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  • Kevin Martin's retirement marks the end of an inimitable playing career. (CP)

    What an incredible, outlandish season. Packed with memorable on-ice action, the curling landscape was also filled with off-ice intrigue. Here are my top ten Canadian curling stories of the year.

    10. This means war. OCA and CCA clash

    An ugly, ugly war has been waged between the Canadian Curling Association and the Ontario Curling Association and its effects might very well lead to a wholesale restructuring of the OCA or, at least, changes at the top. Many Ontario curlers are incensed at the way their federation has gone about their business, stemming from the CCA's demanding of an apology from its provincial counterpart over comments in what became a leaked internal memo. In a soap opera rife with name-calling, secrecy, ousters and angry meetings, the last chapter has yet to be written, with a special meeting coming up this Sunday, April 27th. Curling journalist Bob Weeks has been all over this story from the outset and you can find a number of very intriguing columns on the matter

    Read More »from Canadian Curling’s 2013-2014 season: Top 10 stories
  • (Photo by Francois Lacasse/NHLI via Getty Images)

    As the NHL and NBA playoffs continue to eat up air time, there's nothing but good news for Canadian broadcasters -- at least so far.

    Outside of a Game 7 triple overtime win by the Montreal Canadiens, the CBC couldn't be happier with the way the NHL playoffs have gone so far.

    The Canadiens are moving on to the second round, which means at least one more series of big ratings for the network. The series has averaged more than 2 million viewers per game and that should only get better if the Canadiens keep moving.

    It's not as if the American teams have been drawing flies. TSN got more than 1 million viewers for its Detroit-Boston broadcast on Sunday. Saturday's Penguins-Blue Jackets game hit 1.5 million for CBC on Saturday night, but that's less than the average Toronto Maple Leafs audience during the regular season. Canadian teams drive ratings and so far the Habs have been doing just that.

    CBC executives are planning a trip to Lourdes this week to pray for a Montreal run.

    In the arena

    Read More »from The Great Canadian Ratings Report: NHL scores big — and so do the Raptors
  • At 15, Montreal's Françoise Abanda made the semifinals in singles and doubles at the junior Wimbledon event - coming close to making it an all-Canadian singles final against city-mate Genie Bouchard. (opencourt.ca)

    Now that she's finally healthy, Montreal teenager Françoise Abanda is showing what she's capable of on the tennis court.

    The 17-year-old won three straight matches at the $50,000 Boyd Tinsley Classic in Charlottesville, Va. over the Easter weekend to make the main draw.

    On Wednesday, she defeated experienced clay-court vet Florencia Molinero of Argentina 7-6, 6-3 to move into the second round of singles.

    As well, Abanda and American partner Chieh-Yu Hsu won their first-round doubles match Tuesday.

    Abanda, who is currently ranked a career-best No. 274 on the WTA Tour, will move up to about No. 262 with the win, a couple of spots higher if she can win her second-round match. That's less than half what her ranking was at the beginning of 2014.

    Read More »from Following in the footsteps of Eugenie Bouchard, Montreal teenager Françoise Abanda is rising quickly
  • Ron MacLean (left) sits alongside Don Cherry in Toronto on Monday March 10, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

    Maybe the shock of CBC losing Hockey Night In Canada has gotten to Ron MacLean.

    Maybe he's worried about what happens to him once CBC's four-year hockey deal with Rogers runs out. Or maybe he's been standing next to Don Cherry for so long that he's beginning to morph into him.

    Whatever the reason, that sure was one bizarre moment Tuesday night when MacLean suggested that referees with French-Canadian background not work playoff games involving the Montreal Canadiens. After all, for years MacLean has been (sort of) the voice of reason on hockey, attempting (rather ineffectually) to counter some of Cherry's looniest theories.

    To hear him make one worthy of the man in the loud jacket is somewhat stunning. To be fair, MacLean has apologized, although his explanation didn't sound any more coherent than his original statement.

    As for his original statement, it was a lulu. During the second intermission of the game between the Canadiens and Tampa Bay Lightning, MacLean questioned the wisdom

    Read More »from Qu’est-ce que c’est, Ron MacLean? HNIC host goes down that slippery slope
  • (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

    When the Toronto Raptors looked across at their first-round opponents the Brooklyn Nets, they saw two things: plenty of playoff experience and veteran savvy and an opportunity to exploit that by dictating the style of play.

    The Raptors wanted to take advantage of their youth and athleticism and made a point of trying to play at at faster pace against Brooklyn’s older stars. DeMar DeRozan scored 17 of his game-high 30 points in the fourth quarter to lead the Raptors to a 100-95 win but Toronto turned the ball over 21 times in Game 2 after commiting 19 turnovers in Game 1 and still failed to push Brooklyn into an up-and-down game.

    “We’re trying to play fast, especially against Brooklyn,” said DeRozan. “Sometimes that may cause some costly turnovers, we understand that, but we still got to clean it up and limit it.”

