Hockey fans 'ticked off' at curling's No. 1 status

Curling champion Glenn Howard makes a face during the Stu Sells Toronto Tankard on Sunday. (ANIL...

Curling champion Glenn Howard makes a face during the Stu Sells Toronto Tankard on Sunday. (ANIL MUNGAL/THE CURLING NEWS)

GEORGE KARRYS, Special to QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:08 PM ET

Summer is over, the air is crisp and curling — unlike pro hockey — is back on the ice. And if you’re defending world curling champion skip Glenn Howard, you’ve got something to say about that. Lots of things, actually.

NO HOCKEY

“I think the curling associations should specifically market our game to the hundreds of thousands of hockey fans out there who are gonna be bored stiff and ticked off,” Howard said. “I don’t know if we did anything in 2005 (during the previous NHL lockout) but we should be doing something now.

“This is a great opportunity to get some of those fans to watch more curling and hopefully get out there and play it. Curling is the best sport on ice and hockey is second-best, so hopefully all the people out there will realize that I’m telling the truth.”

PARTYING

“Because of the Olympics the game is getting more precise, more scientific, the teams are getting in better and better shape, which I think is fantastic,” Howard said. “The game has a better profile now, it’s got a better reputation.

“That being said, we’re grown adults and you can pick and choose your spots to have a good time. You can still go out (after games) and enjoy yourself and your opposition, just don’t overdo it. Don’t be an idiot about it. When the Europeans decided they weren’t allowed to have a drink (at the Continental Cup), for me, that took away from the whole competition. We never saw them, they weren’t even allowed to have a beer. I thought that was a little over the top.”

MIXED DOUBLES

The newest curling discipline featuring two-player teams will finally have its own Canadian championship in March 2013, just before Canada hosts the world mixed doubles championship in April.

“I kinda like it,” Howard said. “All these other sports have different versions over time, and mixed doubles curling is great; it gives us another competition, another chance to win a medal. I played it (at the Continental Cup in 2007) and it was fun. It’s different, but you still need a lot of talent and skill to win.

“I’m not totally resistant to change. Anything we can do to promote our game and get more curlers out there to enjoy our game, the better.”

BIG CHEESES

With seven consecutive Ontario championships under his belt, Howard is still the big enchilada in his home province. But he likes what he sees in his rear-view mirror.

“Our first event of the season was last weekend and, really, I was impressed with everybody we played against,” said Howard, who finished out of the money at the Stu Sells Toronto Tankard. “Joe Frans of Bradford has a good team, he’s got Dale Matchett’s guys with him. John Epping (of Toronto), he’s got my son on his team and they’ve been on fire. Mark Kean (of Toronto) has a good team.

“Things look promising for Ontario.”

ROTATE THIS

Howard struggled with team lineup problems at the StuSells, as both third Wayne Middaugh and second Brent Laing had to come and go due to work commitments. The squad played a few games with only three players before being eliminated by Frans, who lost the final to Winnipeg’s Jeff Stoughton.

WHAT A GUY

World Curling Tour fans need to click on a new website to follow the action. In the corporate tug-of-war that saw iSport Media and Management bounced from the Grand Slam series, the tour has migrated to www.worldcurl.com and the first thing fans might notice is the return of pseudo-retired Quebec skip Guy Hemmings.

The wild-haired pied piper of curling has 2011 provincial champ Francois Gagne at third stone, and the new combo managed a quarterfinal berth in Toronto. It remains to be seen if Hemmings is going hard on a rejuvenated curling career, or is just testing the waters.

MONEYBAGS

Stoughton leads the men’s WCT money list with $26,900 in winnings thus far, with Epping in second with $22,400 and Martin third at $20,000. Alberta’s Kevin Koe sits in fourth and the next three teams all hail from Europe: Switzerland’s Sven Michel and Sweden’s Oskar Eriksson and Niklas Edin. Of interest is 2006 Olympic hero Markku (M-15) Uusipaavalniemi of Finland, who has returned to the game and sits in 18th place.

The women’s list sees Ontario’s Sherry Middaugh leading with over $23,000 after scoring the biggest wins of the season in Oslo, Norway and the first women’s Grand Slam in Calgary. Cowtown’s Shannon Kleibrink sits in second place, Ottawa’s Rachel Homan is third and Edmonton’s Heather Nedohin and Kelowna’s Kelly Scott round out the top five.

KMART DIGITAL

Defending Olympic men’s champion Kevin Martin has gone digital. First came Facebook and then Twitter (@Kmartcurl) and now the veteran skipper is launching a new mobile application, the Kevin Martin Curling App.

The app promises to give the user a “look through the eyes of Kevin Martin at virtually all aspects of the sport of curling” with those eyes also on learning, not just entertainment. Exclusive content will include the Edmonton skip’s actual on-ice lessons, and a “Contact Kevin” module allows curlers to inquire directly about any particular problems they’re having with their game — and KMart will answer.


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