Blond ambition

TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 9:22 AM ET

Marcel Rocque-san was introduced first.

He came out on the ice in full Japanese regalia.

Randy MacFerbey followed. The old skip wore a complete Scottish highlands getup with, he hinted, nothing under the kilt.

Yodel Nedohin came next, dressed in full alpine lederhosen

Heidi Pfeifer then skipped out with blonde hair and a dress.

Yes, it was Halloween.

But mostly it was promotional brilliance.

"We knew we had to come up with something,'' said Edmonton 2007 Ford World Curling Championship president Jackie-Rae Greening. "All we were doing was introducing our mini-packs.''

Well, it was a bit more than that.

The organizers of the March 31 to April 8, 2007 event called a press conference to announce all-event ticket package sales had reached 3,800 - or roughly 80,000 tickets - and were well on their way to a goal of 200,000 to become the biggest Ford World Curling Championship ever.

"We Rocked The Country - Now We Rock The World,'' was introduced as a slogan.

FALL RELAUNCH

There were the mini-packs for opening weekend, mid-week and final weekend ranging from $90 to $175.

A 'Canada Club' and 'Keith's Patch' set up similar to the Purple Heart Lounge and Brier Patch but with a focus on international entertainment, food and drink, was also revealed. And a full roster of 1,000 volunteers was announced.

But mostly it was the fall relaunch, to get people thinking about the event in terms of something beyond the reason the Edmonton Oilers would be spending their last six games of the season on the road.

"That Ferbey team has been amazing. They keep saying 'Whatever you need.' They look like idiots. But they said, 'OK,' '' said Greening.

"This stoops to an all-time low,'' said Rocque. "But we promised them we'd do anything. They called us on it. I guess it could have been worse. I could have ended up in the Heidi outfit instead of Scott.''

Ferbey, four-time World Curling Champion with six trips to the event so far, said it's just doing whatever you have to do to help Edmonton take the event where it's never gone before.

Despite looking like a cartoon character, Ferbey also chose the moment to lecture Canada on falling behind in international curling like we did in hockey after dominating the world for so long.

"These Europeans come over here now to learn from us. The Chinese and Japanese are here all year now. I've heard they're buying them houses in Vancouver to live between now and 2010,'' he said of the Olympic Winter Games.

"They're practising six and seven hours a day. We practise for a couple hours and then go for a few drinks.

"I'll stand here and tell you I think their coaching methods are better than ours. Fans have to realize why they are catching up.''

He said on one hand, you have to love it. "It's an Olympic sport now. And it's great to see the world getting serious about curling. You want to build the sport ... but ...

TRYING TO MAKE IT

It's a Catch-22.

"Some day I might have a Chinese or Japanese front end,'' he laughed, watching Rocque shivering in his silk kimono.

"If it will get us back to the Worlds again, maybe we'll dress like this for our first game,'' said Nedohin who, along with Pfeifer and Rocque won three world titles in four trips as the Ferbey Four.

"You have no concept of how bad we want to make it to this one,'' said Nedohin.

"I had the thrill of winning the Worlds in my hometown of Winnipeg,'' he said of the place they renamed Nedohinipeg for the occasion. "Now we all have that chance to do it here.''

Winnipeg 2003 drew 153,571 for the event with 38,892 sold at this stage. Victoria 2005 drew 116,167 with 34,719 sold by mid-November. The 2007 Brier in Hamilton has sold 16,737 tickets so far.

You get the idea. This year, the Worlds are going to be bigger than the Brier.

"We know Edmonton will raise the bar like we did for the Brier and set a new standard for the world championships,'' said Nedohin.

Press conferences, too.


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