Favorite Reporter

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Thursday, December 30, 2010

New Year's Curling Resolutions

Ok. It is that time of the year again. Time to reflect on a year gone by, and aspire to be better.

New Year's always offers the possibility of renewal, of a clean sheet of untouched ice.

So here now are my New Year's resolutions for 2011. I will need the help of my curling friends in order to keep these, so please don't be shy to point it out to me when I am violating one of these resolutions.

I resolve to no longer make fun of women's curling on TV. While sitting alone at home, I will still question their strategy, and still cringe at the shrill sweeping calls, and I will still shake my head and try to figure out why women's curling is so much less interesting to watch on TV than men's. But I will stop making fun of it publicly. I will at least stop until I actually beat a women's team on the ice this year.

I resolve to stop sitting around the curling club drinking until 1am after club games. I figure this resolution should last at least until January 4th, my first scheduled club game.

I resolve to practice every day. My recent unemployment was an eye-opening experience. Its amazing how good you can get at this game when you can throw rocks a lot. In the past, I let trivial things such as work and family get in the way of regular practice. But no more.
This year, I resolve to throw lots of rocks.
I will throw more rocks than a caveman living next to a fruit tree.
I will throw more rocks than a G20 summit protester.
You get the idea.

I resolve to stop expecting to curl well in silly pants.

I resolve to wham my broom less. There are 2 things I do not do well when I am angry, and curling is one of them.

I resolve to do my part to help make curling big again. Our beloved sport needs more promotion. It needs more help. It needs more hype. Especially in Montreal. The fact is, there are thousands of curlers in the west Island alone, and yet the media (mainly the Gazette) gives curling less space than bobsleigh.
Open your sports section and count the number of stories and results that nobody cares about. I don't get why the Gazette does not understand that the key to its long-term survival will be its coverage of LOCAL events, and not simply reprinting canned news feeds that anyone could pick up off the internet themselves.

I resolve to stop making fun of my Third's sweeping.
I think he is taking it personally. I heard a rumour that he had dusted off his treadmill before the holidays. Scary stuff.
I suspect it looked something like this:


On another topic, Provincial men's qualifying start in a mere 7 days, and yet amazingly I have not seen the draw (nor do I know who I am playing with - but that is a topic for another day).

The usual suspects are all signed up, but overall sign ups continue to plummet. It seems nobody wants to try to get to provincials anymore. Not sure where all the competitive curlers have gone, but I remember not too long ago 75+ teams would play down in Montreal for 3 or 4 spots at provincials. Now we are down to 32 or so IN THE PROVINCE.
 Strangely, I think the calibre is far stronger today than it was 20 years ago, but I am not sure what keeps everyone away from a fun weekend of curling.

Expect Bedard, Charette, Briand or hopefully me out of the West, and Desjardins (Gagne), Martel and Hemmings from the East.
But a double knockout is sure to produce lots of surprises.
If any of you feel like watching some curling, by Saturday afternoon you should see some Provincial-level games. And I am sure Longue Pointe could use the fans.
The draw for Montreal will be posted at www.ARCM.ca at some point soon I hope.


Quebec junior provincials starts next week as well in Chicoutimi. While I do not follow Quebec junior curling enough to venture a guess as to who will win, but I will anyway.

My illustrious 2nd from my club team (Alana Rutledge) will win the girls side, having learned so much from our Tuesday night curling experience together.

Jeffrey Stewart will win the boys side, just because I see him practicing a lot.


Final note -
My blog got me a job! Amazingly, the Curling News called me and wants me to write a Quebec column!
Look for me in the January edition of The Curling News (the Curling News is that paper you usually see lying around your curling club by the bar or more likely in the Men's bathroom).

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Dear Santa

Dear Santa;

First of all, I would like to thank you very much for my present last year.

I very much like the new Third you sent me. Not to sound ungrateful Santa, but would have been too much to ask to send me one that doesn't look like he is about to die after sweeping a rock for 25 seconds? Well- never mind. This time of year is about being thankful for what we have.

