarson 2. Team Homan 3. Team Tirinzoni 4. Team K. Jones 5. Team Fleury
Qualifiers: Team Hasselborg, Team J. Jones, Team Einarson, Team Scheidegger, Team Robertson, Team Homan, Team Tirinzoni, Team Fujisawa
WOMEN'S CHAMPIONSHIP: Team Einarson def. Team Homan
Favourite: This is a tough call. You have arguably the #1 team on tour so far this season (#1 according to the #TwineTime rankings too) in Team Epping. You have the defending world champions who are starting to find their stride again in the #SwedishVikings Team Edin. And you have the always dangerous multi-slam and Olympic champion Team Jacobs. This trifecta is pretty formidable. If we base it on results this season Epping, a three-time #gsoc champ, would be front-runner; however, he did fail to qualify in Gatineau this past weekend so he doesn't come to Truro full of confidence and momentum like many expected. Team Edin, on the other hand, started the season with a finals appearance and then struggled a bit. They seemed to have put it all together once again though the past few weeks so maybe they should be considered a favourite here. Remember Edin's first of three #gsoc titles, and first for a non-Canadian men's team, was in the green rings of The Masters (2016). Keep the three-theme going, Jacobs is also a three-time #gsoc champ. Three champs. Three times over. A trifecta of championship pedigree.
#TeamUpset: The new boys on the block and only other options for this group. Team Schwaller and Team Paterson are certainly going to be considered dark horse contenders against the trifecta. Schwaller has been one of the early standout surprises on the men's tour this season. The 2014 world junior champ won his first #wct title early this season at the Stu Sells Oakville. This very blog called them the Team To Watch last season and here they are putting the rest of the tour on notice. As mentioned above with Team Jones, competing at your first slam can be daunting. Luckily they get the first two draws off before hitting the ice late Wednesday morning vs. Epping. As for Scotland's Paterson, this will be back-to-back slam appearances for the skipper as his new team made their slam debut at the season-opening Elite 10. We shall see how the new and young stack up against the experienced vets in Pool A action.
Projected Standings: 1. Team Edin 2. Team Jacobs 3. Team Epping 4. Team Schwaller 5. Team Paterson
Favourite: Two-time Canadian champs Team Gushue will always enter a slam listed as a title contender and favourite. And why not? They are the defending champions here. They won the Elite 10 to open the slam season last month. They own 11 #gsoc titles now. What more can we really say about them? Similar to Team JJ above, they will also be making the quick turnaround and long flight from China to compete in Truro. Jet lag and fatigue may come into play. In addition, the last time they stepped on the ice they suffered a surprising loss in the China Open final to an unheralded Russian team who played the spiel of their lives. Yes this is an experienced team who will not let one loss linger but it still hurts just a bit letting a title slip away. Could spell danger for their competition though.
#TeamUpset: Welcome back to the #gsoc ice Matt Dunstone! Boy how we have missed you!! Dunstone is the exact player we all want to see at the #gsoc. He is a grinder. The technical skills are there. The strategic mindset is there. The youthful urge to win and win and win is there. But so is the humble personality and ability to be serious for competition but not take himself too serious as well, if that makes sense. Dunstone is back in the house calling the shots with his new team and is a perfect example of a team who grinded out a busy late summer/early fall schedule to earn a spot in this field. This team knew they needed to compete week in and week out early and needed the big results on the ice just to have a shot at being here. They are 20-5 on the season, including a championship win in Vernon and a finals appearance in Oakville. And while this may be a new team the players themselves are not new to the #gsoc ice. Vice Braeden Moskowy is a slam winner with Team Carruthers. Won't that be a fun battle to watch on Friday late afternoon when Moskowy battles his former teammates and new look #TeamBFF Carruthers (with former McEwen second Matt Wozniak filling in for Derek Samagalski as this team uses a five-man rotation for the second week in a row) in the final RR game for both.....we all know their team divorce wasn't exactly amicable after all. Worth noting this is the #TwineTimeFam pool with Matt Dunstone, Catlin Schneider, Jason Gunnlaugson and Chris Plys all drawn in one grouping. Going to be tough on the blog this weekend.
Projected Standings: 1. Team Gushue 2. Team Dunstone 3. Team Carruthers 4. Team Gunnlaugson 5. Team Shuster
Favourite: Do you ever bet against Kevin Koe at slam events? Koe has qualified for the playoffs in six straight #gsoc events, including the Elite 10 QF appearance. In fact, he has qualified in 9 of his past 10. The only knock on this stat is having one championship (2018 Players Championship) to show for all those playoff appearances. He has one other finals appearance, 4 SF and 3 QF showings. The Masters is special to him though as he won his second of five #gsoc titles in the green rings back in 2012. The new line-up seems to be yielding success though early on with a win at the Curling World Cup - First Leg and a finals appearance two weeks ago in Portage. The addition of BJ Neufeld at vice adds more #gsoc experience and success as well with Neufeld holding 7 titles under his own belt, including a Masters win in 2015 with Team McEwen. Interesting to note though 3 of the teams in this pool competed at the Curling World Cup with Koe and Mouat splitting their two RR battles and Koe defeating Walstad in the championship game. Quick aside, if you are not following Team Mouat on IG you really should. No team has had to deal with and overcome more flight delays and travel issues this season than they have. Wow!
#TeamUpset: See Pool C above? The local boys will perhaps be listed as underdogs in this experienced field as Koe, Mouat and Howard all have #gsoc titles and Walstad has reached a slam final. But don't sell this team short either. They are the three-time defending Nova Scotia champions and five-time NS winners overall. Last year at the Brier, this team stole the hearts of many curling fans when they reached the championship round and finished with a strong 5-6 overall record. Interesting piece of Masters trivia for you. Back in 2012, The Masters used a Tier I and Tier II structure where Tier II teams played a triple knockout at the same time as the Tier I RR. The 8 Tier II qualifiers advanced to a qualifier bracket among them to determine two teams earning a spot in the 8-team Tier I playoff bracket for the title. Jamie Murphy participated in the Tier II back in 2012 and reached the qualifier final before losing to Mark Bice. As an aside, the other Tier II qualifier (Steve Laycock) ended up reaching the SF. Hmmm, maybe this Tier I and Tier II idea has some merit for more than just the Tour Challenge?!
Projected Standings: 1. Team Koe 2. Team Mouat 3. Team Walstad 4. Team Murphy 5. Team Howard
Qualifiers: Team Edin, Team Gushue, Team Koe, Team Jacobs, Team Dunstone, Team Mouat, Team Walstad, Team Murphy
MEN'S CHAMPIONSHIP: Team Koe def. Team Edin
Bring on the first major of the 2018/19 curling season folks. What say you though rock heads and stoners? Who is your pick to win the #CanadianBeefMasters? Who is your #TeamUpset contender? Share your thoughts in the comment section below or through social media. And don't forget to tag the teams in your social media post and let them know you are cheering them on.
While this #gsoc event will capture most of the headlines and attentions of curling fans, we must not forget there are numerous #wct events going on this weekend as well. There will be a #Tour500 and 3 #Tour250 events for the men and 4 #Tour250 events for the women.
#TwineTime will bring you a full preview, including predictions, for these events later in the week. Don't forget to also check out the updated #PowerRankings blog post where the comparison between the proposed #TwineTime ranking system and the current #OOM is discussed in addition to the unveiling the new rankings mountain.
Until then, good luck and good curling to all!