    Part of the reason it hasn’t been easy for the Raptors to establish and sustain an up-tempo game is that it’s not something this group has done regularly. Toronto and

    Read More »from Raptors survive turnover trouble in Game 2 win over Nets, can't stick with up-tempo strategy
  • As pebbled ice surfaces at curling clubs all over the land are being broken up and shovelled out the back door, things are settling down in the world of men's curling, with new rosters being finalized and plans being made for next season and beyond.

    For many, that means mapping out strategies that arc all the way to the 2017 Canadian Olympic Trials and a shot at representing the nation at the 2018 Games.

    For others, it means backing off on the grind of elite level competition. Some, like Kevin Martin, leave the game completely.

    For 46 year old Wayne Middaugh, it comes in the form of a semi-retirement. Or, perhaps more accurately, mostly-retirement.

    It was already known that the three-time world champion (at three different positions, no less) was leaving Team Glenn Howard. What wasn't positively known was whether Middaugh would decide to curl full-time with someone else or, instead, lean his broom in a corner of the basement, permanently.

    Now we know. Middaugh is stepping away from

    Read More »from Wayne Middaugh slides off into the competitive curling sunset
  • John Morris, seen in British Columbia colours at the 2014 Brier, is back in Alberta. (CP)

    Well, that didn't last long, did it?

    John Morris, who announced just a few weeks ago that he was leaving his British Columbia team in order to step back from curling for awhile, has already announced his return to the game.

    Morris, who skipped a B.C. based team featuring Jim Cotter, Tyrel Griffith and Rick Sawatsky in 2013-14, is the new skip of Team Canada, the team that returns to The Brier in 2015 as defending champs. While former skip Kevin Koe left that team to form a new squad, the remaining team members - Nolan Thiessen, Carter Rycroft and Pat Simmons - retained Team Canada status as long as the three of them confirmed that they would be part of the team.

    Now, with Morris, the rink is rounded out and ready to defend.

    This announcement answers, really, the last big question regarding men's rosters looking ahead to the 2014-15 season. It puts pretty much a capper on a torrent of change that had swept through Canadian men's curling since March, when the rumours of changes to the

    Read More »from John Morris reconsiders his curling sabbatical: Joins reigning Brier champions in Alberta
  • Mark Nichols at the 2011 Brier. (CP)

    When news of the break up of Jeff Stoughton's team came to light last month, there was immediate - and very strong - speculation that the team's lead/second, Mark Nichols, would return to his home province of Newfoundland and Labrador to reunite with his old skip, Brad Gushue.

    That reunion has come to pass, with Gushue making the announcement, Monday, on his team's Facebook page:

    "I am very pleased to announce the return of Mark Nichols to our team. It will be great to be teammates once again, as Mark brings experience and talent that will certainly benefit our team as a whole."

    Now, the tandem that formed half of Canada's gold medal Olympic team in 2006 (Russ Howard and Jamie Korab rounded out the team, while Mike Adam was the alternate) is back together, as Nichols returns to throw third stones for the skip he played for from 1998 - 2011. Nichols stepped back from the game at that time, and re-emerged a year later, out West.

    Together, Gushue and Nichols were part of teams that won

    Read More »from Brad Gushue reunites with Mark Nichols: Can they repeat their golden performance?
  • Pospisil was pretty down in the dumps by the end of his match against Mikhail Kukushkin of Kazakhstan at Indian Wells (Stephanie Myles/opencourt.ca)

    The members of Canada's victorious Fed Cup squad are off this week, having learned a lesson from Genie Bouchard's overnight sojourn from Montreal to the Middle East after February's matches that it's best to take a few days to recover.

    Top male Canadian Milos Raonic, who was a semi-finalist at the ATP Tour 500 event in Barcelona a year ago, is skipping it this year. Instead, he'll play a smaller event next week in Oeiras, Portugal.

    But his quarter-final effort in Monte Carlo last week bumped his ranking to a career-best No. 9 in the new ATP rankings list released Monday.

    Despite the notable absences – both Bouchard and Raonic are gearing up for heavy clay-court schedules leading up to next month's French Open – there are plenty of Canadians in action this week around the world.

    First and foremost is Vasek Pospisil, who has struggled this season first with a back injury, and then a major lack of confidence once he returned to the court.

    Read More »from First Serve: Canadians on the pro tennis tours this week
  • Canada's Genie Bouchard carries the victory flag with teammates Sharon Fichman and Aleksandra Wozniak, after clinching the Fed Cup tie vs. Slovakia Sunday in Quebec City (CP/Jacques Boissinot)

    QUEBEC CITY – It may have seemed like a fait accompli to most because when it has come down to crunch time in Fed Cup, Montreal’s Genie Bouchard has been money.

    And though it wasn’t routine, the 20-year-old from Montreal came through again Sunday, defeating Jana Cepelova of the Slovak Republic 7-6 (6), 6-3 to clinch the World Group I playoff tie for Canada.

    The victory earns Canada a promotion into the prestigious World Group I, where admission is restricted to the top eight nations in women’s tennis and where the members actually have a chance to compete for the big trophy.

    It's a first in Canadian tennis history.

    Read More »from Eugenie Bouchard leads Canada to a Fed Cup win over Slovakia, and makes Canadian tennis history

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