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Article from Edmonton Sun: Hansen continues to build curling's international footprint
http://edmontonsun.com/sports/curling/jones-hansen-continues-to-build-curlings-international-footprint

Will the man most responsible for turning curling in Canada and beyond into the significant sport worthy of occupying one of the rings in the five-ring circus of the Winter Games play a major role in repeating the feat in the USA?

It’s an interesting question as the world men’s curling championship plays out in Vegas in the wake of John Shuster’s winning of the Olympic gold medal just a month ago.

Warren Hansen, pushed into semi-reluctant retirement by the people who gave you a Brier with Nunavut and now one with 16 teams and two pools of eight, has officially been working with USA Curling for almost two years as a business development consultant.

“Translated, that means I have been working on ways to get more corporate and television involvement in U.S. curling,” he said.

Timing is everything and the timing of hiring Hansen and Shuster winning gold is remarkable.

“Prior to the Shuster team winning the gold medal, we already had started to shop some in depth sponsorship proposals into the marketplace,” Hansen said.

“With the gold medal win by Team Shuster, the whole possibility of a lot of good things happening real fast increased significantly. The timing has been perfect. One year ago, we would not have been ready to move in the right direction but we are now.”

Hansen’s fingerprints are on almost everything that happened to drive the sport into the Olympics and turn it into a significant television property which fill NHL buildings with fans.

A three-time Little Grey Cup winner with the Edmonton Huskies who won the 1964 Brier with Hec Gervais, Hansen was involved with Ray Kingsmith of Calgary in getting curling into the Olympics as a demonstration sport in 1988. He was the main force in trying to make it presentable.

He’s also the man most responsible for taking the cigarettes out of the mouths of the curlers, forcefully teaching them how to dress and conduct themselves and otherwise making them presentable enough to go into the Olympics and for curling to become a major TV property.

Hansen created the mixed doubles event that has become an Olympic sport, created the Canada Cup and Continental Cup and Season of Champions. He’s currently working to help build a Season of Champions in the U.S.

“The plan started by attempting to get Curling Night In America, the trials and U.S. nationals into a standard inside the boards that would make the event more attractive to fans, television and potential sponsors,” he said.

“From that point, I have been attempting to shape a potential ‘season’ similar to the Season of Champions in Canada, that would provide a consistent presentation of curling in the U.S. for most of the winter months. This hasn’t all happened yet. But we do have a plan in place of where we want to go.”

TV numbers in the US are exceptional. An average of 1.8 million watched the round-robin game between Shuster and Canada’s Kevin Koe on NBC. But there’s been no evidence here of Americans rushing to buy tickets. The bulk of the attendance is made up of Canadians and most of them decided to stay home for Easter and head here for championship weekend.

“It’s not as easy to get people into venues as it is to get them to watch on television,” Hansen said. “Once we are able to establish a television product that people are attracted to, you can use that as the catalyst to draw people to venues.”

The USA is booming in terms of dedicated rinks being built and people taking up the sport recreationally.

“I felt for a number of years that things were on the potential upswing in the U.S. and the climate was right for major development. With Shuster’s gold, that potential is even greater than before,” Hansen said.

“Curling is looked at a little different in the USA than it is in Canada, especially in the states that are not traditional for winter sports. There is a huge curiosity and magic appeal to younger people.”

The question, with the evidence being presented here, is how close the USA might be and how far away?

“When I decided to get involved with the U.S., it was because of where I felt the sport could go here and maybe that I could help make that happen sooner rather than later,” Hansen said.

“When it all comes together I won’t be around but hopefully I can sit in my easy chair and know I played a role in the turnaround. The population of the USA is 10 times that of Canada and the biggest sports marketing machines in the world are in America. Without USA marketing, sponsorship and television do you think the Olympics would exist?

“Eventually, it is my prediction that the United States will be the largest and strongest curling nation in the world. But Canada will benefit from that in a major way. Does anybody think the NHL would be anything without the USA?”

BACK FOR MORE?

After three successful Continental Cups held here and now the world men’s curling championship, will Las Vegas continue to rock?

There was the expectation that next year’s Continental Cup would be held here. Television sources had been told to expect that.

But indications are that there are issues between Curling Canada, who own the event as part of their Season of Champions, and the organizing committee headed by Jon Killoran that have either delayed or derailed the plan.

It is known that Las Vegas and Boyd Gaming, owners of the Orleans Hotel & Casino and Orleans Arena, very much want to bring curling back to the desert.