Howard taking it easy

IAN BUSBY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:42 AM ET

As teams battle it out this weekend in Prince George, B.C., for spots in the Olympics Trials, Russ Howard can sit back and relax.

The veteran curler has already booked his spot in Vancouver. That would be as an analyst for the consortium of Olympic broadcasters.

Howard has a gold medal from Turin 2006, with Brad Gushue's Newfoundland team, so the pressure is off.

"Four years ago, I remember saying to my wife that it would be neat to go to an Olympics and take it all in as a fan," Howard said.

"Obviously, we were under duress when we were there, so it was tough to call it a holiday. Now that I'm working (as a broadcaster), I'm excited to get out when there is a bit of downtime."

There won't be much quiet time this curling season, and not for Howard either even though he's not competing.

The Moncton, N.B., resident will do the Olympic Trials Dec. 6-13 in Edmonton, the Olympics in February, the Scott Tournament of Hearts, the national junior tournaments and the Brier.

Howard was all set to do the Brier last March in Calgary, then he went ahead and qualified from New Brunswick, shirking his TV duties.

There will be no more Tom Watson-esque events where Howard tries to play and uses a broadcast job as a backup. Watson did that at the Open Championship this summer, then made it to the final grouping. The same scenario happened for Howard last spring.

"I said there was a small chance I could win the provincials, so what do we do then?" Howard said. "They said if you win, don't worry about it. So they gave me the week off.

"Last year, they let me off the hook. This year, I've committed to TSN. It's not fair to them. If I'm lucky enough to win every second year, that's not a good deal for my boss."

Splintered sports

Sportsnet is now hitting fight fans hard in pushing viewers into subscribing to all four of the network's stations.

In a rare free-on-TV card, UFC 105 from Manchester, England will be shown live on Sportsnet East and Ontario but not on Pacific and West, although it will be rebroadcast that night on all four channels.

The Net caught some heat during the baseball playoffs for showing games on selected channels, but it continues to keep prime programming off the entire gamut. UFC is quite brilliant in moving selected cards to cable. Knowing pay-per-view for the live card wouldn't be an easy sell for an afternoon show here in North America, getting exposure like this is a side benefit.

Around the dial

If only a broadcaster could figure out how the Saskatchewan Roughriders could play the Toronto Maple Leafs. TSN released the numbers on its top five CFL games this season, and four involved the Riders. Despite early season struggles by the Leafs, Sportsnet had a record number of 845,000 viewers for a regional broadcast when Phil Kessel made his debut.

ian.busby@sunmedia.ca


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