by Jill Officer
REGINA – Wow, that was one wild end-of-round-robin-Thursday.
It was no surprise to me that Team China gave Canada a game in the morning. Although I’m not totally sure how that happened because the Chinese didn’t exactly play “lights out”. I think there were just a few fine shots made, here and there, that kept China in the game. But make no mistake, Jeff Stoughton and his team really did have control of the match despite being tied coming home, before Stoughton made his draw for the win.
The skipper said after the game that he felt his opponents were trying to keep the game close. But one of the biggest questions in the game came when the Chinese, without last rock, threw their lead's first stone into the house in the ninth end. No one is really sure what the strategical thinking was on that call, but the Canadians were obviously happy they could blank it out. On Stoughton’s last rock of the ninth end, he had to opportunity to do his famous spin-o-rama, but he didn’t... and the crowd booed him for it! Even lead Steve Gould apparently booed him!
Speaking of Gould, he had some harsh thoughts after the match on Team China’s on-ice tactics, and the big c-word was mentioned (cheating)... which you can read about by clicking here. What do you think?
Stoughton was asked after the game if (hypothetically) he was one of the other teams playing against his team, how would he have played that ninth end? Stoughton responded by saying “very well.” And after a brief silence in the scrum, he added “I’m not going to tell you! They (opposition) read the papers too!”
I’m getting the sense that many curlers won’t admit if they have any superstitions before their games. They call them “routines.” I did a little story for Global Regina today on whether there are some players that have any superstitions, but few would admit to any.
Scottish Skip Tom Brewster acknowledged a couple; he said that if he found a lucky penny before the event he is sure to carry in his pocket, and that he doesn't change his socks! Meanwhile, Swedish third Sebastian Kraupp said that he has a lucky pair of underwear that he wears for championship games. Unfortunately for him, he spent 40 minutes the other day searching his bags looking for them, with no success, so he’s sure he left them back home in Sweden. Oops.
I don’t really blame any athletes for declining to acknowledge superstitions. I’ve recently wondered if my pre-game and overall event routines actually are superstitions... but I also don’t want to admit it!
Did you know that Neil Houston, 1986 world men’s champion (with skip Ed Lukowich) and current Event Manager of the Ford Worlds was the mind behind the invention of the sensored hog-line handles? During an Up Close and Personal session in the Patch yesterday, Houston talked about the idea. He said he remembers the year that Randy Ferbey was playing in the Worlds in Switzerland and his team suffered three hogline violations in one game. After that, Houston thought “Enough! Something has to be done to remove the human error." He pursued the idea, which included discussions with Canadian cross-country ski officials, as they use a similar technology in their sport. Then, a group of students from the University of Saskatchewan took it on as a project and it ended up being manufactured by a Saskatchewan-based company. The first time the handles were used? The Continental Cup, in December of 2001... just nine months after Ferbey’s hogline problems in Switzerland.
Last night there was still the possibility that five losses could make it into the playoffs, and officials dropped off a big fat booklet outlining all the scenarios. Crazy. In the end, Stoughton missed his last shot in a colourful battle with the Norwegians and France beat the U.S. meaning that Sweden gets third place, and it’s NOR vs FRA today in a tiebreaker for fourth place!
Canada, of course, finished first and Scotland second, meaning those two teams will clash in the Page 1 vs 2 game for a spot in the final.
There was more craziness, between Norway’s pants (of course) and Team Canada’s stovepipe hats... and of course the Canadian coaching staff, which brought out some life-size cardboard cutouts of themselves in the fourth end, so that they could take some popcorn into the stands with a rowdy group of fans. I went up and asked the coaches whose idea this was, and while they all pointed at coach Norm Gould (who refused to take credit for the idea). They had the cutouts printed here in Regina through an event sponsor.
But the best part came between the ninth and 10th ends of the game when Coach Norm, along with alternate Garth Smith and National Coach Rick Lang began yelling and cheering, which caught the attention of the squad down on the ice. Turns out there was a group of nine of them – the team, coaching staff, national coach Paul Webster plus the team’s driver) that had purchased 50/50 tickets... and lo and behold, they won the $18,840 pot!
Are you kidding me?!
Photos 2 through 4 by Anil Mungal copyright The Curling News® – click on all images to increase size