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London Brier: Concourse and Controversy

Kim Tuck, Argyle and The Tankard

Kim Tuck, Austyn and The Tankard

by Kimberly Tuck

LONDON – Let's have a show of hands. How many people think Tuesday night's round robin game between Ontario and Manitoba was a sneak preview of Sunday's championship final?

How many people think last night's round robin game between Manitoba and Alberta was a sneak preview of Sunday's championship final?

How many people think tonight's round robin finale between Ontario and Alberta will be a sneak preview of Sunday's championship final?

You can't see me, so I will tell you that my hand shot up into the air with the first option. Manitoba is clearly showcasing the Jeff Stoughton of old—not to forget ace third Jon Mead—and if they keep rolling it could be their year. Ontario, Alberta, and Newfoundland are also tied for first with Manitoba and are looking strong ... but I see a few chinks in the armour that might leave an opening for The Bison Boys.

I took a walk through the John Labatt Centre (JLC) concourse today with my little niece Austyn Croucher who came to the Brier for her first curling experience. She is only two years old and really doesn't have much interest in the game yet (her Auntie will make sure to steer her in the proper direction) but we had some fun looking at the different curling exhibits and displays, at which the workers were all eager and willing to hand out little souvenirs and such.

Brier Bear T-shirt

Brier Bear T-shirt

There was the souvenir booth with the typical wares for sale. I spotted a very cute Brier Bear T-shirt for kiddies, but found it strange that the oldest mascot of curling was shown smiling with a toboggan in his hands ...? Hmm, what's wrong here?

There's the Governor General's Curling Club (founded in 1874) that travels with a nostalgia/history exhibit for the CCA to help showcase the roots of our game. The classic golden Labatt Tankard trophy is on display, as is this current Brier Tankard trophy. They also display some old pictures, past Brier videos and of course curling stones.

Now, I have seen my fair share of curling stones (trust me when I say that) but I have never seen a triangular-shaped stone. This thing looked like it weighed about 100 pounds ... and that monstrosity would make one hell of a mess on a takeout, eh?

There is also the traditional pin traders with their tables. I figured I might have a valuable pin in my collection they might want to have, but when I asked if they had the Canadian Mixed pin from Iqaluit (in which I participated in 2009) they said yes ... and with much less excitement than I asked in my question. D'oh!

A little ways down the hall is the Capital One booth, boasting all kinds of fun stuff including the dryland "rocks" and houses from the Rocks and Rings school educational program. This, I think, is a fabulous program—there is no other way to bring the game to the kids in hopes that they will eventually try the real thing on the ice. It would be fantastic to see this program expand even faster than it apparently is already; I realize that this takes dollars and I hope the money continues to be there.

Mmmmm. Curling donuts.

Mmmmm. Curling donuts.

In the middle is the title sponsor's booth, where they are selling a special donut in honour of the Brier—I'm not sure how many calories it carries, but it looks great all sprinkled up in Brier colours ... and if you can't get to the JLC to pick up one of these donuts but you are in London, you should be able to find one at any store. I wonder just how many donuts they have baked this week so far ...

Big shout out to Glenn Howard for taking a moment to pose for a picture with my niece and I ... what good is an aunt with connections if you don't use them? Thanks Glenn!

The frost still seems to be a problem and its quite evident in the evening draws. The $40,000 dehumidifiers are here, and I'm pretty sure they're working ... in fact, I can hear them kicking in as I sit here. We aren't on the seaside so why is there so much frost? Wonder what today is going to be like with the weathermen calling for nine degrees above celsius here in London ... get out your hair brooms, boys!

Yesterday I had a front row seat to a little controversy that has those on the media bench talking. The Ontario versus PEI game ended after only five ends with the score—11-1—favouring Ontario. Brier competitors are required to play a minimum seven of the 10 ends, but the Islanders conceded quite early.

Rumours are swirling that PEI and crew are going to be fined by the Canadian Curling Association, and the price tag of that fine—depending on who you talk to—is anywhere from $200 to $1,000. The last number I heard was $500, to which Team Ontario offered to pay half—which will no doubt upset the CCA as well. There are competing versions on how things went down ... did they ask the officials, or did they just quit? I happen to see both sides of the issue and I understand why the rule was put in place, but is it a good rule and should they be enforcing it in this case with a fine?

Curling guy with two cuties... thanks Glenn!

Curling guy with two cuties... thanks Glenn!

My feeling is NO. This game was over after the first two ends. You could certainly tell by the body language of the PEI skip that he did not want to be on the ice. What I don't understand is why, in these types of situations, the athletes can't go to the home-end official to radio the head official (Keith Reilly) with the request that they would like to concede?

In almost all the games this week I have seen Keith Reilly sitting beside Warren Hansen ... do you not think they could take a look at the situation, see that three other sheets were still in play, have a little chat, and make the decision to let them concede? Should they stick with their policy—no concessions until after the seventh end—and the team does so anyway, then yes ... fine away. The CCA is starting to sound a little like the NHL with regard to inconsistent disciplinary action (I remember reading about Russ Howard's Brier broom toss two years ago, right here on The Curling News Blog). I realize that spectators buy tickets this might be the only chance that they get to see Ontario—or PEI, for that matter—and that might be the reason fans came to the game ... but who really wants to sit and watch a team get their asses handed to them? Do you think Glenn and Co. enjoyed being out there anymore than PEI?

I just think that fining a team because they wanted to concede ASAP due to a drilling is silly, particularly when we hear the F-word, broom slamming and other curling etiquette violations occurring and going on regularly—without fines. I am sure this will cause some discussions as there are arguments for both sides ... but just that fact alone should indicate that perhaps a flexible rule, giving the head official the final decision, might be more beneficial than such a black-and-white regulation.

Finally, the big question heading into tonight's final round robin draw: is Team Alberta headed for the Page playoff 3 versus 4 game?

Stay tuned!