What Happened to CBC Curling?

Anyone else remember the good old days of watching curling on CBC? I’m talking about back in the ’90s when Don Wittman and Don Duguid called CBC’s coverage of the Brier, Scotties, Worlds and Olympics. I’ll never forget the first time I watched curling during the 1998 Winter Olympics with Wittman and Duguid on the call.

The point of this is to not reflect on what CBC’s curling coverage was like 12 years ago, instead to take a look at both CBC’s and TSN’s from this past season. I find that TSN’s coverage is improving every year, while CBC’s is in decline. One hindrance for CBC may be that they only have rights to show 13 broadcasts a year, from four events. I think the bigger problem is their choice of commentators though. Bruce Rainnie and Mike Harris seem okay. Scott Russell is alright as a host, but shouldn’t be anywhere near the broadcast booth in any sport, especially curling. That leads me to the main problems with CBC’s broadcasts, Joan McCusker and Colleen Jones. McCusker occasionally offers solid analysis, but most of the time she just repeats the same things over and over, broadcast after broadcast. Add on to that she has an annoying laugh and she tends to laugh even if something isn’t funny. Jones is just like McCusker, except CBC tries to use her as a reporter. She doesn’t ask any real questions and she seems to be too close and friendly to every curler for my liking. I just can’t see her asking any difficult questions if a skip made a bad call that resulted in losing the game.

I think it is obvious that Curling on CBC needs changes if they plan on keeping the Grand Slam for any amount of time. Their current deal runs through the 2013-2014 season. TSN’s deal with the Canadian Curling Association for the Brier, Scotties, Worlds and other events also ends that season. Maybe CBC could see if Ray Turnbull would consider coming out of retirement to work four weekends a year. If not, then I’m fine with Mike Harris remaining on. If I were CBC I’d stick with Rainnie and Harris calling the Grand Slams as a two-man booth. The great thing about curling is the players are often the best colour commentators. There really is no need for a 3-man booth, especially one at CBC that tends to talk over the players. For The Players Championship, where there the women’s final is broadcast on CBC, a guest analyst should be brought in. Personally I’d just use a curler whose team had already been eliminated. I think Cheryl Bernard would make a great analyst if she wanted to go that route.

Aside from changing the commentators, CBC should make some small tweaks to their broadcasts. Bringing back the classic theme song, which has been ditched in favour of a new one in recent years, would be a start. Broadcasting coverage in HD, something TSN has done for years, would be nice too. As much as I like the idea of having some curling on CBC, if they can’t improve their broadcast I’d like the World Curling Tour to look into a deal with TSN when this current agreement is done. I think that between TSN and TSN2, it would be reasonable to expect a quarterfinal, semifinal and the championship to be broadcast. TSN doesn’t have a lot of Saturday afternoon and Saturday night programming in the winter and curling will pull in up to 500, 000 viewers for the Grand Slam events.

Speaking of TSN, I think their coverage got better in the past year, if that is possible. The updated scorebar just looks better, but that is the least important of the changes. Russ Howard is doing spectacular on the main broadcast crew with Linda Moore and Vic Rauter. I think Russ has improved Vic as well, he always seemed a little to comfortable with Ray Turnbull. Russ has a knowledge for how the game is played now that the rest of the commentators on CBC and TSN simply don’t have. He invented the 3 rock rule, he has played the game in the past 5 years since it has really changed into a very athletic sport. Because of how the ice and sweeping have changed, the strategy has changed since even Mike Harris and Joan McCusker have played too. Russ has the strategy down. Someone mentioned earlier this year that he is too hard on the Canadian team and he questions calls too much. Being hard on a team that isn’t playing well (Amber Holland’s team wasn’t playing well at the time) and usually when he questions a call, the shot is missed. It is a lot better than “safe” Joan McCusker questioning any risky call just to see it made.

In future seasons I’d like to see a few things from both CBC and TSN. The first is, if a player is talking don’t try to explain to the viewers what they are saying. We can understand them just fine, we don’t need an analyst’s opinion. The second is, sometimes the play by play should just shut up. We can all see the rock coming down the ice. 95% of the time the person in the house and the sweepers will tell us if the line and weight are okay. A guess from an analyst tends to be wrong. Sometimes less is more, and with players wearing microphones in curling, that couldn’t be more true. In fact I’d like to see TSN give a shot to just having Russ Howard and Linda Moore call a game without a play by play. ESPN has successfully mastered this in tennis and BBC has in Formula 1, two other sports where a true play-by-play commentator isn’t really necessary.

13 thoughts on “What Happened to CBC Curling?

  1. Nice to see talk about curling coverage in this country!
    I too miss the days when CBC would pick up the finals of Season of Champion events, but there is no doubt that there coverage is not up to the same standards of TSN. Bruce Rainie is a solid p x p man, and Joan and Mike are not bad. The only reason Colleen was used this wknd was because Bruce was not there because of the birth of his second child.
    I LOVE the old CBC theme, which they still throw in a few times every broadcast, but they need to get rid of all of the new ones and just have the classic one.
    Even still the old CBC theme is not as good as TSN’s.
    The only part of this post I have problem with is Vic. Vic Rauter is the voice of Canadian curling, and is far and away the best I have ever heard. He can make a regular come around by someone at second stones seem sooo exciting, and on the final day of round robin at the scotties or brier with all the playoff possibities, he is at his best.