I am also very grateful for the funky Loudmouth Curling pants you left for me. It was great to have people laughing at me for something other than my inturn.
(Fashion tip for you Santa; I think some Argyle pants would be very slimming for you - the red kinda makes you look like a bit of a firetruck.)

Now for this year. I have been more nice than naughty (I apologized for the broken broom), so I was hoping for some extra special presents this year.

Here are some random things I want -for me - and for my other friends in the curling world.

First; I would really like Jeff Stoughton's inturn. He only really uses it half of the time...I promise to make far better use of it than he does.

Second, I would like to have Jennifer Jones' clutchness. More than any other curler I have ever seen, she makes the BIG shot when she absolutely needs it the most. She typically looks like Bambi on ice early in the week at the Scotties, but once she gets to the point where she needs to make shots - Wow. I'm not sure how you are going to wrap that one Santa, but you will figure it out.

Third, I would like to have Kevin Koe's hairline. O wait - you already gave me that one. Ya thanks for that.

Fourth, I need Pierre Charette's brain. I figure I could just borrow it a few times per game.
Pierre's brain has won more curling games than any other curler's body part.
By far the smartest curler on the planet.
Pierre's brain is so big, when he flies on Air Canada, they make him buy an extra ticket for his brain.
Pierre's brain is so big, it sleeps 7 comfortably.
Pierre's brain is so big, when he goes to a movie - they actually ask him to sit in the front, and project the movie on his brain.
Pierre's brain is so big, Doctor House calls Pierre's brain when he doesn't know what to do next.
Pierre's brain is so big, he can communicate telepathically with the stones. (This is the only possible explanation I can think of as to why he makes so many shots and wins so often with such an ugly delivery).

Fifth, I need Martin Crete's voice. Or at least give me a mute button for when I play next to him. Santa, I swear two weeks ago I saw him scream for 10 seconds at a stone that had stopped moving. I think he actually though the sound waves could get it to oscillate another couple of inches.

Sixth, I need a pair of Lululemon curling pants. Scottie says they make any one's ass look better!

Ok - enough for me.

For my wife and kids; I need a clone of me for all the weekends when I am away beating myself up at yet another spiel. While he's at it, maybe he can fill in for me at work on those vacation days I am wasting on the Thursday and Friday of curling weekends.

Lastly Santa;
A wish for curling in Montreal.
I want you to make curling catch on again.
I know I sound like an old curmudgeon, but it seems to me years ago there was so much life and action in Montreal curling. There were 75+ teams signed up to play down to get to provincials.
Every spiel seemed full. There were big, fun events. There was a curling club on Fort Street.
What happened? Where did everybody go?
I hear St-Anne's curling club is on its last legs, and there are a few others teetering on the edge.
Santa; I fear curling is becoming a Winter Olympic Sport, and not the game for the masses it once was.
So Santa; I need to you to figure out how to make the sport big again. How to keep it growing.
Or at least tell me how to do it.

I'm not sure how to fit that one under the tree, but I promise not to return it, unlike that crappy John Morris fitness book you gave me last year.

Thanks Santa!

Mike the Curling Guy


Will try to blog sporadically over the holidays.
Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Needed: Repair Work on 10-yr-old Brownie

Ah - Christmas Break.
A welcome respite from the pressure of competitive curling.
A chance to recharge the batteries before the playdowns, some time to relax with family and friends.

Sure, there is some curling on TV...a grand slam next week, and there is usually some cheesy skins game on between Christmas and New Years.
And I will likely be out practicing a lot.
But a break will be most welcome.

So heading into the break, four teams have qualified for men's provincials:

1. Serge Reid: who has continued his surprising run from last year, and has won over 17K already this season, in relatively few events.
2. JM Menard: who have been very good, but slightly less consistent than usual. Their biggest win was in September.
3. Martin Ferland: Has played sporadically well, showing signs of greatness, and signs of being very average.
4. JS Roy: Who has been all but invisible this season, with the exception of the Circuit finals, which he won to earn a spot.

