TORONTO - It's not every day that a non-curler from the beautiful Okanagan region of British Columbia would get excited about winning a curling trip to ... Oshawa.
But we live in interesting times.
Teri Schiman of Vernon, B.C., threw a winning stone a couple weeks ago during the Swiss Chalet National at her hometown Westbild Centre and just like that, Schiman is now off to the BDO Canadian Open curling championship in Oshawa on Jan. 30.
The 37-year-old has qualified to be one of the participants in the grand finale of the Capital One Million Dollar Button contest. The event will conclude with one person getting to throw a curling stone for a reward of up to $1 million.
There are two very cool aspects to this contest.
First is that anyone can enter for the chance to throw for big bucks. In fact, three of the final Oshawa contestants will be drawn randomly from online entries received at the www.milliondollarbutton.ca website (entries close Jan. 8).
And if Teri Schiman can do it -- having never thrown a curling stone before--why can't you?
The second aspect is "The Twist" as folks are calling it. New this year is an option that will be presented to the final contestant, allowing him or her to choose to throw for the lesser amount of $100,000 ... but with the assistance of some, er, professionals.
Namely, three of the big-name curling stars competing in the televised final of the BDO Canadian Open.
So that's the question -- what would you choose?
To throw for $1 million unassisted, all alone, or to throw $100,000 with some brushing power from Kevin Martin's sweepers, and some strategic help from Glenn Howard?
"I would probably choose the broom, and the sweeping thing," Schiman said, laughing. "I'm not a curler, and how often are you going to get a chance like this?"
Not so for Louis Ienna. In November, the twice-weekly recreational curler from Tecumseh, Ont., won his spot in Oshawa and he is thinking big bucks all the way.
"This is a dream come true," Ienna said. "One million on my own."
Once the final contestant is declared, the big throw will take place live on CBC television, adding to the drama.
These and other contests are becoming more and more common across Canadian curling rinks.
Many charity curling bonspiels allow the top fundraisers to select their "celebrity" curling skip in advance.
A Canadian Curling Association online contest mimicks their "Hot Shots" competition and allows the winning contestant to drive away in a new car.
Another CCA contest merges curling with golf, as the contestant must putt a golf ball down a sheet of ice at the Brier toward a target for a $100,000 prize.
But the lure of that single shot for a million bucks ... that's a tough contest to beat. And the tough choice to make: Would you go for the million, or try for less (money) with more (help)?
Speaking of contests, The Curling News is offering three prize packages for January's TSN Curling Skins Game at Casino Rama just north of Barrie. Enter online at: thecurlingnews.com/contest... Wayne Middaugh's provincial hopes took a surprising tumble when he lost not one but two recent zone playoff finals in Toronto. High Park's Roy Arndt upended Middaugh in the A-side final, and then it was 1998 Olympian Mike Harris who triumphed in the B-side final. Middaugh and his St. George's foursome can still qualify for The Dominion Tankard finals in Grimsby, but they will have to win a berth at the tough Challenge Round in either Shelburne or Oshawa.
George Karrys is curlinguru.com