December 28, 2009
A decade curling won't soon forget
By GEORGE KARRYS, Special to Sun Media
Just to add to the numerous sports lists compiled at this time of the year, here is a look at some of curling's most notable moments over the past decade.
Randy Ferbey's Edmonton foursome appeared in five consecutive Brier finals (2001-05), winning four titles and three world crowns. Such ownership makes them a shoo-in for men's team of the decade.
On the women's side, the Jones girls -- Colleen from Halifax and Jennifer from Winnipeg -- shared top team honours, with the ultimate nod going to the veteran CBC broadcaster. She appeared in three world finals, winning twice, while the young lawyer made just one final (and scored gold) in 2006. The gum-chomping Maritimes skip did it with a far smaller fan base, too.
It wasn't because of numerous mentions on TV shows, and not even a long list of celebrity curling fans (including Toby Keith and George Clooney) can be credited. Curling's single biggest watershed moment -- when the sport finally was accepted into the social mainstream -- came when the streaker hit the ice at the 2006 Turin Olympics.
Clad in a Monty Pythonesque handkerchief, dishwasher gloves and with a rubber chicken strategically placed, the fellow disrupted the men's bronze-medal match ... and curling had, indeed, indelibly arrived.
For all his winning ways, odd occurrences followed Kevin Martin throughout the decade. At the Salt Lake Olympics in 2002, Martin slipped on a delivery against Sweden, yelled a "whoops" and shoved the stone whilst sliding on his knees.
He ended up making a great shot he never could have attempted.
Last March in Moncton, the Old Bear threw away his next-to-last stone on purpose, and missed his final toss to lose the world final. Such a "pass" might work well in the odd skins game, but is not recommended for a global championship.
In offering clear sightlines (no helmets or other headgear), sound (intimate on-ice microphones) and average-joe appeal, curling's athletes delivered some powerful moments:
* Team Ferbey's David Nedohin, lying on the ice in Lausanne, Switzerland, in 2001, covering his face in his hands while the Swiss celebrated his last-rock semifinal miss.
* Youthful Brad Gushue, grabbing a mobile phone moments after winning 2006 Olympic gold in Italy to call his cancer-stricken mother back home in Newfoundland.
* Quebec's first francophone Brier victory in 2006, with Jean-Michel Menard's unexpected champions screaming and bouncing all over the arena in a remarkable celebration.
* In contrast, the 2000 Brier in Saskatoon stopped dead in its tracks to honour the memory of Sandra Schmirler, the three-time world champion and mother of two who died of cancer just two years after her Olympic triumph in Nagano. Players blinked back tears in the hushed arena while miles away in Regina, the funeral service was televised live on three different TV channels.
It wouldn't be curling without boardroom dramatics.
The men's athlete "boycott" of Brier playdowns from 2001 through 2003 polarized the sport but eventually led to a viable Grand Slam event series, plus a final solution to decades of athlete/mandarin squabbling.
The TV coverage debacle of 2006-07, in which CBC first won and then gloriously lost an exclusive multi-year television contract, made media headlines and embarrassed the sport.
Whenever before (and whenever again) has/will public anger allow contracts to be torn up and multimillion-dollar broadcast landscapes change in the blink of an eye?
Bullet runbacks from Mark Nichols (2006 Olympic final) and Glenn Howard (2009 Brier vs. Sask.) may be YouTube favourites, but the in-off double by Jennifer Jones to win the 2005 Scotties Tournament of Hearts on last stone was, according the CBC's Mike Harris, the "greatest shot to ever win a championship".