Its hard not to pick Serge as the early favorite to go to the Brier. But the competition seems much more wide open than in other years. The top teams have not been as dominant as years past - I suspect 6 or 7 teams have a realistic shot at winning this year, depending what kind of week they have in Gatineau.

On another topic:

Ok - before you hear it somewhere else...

Yes, I broke a broom last week.
I admit it.
I was playing in a meaningless Sunday morning game in an open, and had just missed the 8th consecutive shot by my team in the 1st end, and was about to give up a horrible 4.
I turned and tossed my 10-year old sliding Brownie into the wall at Baie d'Urfe curling club, causing the head to pop off and jitterbug accross the ice like some sort of demonic chicken.
To make it even worse - we were playing against a junior girls team at the time. Oh the shame.

I have broken a couple of brooms in my career, and to be honest I don't know a lot a serious competitve curlers who have not whacked something to let off a little steam once in a while.
But that does not keep you from feeling like an absolute dumbass afterwords.

Strangely, I usually don't bang brooms during big, meaningful competitions. Its usually afterwords, in a game of far less importance a few weeks later that I usually get angry and wham a broom. Not sure why that is. Will have to consult with the team phychologist about that one.

I must say - I have witnessed some spectacular broom abuse during my career; I have seen a Performance Broom helicoptered across three sheets by my front end after losing a final on a pick...I have seen straw broom explode from being thrown against a wall...I have had a perrfomance broom head sail over my head after being golf swung into a hogged stone...and have heard about far worse. I think my favorite was Johnny Morris cracking his sliding broom over his thigh after missing a shot at the Brier a few years ago. That was just too cool.

But just because everybody does it, it doesn't make it right. I will try to not break any more. (I better not - there is a limited supply of angled Brownies left in the world for me to slide with!) I apoligize to anyone offended by my outburst (although I think everybody else was more amused than offended). 

Best idea ever: I guy I used to curl with at Lachine suggested that I should insert a squeaky dog toy into the head of my sliding broom - so if I ever whack it on the ice it would make a cute squeaking sound in stead of a loud wham. I am thinking about that now...
So after a missed shot you would hear "SQEAK" instead of "WHAM". It would be hard to stay mad for long. I will have to talk to the guys at Hardline about developing a prototype. It would be a great Christmas gift for the overly-tense skip in your life!

One more topic:
Congrats to Chantal Osborne and team for winning the Baie d'Urfe open last weekend. They played solidly all weekend, and beat my team in our first game.
Of note, my record against women's teams this year is a stellar 0 and 3. Thankfully only we only have to face men's teams to get to the Brier.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Screw you Charlevoix

My dear John letter to Charlevoix

Dear Charlevoix;

Why do you hate me so?
I speak nicely of you every season. I tell people how great your tournament is. I tell people how much fun I have at the Manoir, at the Casino, at the pool. I have spent my last 7 birthdays at this tournament.
And yet every year - I lose! And I lose again. Charlevoix is like a bad slot machine for me; every year I keep pumping money in- and it never pays. Charlevoix is like the hot chick that you buy drinks for all night, only to see her go off with another guy at closing time.

Here are some highlights from my Charlevoix curling career:

- lost a mixed provincial final
- lost the circuit final about 10 years ago in a game that still causes me to occasioanlly wake up at night screaming
- lost 3 qualifiers in a row about 4 years ago.
- record over the last 3 years: 1-9
- lost a game to Agnes Charette that lasted 4 hours to play 8 ends.
- I don't think I have ever driven home from Charlevoix without a hangover
- The one year I did not go (for work reasons), my team went without me and went 0-3.
- I have only come out of the casino once with more money than I entered with, and I honestly was too drunk to remember winning.
I struggle to think of one positive on-ice curling memory from Charlevoix.
Every year - I figure this will be the year to break the streak, this year Charlevoix will pay off. But NO. Another 1-3, out by friday performance.

I take this vow to you now loyal readers:
Next year I will not play in Charlevoix with a competitive team.

