EDMONTON - When the Detroit Red Wings spent an afternoon curling with Kevin Martin’s Olympic gold medal-winning team in Edmonton a dozen days ago, it began.
“The first thing Todd Bertuzzi said to me when he walked into the rink was ‘I hear you’re playing a women’s team in the TSN Skins Game. If you lose, you can expect a call.’
“Can you imagine? With the number of friends I have who have bad senses of humour ... I don’t even want to think about it.
“Cheryl Bernard was kibitzing with me over a glass of wine after the last draw Saturday night. She was bugging me, getting on me already.”
This year, the phenomenally one-sided World Financial Group Continental Cup turned out to be mostly a warm-up event for the TSN Skins event next weekend at CasinoRama in Ontario.
In previous years the Continental Cup was held in December, not the weekend prior to the TSN Skins, which has built a following which makes it something of a cultural phenomenon in Canada.
And that, no doubt, will transcend previous levels this year when Martin’s Olympic gold medallists go against Bernard’s Olympic silver medallists in a Saturday night semifinal of the $100,000 event.
Martin has won more money — $355,850 — in TSN Skins history than anybody else and is acknowledged as being even better at Skins game strategy than as the master of the traditional game.
But it’s a strange beast, said Martin, who would wrap up the Continental Cup Sunday evening in St. Albert playing Skins for a $500 bonus per player on the 26-member North American team against Olympic silver medal-winner Thomas Ulsrud of Norway.
“One thing about the Skins is that you could lose the first six ends yet win seven and eight, and if that happens, you win,” he said of the ends with an escalating dollar value.
“Skins can really be anybody’s game.
“And if we lose ...are you kidding?
“As long as I curl, I’d never hear the end of it.”
For Bernard it’s a different deal.
The Calgary curler spent Sunday’s women’s Skins final in St. Albert using it entirely to get ready for the match against Martin at the Rama, Ont. casino.
“It was total preparation to get ready for that. The game meant nothing. We don’t get to play Skins much. We definitely wanted to go out there and get some confidence to take with us down to play Kevin in that game.”
Bernard won 42-13 over Bingju Wang of China.
“Now I’m starting to look forward to next weekend.
“We have nothing to lose. They have a lot.
“I was bugging Kevin a lot about that over a Scotch Saturday night. I’m having fun with it.
“I like playing Skins. I just don’t like playing Skins against Kevin Martin. But playing the way we played this game was good for us. I think it gave us some confidence.”
At the last Continental Cup, Jennifer Jones of Winnipeg was bombed 41-14 by Annette Norberg in the same game. Jones was invited to join the boys in the TSN Skins last year but managed to only win one skin, losing $19,500 to $1,500 going against Glenn Howard of Coldwater, Ont.
“Realistically, a lot of things would have to go right for us to even get a skin or two,” Bernard said of her team in the prime-time semi-final game after defending champ David Murdoch of Scotland and world champion Kevin Koe’s Edmonton Saville Centre squad meet in the other semi.
“We’ve spent some time thinking about it.
“The two big things are how far the men can drag a rock and how hard they can throw it. That’s the difference and that’s what we have to figure out how to compete against.
“We think we can throw some different things at them. Can’t tell you or he’d figure it out. But we think we’ve got something that could make it interesting.”
Bernard said there are two ways to approach it.
You can be afraid of it and worry about a negative result. Or you can look at it as a no-lose proposition.
“I look at it as being more than a no-lose situation. Combined with the Continental Cup, I think it’s perfect for preparing for the provincials the following weekend in Camrose. And it’s really worthwhile to give our sponsors, Dairy Queen, Airdrie Dodge and Asham some outstanding visibility for their support.
“Overall it’s just another great experience provided from winning that silver medal at the Olympics.
“And you never know ...”
Hello. Kevin. Todd Bertuzzi calling ...
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