While waiting for election results, let’s talk curling

Well, I was wrong last week and I happily eat my words.

Last week I said that an un-enthused electorate could lead to low numbers. If advance polls are anything to go by, that is not going to be the case.

The numbers were up by 29 per cent over 2015 during the four day advance polling over the Thanksgiving weekend.

Now, is this just because more and more people are discovering the convenience of being able to vote early? Or does it mean that numbers on election day will be up by the same amount?

Let’s hope for the latter.

But that’s all we’ll say about Monday’s election.

We have other fish to fry.

Curling fish. Not actual curling fish. The fish are neither throwing the rocks, nor sliding down the ice.

What I am trying so inelegantly to segue into, is that televised curling returns next week, and I, for one, am excited.

Now, some will argue that watching curling is about as exciting as watching someone fish, but I beg to differ.

I find it very enjoyable, and so do many other Canadians.

Curling has changed considerably since it became an Olympic sport. It’s not quite as chummy as it used to be, and the top teams do consider it a business.

And like many businesses, personnel are occasionally let go.

No hard feelings, buddy, but… you’re out. And sometimes a team just feels that it has reached its peak as a unit, and it’s time to shuffle the deck, so to speak.

There has been quite a bit of shuffling.

The Brad Jacobs team from Northern Ontario has shaken up its 2014 Olympic-winning lineup. They have let go long time third Ryan Fry, and took on Marc Kennedy from Alberta, another Olympic champion.

Kennedy used to play for Kevin Koe, but he wasn’t fired, he took a year off. Koe then grabbed BJ Neufeld from the Mike McEwen team, who had split up, and grabbed another Saskatchewan player, Colton Flasch, to replace Brent Laing, who left to join the John Epping team.

Whew. Confusing.

Fry was also snatched up by the Epping team, who then booted lead Craig Saville to make room for him.

It’s a cutthroat game.

Two teams that are sticking with their lineups for this Olympic cycle are Brad Gushue and Brendan Bottcher.

Gushue had an almost perfect year two years ago, and remains one of the world’s top teams, although they have slid somewhat in the rankings. You see what I did there with the curling reference?

Anyhoo, the team that really seems to be on the rise is the Bottcher squad. They won three major events last year and made it to the Brier final. I predict they will win the Brier this year. Yup, I said it.

In any event, my point is all this juggling of personnel is because Canada is no longer a slam dunk to win at world events.

There are good teams coming out of many countries now. Scotland has two young men’s teams who are very good, along with the great Eve Muirhead on the women’s side. Switzerland has owned women’s curling in recent years, and also have a top men’s team. Japan has good teams, as does China. And of course, the US men won the last Olympic gold.

But because Canada remains the home of the largest curling audiences, all those international teams continue to come here for the Grand Slam events all winter. In turn, we the TV viewer, benefit from seeing very competitive games, whilst always rooting for the home team, of course.

There’s nothing like Olympic medals on the line to turn a sport that used to be associated with drunken bonspiels into a profession.

Bring on the curling season. I’m excited.

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