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The Curling Group Acquires Ownership of Grand Slam of Curling from Sportsnet

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News release from The Curling Group via Canada Newswire

– New ownership group backed by elite international curlers to invest in growing the sport –
– Sportsnet remains exclusive broadcaster in Canada –

The Curling Group and Sportsnet today announced an agreement for The Curling Group to assume ownership and operations of the Grand Slam of Curling after the conclusion of this season, with Sportsnet continuing as the exclusive Canadian broadcaster of the series.

The Curling Group is a new sports business venture led by sports, media, and entertainment industry veterans Nic Sulsky and Mike Cotton, along with former NFL star Jared Allen and two-time Olympic gold medal curler John Morris. A number of elite international curlers, including legend Jennifer Jones, are also working alongside the group as strategic advisors.

“The iconic Grand Slam of Curling is the world’s only international curling event series, and we are excited to build on its legacy as we write curling’s next rockin’ chapter,” said Nic Sulsky, CEO, The Curling Group. “Our mandate is to take professional curling to the next level, delivering a reimagined, premium experience that will enhance curling’s engagement opportunities for the athletes, sponsors, and most importantly the sport’s global fanbase.”

“This partnership will help grow the sport while allowing Sportsnet to do what we do best – provide fans a world class broadcast and the most in-depth curling coverage,” said Rob Corte, VP of Production, Sportsnet. “The Curling Group is fully invested in taking the Grand Slam of Curling to the next level and we look forward to growing curling together for years to come.”

Operated by Sportsnet since 2012, the Grand Slam of Curling is an elite series of curling events that feature the best men’s and women’s teams from across Canada and around the world, with at least $2 million in total prize money up for grabs each season.

“The Grand Slams have been an integral part of the curling season for us athletes ever since I started competing on tour over 20 years ago, providing a platform for the world’s best curlers to improve their game under high-stakes pressure,” said John Morris. “I am absolutely thrilled to be part of the next stage of the Slams, as we look to expand the sport globally and provide a unique curling experience that fans will not soon forget.”

The 2024-25 Grand Slam of Curling season will continue as planned with its previously-announced events, with The Curling Group overseeing operations and Sportsnet airing in-depth coverage at all five locations. More details regarding future plans and growth of the Grand Slam of Curling will be announced by The Curling Group in the coming months.

The final event of the 2023-24 Grand Slam of Curling series, the Princess Auto Players’ Championship, gets underway today at the Mattamy Athletic Centre. Sportsnet’s exclusive TV coverage and streaming of the international premier curling event begins Thursday, April 11 on Sportsnet, Sportsnet ONE, and via live stream on Sportsnet+. Strategic advisor to The Curling Group, Jennifer Jones, is competing in the Princess Auto Players’ Championship this week, her last competition before retirement.

About The Curling Group
Launched in 2024, The Curling Group is dedicated to revolutionizing the sport of curling through strategic investments and a commitment to innovation and content production. With the acquisition of the Grand Slam of Curling in 2024, including global media rights, The Curling Group solidifies its position as a leader in the industry, poised to modernize the sport on a global scale. Recognizing the growing value of niche sports properties, The Curling Group strategically positions itself at the forefront of a rapidly expanding market, offering investors and enthusiasts an unparalleled opportunity to engage with the future of curling.

About Sportsnet
Sportsnet is Canada’s #1 sports network. Sportsnet’s multimedia offerings include Sportsnet (consisting of four regional channels: East, Ontario, West, and Pacific), Sportsnet ONE, Sportsnet 360, Sportsnet World, Sportsnet+, the Sportsnet Radio Network, Sportsnet.ca, the Sportsnet app, and podcasts. Sportsnet is the official Canadian NHL national multiplatform rights holder, and is the regional broadcaster for the Vancouver Canucks, Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers, and Toronto Maple Leafs. Sportsnet also has extensive coverage of the Toronto Blue Jays, Toronto Raptors, and UFC, as well as NBA, MLB, Grand Slam of Curling, National Bank Open presented by Rogers, FIBA, Super League Rugby, Premiership Rugby, FA Women’s Super League, and FA Cup. Sportsnet is part of Rogers Sports & Media, which is a subsidiary of Rogers Communications Inc. (TSX, NYSE: RCI). Visit Sportsnet.ca.

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Bruce Dowbiggin

Stanley Cup In Canada? All That Glitters Is Not Silver

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For Canada’s glittering NHL prizes, the Edmonton Oilers and Toronto Maple Leafs, time is short. Having reaped a harvest of top draft picks through persistent losing they now sit atop the NHL, ready for a championship. The Oilers are still in the Western Conference championship series, battling Dallas in what seems like an even matchup. We’ll see.

