This past weekend I hopped in my car with my dad and brother to head up to Oakville for the Stu Sells Oakville Tankard. They had no interest in attending, but I didn’t want to make the drive alone. Avid horseracing fans, I convinced them to go by selling them on the idea that they could go watch races at nearby Mohawk & Woodbine racetracks while I immersed myself in curling. Offering them the free use of my car while I was at the club certainly helped to convince them as well. Anyway, this event was set to kick off the start of the World Curling Tour season with an impressive international field of sixty teams…28 men’s and 32 women’s teams. I won’t run down the list of all the teams who were there, but you can check them out here: MEN WOMEN
The event started on Thursday, and naturally I was following along with the scores on CurlingZone. Of course, this only increased my anticipation and I couldn’t wait to get there and watch in person. Finally Friday afternoon came and we were on the road.
Got in late Friday night…technically Saturday morning. We should have been there by 10:00 or so but we hit some traffic and other hang-ups on the way there. Checked in and went up to the room. I was absolutely exhausted from the drive, but also completely wired. I ended up hitting the fitness room at about 3:00 AM to try and knock myself out. It worked…sorta.
Got up after a few hours a sleep and got ready. Headed downstairs and ultimately skipped breakfast, as I was too nervous and excited to eat. At the Players’ Championship I was just a fan, here I was both a fan and a quasi-journalist. I had more on my agenda than just watching, and I was worried about how it would all go. I walked to the club, which was only about 15-20 minutes away. First draw was at 8:30, I arrived about 8:15. Teams were all over the place, some on the ice and some upstairs. Oakville is an awesome club with beautiful facilities, including a full 8 sheets of ice. It was pretty packed. Things cleared out a bit as teams made their way to the ice, I grabbed a coffee and a few donuts and got situated. I bounced around between games, never watching one for more than a few stones at a time. I saw a familiar face from the Players’ Championship…we hadn’t met, but I had seen him there. Went over and introduced myself to Rick Edwards, and right away we were shooting the breeze while watching some games. Eventually Gerry from CurlingZone came in, so I went over and introduced myself. We chatted for awhile and talked about NerdCurl among other things. The next draw was at 11:00 and the crowds started coming in. I spent the rest of the morning and afternoon watching games and talking to people. I also managed to get my first two interviews, with Cissi Ostlund of Team Ahlmarks from Sweden, and Anna Sidorova. Listen to them below.
Oh, and since you’re probably wondering what the hell I was talking about, they had posted pictures of themselves working on a puzzle during some downtime on their Facebook page.
(Check out my other post for my thoughts on this line-up change.)
It was also during this time that I got to meet and talk to many curlers and coaches, as well as fans. It was a really cool environment, people in the club watching games or just hanging out, great curling going on on the ice, Blue Jays game on TV, and last but most certainly not least the bar. They had the brand new Hurry Hard Amber Lager, which is a curling-themed beer from Triple Bogey, and it is fantastic! I hope they start importing it into the states at some point.
I left for a short while in the late afternoon to grab a quick nap and some quick dinner, and then went straight back to the club. Team Sidorova had a very important game against Team Hasselborg (Sweden), so I sat down and watched most of it. Afterwards I had a chance to talk to their coach Rodger Schmidt. He remembered me from the Players’ Championship, and we talked about the team, the line-up change, and their upcoming season. I actually talked to Rodger quite a bit throughout the course of the weekend, including telling him all about NerdCurl and what we hope to accomplish, so that was cool. I finally got to meet Colin Hodgson after his game as well, and he introduced me to Stan from Hardline Curling. Much of the rest of the night is a blur, but it was really fun. They brought in a DJ, and the club was absolutely packed. All of this with curling going on, mind you. One hell of a time. Eventually I made my way back to the hotel and this time I had no trouble sleeping.
Back to the club bright and early. Watched the first draw, then ducked out to grab something to bring back to the club for lunch. Got back and did pretty much the same thing as on Saturday. Met up with Perry Marshall, as I was going to be covering some of the games for CurlingGeek. I was asked to cover the Sidorova-Sweeting game, which was one of the B Event Qualifiers. Gerry got me set up with wi-fi, and I was good to go. I had never done it before, but the system is ridiculously easy to use and incredibly fun. Here is what my view looked like for the match.
Afterwards I grabbed an interview with Chris Plys, skip of one of the USA National Teams. Listen to it below.
For the next draw I covered the Jones-Lawton game, and again had a blast. That was the end of the preliminary stages, and playoffs were set to start in a few hours. I met back up with my dad and brother, and we went to a local British Pub for some quick food. The food was good and the pub was awesome, I just wish I could have spent more time there. I was eager to get back, however, as I was hoping to get some more interviews done before the draw started. I was able to grab Rachel Homan and Niklas Edin, Listen to them below.
The club was packed. I mingled and talked to some people, continuing to meet new people and make new friends. I managed to grab a good seat by the glass. This was the start of the playoffs, win or go home time. I started out covering the Cotter-Koe match.Unfortunately, CurlingZone was having some technical issues and I was the only person there covering for CurlingGeek. People in the chat kept asking me for score updates. I ended up adding all 8 matches, covering Cotter-Koe (and later Carruthers-Murdoch and eventually Jones-Sidorova) as best as I could while providing score updates. It was definitely stressful, but really fun as well. I’d like to think I did ok, ha ha. By the time the last game ended after midnight the crowd had thinned considerably but the place was still pretty hopping. Mentally and physically spent, I talked to a few people before heading back to the hotel for some much-needed sleep.
Once again I was up and at the club early. I had packed the night before and loaded my stuff in the car in the morning, so I would be good to go as soon as the semi-finals were over. Facing an 8-9 hour drive, I wasn’t going to be able to stay for the finals. Except for players, the club was fairly empty when I arrived. I got all set up and was ready to cover the Carruthers – Cotter match. I had a great view of all four games, as you can see below.
Perry was covering the Homan-Tirinzoni game, and the Gushue-Laycock game was being streamed by Laycock’s guys, so only the Sidorova-Paetz game was without comprehensive coverage. I kept the chat updated on the progress of that game, describing how ends were playing out as best as I could. Cotter forced an extra end against Carruthers, so as soon as the game ended I had to pack up and split. I said my goodbyes to people and managed to grab Reid Carruthers for a quick interview literally as I was heading out the door. Check it out below.
I shot back to the hotel, picked up my travelling companions, and we were on our way home.
All in all it was an amazing weekend. I got to meet lots of new people, reconnect with ones I’d met before, pretend to be a journalist, watch some great curling, and overall just have one hell of a time.
Big thanks to Stu Sells, Oakville Curling Club, and to Gerry for putting on a great event and for all your help. Thanks to CurlingGeek for giving me the opportunity to cover some games, and to Perry for helping me get situated in that regard. Rick, thanks for the enjoyable conversation throughout the course of the weekend. Of course I’d like to thank all the skips who granted me time for an interview, can’t begin to say how much I appreciate it. Finally, if you took the time to read this, thank you for doing so and I hope you enjoyed it.
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