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Group including John Morris buys Grand Slam of Curling from Sportsnet

John Morris, of Canada, yells to his teammate after he throws a rock during the mixed doubles curling match against the Czech Republic at the Beijing Winter Olympics on Monday, Feb. 7, 2022, in Beijing. A group that includes two-time Olympic gold medal curler Morris and former NFL player Jared Allen has purchased the Grand Slam of Curling tour from Sportsnet. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Brynn Anderson

TORONTO — When Nic Sulsky first got involved with curling a few years ago, he saw tremendous potential for the athletes and the sport.

On Tuesday, he was involved in an acquisition that could lead to a sea of change for the Roaring Game. 

Now chief executive officer of The Curling Group with Rumble Gaming founder Mike Cotton, former NFL star Jared Allen and two-time Olympic curling champion John Morris, the new entity reached an agreement with Sportsnet to assume ownership and operations of the Grand Slam of Curling series at the end of the season.

"I feel the sport is a compelling sport but it's the curlers that really have an opportunity to really break through, that no one has really been able to help propel yet," Sulsky said. "That's our first job is to create a big star system for these amazing international athletes."

Sulsky was chief commercial officer for PointsBet Canada when the online gaming operator became Curling Canada's sports betting partner in 2021. The PointsBet Invitational was later added to the Season of Champions calendar.

Sulsky was often on site at premiere events, interacting with top curlers and getting a first-hand glimpse of how the sport operates.

"It didn't take me long to see the opportunity that the sport had," he said. 

Sportsnet will continue as the exclusive Canadian broadcaster of the series, the network said in a release. Sulsky said his group — which includes Jennifer Jones as a strategic adviser — is excited to build on the Grand Slam legacy. 

“Our mandate is to take professional curling to the next level, delivering a reimagined, premium experience that will enhance curling’s engagement opportunities for the athletes, sponsors, and most importantly the sport’s global fan base," he said. 

Operated by Sportsnet since 2012, the Grand Slam series features the top men's and women's teams in the world and includes a total prize money pool of $2 million.

“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,” said Rob Corte, Sportsnet's vice-president of production. 

“The Curling Group is fully invested in taking the Grand Slam of Curling to the next level and we look forward to growing curling together for years to come.”

The 2024-25 Grand Slam of Curling season will continue as planned with five events on the calendar. The Curling Group will oversee operations and Sportsnet will provide coverage at all five locations. 

More details regarding future plans and growth of the tour will be announced by The Curling Group in the coming months. 

The entity said it's dedicated to revolutionizing the sport of curling through strategic investments and a commitment to innovation and content production. A news release said the group is "poised to modernize the sport on a global scale."

"We really want to be able (to) show the players that it's about them in trying to create not a different product, but enhance a better product," Allen said from Nashville. 

Financial details weren't released but the acquisition includes global media rights, the release said. The Curling Group is in the process of raising funds, with one report saying the dollar number is in the eight figures.

"I can't be too specific but let's just say we've been engaged in really exciting conversations with some of the best venture and private-equity groups around the world," Sulsky said. "Our expectation is that we will be closing our fund raise within the next few weeks. We're pretty excited."

Sulsky said he's in the process of transitioning out of his role at PointsBet Canada. Allen, meanwhile, a five-time Pro Bowler, took up curling in 2018 and competed at the 2023 U.S. men's curling championships. 

Morris won Olympic gold with skip Kevin Martin at the 2010 Vancouver Games. He won mixed doubles gold with Kaitlyn Lawes at the 2018 Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

The acquisition was announced on the opening day of the Grand Slam's season-ending Princess Auto Players' Championship at the Mattamy Athletic Centre.

It's the final team event for Jones, who plans to retire from the four-player game at the end of the season.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 9, 2024.

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Gregory Strong, The Canadian Press

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