Gretzky, Schmetzky

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Welcome back, one and all, to a brand new year, within the same 2005-06 Olympic curling season.

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Monctonians – in an open challenge to Newfoundlanders for bragging rights to "their" Olympic hero Russ Howard – are beating the bushes to lobby for Russ to become Canada's flagbearer at next month's Torino Olympics. So what if the call first came from the CurlingZone chatrooms, now yesterday's edition of the local blat (subscription only) is trumpeting the New Brunswick efforts. To quote a local committee member:

Russ goes back three decades in the sport. If you look at (the Canadian Olympic Committee) criteria, Russ has got it all – fair play, responsibility, his continued athleticism, giving back to the sport.

As for the Wounded Moose himself?

I can't imagine, Russ said. How about Wayne Gretzky instead?

Gretzky, Schmetzky.

A good interview with John Morris, the disappointed third-place finisher at the Canadian Olympic Trials, in his hometown Ottawa Sun today. Some of his thoughts:

I find it difficult to watch women's curling. It's very defensive and reactive curling. However, during the Jennifer Jones-Jenn Hanna Scott final last year, I didn't leave my living room once. Two aggressive skips have set the tone for women's curling.

As for his Olympic prediction?

I wouldn't be surprised if (Brad) Gushue won gold, but I also wouldn't be surprised if he didn't make the playoffs.

The story also gives a hint to Johnny Mo's future in the sport, and where some of his off-ice interests lie... and not necessarily in Calgary...

Here's a new one: the second Grand Slam of the season, the BDO Classic Canadian Open, starts Thursday and the Tour's number one squad isn't there. Today's Winnipeg Sun seems to be the first outlet to break the news that Team Wayne Middaugh was threatened with suspension – presumably from the Ontario Curling Association – if his team went to the Peg and didn't compete in this weekend's regional playdowns for the Kia Cup.

Fact or fiction? If true, did the World Curling Players' Associationstand up for their athletes? Or will it fall upon the fledgling Ontario Players' Council to step up?

Finally, amid constantly good news about U.S. curling growth following Salt Lake 2002 comes this brief report about the sport faltering in Florida. Come on you Yanks – and snowbirds! – time to rally for the cause.

A reminder that the January issue of The Curling News is now oot and aboot – see the Dec. 23 post below for more deets, and subscribe here – and there is still time for subbers to get in on 30% off the CBC's Canadian Curling Experience DVD. Simply check out page 3 of either the December or January issues, and head here with your access code.

And yes, we're still selling calendars... and promoting The Black Book... and this hotel reservations website which raises money for a curling club of your choice... the beat goes on for us at TCN.

More later!