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Grand Slam of Curling series acquired by new sports business venture group | CBC Sports

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The Grand Slam of Curling, the tour elite series featuring the best men’s and women’s teams from across Canada and around the world, has been purchased by a new sports business venture group.

The Curling Group, led by chief executive officer Nic Sulsky, has purchased ownership and operations of the Grand Slam of Curling from Rogers Sportsnet. The network will continue to be the exclusive Canadian broadcast rights holder.

“Being able to continue this legacy alongside Sportsnet is paramount to what we’re going to start trying to build together. It’s vital for the curling community, both the athlete and the fan,” Sulsky told CBC Sports.

“The Curling Group’s intentions are true. We will give the fan and curler a level of trust that we are going to do this with the right spirit and motivation in mind. We have a love of the game and [both] the curlers and fans that have made the sport what it is today.”

WATCH | Acquisition of Grand Slam of Curling about to ‘blow up the roaring game’:

Acquisition of Grand Slam of Curling is about to ‘blow up the roaring game’

The Curling Group founder Nic Sulsky explains the changes he hopes to bring to the newly acquired curling circuit alongside supporters John Morris and Jennifer Jones.

The new venture has some big names attached to it, including two-time Olympic champion John Morris and Olympic champion Jennifer Jones, who is retiring at the end of this season from the four-person game.

Former NFL star Jared Allen is also part of the group. They will all be part of helping shape what the Slams look like moving forward.

“We want the growth of the game to be so successful. We want to be successful. I think the curlers are going to embrace this and be very excited about the opportunities,” Jones said. “Our sport has so much potential and it’s just so exciting to be a part of this and hopefully we can have a great impact.”

Since 2012, Sportsnet has been the owner and operator of the Slams. Upward of $2 million in prize money has been up for grabs each season, with pay equity has been at the heart of the tour events since its early days. Its also been a place where new rules have taken form, including the five-rock free guard zone as well as a no-tick rule.

Rob Corte, VP of production at Sportsnet, said staying on as the official broadcaster of the Grand Slam of Curling was a non-negotiable, adding it’s been a key property to their programming plans for years.

“It’s been a fantastic property for us and what we’re really excited about is how the future is going to play out,” Corte said. “Just to be clear, the Grand Slam of Curling wasn’t for sale but over the last while through conversations with Nic, and his listening to his vision, we started to see what the future of the Grand Slam of Curling could be and it was something Sportsnet wanted to be part of.

“This partnership will help grow the sport while allowing Sportsnet to do what we do best – provide fans a world-class broadcast and the most in-depth curling coverage.”

WATCH | Canada’s Homan collects 2nd women’s world curling title:

Canada’s Homan defeats Switzerland’s Tirinzoni for 2nd title at women’s curling worlds

Canada’s Rachel Homan wins gold at the women’s curling world championship with a 7-5 win over Switzerland’s Silvana Tirinzoni. The win ended Canada’s six-year title drought at this event.

Providing a platform for curlers

Sulsky said the athlete’s voice is going to be a critical piece in how they shape the Slams moving forward, that’s why curling legends like Morris and Jones have been brought in from the beginning. 

“We need to provide a platform for curlers to take their position alongside the rest of the international sporting elite because they belong there. They are an incredible, engaging, fun, funny group of folks. It’s about time the spotlight shines on them,” Sulsky said. 

“We are going to blow up the roaring game all around the world, and I could not be more excited to start on this journey alongside literally the two biggest legends that the sport has ever had.”

WATCH | Gushue’s Canadian side settles for silver at world championship:

Gushue’s Canadian rink settles for 3rd straight world silver medal as Sweden’s Edin claims 7th world title

Swedish skip Niklas Edin drew to the four-foot ring in the 10th and final end to beat Canadian counterpart Brad Gushue 6-5 in the gold-medal game Sunday at the world men’s curling championship in Schaffhausen, Switzerland.

Morris said for as much change will be coming in the future, it’ll be important to also stay true to many of the traditional aspects of the sport that draws fans to the game.

“It’s not like we’re going to do a complete facelift on the Grand Slams because they’ve been a really big tradition and part of this game for many curlers around the world as a platform to get better, develop their skills and become the best in the world,” Morris said. “And it’s still going to be that stage. But we want to refresh the sport a little bit, and want to modernize it. We want to engage with some younger fan bases.”

Corte said the audience numbers remain strong on Sportsnet as this season’s final event, the Players Championship in Toronto, begins Tuesday.

He said Grand Slam of Curling numbers on Sportsnet are up 16 per cent compared to last season, with the 18-34 age demographic showing a 44 per cent increase. Corte said female audience numbers are up 14 per cent this season as well.

“Part of the reason we’ve been so successful over the years is because it has been done with the curlers. They are the backbone of the sport. We made sure we talked to them to understand things that might make the game better,” Corte said.

“It all starts with respect – respect for the sport, curlers and fans. When you keep them in mind as you move forward, and the right intentions, in the end it always works out.”

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