October 26, 2009
Howard, T.O. are winnersWorld Cup shows Hogtown appreciates curling
By GEORGE KARRYS, FOR SUN MEDIA
The Greater Toronto Area got its curling groove back this past week, as the sport's big-name stars rocked out at Mississauga's Hershey Centre.
Coldwater's Glenn Howard scored a 6-4 win over Edmonton's hard-luck Kevin Koe to win his fourth consecutive title at the Grey Power World Cup of Curling (formerly known as the Masters).
Howard earned $24,000 and sent a message to both his fellow Canadians vying for the Olympic berth, which will be decided at Edmonton in early December, and the international teams already lying in wait, counting the days to Vancouver.
And as the World Curling Tour rolls on, with many of the World Cup competitors jetting across Canada for events over the next month prior to the Olympic trials, the pundits are left to ponder some basic facts.
A major curling event was hosted in the GTA for the first time in over 20 years, the previous one being the 1986 Silver Broom world championship at the old CNE Coliseum.
This week's event drew a heavy media presence, across all platforms.
It drew a modest 44,000 fans, still a record for Grand Slam events featuring less than 14 draws.
It also overcame a host of obstacles.
Originally planned for the Air Canada Centre, the event moved west as the economic slowdown deepened.
Traffic conditions, coming from all directions, were typically horrendous.
Organizers even had to deal with a troubled individual who targeted one of the athletes, until the trespasser was apprehended by authorities.
Through it all, the event delivered a solid on-ice product and proved that Hogtown appreciates the Roaring Game.
Make that Hogtown curlers and curling fans, who sold tickets through their clubs, volunteered in droves and arranged bus tours from the GTA's 22 curling facilities.
"We certainly had a lot of naysayers when we said we were bringing world-class curling to the GTA," said Kevin Albrecht of iSport Media and Management, owners of the Grand Slam of Curling property.
"This week proves there is a market here for the sport. We're proud of the ticket sales for a Slam event as well as a record cheque to the Toronto Curling Association. This was the best media coverage we've ever had.
"I believe that the GTA truly is a strong curling market and there is no doubt that we will be back in the GTA soon."
One wonders if city historians are aware of the sport's rich urban legacy.
Prior to the 1986 worlds, there was the Tournament of Champions carspiel at Maple Leaf Gardens in the 1960s.
And at the genesis of the sport's Canadian identity, Toronto loomed large. The city was the founding site of the first Brier -- the Canadian men's championship -- in 1927 and continued as host up all the way to 1939.
But will Toronto ever get the Brier again?
Not in the foreseeable future. The Brier was held at Copps Coliseum in Hamilton in 2007 and is now off to John Labatt Centre in London in 2011.
At the London Brier announcement last month, the Canadian Curling Association's Director of Event Operations and Media stated a blatant fear of bringing the Brier show to Toronto.
"The Brier is a unique event but we are still afraid to put it into places like Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal because there's too much competition," Warren Hansen told Sun Media.
"There is some strength in Toronto and some strength in the metropolitan aspects of Vancouver but in the centre core of the cities, it's a curling wasteland. So we try and stay away from them."
The curling fans -- even those from the wasteland -- didn't stay away from Hershey Centre last week. Nor yesterday, despite the chance to watch the championship final from the comforts of home, on CBC.
Take note, fearful ones. There may yet be some life in the big curling city.
GEORGE KARRYS, AN OLYMPIAN, IS THE PUBLISHER OF THE CURLING NEWS.