Quebec's competitive curlers were in our Nation's Capital this weekend for the Mac Ice curling classic.
For those uninitiated to the competitive circuit, the Mac Ice is traditionally the first big spiel of the season for most Quebec teams. It brings together 8 or so of Quebec's best, against top teams from Eastern Ontario.
The spiel is usually known more for its awful and strange draws as it it for good curling.
This year was no exception; Pierre Charette was out of the spiel having lost 3 games by Thursday night before most teams had started. Some teams played Wednesday, then 1 game friday, then 1 game saturday, then one game sunday. The organiser, John Stetski from Ottawa packs 24 mens and 20 womens teams into a four-sheet curling club, resulting in the strange times.
My favorite draw in this event was 2 years ago, when we started Thursday morning at 8am, played our second game friday at 8am, and our 3rd game saturday at 8am. So why does everyone keep playing in this event? The answer is because it is still the best event around at this time of year. Its close, and offers some good curling on great ice.
So how did Quebec teams do?
On the men's side - horribly. Only team Ferland reached the quarterfinals, all other teams bowing out before reaching the money round of the tournament. (Ferly qualified for the quarters friday night, then had to wait until sunday night for the next game; I hear they got to see Rideau Hall, the Parliament and a couple of museums).
Bryan Cochrane eventually won, beating Howard Rahala from Ottawa in the finals. Both teams are solid cashspiel teams from Ottawa. Cochrane lost the Ontario finals to go to the Brier last year.
On the women's side, Quebec did much better; Marie-France lost the finals, while Kim Mastine lost in the semis and Chantal Osborne lost in the quarters.
The spiel was eventually won by women's powerhouse Rachel Homan. For those who do not know the Homan rink - Rachel has basically won everything there is to win in women's junior curling last year, and is now ready to take on women's curling. This is probably the number 1 team in Canada right now. Look to them to win Ontario, and a big pile of money this year. A very good showing from Marie-France; and they look schnazzy in their red Star Trek uniforms.
So what about my team? We were spectacularly mediocre, playing well enough to not lose badly, but poorly enough to never be a real danger of winning anything. Our strategy is to not peak too early in the season - and mission accomplished - we were nowhere near playing at our peak! Blech.
Any good gossip? If there was - I missed it (as discussed earlier - we were mercifully out saturday night, and ended up drinkning rye in my 3rd's hot tub instaed of hanging around to watch curling). Most of the Quebec teams were out pretty early - so that will likely lead to some soul-searching conversations for the weak of heart. But its still early. Nobody breaks up in October.
What is next? The Casino Lac Leamy spiel in 2 weeks is the biggest in Quebec. Big money to the winners - big teams (most notably Gushue with Ferbey!), and a spot in the Canada Cup. All of the big Quebec teams will be there, hoping to earn some needed dollars to help fund the season.
The main sponsor is the Gatineau Casino - a potentially expensive between-game hang-out. My record in Casino's has never been stellar: my team has banned me from standing within 10 yards of them while they are at a table. I think I will stick to arenas.