Curling builds on Olympic success

TERRY JONES, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:50 PM ET

MEDICINE HAT — You look out there at the teams beginning the new Olympic quadrennial at the Canada Cup and you want to rub your eyes.

It’s eyesores galore.

Even if you put all the different Vancouver Canucks uniforms out there together, it couldn’t be more of a dog’s breakfast of mostly appallingly awful, hideous unsightly outfits.

You can’t tell if they’re trying to look like NASCAR drivers, Tour de France cyclists, horse racing jockeys, golfers or soccer players. Maybe if they’d picked one.

The colors include a wide variety of shades of ghastly green and vary from dull and drab to the bright and psychedelic.

And they’ve got numbers on the back.

Somebody involved in the cashspiel circuit got the bright idea that curlers needed to be like other team sports and have the players wear numbers. Big ones. Little ones. Ones in square boxes. Ones in small circles.

“It just doesn’t look good. I don’t think anyone would disagree with that,” said Canadian Curling Association events manager Warren Hansen.

This is how you take advantage of the astounding success of the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games? By making some of the nearly seven million Canadians who watched Kevin Martin and Cheryl Bernard in the Olympic gold medal games turn away when they turn on the TV?

The weekend begins a new season of TSN telecasts with a dozen hours of playoff play involving the four men’s and four women’s teams to survive the week concluding with the finals Sunday.

And if the question is ‘How will curling take advantage of the staggering success of the sport at the Vancouver Olympics?’ the visuals don’t suggest the curlers have helped themselves with the combined effect of their individual attempts to appeal to the younger and less traditional fan base which showed up to watch proceedings at the Olympics.

But there are attempts, positive attempts, to make the ballistic bit of business in Vancouver grow the game even more long term.

You can start with this event finding this new spot on the schedule, the weekend after the Grey Cup, to launch TSN’s Season of Champions schedule.

“We always felt the Canada Cup was never in the right place,” said Hansen.

“Now we feel we have it in the right place. And this is where it will stay.”

The CCA plan is to run this event for three of the four years of the quadrennial and then replace it with the Olympic pre-trials and is putting together a major sponsor pitch to that end. One component of that, he suggests, will be to supply uniforms for all teams like they do at the Tim Horton’s Roar of the Rings Olympic Trials.

The Continental Cup, which plays St. Albert Jan. 13-16, will also stay in that spot on the schedule including Olympic years.

The CCA, which has had a major financial turnaround under new CEO Greg Stremlaw in the last three years, has several grass roots and club level initiatives to grow the game.

“We anticipated the effect to be good coming off Vancouver but what happened has been beyond any of our expectations,” said Danny Lamoureaux, the director of club development.

“We’ve really seen it in Ontario where there are suddenly waiting lists at some clubs a mile long. And out west there’s been a big jump in junior and high school programs.

“We have a major recruitment program aimed at the clubs with six-to-eight-week instruction programs, a startcurling.ca website and initiatives beginning in the next few weeks now that all the clubs are open and curling is on back on TV.”

The big event initiatives kick in here as TSN coverage kicks in for the season.

“From an event point of view we have developed a new theme with promotional videos, commercials and music that has the basic theme ‘You Gotta Be There’, the main point being that Vancouver 2010 made it clear you can’t appreciate the entire experience of a major event without being there.”

It’s hard to appreciate being here, however, with the blot on the landscape these unsightly uniforms have created.

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terry.jones@sunmedia.ca


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