Toronto, as we know, expired ignominiously in the opening round versus a very average Boston team. Knowing that their window is closing the Leafs fired coach Sheldon Keefe in favour of no-nonsense Craig Berube. But their wobbly balance between offence and defence remains to be exploited by opponents. It is exacerbated by the huge amounts paid to their Core Four Auston Matthews ($13.25), William Nylander ($11.5), Mitch Marner ($10.9) and John Tavares ($11 M).

That was lost in the relief of Toronto signing Matthews last August. Alas, despite Matthews netting 69 goals in the regular season, it was not enough. We suggested as much at the time:

1) While Matthews has yet to prove he can lead the Leafs anywhere but a golf course come May, he remains their best hope for any assault on the 56-year Stanley Cup drought. It might be a stretch to say the 40-plus-goal scorer in the regular season led them to their first postseason series win last April against Tampa. Patrice Bergeron he ain’t. But he didn’t hold them back, either. Not every Leafs star can say that. 

He’s at a point (26) where a number of NHL stars have morphed from stats producers to win producers. Bryan Trottier, Steve Yzerman, Joe Sakic and Vincent Lecavalier are a sampling of guys who added leadership their tool box in mid-career and went on to multiple Cups. We will see if Auston does likewise.

2) Matthews’ decision to remain in a Canadian city is a huge relief for the league which has recently seen American stars abandon or ignore Canadian cities for the lure of their home country. Indeed, Matthews would likely have gotten all the perks of this deal elsewhere— plus the anonymity of being an NHL player in a city obsessed by the NFL, NBA or MLB. He could’ve maxxed his take-home pay going to one of the NHL teams benefitting from no-state-income-tax. And the NHL would get a huge problem with Canadian fans.

As Canada’s economy wobbles and players have a choice on lifestyle, Matthews’ decision to live in the Toronto fish bowl means that at least one CDN team is relevant. And, let’s be honest, he has a chance of winning the Cup that he wouldn’t in six other CDN teams. If that doesn’t pan out his contract is movable should he desire to move on before 2028.

3) Speaking of relief, getting the deal done is a break for new Toronto GM Brad Treliving. It was he who, as Flames GM, had to negotiate the escape of Americans Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk from Calgary. Had he not been able to retain Matthews in Canada’s largest market it would have not been a job enhancer. Now, he has to find a way to squeeze all Toronto’s glamour boys— hello William Nylander— under the cap and leave room for what they still need. Good luck, Brad.

4) Matthews’ commitment to Toronto means that a number of teams who’ve been delaying bold moves and hoarding trade bait in anticipation of his potential trade or UFA market can now move to Plan B. There were a number of U.S. teams poised to offer the Leafs the moon and stars— NHL version— at the trade deadline or to sign him next summer. This should now signal some activity by teams anxious to deal.

Ironically, the Leafs used to be that team waiting for a Toronto Moses to emerge in the UFA market. Remember Brian Burke’s unseemly longing for Steven Stamkos? Even when they got their local guy in John Tavares, the Islanders star was past his peak and has proved a millstone under the Toronto salary cap. This time they get a star in his peak years.

5) Matthews’ league-leading benchmark of $13.25 M. over just four years allows the NHL salary grid to fall in place behind him as the salary cap takes a bump in 2024-25. His deal will be the comparison for the next superstar contract that enters the unlimited FA portal in the future— although his max salary may chafe some stars who match Matthews’ production but have taken their teams deep into playoffs or winning a Cup. Don’t they deserve more? The expected rise in the league cap over the four years of the Matthews deal may help assuage that.

6) Finally— and most amusing— has been the response from hockey sweats to Matthews getting $13.25 M. For four years? To this crew who talk lovingly about The Game, this seems an awful lot to pay a guy for playing a boy’s game. That much? This just in, Matthews is criminally underpaid as one of the Top 10 players in a modern sports league. 

The dizzying $13.25 as NHL No. 1 would make him the 113th highest-paid player in the NBA, the 103rd highest-paid player in the MLB and the 88th highest-paid player in the NFL. As one perspective, Toronto-born Shai Gilgeous-Alexander of OKC Thunder— starring for Canada’s national team— pays about $13.25M per year in income tax.

Sure, there are differences among the revenues of the Big Four pro Leagues But, as we’ve written extensively, the @NHLPA sold out its stars in the 2004-05 CBA negotiations to protect average players and grinders. (Actually, it was a small group of stars pushed by their agents to stab Bob Goodenow’s strategy in the back.) They like to mock the product in CBA talks. 

