by Rodger Schmidt
CORTINA D’AMPEZZO, Italy – Canada and skip Kevin Koe made it totally clear this morning that they are in charge of this World Championship, and that anything that is going to happen here is going to have to go through them.
Then, they went out and lost their other match of the day, 9-6, to Germany’s Andy Kapp... their first loss of the competition.
Earlier today, you see, they dispensed of Scotland with considerable ease to sit, for a while, in the only undefeated seat in the house. In case it is not clear to all, undefeated teams go to directly to the 1–2 “Page” playoff game and thus have the best route possible into the championship game.
The competition, ie. the other 11 nations, have largely accepted that Canada will be in the final, and have allowed their curiosity and calculation energies to focus on who the other three nations in the top four might be.
During their undefeated 6-0 streak, the Canadians went pretty much unnoticed. Whatever do I mean by this?
First off, the International field is quite used to Canadian teams front-running the field. Often, the rest of the world uses this to their advantage; if everyone loses to the front runner it makes it easier to grab the number two spot, or even avoid a tiebreaker, in order to get in to the top four at all. In the round robin, it’s a sudden Canadian loss that often upsets the applecart, and spells trouble to the teams in the chase.
Secondly, it’s not that this Canadian team is unbeatable: the problem here is that no one has any idea about how to go about doing this. As good as Team Kevin Martin and Team Randy Ferbey have performed in championships gone by, it was possible to understand how you were being beaten, and to eventually come up with a plan to apply against it.
You always knew that these teams were in the building. They hid nothing in their conquest of opponents and this left hope and allowed for designing strategies that, on enough occasions, worked.
But Canada’s Kevin Koe usually shows nothing. The first six teams that fell to him came away with nothing. His team pretty much lies in a foxhole while you are battling, and steps out only when necessary. They make mistakes – but then they turn them into false hope with either a cold, deflating draw or a nasty laser strike. Then it is back into their disguise of not really being a fantastic curling squad.
The question heading into the Germany game was how many hand grenades did they smuggle into Italy via their equipment bag, and can the field run them out of this weapon before the weekend? Most of the time, there seems to be insufficient strategic space within the painted confines of a 12-foot curling house in which one can plant three or four curling stones without Edmonton-made grenades obliterating them.
However tonight, Germany didn’t let Koe out of his foxhole – every time Koe stuck his head up, skip Andy Kapp made a huge placement shot, or got something in a place that Koe couldn’t get to. For the most part, it appears the Canadians left their grenades in the bunker (their hotel) and tried to win with sniper fire, and Kapp was able to deal with that.
Does this mean that Germany has them figured out? I personally don’t think so. But with four or so round robin games left, it does mean that Canada may not be able to remain incognito for the rest of the show.
Scotland, who have a pretty good seek and destroy game of their own, were still in good position after rebounding with an important win against Germany, along with the Ulsrudless Norway, whose only loss so far was rendered on them by Scotland.
Denmark and the USA are the next challengers on the list.
In the continuing political sideshow, today was a lobby day, with very few official meetings taking place.... except for the one I spent some brief time at.
The European Curling Federation held an open meeting that turned out to be far more entertaining than probably intended. It makes sense for the European nation delegates (there are some 34 or more of them) to meet at these European locales, to review how they run their European Championships... of which there is a Junior, a Mixed, a Men’s and a Women’s.
What I did not expect today was a European Karaoke version of the Barenaked Ladies song If I Had a Million Dollars.
It has been clear for a very, very long time that this organization does not have a million dollars, and everyone I surveyed confirmed to me that they were not going to get a million dollars. The source that they have targetted from which to procure this “song” is the World Curling Federation, who at this point in time probably doesn’t have a million dollars either – though you may find it difficult to get an accurate answer on this question – but will soon have about 15 of them once the Vancouver Olympics settles the accounting.
They, however, are not going to give a fifteenth of this directly to anyone, and certainly not to an organization that they do not have any mandated obligation to. And therein lies the story on this one, even if it doesn’t answer the question I have tossed out in the past – and will again – whose money is this, anyway?
Finally, I was happy to be a part of a classy little event held by the United States Curling Association which honoured two of their contributors to our sport.
One is Warren Lowe, who is retiring from the board of directors of the WCF, and the other is Kay Sugahara, whom the USCA have inducted into their Hall of Fame as a builder.
Speaking of a million dollars, Sugahara has no doubt spent more than that in a lifetime of contributions to curling, through a host of endeavors over the past decades. No endeavor less significant than eventually, and single-handedly, keeping the World Championship alive through the mid-1980s, when some significant hard times hit the world of curling.
See you on Black Wednesday!
[WCF photos by Urs Raeber]