If we harken back to the 70's and 80's, which is long before my time, and watch some highlight videos of past Canadian Men and Women curling championships, the few that exist online anyway, you'll easily ascertain that the curlers during that tenure played in front of packed, some would say rowdy venues. One video that stands out for essentially all curling enthusiasts is the 1985 Labatt Brier to where which Northern Ontario's Al Hackner made a cross ring double to defeat Alberta's Pat Ryan in the old Moncton Coliseum. It was certainly an iconic moment, but why? The shot, like all curling fans would agree is held in great prestige due to the magnitude of the moment, but let's also as fans of sport dig a little deeper on what makes the Iceman's shot so memorable. Taking nothing away from the skill that it took to pull of the Brier clinching shot, but let's face it, in the modern day of curling we see that type of shot on a game to game basis. Is it possible, eluding back to my original hypothesis, that the reason the shot holds such fan fare was how the players, and more importantly the fans embraced the moment? In a compact facility that was the Moncton Coliseum, an eruption ensued, something that is unforeseen is National Championships today. The fans acted as if Paul McCartney of the Beatles just took the stage for the encore performance. Full credit goes out to Hackner for embracing the moment and running with, a small part why you ask most people with a remedial understanding of the sport and ask them to name a few curlers, the name Al Hackner will surely be brought to the forefront. National Championships have become stagnant throughout the years, through no fault of the curlers though because the calibre of play has substantially improved, which pendants will argue has hurt our sport while others will say it's helped but nonetheless speaking from a purely historical perspective because as I mentioned I wasn't around to witness a live curling event in the 70's and 80's, the atmosphere has changed, you go to a curling event and I know certain groups are trying to change this, but we've slightly lost that entertainment edge How to get it back...keep reading and I've conjured up an interesting proposition that at worst will make some great food for thought.
The Scotties gets played in Montreal, albeit in a smaller center which I thought was a brilliant idea, allowing the long time fans to reminisce what it was like at Brier and Scotties back in the hay day, reverting back to my previous example of the Moncton Coliseum. The Brier is being played in Ottawa this year. Big markets=electric atmospheres? Not so fast. Montreal has the Canadiens which will always be the voice of the city, whether playing at home or the road, and Ottawa has the Senators and that will make the Brier back page paper conversation. The game of curling needs to locate newer, more passionate fans, and as unconventional as they may sound, and goes against every principle a National Championship stands for, but is it time for this to grow into a global event, and judging from what was a massively successful, Las Vegas hosted Contenental Cup, Vegas baby? In what was meaningless curling, the crowd was engaged and I can guarantee that was incentive enough for curlers to want to play. Like any good athlete will vocalize, the more boisterous the crowd, the easier it is to get the adrenalin flowing. Is Vegas a viable option for a National Championship, the upper hierarchy at Curling Canada will vehemently say no but let's explore and I'm sure by the end I'll have you all believing this is a superb idea. Okay, I probably won't but I'd appreciate if you keep reading.....
The climate of Las Vegas has transitioned in recent years. A touristy destination by nature, however the reason I'm suggesting the climate has changed from an interest perspective is because I'm under the premise that Nevadans are open to trying out new things, ie the recent continental cups compounded with their recent desperation to land a National Hockey League franchise. Ten to fifteen years ago hockey in Vegas would've been an absurd, laughed at idea. Have a hard time believing what I'm selling, if in doubt just check in with Sportsnet and the Fan 590's, Bob McCown, about as pessimistic as a person as they come, he's been skeptical pertaining to the plausibility of hockey in Vegas to this day and this is coming from a long time resident of Vegas but even he I think would be in agreement that citizens of Las Vegas could get behind watching the BEST curlers in the world . I can only imagine the snarky remarks he'd gesture my way if I was fortunate enough to have a conversation with him about hosting a curling National Championship in his former home city. I think in society generally speaking, we're more open to trying new things, so based on that observation what is stopping Curling Canada in even giving this a one year attempt to avoid the stagnancy recent championships have become? Revenue? Understood but I firmly believe the amount of Canadians who would be enticed by the idea of booking a week off to head to Vegas to watch curling(gamble and golf as well but you get the idea) would alleviate the valid concern that you lose your loyal,local fan base.When taking into account the amount of our native land that would travel down along with Americans who I maintain would have a large sense of intrigue, it would certainly offset increased travel costs.
On behalf of Curling Canada, I've looked after the fans, they'll come in flocks, need not worry. The last concern in this marvelous proposition is would the players get behind it? Too gimmicky? Takes away from winning a national title on home soil? Lack of general recognisability? All valid concerns sure, but any curler who may feel the idea of playing in Vegas puts this game in a poor light is in my books someone who isn't wholeheartedly getting behind the fact that we MUST find a way to grow our sport. The National Football League, a league that only boasts American franchises in recent years has held regular season games in London, England and Toronto with one purpose, to grow the game. This is an outstanding comparable because in the U.K, even the most well read fan will have no idea who Miami Dolphins linebacker Cameron Wake is,newsflash people.....the only way the U.K will ever know who Wake is and how he plays is by watching them. Las Vegas will have no idea who Northwest Territories skipper Jamie Koe....actually allow me to take that back as if the stories I read are correct about his, shall we say eccentric partying ways, I'm sure he's blazed through the Vegas strip once or twice. Back to a more serious note, you understand the comparison I'm trying to make, no one in Vegas/America will know who these curlers are unless they're exposed to them. Curling Canada may be under the opinion that the forefront their main focus has to be grow the game in Canada, particularly at a junior level but by exposing our best to lesser known curling parts, the long term benefits will exceed the maybe more immediate, cost related negatives.
Crazy idea, maybe, maybe not, but this blogger is ready to see our game take a leap of faith, and what better way then for our curlers to leap onto the blackjack table, err I mean American ice.