Curling fans will finally get to eavesdrop

(Reuters file photo)

(Reuters file photo)

TERRY JONES, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:43 PM ET

Picture the scene. Rexall Place full with 16,000-plus fans for the 2013 Brier, with everybody wearing a "bug" in their ear.

Last rock in the Saskatchewan-Newfoundland game on Sheet B. Is Brad Gushue really thinking of trying a come-around angle freeze on the button? Listen in.

Last rock in the Alberta-Nova Scotia game on Sheet D. Is Kevin Martin going to contemplate a 10-foot raise, angle double takeout? Eavesdrop.

Last rock in the Ontario-Manitoba tilt on Sheet A. You don't think Glenn Howard is talking about trying a double runback, roll behind cover? Hear the debate.

Coming soon to a major curling event near you is a fan experience which no other sport will be able to offer.

Indeed, coming to you at the Continental Cup in St. Albert this week is an experiment which Warren Hansen of the Canadian Curling Association believes will be the future.

"I think if all of this works well, fans will soon be able to listen to what's going on with the curlers as they discuss shot strategy on every sheet.

"It's progressing there in our minds right now. We're just not sure how quickly things will be able to move.

"We will be experimenting with getting the transmitter situation correct at the Continental Cup so the special FM radio bugs will be able to be used at the Scotties in Charlottetown and the Tim Hortons Brier in London.

"For the Continental Cup, anyone who brings an FM radio to the venue can easily tune into the TSN commentators on the broadcast. We'll get this up and running by the Scotties where fans will be able to either bring their own radio or purchase one of the inexpensive headsets from from our merchandise area."

Curling TV numbers have become the phenomenon of the sports world.

Indeed, four of the teams competing for the Continental Cup -- Canada's Kevin Martin, Norway's Thomas Ulsrud, Germany's Andrea Schopp and Canada's Cheryl Bernard -- all played before almost seven million on Canadian television alone during the gold-medal games of the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games.

As was the case with the Torino 2006 and Salt Lake 2002 Olympics, the TV numbers reported around the world were mind boggling for the often ridiculed sport where they throw rocks at houses and sweep pimpled ice with brooms.

"The use of rf mics is what has set curling apart from all other sports and has been a contributing factor to the large television numbers we enjoy today," Hansen, a former Brier winner curling with Hec Gervais, who also won three Little Grey Cups playing football with the Edmonton Huskies.

"We also allow the cameras in very tight on the curlers so someone sitting in their living room feels as if they are right there in the conversation between the skip and vice skip.

"It is the only sport where the television viewer feels as if they are in the midst of the action. I believe the result is that it has brought in a great many viewers who otherwise may not be there."

The trouble is, it meant that the guy watching at home for free on TV was, although missing the live atmosphere and the experience of being there, which was phenomenal at the Vancouver Olympics, was being cheated out of the thing which has made the sport compelling on TV.

This will now bring that component into play for those sitting in the stands.

"Our initial plan is to easily make it possible for all fans to listen to the FM signal provided by TSN. Making the rf mics available on every sheet would be the next step. but we aren't there yet."

If this becomes a part of the live curling experience, it will be a legacy of the Vancouver Olympics where the bugs were made available to the crowd and Edmonton radio host Jackie Ray Greening, the organizing committee chairman of the 2005 Brier, 2007 Worlds and 2009 Olympic Trials here, delivered a running commentary to the crowd, directing their attention from one sheet to the other.

"The experiment with Jackie Rae worked very well, which is why we're expanding the idea this year with plans to create something even more extensive for the future.

"I thing one of the reasons it was especially popular in Vancouver was because a large percentage of the audience was not very familiar with curling," said Hansen.

"Actor Donald Sutherland was at the venue a lot in the latter days and he always had on a headset."

Follow me on Twitter.com/sunterryjones


Videos

Photos