TCA eyes Olympic boost

GEORGE KARRYS, FOR SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:55 AM ET

The fallout from Toronto's first Olympic-sized curling event in some 23 years is still reverberating.

The Grey Power World Cup of Curling, captured by Coldwater's Glenn Howard on Oct. 25 at Mississauga's Hershey Centre, scored a cumulative audience of 935,000 on CBC television.

The previous day's quarterfinal matchup, between 2006 Olympic champ Brad Gushue and current Canadian champ Kevin Martin of Edmonton, measured 435,000 viewers, an 86% increase over the 2008 audience figures.

As for the 40,000+ spectators, they contributed to an $80,000 nest egg to be split between the Greater Toronto Area's 23 curling clubs and their umbrella organization, the Toronto Curling Association.

"It's a helpful amount, and we'll be talking to the clubs to create a plan for Olympic promotion in February," said Elizabeth Woolnough, president of the TCA.

"Some clubs get phone calls and walk-ins during big TV events like the Brier, but every four years there is a big jump in curling interest, from the Olympics.

"We want to take advantage of that."

Woolnough plans to empower the clubs to decide their own best course of Olympic-style promotion. Failing a clear consensus, various ideas will be presented and directions offered.

One possibility is a mid-season open house, where each league introduces a bye system for the month of February to keep at least one sheet of ice open at all times.

Those curlers with the bye would still show up at the club, ready to assist those who have called or walked in earlier in the day, eager to try out the Roaring Game.

Some five or six Metro clubs did precisely that during the 2002 Olympic Winter Games in Salt Lake City, and the result was a plethora of new GTA curling members, captured during the peak of Olympic excitement.

Woolnough wondered if some clubs might balk at the concept of an Olympic welcome, claiming that their ice sheets are full and there is no room for new curlers.

Such selfish attitudes, should they prove to exist, are not only unwelcome -- they are dangerous.

The major reason some clubs are packed full of curling enthusiasts is because of recent closures of long-standing facilities. That's no reason for such club directors to pat themselves on the back and crow about successful club management.

In some other cases, migration between clubs leaves some stronger, while others weaker.

Woolnough says she's trying to keep the World Cup momentum going, despite the fact her organization is made up entirely of volunteers.

"Our board (of directors) is a bit small right now," said Woolnough.

"I'm trying to get the clubs to think that they themselves are the TCA; it's not just eight people who meet together once a month."

Broom bits

- They didn't meet in the final of the Grey Power World Cup, but Howard and Martin met up in the final of last night's World Curling Tour stop in Brooks, Alta. Howard won 5-3 and pocketed $22,000

Toronto's Wayne Middaugh went 3-3 during the event, and eventually was eliminated by China's Olympic team in a C-side semifinal.

- Brampton's long-running Curling Classic tournament also wrapped up last night, with former world champion Peter Corner defeating Bradford's Dale Matchett 4-2 in the men's final. Toronto's Darryl Prebble lost one of the semis.

In the all-Toronto women's finale, Julie Hastings beat Cathy Auld.

- The women's tour stop in Saskatoon featured Coldwater's Sherry Middaugh, wife of Wayne, who finished 2-3 and out of the playoffs. Middaugh's losses came against defending world champion Bingyu Wang of China, 2007 world champion Kelly Scott of Kelowna and Saskatchewan veteran Sherry Anderson.


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