Gushue drops opener to McAulay

Robin
Robin Short
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CURLING/Tylenol Players' Championship

The reigning Olympic champion and newly-minted world men's champ hit Mile One Centre ice Wednesday, opening day for the Tylenol Players' Championship, yet over half the 5,000-plus seats were empty as the World Curling Tour returned to St. John's after a one-year break.

Brad Gushue and his St. John's team of Mark Nichols, Chris Schille and Dave Noftall opened the Players with an 8-5 loss to B.C.'s Greg McAulay, the 2000 Brier and world champion.

Newfoundland's Brad Gushue looks focused in a match Wednesday against B.C.'s Greg McAulay in Tylenol Players' Championship curling at Mile One Centre. Photo by Rhonda Hayward/The Telegram

The reigning Olympic champion and newly-minted world men's champ hit Mile One Centre ice Wednesday, opening day for the Tylenol Players' Championship, yet over half the 5,000-plus seats were empty as the World Curling Tour returned to St. John's after a one-year break.

Brad Gushue and his St. John's team of Mark Nichols, Chris Schille and Dave Noftall opened the Players with an 8-5 loss to B.C.'s Greg McAulay, the 2000 Brier and world champion.

Next door on sheet A, Kevin Martin and his team, fresh off their world title, were engaged in a friendly against a team tossed together when Martin Ferland and his foursome were a no-show, stranded in Halifax after missing their connecting flight from Montreal.

Local organizing committee chairman Gene Trickett said this week ticket sales were at 70 per cent of their target, and while sales have been brisk for the playoffs beginning Saturday, peddling tickets for today's and Friday's draws has been a challenge.

And the chief reason for that may be the event itself, or more to the point, the triple knockout format.

Under this system, matchups aren't set until the winners and losers of the previous draws are determined.

Gushue, for example, plays Ferland - assuming he shows up - 11:20 this morning, hardly prime time. Heather Strong has a game against Jennifer Jones, the Canadian and world champ, at 2:20 this afternoon.

Strong and Jones lost their games Wednesday and have been relegated to the C pool. With the triple knockout system, curlers can still qualify for playoffs even if they're bumped to the B and C pools.

"For curlers," Gushue said, "it's easy to follow, but from a media and marketing standpoint, I don't think it's very good.

"We need to profile some key matchups a little more often and fans want to come out and see (Randy) Ferbey play Martin and (Glenn) Howard play (Jeff) Stoughton, see the top teams play each other.

"In this kind of format, turns out it's luck if they play each other. One wins and one loss and they might meet each other. But then that game may end up being 8:30 in the morning.

"One of the key things with the Grand Slam is to try and grow the game, so we need to look back at the round-robins and profile some of the big games to get people to show up.

"I think if you had Kevin Martin playing us tonight, this place would have been jam-packed."

Gushue fell behind early, allowing a steal of two in the second end to trail 3-0. The teams traded points through three ends, but McAulay iced it in the sixth with three for a 7-3 lead.

"I take full responsibility for that game" said Gushue, who curled 56 per cent. "That's as bad as I've curled in a while."

Despite Ferland's no-show, Martin and his Edmonton team of John Morris, Marc Kennedy and Ben Hebert took to the ice for the fans' sake in a game against a group consisting of Pierre Charette and St. John's curlers Jamie Korab, Stephen Ryan and Colin Thomas.

Martin won 10-1 in six ends.

Draws are scheduled for 8:20 a.m., 11:20 a.m., 2:20 p.m. and 5:20 p.m. today.

"The format being the way it is, it's difficult to get people out," Gushue acknowledged. "You're going to get much bigger crowds in the playoffs."

rshort@thetelegram.com

Geographic location: St. John's, Halifax, Montreal Edmonton

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Recent comments

  • Jesse
    July 02, 2010 - 13:21

    Very true about the schedual (sp) It's quite confusing to even figure out how it works!, round robin format would totally make a lot more sence I think.

  • Jane
    July 02, 2010 - 13:13

    Yep, that's about right from one fan's perspective. I still plan to go to some of the other matches, but not until I know who is playing. The round robin format offers a lot more security, both for fans and organizers.

  • Jesse
    July 01, 2010 - 20:04

    Very true about the schedual (sp) It's quite confusing to even figure out how it works!, round robin format would totally make a lot more sence I think.

  • Jane
    July 01, 2010 - 19:50

    Yep, that's about right from one fan's perspective. I still plan to go to some of the other matches, but not until I know who is playing. The round robin format offers a lot more security, both for fans and organizers.