It's a real tough way to be making a living

TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 7:34 AM ET

At the Edmonton 2005 Brier, Wayne Middaugh made headlines by accusing Randy Ferbey, Dave Nedohin, Scott Pfeifer and Marcel Rocque of being professionals. In Chapter 16 of The Ferbey Four, Terry Jones's new hardcover book (Dragon Hill, $29.95), the team tackles 'The Pros And Cons Of Being Pros,' as the chapter is entitled. The serialization of the book continues throughout the week. The book is available this week at Greenwoods, Audreys, Volume II Books, Hub Cigar, as well as Save-on-Foods St. Albert, Calgary Trail, Kingsway and Mayfield Common and will be available soon at all bookstores and most of the 90 curling clubs around northern Alberta.

THIRD IN A SERIES OF FIVE

Curling, as a business, isn't a way to get rich quick. Or slowly. Or even at all.

But if you have won four Briers and three world championships and have a skip who has won six Briers and four world titles, you can try to come close to making what you'd make as a professional butcher, baker or candlestick maker ... by being, well, professional.

That's what the Ferbey Four did during the 2005-06 Turin Olympic year and what they hope to continue to do through Vancouver 2010.

"Our team took an approach that I don't believe any other team in the world ever took before," said Dave Nedohin.

"We became very professional about it.

"I don't mean professional in the terms of Wayne Middaugh 'accused' us of being at the Brier in Edmonton.

"I mean from an organizational perspective. This includes meetings, on-ice and off-ice dress, media, marketing, promotion ...

"We decided we had a lot to offer. We believed if there was any curling team in the world that could add value to sponsors, it was our team.

WORLD OF NASCAR

"We took a page out of the most successful sponsorship-driven sport in the world - NASCAR. We used that as the model for how a team should look, act and promote themselves," said Nedohin.

"Sponsorship is very difficult to come by in curling.

"For some reason it always seems that businessmen think that because these guys work for a living that they don't need the same money as a figure skater.

"This always baffles me since curlers can provide way more advertising and promotional potential than many other sports simply because we are on television and in the newspapers with our on-ice clothes on a weekly basis through the winter," said Nedohin, adding that back in 1997 when the team was put together they had $2,000-to-$3,000 of sponsorship and that it didn't grow much until they started winning Briers.

FEELING FORTUNATE

"We were fortunate enough to hook up with a few great sponsors and capitalized to a level no other team in the history of curling had ever done before," said Nedohin.

"We chose on-ice jackets and branded them with our sponsors - title sponsor World Financial Group, Purdy's Chocolates, Purolator Courier, Denmar Energy Services and JVC."

The sponsors were prominent no matter where the TV cameras or still photographers focused.

"Other curlers teased us that we looked like billboards.

"We did.

"That was the idea.

"We were determined to show the world that curlers were marketable.

"With likely double the amount of sponsorship any team has ever seen before, we think we were successful."

Nedohin is the head of finances for the business of being The Ferbey Four.

He lays it all out.

"The top three or four teams can make enough, with a great season and good sponsorship, to support their families in a modest sort of way for that season.

"The difficulty lies in the fact that any one team will not likely be in the top three or four consistently, year after year. And sponsorship is very hard to come by."

Nedohin explains that with an $1,100 entry fee, air fare, hotels, meals, etc., the average is more than $5,000 to compete in a cashspiel away from home.

"On the average weekend, our goal is the qualifying money. That's usually about $4,000 and means you're in the final eight of a 32-team event. Get that qualifying money and you'll end up doing OK."

Once you've qualified, the money in a good spiel usually breaks down to something like $15,000 for the winner, $10,000 for second, $6,000 for third and fourth and $4,000 for the other four rinks.

"Really the only way to make any money worth talking about is through the Skins game, the four Grand Slams, and the Canadian Curling Association events - the Continental Cup, Canada Cup and the Brier."

Counting all of their sources of winnings, the Ferbey Four has earned over $200,000 three times in a single season. No other team has ever done it three times and only Kevin Martin has done it twice.

"Over a season it will work out to about $100,000 in expenses," says Nedohin.

"That leaves $100,000 to the team. We're talking $25,000 clear per player. If that still sounds OK, now factor in the time off work."

GOOD THINGS HAPPEN

Still, it isn't work with the right four guys and some mind-bogging success. And sometimes good things come to you. Like Ferbey getting a commercial for Strauss and insisting the rest of the rink share in the fee.

"We weren't sure we wanted 25% of that one," said Pfeifer. "Randy looked like a raccoon in that one. We forgot how tanned he usually gets in the summer. And the commercials run in the winter."

Ferbey and Nedohin made an appearance on the popular CTV sitcom Corner Gas and were paid $700 each.

"We divided it up," said Ferbey. "Without all four individuals you don't get these opportunities."

From the dozen years between Briers, nobody asked him to do commercials or go on any TV shows.

"I owe it to them. That's the way I look at it. Besides it's not something that started with me. I think that started with Pat Ryan. He had the idea that it was unfair for him to take something that was a result of the accomplishments of the team."

Ferbey says nobody in their right mind would start out saying 'I'm going to be a professional curler.'

"We have to win our salary. You can do exceptionally well if you find the right four people, don't have any bad years and find some good sponsorship to cut down on the expenses.

"I remember talking with Ed Werenich once.

"It was at a time when there were a lot of new rinks coming on and people were talking about how well they were going to do.

MORTGAGE PAYMENTS

''Ed referred to one of them and said 'Let's see how good this guy can play when he has two small kids at home and a mortgage payment to make.

"We pay our way. We pay entry fees. It's when you go curl and come back with nothing, that's the test. That's when you have to look at your wife and kids.

''And at the same time you have to watch the other three guys going through the same thing. You have to find four top curlers who also happen to be the right four guys to get along together and be able to go through all the same things at the same time."

Not to mention their wives.


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