Limiting the maximum contracts to 20 percent of the cap allows the league to have higher minimum and median salaries than NFL and MLB. (Hands up those people who buy tickets or digital packages to see the third line and fifth defenceman?) And pay lip service that it’s still Don Cherry’s Original Six league. With its cozy business plan there’s been little incentive to push the NHL’s business model beyond more expansion.

Also of note, if NHL doesn’t make its revenue target under this #CBA Matthews and the other players will have money clawed back in escrow. Great deal, huh? None of the other leagues has escrow, a device thought up by an NYC law firm and foisted on gullible NHL stars in secret meetings to break the 2004-05 lockout. Everything since then has been pantomime labour negotiations.

So good luck, Leafs fans. Enjoy Matthews and the star-spangled Toronto lineup. Things could change with the same guys making more money. But don’t hold your breath. 

Bruce Dowbiggin @dowbboy is the publisher of Not The Public Broadcaster  A two-time winner of the Gemini Award as Canada’s top television sports broadcaster, he’s a regular contributor to Sirius XM Canada Talks Ch. 167. Now for pre-order, new from the team of Evan & Bruce Dowbiggin— Deal With It: The Trades That Stunned The NHL & Changed Hockey. From Espo to Boston in 1967 to Gretz in L.A. in 1988 to Patrick Roy leaving Montreal in 1995, the stories behind the story. Launching in paperback and Kindle on #Amazon this week. Destined to be a hockey best seller. https://www.amazon.ca/Deal-Trades-Stunned-Changed-Hockey-ebook/dp/B0D236NB35/

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Alberta

Alberta’s government honours the province’s top athletes, teams, coaches and officials with 2023 Sport Recognition Awards

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Minister of Tourism and Sport Joseph Schow presents the 2023 Alberta Sport Recognition Awards, honouring the province’s top athletes, teams, coaches and officials.

Celebrating excellence in Alberta sport

Alberta is a global leader in sport, and it’s thanks to the athletes, coaches and officials who dedicate themselves to excellence in their craft. The Alberta Sport Recognition program was established in 1987 to acknowledge the outstanding achievements and commitment of coaches, officials and volunteers in the province.

Recipients of the 2023 Sport Recognition Awards represent the best in sport from across the province, from exceptional athletes to hard-working coaches and officials. Through their unwavering dedication to sport, these individuals are contributing to Alberta’s reputation as a global leader in sport and help make our province the best place in the world to live, visit and play.

“These high-performance athletes, coaches, and officials have demonstrated extraordinary achievement in international and national competitions and are deserving of recognition for their efforts. I am proud of their contributions and grateful for their leadership in making Alberta a province that lives the spirit of sport.”

Joseph Schow, Minister of Tourism and Sport

“The award recipients have demonstrated dedication, passion and excellence which have set them apart as true champions in their respective fields. Many have reached the pinnacle of performance and each of the recipients has demonstrated unparalleled commitment and skill, inspiring others to reach for excellence in all they do.”

Dale Henwood, chair, Alberta Sports Hall of Fame

The 2023 award recipients are:

  • Junior Male Athlete of the Year – Nikita Ciudin – Sprint Canoe
  • Junior Female Athlete of the Year – Julia Bartlett – Biathlon
  • Junior Team of the Year – Team Tao – Curling – Johnson Tao, Jaedon Neuert, Ben Morin, Adam Naugler, Zach Davies and Skip Wilson (coach)
  • Open Male Athlete of the Year – Jeremiah Lauzon – Athletics
  • Open Female Athlete of the Year – Alexandria Loutitt – Ski Jumping
  • Open Team of the Year – Team Canada 3×3 Basketball – Michelle Plouffe, Katherine Plouffe, Paige Crozon, Kacie Bosch, Jamie Scott, and Kim Gaucher (coach)
  • Coaching Recognition Award: Rachel Koroscil – Biathlon
  • Coaching Recognition Award: Marty Birky – Basketball
  • Technical Official Recognition Award – Barb Bush – Springboard Diving
  • Technical Official Recognition Awards – Matthew Kallio – Basketball

Quick facts

  • In 2002, the Athlete and Team of the Year awards were added to the awards program to acknowledge high performance athletes and teams who are promoting Alberta on the national and international stage, and recognize their pursuit of sport development goals.
  • The Coach Recognition Award recognizes coaches for their outstanding achievements in developing Alberta’s amateur athletes.
  • The Official Recognition Award recognizes outstanding achievements in and commitments to officiating.
  • Award recipients were selected by a committee and considered results from the 2022/2023 competition season.
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