Thunder Bay

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This is the 56th Canadian Junior Championship (women started in 1971) but the first under the sponsorship of longtime curling supporter M&M Meat Shops. From the shock and surprise of the cancellation of the popular M&M Meat Shops Skins in December comes M&M’s repositioning within the national curling landscape. They're now part of the Canadian Curling Association’s Season of Champions, and they still maintains support of teams (the Middaughs, Sherry and Wayne) and of course clubs, coast to coast, at the franchise level.

There’s our old friend, and Olympic skip/second-in-waiting, Russ Howard. Russ blew into town Sunday night and is here with his wife Wendy cheering on daughter Ashley, who throws second stones for the identical-twin McGuire sisters representing New Brunswick.

CurlTV is here as well... broadcasting every single draw of this event up to and including the semi-finals, whereupon CBC takes over. Why oh why, dear reader, do you not subscribe to CurlTV?

We’re assuming Chinese is on the menu for dinner tonight. For those who have never curled or spectated in this isolated but warm Northern Ontario curling hotbed, both major city clubs – Port Arthur and Fort William, both co-hosting the Juniors – operate popular Chinese food kitchens. It’s a well-known TBay curling tradition... although it is possible to find a hamburger or sandwich among the fabulous Kung Pao Chicken.

Russ looks relaxed, and there’s no sign of TV cameras setting up for tomorrow’s Canadian Olympic flagbearer announcement. Russ might not have made the cut but he and his new Newfie friends have a chance to carry it in the closing ceremony, beginning Feb. 13...

• We’re still awaiting word from the IOC on the fate of Great Britain’s claim to official 1924 Olympic curling gold (and Swedish silver and French bronze). Exhuming ancient documentation obviously takes some time... and it’s not like the Olympic movement isn’t busy, opening the Torino 2006 Olympic Village just two days from now...

• CanRock music magazine Chartis all over the heavy-metal curling story; they’ve also tracked down two more rock n’ roll curling occasions, both of them domestic...

• Great to see a U.S. sports website profile the sport in advance of Torinto. Too bad to see it riddled with inaccuracies. Even worse to see the profile picked up by other media outlets including Washington...

• Still with America, here’s a look at curling in Maryland; and this gal in Mississippi is way too grumpy...

• The Olympic features are starting to sprout: here’s one of two on defending Olympic women’s champ Rhona Martin; the other tells of her isolated training in a cell-phone-free area of Scotland...

• A whack of women’s provincials are underway this week, including Manitoba, where Kristy Jenion’s third Lisa Roy (see the December issue of TCN) is enjoying a homecoming after a tough ordeal...

• The U.S. nationalfield is set, with the winners heading to the worlds in Grande Prairie (women) and Lowell, MA (men’s) respectively...

• This U.S. mag claims to knowwhere to throw rocks down south;

• There’s been minor debate in Canada about TV hockey announcers using atypical slang in describing the action; now a player, Paul Kariya, has taken it to the extreme with a bizarro curling reference...

• Alberta’sKia Cup stands to be one humdinger of a tourney ;

• Finally, a report on Robin Welsh, the son of one of the Scottish curlers involved in the 1924 Olympic hullaballoo, who himself served the sport faithfully for decadesuntil his passing last weekend at age 86...