I don't care if I have to take my team to Saskatoon instead. I will not play Charlevoix competitively.
I don't care if I have to play the Yellowknife polar bear spiel instead. I will not play Charlevoix competitively.
SCREW YOU CHARLEVOIX. I don't care if I have to play Charlevoix in the open with three homeless people I pick up at the Berri Metro on my way to Charlevoix. I will not play Charlevoix competitively.
Charlevoix - I will not waste my expectations on you again!!!

Well Charlevoix, despite my anger at how you treat me, I must admit that you have provided me with some entertaining stories over the years. And this year was no exception:

- Got to drink with the guys from Nova Scotia - who are all hilarious. Ian Fitzner Leblanc, Paul Flemming: pure entertainment. From listening to them try to converse in French, to watching Flemming trying to do a magic trick at 3AM, these guys are funny.

- The band is awesome! (in a horrible, lyric-mangling way). I very much enjoyed their altered versions of some classic tunes, especially Pucker Face by Lady Gaga.

- If you run into my illustrious third, ask him what his new nickname is. Or you can ask Veronique Gregoire, who was nice enough to drive us home friday night from the party. Tom definitely left his mark in Charlevoix this year (in at least 2 parking lots on the way back to the hotel).

- We got to play the hottest team in Canada - Mike McEwen. I have to say - of all the big teams I have played - these are by far the nicest guys I have played against. They are cool - funny and very accessible. And very, very good. I think they eventually won the tournament. We can only hope that they come back to Charlevoix. (although I will not be there - I will be playing in the Iqualuit Turkey Spiel instead, as per my vow)

So thanks for the memories Charlevoix, but we are over.
We have had some good times, but I just can't do it anymore.
I will still speak fondly of you, but we were just not meant to be.
It's me, not you.
Maybe we can still be friends.



PS. I will update soon on other stuff going on in the curling world. Just needed to get that off my chest.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

ok - maybe only 2 days in Alma

My last post was optimistically entitled 4 days in Alma. Sadly - that was not the case.
We were out early, after having played a thoroughly ugly game against Michel Briand, who seems to have an ability to make me play badly against him. I think it goes back years when he showed up late for a game and I hung points on him. Karma is getting me back. Screw you Karma!
Highlights of interest:
 * Jean Sebastien Roy won the spiel - surprising many. This is a new team - that had not done well this year so far. But they played well enough to beat Martin Ferland in the finals, and earn a spot at Provincials.
So provincials so far looks like: Roy, Reid (as team Quebec), Menard and Ferland as money leaders. Someone else would basically have to win Charlevoix to change that.
Everybody else will be fighting it out in playdowns, for the last 6 spots.

* The Dominion starts this week. If you do not know what the Dominion is - you should. The Dominion has become a phenomenon in Canada - a throwback to what curling SHOULD be. It is a provincial and National championship for club level curlers that allow Joe Average to experience what it is like to curl at a competive level.
The Nationals are next week in PEI, and Quebec is well represented by two teams that will excel on the ice (we hope) but most definitely off the ice as well.
The teams from Quebec are both well known to me:  Rick Faguy is skipping the men's team with Wayne Ruggles, Stephane PaquĆ©tte and Martin Patry. I curled with Rick many times, often in North Bay. Rick's boys will likely use up the Island supply of Captain Morgan.
The women's team is skipped by Mo Horan, with Sue Gibson, Joanie Davidson (Mike Kenendy's wife!!) and Caroline Thall. This used to be my ladder team in Baie d'Urfe!
Good Luck to both teams. You can follow the event result on line at http://www.thedominioncurls.ca/.
This event is quickly becoming a big success story in Canada, and is a model for promoting the spirit of curling. I don't mean to sound too soap-boxey, but the Grand Slam and World Curling Tour have made curlers better, but have failed to make curling better. Events like the Dominion help bring curling back to its roots: namely the most sociable and sportsmanlike game on the planet. We need more of these.

* Quebec is not doing particularly well in the mixed Nationals in Manitoba. They were 1-6 last time I checked. Ugh.

