TSN curling crew eager to rock again

ROB BRODIE -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 10:33 AM ET

It'll be just like old times for curling fans when the first rocks are thrown at the Olympic trials tomorrow.

Round-robin draws, back on TSN.

And Vic Rauter, Ray Turnbull and Linda Moore in the broadcast booth, calling the games again.

Hard to tell who's happier. Curling fans who dearly missed the trio during curling's season of TV upheaval in 2004-05, or the TSN gang themselves.

"I'm thrilled to death about it," Rauter said this week before heading off to Halifax for the trials, which begin tomorrow at the Metro Centre (see listings). "Quite honestly, I never expected this to happen so quickly."

TSN's lengthy run as a curling broadcaster seemed dead in the water when the Canadian Curling Association signed a four-year deal with the CBC in the summer of 2004. What followed was a season filled with acrimony from fans forced to flip around three channels to find the games at the Brier, Scott Tournament of Hearts and Ford worlds.

"We were like an old pair of shoes," said Rauter. "People became comfortable with us. And people don't like change, they really don't."

But now the sport has, in a sense, gone back to the future. A revised agreement brought TSN back on board in a sub-licensing capacity, and it'll air two draws a day leading up to the final weekend, which CBC will carry (morning draw coverage can be found on the Internet at CurlTV.com).

"Full credit to the CBC," said Rauter. "If they don't say let's turn the clock back and bring you back as a sub-contractor to the original deal ... that's why we're back in the game."

And it's a game, he'll tell you, that he missed badly last winter. Rauter still had plenty of work to do -- figure skating, auto racing, bowling and the NBA -- but it wasn't the same.

"It was difficult (not being there)," he said. "This was a part of my life for 19 years.

"There was enough on my plate, but I missed the game, I missed the curlers and I missed the fans."

The feeling was clearly mutual, a fact reinforced by the websites and thousands of e-mails last season that demanded the TSN trio's return.

Rauter admitted being "very surprised and taken aback" by the public reaction.

"It was heartwarming, to say the least."


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