CBC fielding angry calls

TED WYMAN -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 8:29 AM ET

ST. JOHN'S, Nfld. -- The furor over television coverage at the Scott Tournament of Hearts raged on yesterday, with curling executives everywhere dealing with more angry phone calls and e-mails than ever.

The public outcry over coverage provided by the CBC and affiliates Country Canada and The Score has been deafening since the Canadian women's curling championship started Saturday.

The main network flew in a senior programming manager yesterday, but he had few answers when asked how the CBC plans to stem the rising tide of anger.

"We've been doing our best to get the message out there about how to access Country Canada and where to see the next draw," Christos Nikitopoulos said in an impromptu media conference.

"Any calls we get where people are unhappy are too many. If people are not happy, that's something we need to work on."

Nikitopoulos said no drastic measures are planned, such as moving all games to the main network or to the easier-to-access The Score from Country Canada, which is a little-watched digital channel.

He did promise the network will not cut off any more games, like it did last Saturday on Country Canada because of fears of going over a CRTC-imposed limit of 12.6 hours of sports programming during the week.

And the network is promoting a 1-800 number, offering viewers curling programming information. However, upon dialing 1-866-306-4636, we discovered simply recorded greetings in English and French, no programming information and a message that the CBC offices were closed for the day.

Meanwhile, some early numbers are in from the CBC/The Score television coverage so far. About 450,000 people watched Saturday afternoon's draw on the main network (only one draw a day is shown live) compared to 300,000 on TSN last year. On Sunday 490,000 people watched on CBC, compared to 250,000 last year.

That's not bad, but on The Score, only 166,000 watched the Sunday evening draw, down 40% from last year on TSN.

OLYMPIC DREAMING: While she dreamed of becoming an Olympian some day, Sherri Singler never quite got the chance in her first chosen sport.

It was back in 1997 and Singler, then known as Sherri Leonard, was getting set to compete for Saskatchewan at the Canada Games in Brandon.

A throwing specialist who was entered in the discus, shot put and javelin events, Singler had hopes of winning a medal and perhaps eventually becoming good enough to represent her country on the world's biggest stage.

But while warming up for the first javelin event, she tore tendons in her right arm, ending her throwing career instantly.

She was 23 at the time and started immediately looking for a new pursuit. She found a throwing sport of a different kind ... curling.

"It was a pretty natural progression," Singler, 31, explained yesterday after her Saskatchewan team, skipped by Stefanie Lawton, finished a game at the Scott Tournament of Hearts.

"I grew up in a family of curlers, and my mom was a competitive curler."

Amazingly, Singler's Olympic dream is alive again, thanks to her new sport.

The Saskatchewan team, on which she throws second stones, is doing well here (6-1 after yesterday's play) and could claim a berth in the Olympic trials by winning this weekend.

"We're working toward that spot this year," she said. "I watched mom in 1996 at the Scott in Thunder Bay and at the 1997 trials in Brandon, and I never would have thought I'd be here myself."

Judy Leonard played second for Saskatchewan's Sherry Scheirich at the '96 Scott and the '97 Olympic trials.


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