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Thursday, February 14, 2019

Episode 49 - Bob Picken

Bob Picken had a voice for curling.  An accomplished skip who nearly won a Purple Heart at the 1963 Manitoba Provincials, Bob became widely known for his other contributions to the sport.  His distinct broadcasting sound covered many Briers and World Championships and his involvement with the CCA and the International Curling Federation helped usher in the Uniroyal World Junior Men's Championship in the early 70's.  Bob shares stories of his curling days and travelling abroad with other crew members of the Canadian curling media: Larry Wood, Scotty Harper, Don "Buckets" Flemming, Larry Tucker, Jack Matheson and "Cactus" Jack Wells, among others.  Bob passed away on January 30th, 2019. 

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Sunday, January 13, 2019

Episode 48 - Rick Lang

Rick Lang had an awkward start with success.  His first purple heart was won as third for Bill Tetley, but he had spared for Tom Todd and the uncertainty of who would go to the Brier hung over that evening's banquet.  Rick did make the trip and their rink would win the 1975 Brier in Fredericton but fall short at the World Championships a few weeks later.  The next season Rick was back on the open market.  Eventually he teamed with Al Hackner and they found immediate success, reaching the 1980 Brier final before losing to Rick Folk. After a heartbreaking loss to Kerry Burtnyk the next season, Rick and Al, along with second Bob Nichol and lead Bruce Kennedy, finally won the Brier in 1982.  In 1985, with the new front end of Ian Tetley and Pat Perroud, Rick and Al once again reached the Brier final and faced Pat Ryan from Alberta.  Rick talks about the most famous shot in Brier history and shares stories from throughout their playing days.  We cover the Olympic Trials of 1987, the transition to coaching and Rick  explains how to react on an airplane when someone thinks you're a rock star.

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Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Episode 47 - Ron Anton

Ron Anton was the original boy wonder.  He starting skipping a men's team at the age of sixteen.  With his father at third, they reached the semifinals of the Swift Current Carspiel in 1959, holding their own against the great Matt Baldwin.  Matt's third in the event, Hec Gervais, returned to skipping a year later and recruited Ron as his vice.  Joined with Ray Werner and Wally Ursuliak, they would represent Alberta at the next two Briers, winning in 1961.  Ron and Hec teamed up again in 1974, this time with Warren Hansen and Darrel Sutton, winning a second Canadian Championship.  Ron shares many stories from his time with Hector, their battles against the Richardsons and his coaching experience during the 1967 Canadian School Boys with Stan Trout and later with Team Canada at the Calgary Olympic Winter Games in 1988.

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Sunday, December 2, 2018

Episode 46 - Lloyd Yerema/Brian Chick

Lloyd Yerema would sooner curl than eat.  The second of 13 children, Lloyd grew up in Gilbert Plains, Manitoba, learning to curl on a unique two sheeter that had the hockey rink sandwiched in between.  It was in 1968 that Lloyd and teammates Roy Berry and Jack Yuill picked up Burke Parker as their fourth for the local zone playdowns and found themselves representing Manitoba at the Brier in Kelowna.  Lloyd shares their Cinderella story and what happened next, along with his early tutelage under 1938 and '53 Brier winner Ab Gowanlock. Before getting to Lloyd, Brain Chick joins for a quick chat about his new book "Written in Stone: A Modern History of Curling".  It's an oral history of curling's past three decades as told by forty-eight of the biggest names in the sport.  

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Saturday, November 17, 2018

A New Statistic: Hammer Factor

Welcome to the new stat of 2018. To be fair, this is a simple calculation using two existing statistics: Hammer Efficiency (or HE) and Steal Defense, otherwise known as SD, though in the early days it was SDE.  These are the two primary stats that Gerry Geurts and Dallas Bittle created over a decade ago to measure a team's performance with hammer.  They also created Force Efficiency (FE) and Steal Efficiency (SE) which measured a teams play without hammer.  Here's a quick refresher on what these actually are:

  • Hammer Efficiency (HE) the percentage of time a team takes 2 or more points with hammer, in ends which are scored. Includes all non-blank ends in which a team has hammer.
  • Force Efficiency (FE) - measures the ability of a team to force their opponent to one point. Calculated by number of ends in which the opponent took 1 point divided by all ends against without hammer where the opponent scores. Stolen and blank ends are not included in the calculation.
  • Steal Efficiency (SE) - the percentage of ends a team is able to steal. It's calculated by dividing ends stolen without hammer by the total ends played without hammer, Blank ends are included.
Steal Defence (SD) - ability to limit the number of stolen ends. Calculated by number of ends stolen against divided by ends with hammer. Blank ends are included

Over the years, HE and SD have provided some indication on whether a team was average, good or great.  Generally, stats without hammer are less of an indicator of success.  

