November 7, 2012
Fan voting for curling's Skins Game could make interesting combos
By GEORGE KARRYS, Special to QMI Agency
As one country celebrates the end of a long and often brutal election campaign, another is now embroiled in an all-digital voting drive of its own.
Curling’s famous Skins Game is headed for a massive reboot, and Canada’s notoriously fickle curling fans will play a major role. Now known as The Dominion All-Star Curling Skins Game, January’s two-day televised extravaganza will feature athletes who are voted into the competition through the Internet.
A pool of 36 players at the four-team positions — skip, third, second and lead — will be whittled down to a selected 16, and those players will be thrown together by random draw to create four teams.
The bizarre yet fascinating concept could see arch-rivals teaming up.
Imagine Kevin Martin’s super sweepers brushing for Glenn Howard, or players from Winnipeg’s twin titan skips, Jeff Stoughton and Mike McEwen, mixed and matched as temporary teammates.
All’s fair in love and war — and in the pursuit of a slice of the $100,000 prize purse.
Voting is now open through December 5 at: tsn.ca/curlingskins and sharp-eyed rock fans will notice some anomalies. One is the presence of Steve Gould, who was let go from Team Stoughton in the spring and is not competing this season, although he is serving as a mentor to Sault Ste. Marie’s Brad Jacobs.
There is another surprise on the ballot: A larger-than-life curling personality from Edmonton who retired from high-performance competition last April. You may recall the name: Randy Ferbey. Now imagine if Ferbey made it in, and he was placed on a team with someone like, say, arch-rival Martin.
“I haven’t missed (curling) so far,” Ferbey said. “Mentally, no, but from my heart, sure. I’m watching the results every weekend as if it has some influence on my life, but you know, life goes on.”
The Ferb said he would be ready to answer the voter’s call, should it come. He is playing this season, albeit once a week with his wife.
“I play front end in a mixed league,” Ferbey said. “It started out just ‘Ah, who cares’ but when I’m on the ice, Goddammit! When I miss ... I’m still competitive and I still want to make that shot.”
“(The Skins is) only two days, and the ice is great. My knee can handle two more competitive games for a ton of cash, no problem. Then I just need the skip to make all his shots.”
Since online voting began on Monday, curling’s social media world has been crammed with tweets and postings from Skins candidates begging for votes. Such blatant self-promotion is quite rare in this sport, and the sight of it has created some upturned noses.
“U.S. voting, curling voting. Shameless ads. I don’t know what’s worse” tweeted U.S. champion and coach Bill Todhunter.
“Twitter bombed by Skins curling candidates today,” wrote ex-Ferbey teammate Scott Pfeifer. “My vote: Shorten the voting period.”
Others spun intricate in-jokes.
“Haven’t seen this much grovelling in curling since last call at the Welton spiel” tweeted Toronto-based curling event manager Rock Solid Productions.
“One day I think this voting thing is good and then the next day I don’t think it’s so good,” Ferbey said. “At first I thought it was a popularity contest, but it’s not. It’s about (which curlers) have the best social media, the Twitter and the Facebook stuff.”
Ferbey appreciates the new Skins format but wonders about the aptitude of the curling fans casting ballots.
“Are they getting the word out to the people who care the most, like the people who buy tickets and go to the Brier?” asked Ferbey. “They’re in the dark. Let’s be honest, the 65-year olds, they don’t have a clue, they’ve got no say in the matter whatsoever. Now, if you did the voting at a Brier or something like that, you’d probably get a better feeling of who they want to see.”
NEW FEUD SIMMERS
Given the historically icy rivalry between Martin and Ferbey, it’s easy to overlook the simmering feud between Martin third John Morris and David Nedohin, Ferbey’s ex-fourth who now skips a new squad.
Blogger Colin Hodgson recently noticed Morris and Nedohin exchanging Twitter taunts, and he spoke to both men about their relationship.
Hodgson’s blogpost can be read at: thecurlingnews.com/blog
AROUND THE RINGS
Sherry Middaugh’s Ontario team captured another trophy, this time at an international women’s exhibition in far-flung Yichun, China. In Stockholm, Olympic legend Anette Norberg captured a women’s event while closer to home, Tour victories were scored by Ottawa’s Rachel Homan (in Kemptville, Ont.), Toronto’s Jill Mouzar (Whitby, Ont.) and Chelsea Carey of Morden, Man. (Red Deer, Alta.).
In men’s Tour play, Glenn Howard scored his first title of the season in Whitby, and Kevin Koe’s Calgary (not Edmonton) crew almost made it three weekends in a row before losing the Red Deer final to Edmonton’s 2012 world junior whiz Brendan Bottcher.