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Howard hurries hard into sports Hall

TORONTO -- Only a handful of curlers have accomplished as much as Russ Howard did over his long career.

Even fewer can say they helped revolutionize the game.

Howard, who will be inducted into Canada's Sports Hall of Fame this October, said one of his favourite memories was creating the so-called Moncton Rule -- the forerunner to the Free Guard Zone -- which helped create more offence in curling.

"It has really changed the sport," Howard said Thursday from his hometown of Moncton. "Now that I'm a TV guy, you can see the (ratings) and the numbers are growing big-time because the sport is so much more exciting, partly because of that rule."

The rule, implemented in the early 1990s, forced teams to deal with the rocks in play rather than rely on the option of consistently clearing them out. It also created more scoring, comeback opportunities and excitement.

Howard won national and world titles in 1987 and 1993 and added an Olympic gold medal with skip Brad Gushue of Newfoundland and Labrador in 2006.

Howard was named in the Hall's athlete category Thursday along with former NHL star Joe Sakic, cyclist Alison Sydor, Paralympian Andre Viger and the 1992 Olympic champion women's coxless four rowing team of Kirsten Barnes, Brenda Taylor, Jessica Monroe-Gonin, Kay Worthington and Jennifer Walinga.

"I knew I had done pretty well in my career as a curler but you don't parallel it with other athletes in other sports, especially the big-time sports like hockey and football, baseball, stuff like that," Howard said. "So it's pretty cool."

Former Canadian Amateur Hockey Association president Murray Costello and sport development architect Dr. Jean-Guy Ouellet will be inducted as builders. The official induction ceremony will be held Oct. 16.


Curse of the Cubs

CHICAGO -- The Chicago Cubs found a severed goat's head at Wrigley Field on Wednesday, and they're treating the cruel reference to a longtime curse as a crime.

Chicago police were called in to investigate after a man stopped the white van he was driving, walked a box to a security entrance on Waveland Avenue and wordlessly put it down.

Security workers opened the box, addressed to team owner Tom Ricketts, and discovered the severed head. The team immediately called police.

The significance of the goat is not lost on anyone. In 1945, a tavern owner named William "Billy Goat" Sianis tried to bring a goat to a World Series game, but was told his goat -- which had a ticket -- smelled too much to be admitted. Sianis angrily put a curse on the team and since then, the Cubs haven't been back to the World Series.

Fans have had little to cheer on the field in recent years, as the Cubs lost more than 100 games last year and are off to a rocky start this season. As for Ricketts, he's been negotiating a $300-million renovation of the stadium, built almost a century ago, with the city and neighbourhood businesses. Police have not said whether the head is believed to be linked to those negotiations -- or anything else.


Combatting hooligans

MANCHESTER, England -- Russia's World Cup organizers are hoping new laws will help prevent disorderly fans from marring the tournament in 2018.

World Cup director Alexander Djordjadze told the SoccerEx conference in Manchester on Thursday that with "extreme ultra behaviour in the stands" remaining a "big concern for the entire football family in Russia," the tough new sanctions should act as a deterrent for troublemakers.

A "Fans' Law," which started progressing through the Russian parliament this week, sets out how violent fans would be banned from matches for one to six months, as well as being fined. Fans convicted of bad behaviour that leads to matches being disrupted will also face a jail term and a one-year suspension.

Djordjadze wants matches in Russia to be more family friendly rather than a "battle ground between two clubs."

Violence at football matches as well as hooliganism off the field have been problems in Russia for years, but authorities have not been able to curb either.


Pistorius visiting with slain ex's friends

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa -- The family of athlete Oscar Pistorius says the South African runner has been spending time with people who were close to the girlfriend he shot and killed in February.

A statement from the family of the double-amputee Olympian also said Thursday that Pistorius has spent that time in "surroundings where shared memories were created."

The statement indicates Pistorius is interacting more with people outside his uncle Arnold's home in Pretoria, where he has been staying since he was released on bail in February. Pistorius has been charged with murder in the Valentine's Day killing of Reeva Steenkamp. He called the killing an accident, saying he thought he was firing at an intruder through a bathroom door. His next scheduled court appearance is June 4.


-- from the news services

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 12, 2013 C7

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