As reported in the Winnipeg Free Press last week, the official marketing slogan of the 2011-12 Canadian Curling Association (CCA) championship season is “You Gotta Be There.” They forgot one line, though: “And You Better Be Quiet.” That’s the message the CCA apparently wants to send in its little-known Fan Code of Conduct, which came to light this week at the RecPlex in Cranbrook, BC when reigning Scotties Tournament of Hearts Canadian women’s champ Amber Holland’s ardent band of fans — arguably the most loyal in the game — were told that their trademark cowbells are not welcome at the Capital One Canada Cup of Curling.
That seems contrary to the CCA’s long-stated goal of livening up curling crowds and having a younger demographic embrace the sport as both spectators and participants, and it caught some of the game’s biggest stars by surprise. “I didn’t know there was a fan code of conduct. I think that’s disgusting,” said Glenn Howard. “I would love to see as much noise out there as possible. It’s a sport, we’re having fun. I guess if there’s one game going on and a person is in their backswing, you don’t want that. But if there’s four or five games going on, then there’s noise everywhere. I think it’s great. You want more excitement in the game.”
“It’s a sport, and it should be fun for the fans,” added Jennifer Jones. “I love hearing the noise; it gets us going as curlers, and it makes for a wonderful atmosphere for the fans.” The policy seems especially odd considering how the wild party atmosphere during the 2010 Winter Olympics at the curling venue was considered one of the highlights of those Olympics; it was a distinctly younger crowd than a standard Brier or Scotties, and the noise was overwhelming at times. Early on it was ill-timed, and certainly created an issue or two for Canadian opponents, but as the event went on, the general rules of curling fan etiquette were followed. But according to CCA director of event operations Warren Hansen, the policy is in place to make everyone’s fan experience enjoyable.
“It (fan noise) can become over the top, and it’s a real issue for other fans if you have a full building,” he said. “We’ve always received complaints, we’ve had to move fans, we’ve had to refund tickets, and it’s a problem. And we aren’t unique in that; the NFL doesn’t allow any noisemakers at all, for the same reason. We need to take everybody into the building into consideration.”
Ironically, the back page of the Canada Cup program is a full-page ad for Capital One, with two simple words. On the left it says “Players”, with a picture of a broom underneath. On the right it says “Fans” — underneath is a picture of, you guessed it, a cowbell. Holland’s fans were, by far, the loudest and most supportive last February in Charlotte, where the Saskatchewan champs won the Scotties, and their cowbells also rang loud at the world women’s championship in Denmark. But it appears they’ll be silenced — despite the fact that, as a group, they’ve already snapped up 90 full-event passes for next February’s Scotties in Red Deer, Alta.
“We’ve never had a complaint, and we’ve been to events across the country and in Europe and never had a problem,” said Walter Seeley, the father of Holland’s lead Heather Kalenchuk. “As long as you don’t do anything but clap, I guess that’s what they’re looking for, “We’re helping fill the coffers of the CCA, and if they’re going to start doing things like that, then I don’t think we’ll be supporting the CCA events very much longer.” Attendance has been solid this week in Cranbrook, but no one will accuse this of being the liveliest crowd the country’s top curlers have ever played in front of, and the silenced cowbells haven’t helped matters. “I say the fans should be able to say or yell or scream or do whatever they want to do,” said Jeff Stoughton. “They paid to come in here and participate and be part of the fun. When there are five games going on, who cares how noisy it is in here? And if it’s just one sheet, most fans are pretty knowledgeable that when somebody is in the hack, they quiet down. If they do that, then who cares about the noise? Atmosphere is what it’s all about.”