Putting together the field for a Continental Cup the year after the Olympics is almost as much of a kick as selecting the lineup for a chorus line.
And the one put together for the seventh edition of the multi-format North America versus the World 11-draw, four day curling event set for St. Albert has the sort of sizzle to produce a potent prediction from host committee chairman Mike Howes.
“I don’t think it’ll take us a week to get it sold out,” he said of the Jan. 13-16 event in the 2,100-seat Servus Centre.
“All the indications we have are that we’ll sell it out pretty fast,” Howes added of the quirky competition which follows the 1999 and 2005 Briers, 2007 Worlds and 2009 Olympic Trials which drew a combined 885,694 in Edmonton.
It’s a no brainer to start with Kevin Martin’s Olympic gold medal winners and Kevin Koe’s world champion teams from the world capital of curling.
Automatic, as well, is the selection of the “Vancougar” Cheryl Bernard and her Olympic silver medal-winning team from Calgary and former world champion Jennifer Jones from Winnipeg.
Add the American champions Pete Fenson and Erika Brown, as the format demands, and that’s the North American team without even having to think about it.
Invite Thomas Ulsrud of Norway, with the loud jester-style pants, and you have a rematch of the Olympic gold medal final which drew a television audience of more than seven million in Canada alone.
Ulsrud and team spent two weeks leading into Vancouver 2010 training in Edmonton.
Invite Bingyu Wang of China, who spent the entire Olympic quadrennial training in Edmonton and vicinity to develop into a world championship team which won Olympic bronze, and you have another “home” team.
Add 2010 world champion Andrea Schoop from Germany and two-time Olympic silver medal-winner Mirjam Ott from Switzerland and charismatic young Swedish hot shot Niklas Edin who finished fourth at the Olympics and you are one team shy of a loaded field.
Just for the fun of it, organizers put together the first all-star team in the history of the event featuring two-time world champion and five-time Continental Cup participant David Murdoch of Scotland at skip, third Ralph Stockli and lead Simon Strubin of Switzerland and Andreas Lang of Germany.
Choosing 2002 Olympic gold medal winner Pal Trulsen of Norway and three-time world champion Peja Lindholm of Sweden as captain and coach of the World team adds arguably the two biggest European names in the sport. Canada is honoring Neil Harrison and Rick Lang with the positions.
And making St. Albert’s Marc Kennedy, Martin’s second, the poster boy for the event and saving his “day” to match the one St. Albert gave for their other gold medal winners Jarome Iginla and Meaghan Mikkelson, for the week of the event, completes the effect of the event which has a $1 million budget.
With new title sponsorship from the World Financial group, 30 local sponsors, 28 board members and 310 volunteers, including two from Minnesota as well as people from every province this side of Quebec, Hey Romeo, The Chevelles and Souled Out signed up for on-site Keith’s Patch appearances, all that’s left is to sell the $275 all-event tickets which go on sale Friday.
And they’ll have Kennedy making all the promotional appearances between now and then.
“It’s an incredibly fun format for players and fans. It can’t compare to anything else in our sport,” said Kennedy of the singles, doubles, mixed doubles, skins, mixed skins and actual normal regular team vs. team games which is tied 3-3 going into what he calls Game 7.
“It’s perfect for me because I’m going to recognize a lot of people in the stands. It’s kind of an Olympic reunion for a lot of us on a year where we’re all taking it a little more relaxed. And it’s the event right before we get revved up to get back to the Brier and the overseas teams to try to get to the world championships.
“At the start, people aren’t really sure what to make of it and then everybody really gets into it and then it ends up with Randy Ferbey and Kevin Martin hugging each other. That’s only ever happened at a Continental Cup.”