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Reflections after a season on the job with the CCA

“So, did you enjoy it?”

I’ve been asked a lot of questions in the five months since I took on my new role as Director, Communication & Media Relations for the Canadian Curling Association, but that one has been the most common.

(Photo, CCA/Michael Burns)

Now that the 2012-13 season has wrapped up, I think I’m in a fair position to give an answer.

Heck, yeah.

What’s NOT to like about being involved in a sport has been a passion for my entire life, since running around the Kamloops Curling Club while either my mom or dad was out on the ice?

The bonus now is that in some small way, I have a role to play in building our sport in this country.

It wasn’t a secret during my 26 years as a sportswriter that curling was my favourite sport to cover. I liked the sport. I liked the camaraderie. I liked the people.

Nothing has changed in my new role, only now that I’ve been able to see things from this side of the fence, my admiration for the people involved in curling, both on the ice and behind the scenes with the CCA, has only grown.

Most of you only see the finished product on TSN’s broadcasts of our Season of Champions events. They go off without a hitch, as a rule, and that’s due to the professionalism of the curlers and the staff behind the scenes, who put in countless hours making sure the events are ready to go before a single TV light is turned on.

There was a telling moment for me during the M&M Meat Shops Canadian Junior Curling Championships in Fort McMurray, Alta., in January.

As the arena was being set up, in wandered Steve Howard, son of Olympic gold-medallist Russ, and a two-time New Brunswick men’s champ (and five-time Brier participant, including three as an alternate). He had moved to Fort Mac to pursue job opportunities in the oil patch, meaning his curling career was going (temporarily, we hope) on the backburner, but he couldn’t resist the lure of a national curling championship.

He started chatting with chief ice technician Jamie Sage, and it wasn’t long before Howard became a volunteer member of Sage’s ice crew for the event.

That meant Howard was at the rink hours before a rock was thrown to help Sage get the ice in game shape. He monitored ice temperatures. He scraped ice. He did all of the unappreciated stuff that makes a curling event a success.

Midway through the week, I was talking with Howard, and he told me that he’d gained an entirely new appreciation for the work that goes in behind the scenes. As a curler, he told me, he and his teammates would show up for a game, play, and then leave. Yes, they appreciated the great ice conditions, but until that week in Fort Mac, he’d barely given a thought to what went into producing those ice conditions. Now, he said, he understood.

The same can be said for me, I believe, and that’s been, I think, the most rewarding aspect of this new job. I worked with pros during my work in the newspaper industry, and I’m fortunate that I continue to do the same in my new job with the CCA.

It’s going to be an interesting summer. In some ways, the 2013-14 season has already begun. This past weekend, our national women’s coach Elaine Dagg-Jackson held a training camp in Winnipeg with teams that have qualified for the Tim Hortons Roar of the Rings Canadian Curling Trials. This coming weekend, players from Trials teams will be in Vancouver for the Canadian Olympic Committee’s Olympic Excellence Summit, where they’ll be briefed on preparations for the Sochi Olympics and interviewed by the media for background research leading up to the Games.

As the summer goes on, check this space for periodic updates and observations from a reformed curling hack.