Saturday, April 19, 2014

Kevin Martin's legacy: easily one of the best

Now that Kevin Martin has announced his retirement, it’s fair to look back at his career and wonder where he fits among the greats and what his legacy will be.

I was lucky in that K-Mart’s time on the ice more or less paralleled my years at the Globe and so I spent a lot of time interviewing him. I don’t think our reporter-athlete relationship started off all that great. I found him to be a bit arrogant and he felt I was biased against him.

As time went on we both matured at our skills and developed a good relationship. He jokingly called me his favourite fiction writer, something he’ll still bring up to this day.

On the ice, I think K-Mart is easily among the best of his generation and probably of all time. Four Brier titles, two Olympic medals and a world championship is a pretty damn good resume. There is also a Canadian junior championship and 17 Grand Slam titles, not too bad. Obviously winning gold in Vancouver would be the pinnacle and the performance of that team was among the best I’ve ever seen anywhere, anytime.

I think the only spot where Martin lacked success was at the world championships where he had three silver medals in the men’s and one in juniors. He finally won in 2008 but the Olympic gold medal probably trumps all anyway.

Martin also did a great deal off the ice to promote and enhance the sport. He was part of the group that started the Grand Slam with the Brier boycott, a move that may have been controversial at the time but clearly has paid off with the legitimacy of the Slam. In many ways he became the face of the players’ side of that battle while Randy Ferbey carried the flag for the other. I think the creation of the Slam and its subsequent takeover by Rogers really paves the way for the next generation of curlers. Martin always talked about that and it seemed a little patronizing at the time, but clearly the work of Martin and other such as Stoughton, Middaugh and Glenn Howard really has paved the way for that. 

I think Martin also did more off the ice in terms of turning curling into a business than anyone else. Everything from schools to apps, he had a big enough profile among not just curling fans but sports fans to build up his business interests. And he was able to draw big companies into sponsoring him, something few players have had as much success with.

And after that bumpy start with the media, I think he grew to become pretty savvy in talking to the press. He loosened up enough with those he knew to become a good quote and he learned how to build a relationship that would benefit both sides.

Big shots and big moments? Well winning the gold, as I mentioned is on top. It's funny but when I look back, sometimes the big moments aren't the winning shots. I think of his missed draw in the final of the Salt Lake Games and I think of the famous non-call in the world championships against David Murdoch. To be fair, there are also a ton of great shots made in clutch situations. Martin was as good as anyone with those.

I think Martin could also be a polarizing figure with is teammates. He demanded a lot and expected a lot. He wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but when the cheques rolled in and the titles piled up, no one seemed to mind. Really, he just won and he did it a lot. 

In his new position as an analyst, I think the Old Bear will do pretty well. I think it will take him a little time to get use to the job but he has done some work before, including a stint for NBC on the recent Olympics.

It will be curling’s loss when Martin packs it in after the Players. He’s clearly one of the best. The game will miss him.

Friday, April 18, 2014

K-Mart retires to become a broadcaster as Grand Slam adds fifth event

Big release today from Sportsnet about the Grand Slam of Curling, with the four-event series moving to five for next year. As well, the bigger news is that Kevin Martin will join the on-air team, calling it a career on the ice.
“It has been an amazing run.  I am closing the chapter on my playing career in the sport of curling that has been so good to me,” said Martin. “I can't wait for what lies ahead in my new role with Sportsnet as we work together to elevate the sport to new heights, inspiring our curling youth.”

There had been some thought that Martin might take over the duties of skipping the remaining three members of the Kevin Koe team, but this certainly ends that discussion.

In addition to his on-air job, Martin will serve as a sort of ambassador for the Grand Slam, helping out with the players and host communities.

The other part of the announcement is interesting -- the move of an additional Grand Slam -- which is being called the Elite 10 for now (I understand it may end up having Martin's name in the title in the future, much like golf has the Arnold Palmer Invitational). There was a lot of Sky Is Falling talk from curling fans when Rogers signed the big hockey deal, but this would seem to indicate that curling is not going anywhere in Sportsnet's lineup.

The newest event, the Elite 10, joins the MastersNationalCanadian Open and Players’ Championships to round out the Grand Slam of Curling series for 2014-15. Total prize money for the Grand Slam of Curling events will be increasing to a total minimum of $700,000, with the $1 million bonus still available to the men’s team who can win all five Slams in a season. In addition, Sportsnet’s curling broadcast coverage will increase to up to 200 hours for next season.