* Menard and Ferland are in Brantford this week for the SunLife Classic, with some of Canada's best teams. This is a tough event to get into (in other words - they wouldnt take me!). But I am a big fan of this event - because I won it four years ago...playing with Dwayne Fowler. Still one of the highlight days of my curling career; we beat Glenn Howard in the Semis then Gushue in the finals, all while trying to keep our front end of Sebastien Robillard and Brad Fitzherebert from killing each other. Ah - fun times.

* The next big event coming up in Quebec is Charlevoix. This is the premier event in Quebec. It hosts a 20 team elite event and a 64-team open. If you curl and you are not playing in this - you should.
This event has something for everyone: Casino gambling (my front end managed to gamble between courses at the banquet), the best hotel pool and hot tub in Quebec (by far), a banquet at the Manoir Richelieu, a fun 2- day party at the curling club and great curling on great ice.
One of my favorite parts is they usually get a local band to sing at the club.
The band they had last year could play any song, but they didn't speak english - so a lot of their songs sound like musical mumbling. They massacred "Poker Face" (and played it about 30 times), but their greatest rendition was "You shook me all night long" by ACDC:
"She was a fax machine - she keep her rotor clean - she was the best damn woman that I ever seen"
Classic. I can't wait for them to do Katy Perry.
Strangely - this will be the first event I play with my actual team - with Derek's leg having healed. We will definitely be wearing the pants.


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

4 Days in Alma

Some random thoughts this week...

* We will be leaving tomorrow for the lovely town of Alma for the Circuit Provincial Finals. The Circuit is always interesting mainly for one reason: The winner gets a spot at Provincials.
While this carried some weight in years past, this spot is especially valuable with the number of teams in provincial decreasing to 10. Not surprisingly, all the big Quebec teams will be there; Menard, Ferland, Reid.
There is also a bit of money in play - with the winner taking home 4000.
But the big prize is the spot. As of now, Serge Reid has a spot as provincial champion, and Menard has an unsurmountable lead in the cash race to get a spot as well. The 2nd cash spot is still up for grabs (Ferland, Me, Bedard, Desjardins, Charette still have a shot). But if Reid or Menard win, another spot will open up  through money winnings. Sound complicated? It is. It will all be clear Monday.
All that to say it is an important weekend in men's curling. (and seniors, and women)
And as a bonus - I get to spend 5 hours in a car with Doctor Scott Hill...always entertaining. I can feel my head shrinking already...

* Amazingly, I have never been to Alma. I think I have curled everywhere in Quebec, but never Alma.
I am looking at visiting the local tourist attractions between games. We will surely find a way to occupy our off-ice time in a wholesome and enriching manner.

* We won the Valleyfield Open! My team, skipped in Valleyfield by the illustrious Tom Wharry, defeated Danny Bedard in the finals.
Valleyfiled is a nice tournament - the ice is pretty good, the people are nice. Admittedly the draw was a bit strange (the A semi was scheduled for 11pm saturady night, we got off the ice at 2:45am), but all in all a good weekend.
Many asked why Tom was skipping instead of me. I guess most people assumed that it was because Tom is old and needed a week off of sweeping. Partially correct - the other reason is that I needed a week off skipping. It felt nice for both of us - and we won - so apparently the plan worked.
Highlights and stories:
- Had an epic 8th end against Raby and Guillemette (the deaf guys). Those guys have game. We were 1 up in 8 without hammer, and he had a really tough shot for 4 or 5, and JUST missed it.
- Sylvain Lejour made an appearance to watch the finals (unfortunately his brother texted him that the finals were at 5pm, when they were really at 2pm), but it was great to see him out at a curling club anyway.
- Tom was grumpy despite the win, as the club ran out of 50 early friday night.
- Johnny Stewart had an eventful weekend, beating his kid in the B-semis then coming back from 5-0 down to beat the McSweens in the B-final.

