Saturday, October 24, 2009

The best on the ice

As in any sport, curling fans enjoy watching 'the best' in action. Of course these days, real curling fans are very much in the minority in this country. Gone are the days when curlers in Scotland would make a big effort to go along to a rink to watch a game of curling. Life has changed. People have more commitments, lead busier lives, and perhaps have less disposable income to spend on travelling to and watching curling events. It's not 1985, when the Kelvin Hall was filled for every draw of the Silver Broom. The majority of the 14,000 or so registered curlers are more concerned nowadays with enjoying their regular club games, and pay only a passing interest in what is happening at the elite level.

It is also true that Scotland is not served particularly well with opportunities to see the best players live. David Murdoch's World Champions travel the world these days to get top competition - although looking at the results from the Grey Power World Cup in Ontario this weekend (five losses and one win), this is not always the most enjoyable experience for them!

We will get the opportunity to see the Murdoch team, our Olympic representatives, at the Edinburgh International next month. The draw for that Curling Champions Tour event has been made and is just about to go online. Look for it here.

But the BIG event coming up is of course the Le Gruyere European Championships. It's in Scotland this time, in Aberdeen, December 4-12. Single draw tickets can now be reserved, see here. Eve Muirhead and her GB team, who are our Olympic representatives on the women's side, will be representing Scotland at Aberdeen. Scotland's men are the Murdoch side.

So, will you get to Aberdeen to support our teams and enjoy the best of curling in Europe? If I'm honest, Scottish fans have not had the best record in recent years in supporting the big events, which of course damages our standing among the top curling nations in the eyes of the rest of the world. It will be disappointing, particularly to the hardworking committee and volunteers, and those who have worked to bring the championships to Aberdeen, if few Scottish curlers make the effort to support the European Championships, and the stands remain empty.

So, get out your diaries and make plans to visit Aberdeen, if not for the whole event, then for at least some days in December. Get together with friends and fellow club members. Hire a bus, and make it a fun day out!

The top ten men's teams and the top ten women's teams will be playing in the Linx Arena, right on the beachfront, but there will undoubtedly be some good curling at Curl Aberdeen in the B Divisions. And yes, let's be quite open about it, there will be a number of colourful, attractive teams on the ice there. (I'm torn. Which tee shirt will I wear? My recently acquired Latvian one, or the well worn Hungarian one? But I digress.)

Post the Europeans, there is a great lineup for the Ramada Perth Masters, January 7-10, the second Curling Champions Tour event in Scotland. The draw has been made and can be found here. Six Olympic teams are in the mix! The Murdoch team won't be at this one though, having been invited to play in the Casino Rama Skins event in Ontario. (Incidentally, this latter is an X-rated, adults only affair. Because it's in a casino, under Canadian law you can't go to see the event unless you are 19 years of age or older. Who said curling was an inclusive sport?)

On the women's side though, the competition of the year, just prior to the Olympics, sees the best in the world at the Glynhill Ladies International. No excuses (or age limits) here - a central venue, easy access, free entry, opportunity to meet and talk to the curlers. Ask yourself, "Am I a curling fan?" If you are not, then you might well become one if you head for Braehead, January 15-17!