Last year, after Montreal, when people asked me how was the Mixed, I told the truth. I said it was an amazing week that every curler should experience.
I told them about the people. The Mixed allows you to meet some of the nicest people from everywhere in Canada, with who you share a common love for the game. You meet people on the first night, and by the end of the week, they become great friends.
I told them about the spirit of the game, which is so well represented at the Mixed. The notion that you should play hard on the ice, and then party hard once you get off of it.
I told them about the sense of camaraderie you develop with the competitors. I told them about the fun of making shots and playing well while representing your province in front of crowds.
I told them about some of the stories. Like signing duets with Greg Balsdon, or partying with teams until 3 or 4 am, or meeting nice folks like Gary Oke (the Nfld. skip), who invited me to play his golf course this summer!
So last year I told everyone how much fun it was...and then everyone signed up to play in the Mixed, and we had to play in one of the hardest provincials I can remember! So here is what happened this year: It was no fun. We sat in our room and watched TV. We made popcorn. The end. Nothing to see here.
No but seriously...the Mixed is a fine example of what curling should be. It is an event that brings together the best in Canada, for a week of excellent curling. Credit to the CCA for keeping the Mixed alive, and not succumbing to the pressure and diverting the funds to running another Continental Cup or some crappy thing like that.
On the ice, it seemed like the best team won. Alberta, skipped by Darren Moulding, played great all week. There were strong performances by Sylvie Robichaud from NB (the lone female skip), Shawn Meecham from Saskatchewan and of course from the defending champs, Cory Heggestad from Ontario.
As for my team, we were good but not great, finishing a game out of the playoffs. We always seemed a few shots short. And we will never ever talk about the first end steal of six we gave up against NB. (It still haunts my dreams)
Anne Merklinger, former superstar Ontario curler and current head of the Own the Podium initiative gave the keynote speech at the Mixed banquet.
Quick review: one of the best speeches ever. It was moving. It was funny. It was relevant to the curlers in the room. And it inspired. Anne has a great story to tell, and a very sympathetic way of telling it. If you get a chance, check out what she is doing at Own the Podium, and listen to her talk about the role of heroes in our society.
The trials start this weekend!
This is bar none; the single toughest curling event in world. It features the 8 best men’s and women’s teams in Canada, playing for one spot at the Winter Olympics. For every curler, this is a life-changer. It is the ultimate prize, and is probably the only event left that can get the eight top teams to crap their pants with nervousness. So who is going to win?
Women’s: It’s Rachel Homan. It has to be Rachel Homan. It’s a lock. Nedohin or Jones in the final, But Homan is the best women’s team this country has ever seen. They are curling machines. They have quit their jobs to prepare. If they do not win, we are not sending our best team.
Men’s: Incredibly tough to pick, but here goes.
Smart money seems to be on Glenn Howard. They are consistently the best team in Canada. I think Savill and Laing are the best front end in the game, and Middaugh is the best 3rd. Probably the best chance to win gold as well.
Should be Close:
Koe: always tough to beat, and has Olympic experience on the team (Rycroft at 2nd). Simmons at 3rd might me their downfall.
Stoughton is always clutch, and has come very close in the past. The Olympics are the only thing missing off his resumé. I always cheer for the toe-tuckers.
Martin is always a favorite, but with a new 3rd (David Nedohin), I can’t see them winning.
Jacobs is the defending Brier Champ, but I can’t see these guys pulling it off on such a big stage.
The Long Shots:
McEwen has been one of the best cash teams in Canada, and has dominated at times over the past four years. But they have not played well of late. Depends which team shows up. As mentioned, I always cheer for the toe tuckers.
Epping is a long shot. Replaced Scott Howard with Colin Mitchell (really?). Don’t think they have the game.
Morris/Cotter: Jeez, I hope not.
Should be an interesting week of curling. Every team there is more than capable of winning against anyone, so I can’t see anyone at 7-0. 4-3 might even make a playoff game.