Jeff Stoughton is heading to Edmonton with his eyes on a fourth Brier championship but it's not just his "A" game that he intends to bring along when the top men's curlers in the country convene March 2nd through 10th at Rexall Place.
A few hundred Team Stoughton beer cozies are making the trip as well and adventure awaits.
“We’ve got about 400 of these things that we’re going to distribute throughout the Brier, in the Brier Patch, and we’ll get everyone to tweet their pictures of where the cozy’s been," explained Stoughton as he took a break from his daily routine as a Financial Systems Manager with Air Canada.
Curling fans who use their imaginations might end up with more than just a Team Stoughton beer cozy. Best photo to emerge from the process will net the photographer a cherished souvenir.
“We’ll pick the best one and send them an autographed Team Stoughton broom at the end of the week," the skip announced.
Great idea. Great plan. But, um, mightn't there be the possibility of a number of naughty pics featuring Team Stoughton cozies slipping through to the internet? I'm not saying curling fans are poor judges of taste. But, you know, a few beers in the patch... a few more....
“We know that things could get a little crazy so we’ll try and keep it so that parents will actually allow their kids to go to our web page,” Stoughton said, laughing. “We’re going to see what kind of interesting PG-13 pictures we can come up with."
The photo essay contest, it seems, was born of a friendly rival's habit of tweeting out his own pictures chronicling the travels of the Team Stoughton can covers.
Team Glenn Howard vice, Wayne Middaugh, has been touring the cozies and snapping pics in such disparate places as a golf course in Florida, and the snowmobile trails of Muskoka, Ontario.
“Middaugh and Howard and all those guys have been taking those everywhere and sending us tweets about where they’ve been. They’ve been on snowmobile excursions, they’ve been golfing in Florida, etcetera, etcetera," said Stoughton.
Now the cozies are about to enter unknown territory as curling fans compete for that prize broom. This could lead to a little jealousy on the part of some other Brier participants, if Stoughton's beer cozies take on a life of their own. Other teams might even answer with their own labelled beverage product, although Stoughton doesn't see any danger of that. Not this year, anyway.
“Well, you gotta order them and design them and we’re way ahead of them on that one. We’re ready to roll. We got the jump on them," he chuckled.
Middaugh, who emailed the 'cozy-on-a-snowmobile' photo you see here, was not worried when asked about a competitive beverage-wrap gap.
"I do not feel Team Howard is suffering from beer cozie envy, (ours are bigger)," he wrote, promising that more shots would be coming to twitter. "I believe I am just strengthening the unspoken bond between thirds." Turns out Middaugh has been sending some shots directly to Stoughton vice, Jon Mead.
Asked if he felt his team was being out-merchandised, Howard - who caught the attention of the curling twitterverse with this picture earlier in the year - laughed and revealed that his Ontario champions have their own giveaways coming in Edmonton.
"We're working toward having a Team Howard... like a hockey card. A picture of myself with my stats on the back and the same with Brent (Laing), Craig (Savill) and Wayner. We should have those ready and we'll be handing those out to the fans. Probably about a thousand of them, about 250 a guy."
Not that Stoughton would be eligible to win his own prize, but I wondered if he might want to set the tone for the photo contest with his own beer cozy snap.
“We’ve got an idea. It’ll show up eventually," he said, mysteriously.
Perhaps during a nationally televised game?
“It could," he began, then paused. "Oh they don’t like that stuff," he said of the Canadian Curling Association. "It’s tough to bring anything out on the ice with the CCA around."
They might confiscate a water bottle with a team beer cozy around it?
“Not might," Stoughton corrected. "They will. There is nothing on that ice unless it has the CCA’s approval. This will not be approved," he said, laughing once again. "Doesn’t mean we can’t put them on the backboards, though... We’ll figure something out."
To follow the progress of the photo contest, you can visit Team Stoughton's Facebook page.