Image Credit: Pinty's Grand Slam Of Curling

Image Credit: Pinty’s Grand Slam Of Curling

The Pinty’s Grand Slam Of Curling (GSOC for short) is undergoing some major expansion over the next two years. Starting with the 2015-2016 season, two new events will be added: The Tour Challenge in September, and the Champions Cup in May.  Furthermore, there will now be a women’s division added at The National in November. There will be another as-yet-unnamed event added for the 2016-2017 season, ultimately bringing the total number of events to 8 per year.

 

Besides more events, the overall prize money is increasing substantially as well. This upcoming season the prize money is being increased to a total of $1.5 million overall. For the 2016-2017 season, there will be an even larger increase, with the overall prize money coming to a total of $2.5 million. That is a 66% increase, with only one additional event! For the full story on the expansion, check out this link.

To say that this is huge would be an understatement. For one thing, consider that as recently as the 2013-2014 season there were only four events. This means that the GSOC is essentially doubling in size, at least when it comes to the number of events. This is not to mention the fact that with events taking place later in the spring and earlier in the fall, the curling season is essentially being extended. Couple that with the increase in prize money, and you have the very realistic possibility that at some point in the near future some curlers may be able to dedicate themselves to the sport full time. Yes, there are already full-time fully-funded curlers out there, and others who are lucky with their work, sponsorships, and even spousal support. Nevertheless, even at the top most curlers hold down full-time jobs, balancing their dedication to the sport with work and (in many cases) family life. Nolan Thiessen (lead for team Morris/Simmons) wrote an excellent piece about this very subject, which you can check out here.

 

 

As to the benefits for the fans, this is a no-brainer. More events means more curling to watch on TV (or online). Sportsnet provides excellent coverage of the GSOC events, from the camera work to the commentary. Yup, nothing beats sitting at home with a nice frosty beverage in your hand and some high-quality curling on the tube…except maybe for being there watching it live.

Now, I think I have a pretty good idea how many people feel when it comes to watching curling live versus on TV:

 

 

Like I said, I know many people prefer to watch curling on TV compared to seeing it live. Of course, I also wonder how many of those people have actually been to a major event live, and therefore have some comparison to base their opinion on. Honestly, I think that most people who feel this way have never been to a live event and just assume it to be the case.

To be fair, there are some things about watching curling on TV that are better. For one thing, when it’s on TV you have camera coverage of all the action…you can see both houses, and watch the shots as they make their way down the ice. In an arena, depending upon where you are sitting you can’t always see what’s going on. Even with good seats it can be difficult at times to see who is lying shot, or if a particular stone is biting or not, and so on. If an event is being televised though, they often show the live feed inside the arena, which helps.

Furthermore, with TV the players are wearing microphones, so you can hear their discussions and what not…not to mention (to me anyway) it’s always entertaining when a player lets an “obscenity” slip…not that I enjoy seeing people frustrated or angry, but in my opinion it adds a certain element of levity at times. Besides all of that, with TV you get the commentary, which is usually informative and at times downright entertaining. You can get commentary in person though, as they’re usually broadcasting in the arena on a specific frequency and at many events they hand out small personal radios for this purpose.

So yes, in some ways curling is better when watched on TV. That being said, there are many benefits to watching it live and in person. Seeing an incredible shot on TV is one thing, seeing it made in person is something else entirely. Besides that, when you’re at home you can’t meet the players and get their autograph, or take a picture with them. It varies depending on the event and venue of course, but in many cases this is quite possible and commonplace. Overall though, nothing beats the experience of a live sporting event. There is just something about being a part of a crowd that seems to intensify the experience…whether it’s cheering, sharing tension, or agonizing over a loss. The atmosphere can be hard to describe, it’s just something that needs to be experienced.

In any case, my point with all this is that if you have the chance to go and watch an event in person I can’t recommend it enough. Whether it’s Worlds, the Scotties/Brier, Provincials, a GSOC event, or even just a major cashspiel, get out there and experience it in person if you can. Now with the expansion of the Pinty’s Grand Slam Of Curling events, you’ll have more opportunities to do so than ever before.

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