It’s not often that a sports figure as well known to Canadians as Trevor Linden visits Prince George.
With that in mind, it comes as no surprise that Linden’s autograph signing on Sunday at Canadian Tire was well attended.
Among the hundreds of people at Canadian Tire on Sunday for the two-hour event, I wasn’t surprised to see the reception the former Vancouver Canucks forward got when he entered the building. What impressed me was the lengths a couple of individuals went to meet their idol. Among the Linden fans at the front of the line were Graeme Paterson and Ken Self, a couple of locals willing to show up before the auto centre even opened at 8 a.m.
I had a short discussion with the two individuals, and was informed that Self showed up at the store at 3 a.m. and Paterson at 7 a.m. As it turned out, the people who showed up just before 1 p.m. were still able to get a Linden autograph. But obviously, not willing to take chances, Paterson and Self played it safe.
After taking a break for lunch at Taco Del Mar across the parking lot, I returned to the Canadian Tire store. I managed to get a spot in line with my friend and his relatives, so fortunately I could meet Linden myself without stepping on anybody’s toes. I went up for a photo, and after greeting Linden and shaking his hand, was told to move along as other’s were waiting in line. At this point, there was only another 15 minutes left in the autograph signing.
Meeting Linden was a short and sweet affair. He had a tight timeline, as you’d expect from anybody as popular as him, so I had to settle for a few photos without an interview. I gave it a shot, having phoned the Canadian Tire manager in advance to try arranging an interview before the signing. Having been told he was in town strictly for the autograph signing and had no time set aside for interviews, I went to the Canadian Tire store expecting to at least get a few photos. The fact I could meet him was a bonus.
The wait for the Olympic curling pre-trials is over. On Tuesday, the Road to the Roar officially got underway with 24 of Canada’s top curling teams vying for eight berths to the Roar of the Rings next month in Edmonton. The event features separate 12-team triple-knockout draws for men and women. Each draw will result in four qualifiers for the Roar of the Rings the A Event winner, B Event winner, and two teams from the C Event.
Participating teams in the men’s draw are skipped by: Jeff Stoughton (Winnipeg), Wayne Middaugh (Toronto), Brad Gushue (Newfoundland), Mike McEwen (Winnipeg), Kerry Burtnyk (Winnipeg), Joel Jordison (Moose Jaw, Sask.), Jean-Michel Menard (St-Romuald, Que.), Ted Appleman (Edmonton), Bob Ursel (Kelowna), Pat Simmons (Davidson, Sask.), Greg McAulay (Richmond) and Jason Gunnlaugson (Winnipeg).
Female teams competing at the Road to the Roar are led by: Kelly Scott (Kelowna), Sherry Middaugh (Coldwater, Ont.), Marie-France Larouche (St-Romuald, Que.), Michelle Englot (Regina), Heather Rankin (Calgary), Rachel Homan (Ottawa), Crystal Webster (Calgary), Cathy King (Edmonton), Krista McCarville (Thunder Bay, Ont.), Amber Holland (Kronau, Sask.), Eve Belisle (Montreal) and Sherry Anderson (Saskatoon).
The four male qualifiers will join four teams who advanced directly to the Roar of the Rings’ men’s competition Kevin Martin (Edmonton), Kevin Koe (Edmonton), Randy Ferbey (Edmonton) and Glenn Howard (Coldwater, Ont.). On the women’s side, the four women’s teams will meet four rinks who also already qualified to participate in Edmonton Jennifer Jones (Winnipeg), Shannon Kleibrink (Calgary), Cheryl Bernard (Calgary) and Stephanie Lawton (Saskatoon).
As has been mentioned, the Road to the Roar is the last of the Big 3 events in Prince George this year, following the World Baseball Challenge at Citizen Field in July and the Canadian Colleges Athletic Association men’s basketball nationals at the Northern Sport Centre in March. I discussed with my co-worker Allan Wishart (who’s dedicated his time this week to volunteer for the Olympic pre-trials) which of the Big 3 is the best. Really, that’s debatable. If you’re a basketball fan, you’d probably say the CCAA nationals tops the other two. If you’re a baseball nut, you’d probably say the World Baseball Challenge takes the cake.
The curling is certainly unique from the World Baseball Challenge and CCAA men’s basketball in that it leads to something. Winning the two other Big 3 competitions didn’t mean you qualified for anything. That, in a sense, made capturing the championship that much more special.
For the men’s and women’s pre-trials, there are eight winners, not two. In each draw, four teams will move on to Edmonton. From there, a male and female representative will be determined for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.
Still, my belief is that when it comes to the level of competition for that particular sport, the curling has a decisive edge over the baseball and the basketball. I won’t take anything away from the other two competitions. But this is the best of the best for curling, and while we have yet to see who qualifies for Edmonton, I believe the majority of the teams competing this week are capable of not only going to Edmonton, but being Canada’s representative for the 2010 Winter Olympics.