It took me a few days to write this post because.... well let's just say that five days in Las Vegas is too many days to spend there. Say what you will about Vegas--the air quality inside the casinos, the overpriced and often mediocre cocktails, waiting in line for an hour for a cab because the Adult Video Awards just let out--it has its an energy all its own. I attended the inaugural Sin Sity Spiel in Las Vegas, but the ice was far enough off the strip that it didn't feel particularly more debauched than your average bonspiel.
A bit different than Mankato “@JillOfficer: Our sign bearer in #Vegas!! #Curling #contcup pic.twitter.com/MpcgFswXCI”
— Team Zissou (@TeamZissouCurl) January 16, 2014
But last week, the Continental Cup of Curling was held in Las Vegas--the first time ever it was held outside of Canada. And it's safe to say that it was a hit; they're already planning to bring the event back here as early as 2016. From the perspective of one of a cadre of California curlers attending the event as either a volunteer or a spectator, from Wednesday on the casino and hotel was jam-packed with Canadian retirees (who else can take a week off to fly to Vegas for a curling tournament?). I don't think the organizers were quite prepared for the onslaught; lines for shuttles became the stuff of nightmares, and nearly all the merchandise was sold out by the first day.
And of course, there was awesome curling on display. (Jeff Stoughton being exhorted by the crowd to attempt a difficult double, and then making it to take four is a favorite memory.) And of course it was sometimes equally interesting when the elite teams struggled, as North America did in the Singles event, which is basically a sort of hot shots competition. We are so used to seeing these curlers draw perfectly to cover the pin, essentially on command, that seeing someone leave the stone outside of the rings in a high pressure situation shows that they are still mortal!
And the curlers were also in good form off the ice; a huge part of the magic of the event was encountering curlers at the craps tables, at the buffet, and in the nightclubs. Suffice it to say, even at the biggest curling events in the United States (like Nationals), the curling atmosphere rarely spills out of the venue and takes over part of a city the way that it did last weekend. It was sort of like existing in a curling-themed amusement park. (I guess that's basically what Canada is, eh?)
So I'm thrilled that the event is likely to return to the United States, and excited that some of that curling spirit is likely to rub off on the locals here. However, if and when the Continental Cup returns to the States, it won't be quite the same: beginning next year, the United States will no longer compete in the Continental Cup as part of Team North America. The Canadian Curling Association has announced that beginning in 2015, the event will feature "Team Canada" (comprising six Canadian teams) taking on the rest of the world. An event that had previously been cooperatively held by the CCA, the United States Curling Association, and the World Curling Federation will now belong exclusively to Canada.
After seeing the camaraderie and teamwork displayed on the ice this weekend, its hard not take this personally. Er, nationally? Well, I guess I'll be rooting for Team World from now on!