Big USA, Brazil curling weekend

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In this Friday installment we rail against curlers who wear black, set up the Canadian Juniors, test your curling mettle with a pop quiz, show you some Scottish stuff, rail against curlers who wear black, and amaze with a crazy eBay promotion. But first...

This is a big weekend for U.S. curling, Brazilian curling, and world curling in general. And it’s all going down in beautiful Bismarck, North Dakota, host city of the 2002 Ford Worlds, and in Green Bay, Wisconsin, just steps away from famous Lambeau Field, the home of the Packers.

To start things off, the big day has finally arrived... Friday night will see Brazil versus the United States, in game one of the best-of-five men’s challenge series for the final berth in the 2009 Ford Worlds in Moncton.

And none other than the famed New York Timesran a story – complete with some decent pics (like the one above) taken during one of Brazil’s recent training sessions in Quebec, Canada.

Of course, subscribers to the print edition of The Curling News saw a photo of the team way back in the November 2008 issue, after their appearance at the inaugural Team Glenn Howard Fantasy Curling Camp, which of course will be happening again this coming September. But we digress.

As the WCF announced earlier this month, 2007 world bronze medallist Todd Birr is the man in the hotseat for the United States. Birr is quoted in the Times story, but we also grabbed a fresh quote courtesy of USA Curling:

“We’re looking forward to representing the U.S. in this event, it’s something that’s been in the background for us all season long,” said Birr.

“Certainly we want to secure our spot at worlds, but beyond that it’s just such an honor to play in something this historic. It’s the first time the U.S. has been challenged at the men’s level, after all.”

Will any Brazilians make the long trek to the Dakotas to cheer on their team? Judging from the Brazilian fans we have seen at other sporting events – and we’re not just talking about futbol, either – we sure as heck hope so!

To follow the results, check the USA Curling website or the Gameday Scoreboard at CurlingZone. And check out this here blog, too... you never know what we might come up with through the weekend.

Secondly, Bismarck is also hosting the U.S. men’s national Challenge Round to declare the final four berths to the 2010 U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Curling next month in Colorado. Play started Wednesday and big names involved – that failed to make it straight to Denver – include 2006 Olympic bronze medallist Pete Fenson (currently 3-2), defending U.S. champ Craig Brown (3-1), perennial U.S. men’s runner-up Craig Disher (3-1), former Fenson Olympic teammate John Shuster (5-0) and former national champion Jason Larway (3-2).

That’s a murderer’s row of great teams, as witnessed by the struggles of of former Canadians – Brier competitor Brian Wight and TCN correspondent Matt Hames (with Brier competitor Dean Gemmell of The Curling Show on the front end) – who are both at 1-4.

Meanwhile, another ex-Canuck, former Canadian Junior finalist Greg Romaniuk out of Winnipeg, is the co-leader at 5-0.

Romaniuk is a big secret. When Canada’s Mark Johnson fled Edmonton for the U.S. he grabbed some press, and he grabbed some more when he qualified for Denver. But Romaniuk has had a better season stateside – he’s travelled extensively and won a tournament in Madison, Wisconsin – and now he’s off to a great start at the Challenge Round.

Pop quiz, hotshots... which junior skip did Romaniuk play for and in what year did they lose that Canadian junior final? And whom did they lose to? Anyone?

By the way, next month’s Olympic Team Trials will also decide the squads, both men and women, that will compete in this year’s world shootouts in Gangneung and Moncton... so Denver acts as a double championship.

Third – or is that fourth? – the women’s Challenge Round started up Thursday night in Green Bay. It’s a small field, with six teams fighting for four spots, and it features two-time U.S. junior champion Aileen Sormunen and former national champion Amy Wright, who were both at 1-0 at time of writing.

Fourth – er, fifth – a wild new curling promotion has been launched by Denver Sports and USA Curling. Believe it or not, you can bid, on the eBay auction site, to put your face on the button during the U.S. Olympic Trials.

With a minimum $1,150 bid, the “Buy The Button” auction allows the winners to have their face placed in the ice on the button, where it will remain throughout the competition. There are four such buttons available, and the winning bidders also receive 10 tickets to the women’s and men’s final matches on February 28 (10:00am and 3:00pm MST)

The auction runs from now through Wednesday, February 4. So click here if you don’t believe us!


• Speaking of the New York Times, can anyone tell us why they emailed us back in December seeking a photo of Joe Frans? They didn’t reply to our reply, so it’s all a mystery ...

• Chery Bernard defeated Shannon Kleibrink to claim the first playoff spot in Alberta, and it’s down to three sqauds in Saskatchewan, with Stefanie Lawtonleading the way ...

• The M&M Meat Shops Canadian Juniors begins on Sunday in Salmon Arm, BC. Russ Howard will be there with TSN for the finals but he’s also on proud papa duty, as daughter Ashley is skipping Team New Brunswick. Ironically, Russ’ brother Glenn Howard has a son, Scott, who lost the Ontario junior men’s final to just miss out on qualifying.

Other names of note include, of course, defending women’s champion and world bronze medallistKaitlyn Lawes of Manitoba, with a video of her winning shot located here.

There’s also stalwart skips Brett Gallant (for the men) and Erin Carmody (women) of Prince Edward Island.

But the women’s side is most intriguing. It says here that Lawes’ biggest challenges will come from Alberta’s Casey Scheidegger, who has Kalynn Parkat third stone, and Ontario’s Rachel Homan, who is already a legend despite her debut appearance at the Juniors. Oh well... sitting 10th on the (adult) Canadian Team Rankings list for a spot into December’s Olympic Trials will do that for ya.

• A Canadian interloper named Kevin Koe has made the cover of the February Scottish Curler, and it must have something to do with the Albertans grabbing much of the moolah in Perth earlier this month ...

• Speaking of Scotland, two-time and defending world junior champion skip Eve Muirhead – who graces the homepage of the 2009 World Juniors website – is more than just a fine on-ice shooter: she’s a damned fine golfer, and she's Friday’s Local Hero, too ...

• Numbers man Kevin Palmer has another installment of Curling with Math online ...

• First it was British Columbia... then it was Ontario... now it’s Manitoba’s turn to discuss the restructuring of men’s curling in their province. The difference with Manitoba is that this back-and-forth, which has been noticed by The Curler, talks about much more than just the provincial-level teams; the plan is to give a boost to all grass roots areas ...

• And finally, we liked this nice story from Al Cameron on what competitive curlers do with the mountain of jackets they amass during a career.

It turns out that Heather Rankin, who is wearing power orange (no photo, Al?) has the same colours as another competing team... and she blames Cameron for the duplication, telling him that he “wrote an article last year about everybody wearing black, and I found the most obnoxious colour I could find just to make you happy.”

This will be music to the ears of Bob Cowan, proprietor of that venerable Scottish Curler magazine and also the recent but already legendary Curling Today blog, who is on a one-man crusade to get curlers to just STOP WEARING BLACK... and we agree ...