TORONTO - More and more Canucks are finding ways to advance their curling dreams.
The latest examples come from the new U.S. men’s champions, skipped by Heath (Heater) McCormick.
McCormick is an insurance broker in Brigden, Ont. and lives in nearby Sarnia. Born in Michigan, McCormick has curled for his entire life north of the border, but he happens to hold dual Canadian/U.S. citizenship. A few years ago, the former Canadian junior competitor decided to take advantage of this, and compete in U.S. curling playdowns with an American-based team.
McCormick has broken through in 2012, big-time, as his latest foursome went 9-0 in capturing the U.S. nationals last weekend in Philadelphia.
Also on the team is another Canadian, Dean Gemmell, who has lived Stateside (in Michigan prior to New Jersey) for a number of years. Many moons ago, Gemmell played in the Brier for Quebec and he remains a fierce curling booster and media guy — he wrote a best-selling book called Fit to Curl with John Morris and he’s the proprietor of a popular podcast at TheCurlingShow.com.
“I wasn’t surprised because I thought we could win, but I didn’t expect to run the table,” said Gemmell. “I never thought I’d be going to worlds as a lead at (age) 44, but the commitment to fitness made it possible.”
McCormick & Co. now head to Berne, Switzerland in April representing Team USA. Wearing the stars and stripes at the women’s worlds in Lethbridge, Alta. will be skip Allison Pottinger, who now captains Debbie McCormick’s former squad (no relation between the McCormicks).
Pottinger was born in Brampton and became a U.S. citizen in time for the 2006 Olympic Winter Games in Turin.
In an earlier version of this column, and in the print edition, McCormick's hometown of Sarnia was accused of an apathetic silence over his victory down south. A frustrated tweet was quoted: "If a member of your club (born in USA) was undefeated at USA curling nationals right now, wouldn't you be pumped? Wake up Sarnia GCC!" As it turns out, the Sarnia Golf and Curling Club, where McCormick is a member, not only galvanized its membership via e-mail alerts on the day of the U.S. championship final, but has also organized a special reception to honour McCormick, scheduled for Wednesday night. The Curling Guy apologizes to SGCC members, congratulates them on their support of McCormick, and wishes them a fabulous evening of celebration.
TOURNAMENT OF PAIN
Speaking of frustration, the opening days of the Tournament of Hearts, the Canadian women’s championship, has left many observers gnashing his teeth, including yours truly. Sunday night’s prime time battle between British Columbia veteran Kelly Scott and newbie Ontario skip Tracy Horgan (both 2-0 at the time) was just one example of acute curling pain-itis.
During the show opening, ice-level cameras caught the Ontario front end winking at each other during their practice slides. Rooks enjoying their first TV game on TSN — okay, I admit it, that was cute.
In the second end, Horgan jammed on a shot and Scott drew for three points and a 3-1 lead. Whoops. One end later, Horgan kissed a guard with her last stone and missed a shot for four. Instead of a 5-3 lead she was down 4-1. Big whoops, but the team was still smiling.
Then it was Scott’s turn to make a mess of things, and she got lucky when the Sudbury skip whiffed her last shot for another four, and scored three for a 4-4 tie.
“The Ontarians are still giggling and waving to the cameras,” I raged. “Maybe they’re nervous?” offered Mrs. Curling Guy.
“Sometimes people laugh when they’re nervous.” I considered beating my television with a hammer, but went for popcorn instead.
Next up: a TV feature on the unprecedented and thoroughly uninteresting battle between mothers and daughters (one pair on each team) during an earlier tilt between P.E.I. and the Territories, complete with airy background music. Come on TSN, are you that badly strapped for event story lines?
In the seventh end, Scott missed a shot for two and counted only one. In the eighth end, Scott and Horgan traded great shots with their first stones and then poor misses on each of their next ones, and Ontario took two (it should have been three) to climb into a 7-6 lead — later 8-6 after Ontario stole the ninth.
In the final end, Ontario had a golden opportunity to salt the game away, but missed their final four stones and Scott’s crew took three for an outrageous 9-8 victory. Big smiles from both teams at the end.
Wouldn’t you know it, this turned out to be a pivotal match for both squads. Scott won two of her next three games for a 4-1 won/loss record while Horgan promptly lost her next two, and fell to 2-3.
Too harsh on Horgan, competing in her first championship? Too lenient on Scott, who has played in 77 STOH matches heading into that game, versus her opponent’s grand total of two? The point is the same for both squads, and many others in Red Deer: Where is your killer instinct?
Where is your demand for higher standards? Where are the signs of responsibility for representing your province and the rivals you defeated on the way to the national championship?
Perhaps this is no surprise, for these athletes are treated like royalty everywhere they tread. Acrobats perform from silk banners during the sumptuous opening banquet. Each player is given jewelry, for heaven’s sake, before a single stone is thrown.
Perhaps these athletes have been coddled enough?
A nasty flu bug is wreaking havoc throughout the STOH, affecting athletes and event managers alike... Sunday’s TSN telethon raised $257,617 for the Sandra Schmirler Foundation ... Andrea Schoepp won her millionth domestic women’s title and will once again represent Germany at the worlds... Eve Muirhead and Tom Brewster have both repeated as Scottish champions... the New Zealand men’s team are off to Basel, and ex-Scotsman Peter de Boer now skips the squad... Vancouver 2010 Paralympic gold medal skip Jim Armstrong has left the ongoing world wheelchair curling championships in South Korea for personal reasons. As of Tuesday, Canada had dropped to a 2-4 record.