Masters/Euros score in Waterloo/Basel

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A recap of the first Grand Slam of the season, The Home Hardware Masters of Curling, before we spend a lot of time in Europe ...

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ICE – Muy bueno. Scotland's Tom Brewster called it "the best he's ever played on". That's good praise, coming from a Slam veteran who benn known to make a keen sheet of ice himself.

TEAMS – Great lineup, and a lot of snickering was abruptly shushed when Oakville's John Base made it all the way to the semi-finals – after an 0-2 start – before blowing out his leg in a blowout loss to eventual champion Glenn Howard. Come on, people, this is curling and you're supposed to know the basic rule – anyone beating anyone on any given day blah blah – plus the team's basic personnel bios, so there's no surprise at the Baseman's performance. Smarten up.

TV – The return of CBC Country Canada (!!) and then the main CBC network debuting its Slam coverage was something that old goats (like us) once doubted we would ever see. But it was a great show, and it scored 360,000 viewers for the Sunday final (average) with a peak of 450,000. And speaking of the show...

FORMAT – The eight-end debate is back in a big way, and the reactions are mixed; see this thread on CurlingZone for a variety of interesting thoughts. And this has spawned two other big discussions (here and here) on first-end hammer value, and the caveat that a change to eight ends may require adopting the draw-the-button-for-hammer rule. Could be the way of the future, folks, and the near-future at that...

EXTRAS – Inducting Eddie The Wrench and both sets of 1983 and 1990 teammates into the Asham WCT Ambassador Award club (see the autograph card above) was a brilliant idea, and a great evening was had by all. The Ambassdor Award banners hanging from the arena rafters, which will travel to each and every Slam moving forward, is another great touch. Volunteers: top-notch, and a special congrats for pulling it all together in three months. Venue: somewhere between good and perfect, the display booths (well, hello there TCN) along the upper "running track" were a great touch. Prize money and Olympic qualifying points: lots were up for grabs, and Team G Howard are loving both of them. As Slam chief Paul Boutilier told the K-W Record: "You would have to win the Ontario title three-and-half times to get the same points." Indeed.

Elsewhere:

• This big Globe & Flail story by Bob Weeks on CurlingZone's fantabulous Black Book of Curling has piqued the interest of some Sabremetrics disciples; could be the beginning of a fascinating mathematical relationship ...

• In Basel, the Le Gruyère European Championships are in full roar, and in no particular order:
- Mighty Uusis is still winning late after losing early;
- Andrea Schöpp is actually smiling;
- and Scotland’s David Murdoch was having a really, really, REALLY bad day – also explained here – but his 5-0 record must be cheering him up by now.

And if anyone’s wondering, we weren’t at the arena (er, whoops) to see Murdoch’s big shot against the French on Tuesday, which means we can’t quite help you decipher this Times writers’ delightfully inexplicable description of it. However, TCN's own Mike Haggerty did a wee better job, and we give him props for great use of the word "outrageous" ...

Also, a few pieces of luggage are still apparently outstanding; a member of the women’s team is running short (and dry) of contact lenses, which could pose quite the problem. And the coaching staff are, en masse, S.O.L. regarding their bags, and are probably washing their sole set of clothing in the bathtub at night. Welcome to your new job, Delboy ...