Looking at last season, I grouped teams into several categories, based on World Ranking.  Top 5, Next 5, Top 11 through 20, 21 through 30 and 31 to 50.  Let's first look at without hammer numbers. For men, FE ranged between .48 and .63 with average for each grouping .55, .56 or .57.  The .63 was Gushue, an anomaly at the top, however Tanner Horgan (Rank 23) was .62 and Karsten Sturmay (Rank 48) was .61.  For comparison, Reid Carruthers, Ranked 6th, had an FE of .49.  For all groups SE averaged .25 with only two teams below .22 and two above .28.  Often these non-hammer stats are an indicator of the level of competition.  A top 5 team (like Carruthers) can have a much lower FE than a 35th ranked team who plays against weaker opponents.  In the womens game, FE last year may have been a subtle indicator, with the Top 10 teams averaging .6 while 11 through 50 averaged .55.  SE was similar to the mens, with an average between .25 to .28 for each grouping, with top teams actually being the lower number.  Now on to our new stat...

When digging into these CurlingZone stats, over the years it's become apparent that strength of a team was related to how much they avoided stolen ends.  A low Steal Defence (say, below .20) meant a good team.  When combined with a high Hammer Efficiency (above .45) , indicated likely a great team.  Some teams have differing styles and you could see one team with higher HE but higher SD, and vise versa.

Oddly enough, it was staring at us all along and we only just recently thought to combine these numbers into a formula...  

Hammer Factor = (Hammer Efficiency) - (Steal Defence)

Going back to my team groupings from earlier, when I took this formula and averaged it for each grouping, it jumped off the spreadsheet.  Have a look:
Team World Ranking
(2017-18 Season)
Hammer Factor
Women Hammer Factor 
Top 5
6 to 10
11 to 20
21 to 30
 31 to 50

Now, looking at teams individually, there's still some oddities.  Edin and Gushue are top of the rankings and have the highest HF by far (.33 and .39 respectively).  Howard was .3 at a ranking of 11 and Koe only .24 while being ranked 3rd.  In the womens, Jones and Hasselborg were .28 and .35  while Einarson at 14th had an HF = .27.  But for the most part, Hammer Factor seemed to drop with a teams ranking.

I haven't yet gone backwards to compare past season results and also haven't yet analyzed against W-L records (just rankings).  Perhaps HF could be used in a Bill James Pythagorean Expectation to estimate a team's winning percentage or a Bill James style log5 formula to estimate win probability head-to-head.   More to be done with this new calculation, but for now it's fair to say that the higher the Hammer Factor, the better.

Episode 45 - Robin Wilson

Robin Wilson grew up a fighter.  She was active in supporting social change during the early 1970's and, after earning her business degree, applied for positions in male dominant companies. Her path eventually led to one of the greatest sponsorships in sport.  Robin met Lindsay Davie at the North Shore Winter Club while in their early teens.  Robin, her sister Dawn, Lindsay and Lorraine Bowles would eventually capture the 1976 Macdonald Lassie.  In 1979, they won again and were able to represent Canada at the first ever Women's World Curling Championship.  Robin is the Leadership Director for the Sandra Schmirler Foundation.  Visit to read the incredible stories of babies and parents who are helped by the Foundation.  You can donate online or add a $10 donation to your cell phone bill by texting the word SANDRA to 45678.   

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Thursday, November 1, 2018

Episode 44 - Pierre Charette

Pierre Charette may have been a little feisty. Regardless of his position for Team Quebec at the Brier (and he played them all) he was intensely focused on trying to win.  During a phenomenal run in the late nineties, he nearly won it all.  Teamed with Guy Hemmings and the front end of Dale Ness and Guy Thibaudeau, Pierre reached two consecutive Brier finals in 1998 and '99.  Pierre reflects on the early days, his Brier experiences, the evolution of the free guard zone and the beginning of the Grand Slams.

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