I'll have more on Martin in a future blog

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Knives come out for OCA board as regional bodies speak out

The Ontario Curling Association's board received a kick to the pills this morning when the Toronto Curling Association issued a press release stating its unease with the actions of the provincial board.

It's joined with similar associations in Ottawa and Hamilton to express serious concern about the OCA board's operation.

The TCA Board has been watching the Ontario Curling Association and its challenges very carefully over the last eight months.  Our concerns have mounted and we have begun actively communicating with the Ottawa Valley Curling Association (OVCA) and the Hamilton Area Curling Association (HACA) about an unconscionable state of affairs. It is apparent the organization is not operating efficiently or effectively and the credibility of the OCA’s leadership is currently in question.  We are all very concerned with what we have been witnessing.

It's urging all curlers to attend the special general meeting April 27 at the Mississaugua G&CC to speak out. At that meeting, of course, there will be votes of non-confidence in the OCA's president and the board and the TCA made no mistake about where it stands on the matter.  

The Toronto Curling Association believes that the OCA must clean house in a significant manner.  The OVCA and HACA hold the same general belief. 

You can read the full text of the release here. 

While the CCA and other provincial organizations have expressed concern with the OCA board, this is the first time a group that is directly affected by the Ontario board has spoken out. It turns up the heat considerably on president Ian McGillis and the rest.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Music stops, players grabbing chairs

It has certainly been a busy spring in the player movement front, hasn't it?

Teams changing, players retiring, moving vans hired . . . and so far there doesn't seem to be too much in the way of bad blood

The latest news came in a Tweet from Paul Wiecek concerning Jeff Stoughton.

It's my understanding that of the top 15 men's teams, only two will not have any sort of change. I believe those would be the rinks skipped by Brad Jacobs and Mike McEwen. Anyone know any differently?

The women's side isn't much different. In fact, there are so many changes the CCA released a notice saying that Jennifer Jones team will remain intact for next year. I know that sounds sort of silly but when you think about it, both teams that won the Canadian titles this year will return as changed rinks.

Actually, for a good rundown on who is going where, we turn to McEwen who penned this blog for the Grand Slam site.

I wonder what effect that will have on the Players Championship getting underway in Summerside, PEI? Might be a bit like the curling version of The Farewell Tour.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Next OCA board meeting notice

Because I know there will be a lot of you who want to go to this, here's the info on the next OCA board meeting.

The meeting of OCA members will take place  April 27, 2014 at 1:00 p.m.


Mississaugua Golf & Country Club
1725 Mississauga Road
Mississauga ON L5H 2K4

Any curler in Ontario can attend the meeting. The agenda will be a lot more provocative than the last one and I suspect it will be a very interesting meeting. I'm going and I'll be carrying a copy of Robert's Rules of Order. 

Hope to see you there. 

Saturday, April 12, 2014

US curling under fire from Olympic Committee

Via Curling Zone, here's a story of how the United States Curling Association is under fire from the United States Olympic Committee over the sad state of the American high performance teams.

The StarTribune has the details of how the riot act has been read to the USCA and how there are concerns over future funding.

In a letter sent last month, the USOC said it has “serious concerns” about USA Curling’s ability to meet its obligations as the national governing body for the sport, adding that it could cease funding or sever its ties with the group if it did not make specific changes.

The other side of the story is how any moves will affect the grass roots development of the game. 

The USOC wants USA Curling to adopt some methods that have made other countries successful. But some curlers worry that could eventually end one of its most cherished traditions: the ability for any self-formed team to win  the right to compete at the Olympics or world championships.
Of course, the American performance at the Olympics has been nothing short of awful with just one medal, a bronze, back in 2006. The teams from south of the border haven't been much better at the world championships. For the second largest curling country in the world, it's certainly underwhelming. 

The changes will be decided today at the USCA's spring meeting. 

Friday, April 11, 2014

Rumours say Martin won't replace Koe

A couple of sources have told me in the last little while that Kevin Martin won't be replacing Kevin Koe on Team Canada for next season. Apparently Martin is going to take some time away from the game and maybe even retire permanently and move into another area of the sport.

Of course when you have multiple Olympic appearances, a gold medal, Brier and world titles, it's not hard to pass up a free trip around the game as Team Canada.

Now the question is who will be the new skip of the Other Three (as we're going to affectionately call them). John Morris? He says no. Dave Nedohin? Maybe they can convince Ferbey to un-retire!

The guessing continues.