Last word works for CBC

ROB BRODIE -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 9:49 AM ET

All is quiet between the sheets in Halifax, with the talk squarely focused on the matter at hand.

Namely, which two teams will emerge from the 'Roar of the Rings' as Canada's hopes for curling gold at the 2006 Turin Olympics.

Gone and, for the time being at least, clearly forgotten: The acrimony -- outright anger, actually -- about the television coverage that cast a dark cloud over the proceedings at both the Scott Tournament of Hearts and Brier last season.

The round-robin draws at the Canadian Curling Trials are back on TSN, and viewership is rock solid, as they like to say -- 339,000 per draw through Tuesday, a healthy increase over the 2001 Trials (280,000).

In other words, all is as it should be. Even the folks who had the whole ball of wax last season -- the CBC -- have no quarrel with curling's 'back to the future' movement.

"It's fine with me," said Mike Harris, who'll call Saturday's women's final and Sunday's men's final with Joan McCusker and Don Wittman. "My wallet is a little thinner but beyond that, I'm happy to be involved."

'LONG GRIND'

"(Working the entire event) is a long grind, that's for sure. I certainly won't miss the workload."

It might be suggested that Wittman, Harris and McCusker were caught in the middle of the storm last season. But they clearly understand where the fans' ire was coming from -- the juggling act the CBC caused by involving digital CBC Country Canada and, eventually, The Score in its coverage plans.

"The criticism wasn't really about the shows, the criticism was about where to find the shows," said Harris. "It's wasn't like people were coming up to us and saying 'it's your fault.' "

Indeed, TSN's Vic Rauter told the Sun last week "we wouldn't be in this situation today if people had been able to find the curling."

Where they'll find the CBC gang this weekend is in its customary spot -- handling the championship games (Saturday at 1 p.m., Sunday at 12:30 p.m.), and pretty darn excited to say so, it must be said.

"It's really exciting about doing the finals," said Harris. "The games are intense, and I think it's what we do best. We've got a lot of experience in that environment."

This event, in particular, offers up a warm reminder for Harris, whose team surprised the field in winning the 1997 Trials in Brandon, Man. Harris and Co. went on to win an Olympic silver medal in Nagano in 1998.

"Definitely good memories," said Harris.

The Trials have become the sport's new holy grail, he added, with teams building around that event.

"It's definitely the biggest prize now (in curling)," Harris said. "It's once every four years and you get to be part of an even bigger team.

"That's really the thrill."

Telling the final chapter of it all?

Well, that rates right up there, too.


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