    • I honestly think CBC would be better off with getting someone who lives in Alberta to fill in with Rainnie out, like Doug Dirks maybe.

      I don’t think I ever said I don’t like Vic, because I do. What I would like to see is TSN (or CBC) try doing a broadcast without a play-by-play. I think that Russ and Linda could certainly handle this. I wouldn’t want to see it full-time, but as an experiment it would be interesting to see.

    • Vic Rauter the best? Are you for real? All he ever says is “As we welcome you back, it will be team [name] playing the [colour] stones that will have the hammer, they’ll have the last rock here in the [number] end.” All of this info–who’s playing what colour in what end–is clearly evident by the scorebar, and yet he repeats this same litany at every end of every game of every event in every curling season. Talk about useless as two tits on a bull! Put the man out to pasture!! He adds nothing to the commentary. On the other hand, Linda and Russ are awesome. Their game knowledge and insightful commentary into curling strategy has increased my understanding and appreciation of this amazing sport tenfold.

  2. I had a videotape of an opening Saturday night draw from the Brier in the late 90s. Vic Rauter was unavailable as he was covering the opening F1 race the next morning, so Linda did play-by-play and Ray did colour. I had the last few ends on tape, and Linda seemed like a bit of a work in progress – her voice and intonation made it seem like she was trying to distinguish between “play-by-play Linda” and “commentator Linda”. While it was a bit rough, it was nothing that some practice wouldn’t smooth out.

    Back when TSN started showing morning draws, they still only used Vic/Ray/Linda (John Wells started doing morning play-by-play in the 2nd or 3rd year of morning coverage), and there was a rotation – I think it was always Vic and one of them for morning and afternoon, and then all three in the evening, but maybe they had Linda and Ray for some morning. As for today (and to your comment), having just Linda and Ray for a smaller tournament would be interesting, but I’m guessing Vic will always want in on the action.

    An interesting aside – during that Brier game with Linda on pxp, she was promoting the CIS women’s volleyball championship, which was airing immediately after the curling. Who did play-by-play for the volleyball? Glen Suitor. Yes, the CFL commentator. And he actually was not bad at all.

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  4. It’s like you read my mind. Great post.

    I’m curious to see how/if TSN develops Bryan Mudryk as a curling commentator. I think he did a great job when he was on mornings with Russ Howard, and even after Howard moved to primetime I thought Mudryk did ok. I appreciate that Bryan (and Vic also) asks questions that I, as an amateur curler, ask myself while I watch curling.

    • Agreed. I really liked Bryan and Russ, especially when they worked together during the Olympics last year. I think that Bryan and Bruce Rainnie are certainly the next generation of curling broadcasting replacing the likes of Chevrier, Wittman and Rauter.

  5. Can’t agree about the scorebar on TSN – they only showed the number of rocks remaining while a rock was coming down the ice, and I am often multi-tasking watcing sports and when looking at options for the next shot, I was sometimes unaware of how many rocks remained – it affects the strategy, and I would wonder why a certain shot was being played, only to discover that there were fewer (or more) rocks left than I thought. I’d really prefer they show the rocks remaining all the time the scorebar is on screen.

    Otherwise, dead on with TSN, love Russ replacing Ray (sorry, Ray, but you seemed to be losing it a little in the last few years). CBC just doesn’t seem to be in the same league, and I’d like to see more of the events they cover (Tour and whatever). These seem to be big events for the players, and I think TSN would do a much better job than CBC (or SportsNet, heaven forbid – they were tough to take, even as part-time curling broadcasters).

    • I’ll give you credit for finding one problem with the TSN scorebar that I hadn’t even thought of. Come to think of it, I agree though. I do the same as you when I watch curling. My point of their scorebar was more in comparison to last year’s, which I think had the same problem.

      • Actually I think they changed the rocks remaining on this year’s scorebar, because I didn’t remember having this problem last year and it just bothered me (and a few friends) with every TSN-covered tournament this year, with the exception of the Women’s Worlds, which seemed to have a different scorebar, maybe because it was in Denmark? One friend who only watches with me even raised the issue. Funny, that’s the one thing that CBC did better than TSN, but I’d still much rather have TSN’s coverage. I guess nothing’s perfect!

  6. Couldn’t agree more on Joan McCusker commentary style. She repeats everything Mike says, overtalks and interrupts. TSN supplies the best coverage.

  7. The CBC trying to save money took one of the most watched winter games, except hockey away. Too bad. We now have to surf the lineup on tv to see if it will be on TSM or Sportsnet 1, 2, or 3.

  8. I really like the way Vic Rauter,Russ Howard and there team work together.They make it lively and keep it interesting every end

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