Russ set to rock the mic

Russ Howard in action at his 14th and final Brier. (DALENE HECK, The Curling News)

Russ Howard in action at his 14th and final Brier. (DALENE HECK, The Curling News)

GEORGE KARRYS, Special to QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 2:42 PM ET

TORONTO - The mobile smartphone belonging to Scott Higgins buzzed over and over.

"All those questions I had about curling, I'm getting the answers now," said the TSN producer.

Higgins has been the man behind live curling coverage on The Sports Network for the past seven seasons. With the Grey Cup now finished, attention is quickly turning to The Roaring Game. This coming weekend, in fact, marks the return of TSN Championship Curling, presented under the Canadian Curling Association's Season of Champions brand.

The Canada Cup features 20 men's and women's teams battling for cash, bragging rights and berths into future championships. Round-robin play began Wednesday in Medicine Hat, Alta., with Saturday and Sunday playoff action on the airwaves.

"It's a transition year," said Higgins. "It's a new (Olympic) quadrennial, a new era ... also because Ray's not here?

Winnipeg's Ray Turnbull said farewell to the curling commentary booth in April after 25 years, and earned a Gemini nomination in the process. His part in the famed troika of talking heads, which includes Toronto's Vic Rauter and Vancouver's Linda Moore, will be taken by Russ Howard.

Sort of.

"Russ is not replacing Ray -- Russ is Russ," pointed out Higgins.

He's right. Turnbull won a Brier playing lead, taught instructional clinics all over the world and was an on-ice official before the TV cameras beckoned. He was beloved by fans and well known for loud suits.

"He called himself the Don Cherry of curling," Higgins said.

Howard, of course, won three Briers, lost another four finals, competed in 14 in total, won Olympic gold, won hundreds of thousands of dollars, wrote two books and has a braying bellow of a sweeping call that can melt an on-ice player microphone.

Russ is definitely Russ.

"When the rock stops my skip brain kicks into gear," said Howard. "I try to let the viewers know the thinking process that might or might not be going through the player's heads.

"Hopefully we can help the average club curler or novice, and make him or her more knowledgeable."

After a successful season hosting TSN morning curling duties with Toronto's Bryan Mudryk, Howard is ready for this weekend's launch of the Vic, Russ and Linda era.

But when morning draws return in late February -- at the Scotties women's championship-- where will Howard be?

"I don't know," Howard laughed.

Higgins isn't commenting either, and with morning games still two months away, TSN is in no rush to make a decision.

What about Howard and Mudryk in the morning, Vic and Linda in the afternoon, and all three in the evenings?

"That would make sense, and they would save a salary," Howard said.

"But that means I've got to be up early and stay up late, so that would be no fun. I'd need an afternoon nap."

Higgins was off to the air-p ort on Wednesday, but revealed some nuggets viewers can watch for.

"We'll have over 240 hours of curling coverage this season, and every game will be broadcast in high-definition," Higgins said.

And what about the first curling broadcast in 3D?

"I have no idea about that one," Higgins said. "But I'd like to think we'll have some new show elements in the future. I'm always on the lookout for new stuff, particularly given new technologies.

"It's the name of our (TV) game."

BROOM BITS

Winnipeg's Mike McEwen heads into the Canada Cup with three consecutive World Curling Tour wins, and four wins in his last five... Glenn Howard is there but with Wayne Middaugh at third stone ... Scott Howard is also there with his Ottawa junior squad.


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