* The mixed Nationals start this week. Quebec is represented by Simon Hebert and team (with Vicky and Amelie Blais). Strangely, Simon has picked up a different 2nd after dumping his previous 2nd (Marc Rivard) a month before nationals. Unusual to win the province, then get booted off your team, but that's mixed. Anytime you add women, it gets complicated.  Seriously, I don't know the story here, but let's wish them luck anyway.

Simon is likely to be the favourite at this year's mixed provincials as well, as they will be held in his home town of Baie Comeau. The mixed already has pretty tough time getting teams to sign up...I am guessing that the prospect of a trip to Baie Comeau will likely not contribute to enhanced sign ups this year.

* It was fun to watch curling on TV again this past weekend. The Grand Slams provide some interesting games. But I have to say - taking 3 hours to cover an 8-end game is SLOW.
As if curling wasn't slow enough. It must be frustrating for the players to have to wait 3-4 minutes between every end, and 15 minutes after the 4th. If I ever make a televised Grand Slam game, (a guy can dream), I will have to remember to bring my laptop - I could blog between ends!

* It was nice to watch a Grand Slam Final and not have to see Kevin Martin or Glenn Howard. I recognize how great these teams are, but Christ I feel like they are the only 2 teams in the world sometime. Mike McEwan coming to Charlevoix is even bigger news now that he has won a Slam.

* Worse part about curling on CBC - they only have about 3 or 4 commercials, which they run OVER, and OVER, and OVER, and OVER again.
While I do like the Capital One commercials (the guy who uses his gas card to buy all his Christmas presents for the points), watching John Morris workout pumping iron to sell curling shoes makes me throw up a little in my mouth every time. Suggestion to Goldline: a commercial with Cheryl Bernard working out in Spandex instead.
I will defend curling as a sport, but anyone who tells me you have to work out constantly to be a great curler is full of shit. Ask Eddy Werenich.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

New Provincial format and other stuff

For those of you who have not heard; Quebec has radically changed its men's provincial format again.

My opinion of the new format: its awesome! Hats off to Curling Quebec for having the balls to have pushed through these changes.

What are the changes?  Provincials will now have 10 teams instead of 20.
Who are the 10 teams:
1) The provincial champ
2) The circuit prov champ
3 - 4) the top 2 money winners

The other 6 spots will go to the 12 regions in Quebec.
Qualifying will now have two steps: a regional to qualify 2 teams by region (in mid December), then a super regional to qualify 3 teams from the east and 3 teams from the West. Details are available on the Curling Quebec site if you need 'em.
And most importantly, by dropping to 10 teams Curling Quebec can now combine the men's and women's provincials in ONE WEEK, IN ONE LOCATION.

So why is this such a great thing? Here is 10 reasons:

1. 20 teams was too many. There are not 20 teams in Quebec worthy of being at proivincials. Call me a curling snob - but if you do not practice, if you do not play in spiels, if you are not willing to put in the effort, then the provincials are not for you.

2. The new format will be better: A 10 team round robin makes sense. The old format is ridiculous. 20 teams at provincials makes no sense, and the current page system is a joke. Example: last year, Serge finished 8-1, JM finished 7-2. JM actually beat Serge, but lost to me (in a meaningless game to me where my team was super relaxed and a lot hungover). The difference: Serge has to win 2 out of 3 to go to the Brier. JM needs to win 5 in a row - without the hammer. Makes no sense.

3. There will be women! The atmosphere will be better. The parties will be better. (In my experience, put a bunch of men together in a far away town without women for 8 days - it gets ugly!). This event will kick ass.

4. It will be easier to raise sponsorship $$. It will be easier to draw crowds, and draw attention to the event. Bigger events are easier to fund.

5. It will be easier to get media attention (only one big event to cover).

6. Only one volounteer committee! It gets tougher and tougher evry year to find a group of volounteers ready to put in the time to run these events. This should make it easier.

7. Less shitty teams. Ok this may sound a bit harsh, but the reality is that having 20 teams meant that a lot of your games were against teams that did not belong there. Who wants to pay to go see an event where you can sit in the stands and think that you could do as well as many of the teams on the ice? The first 3 days of provincials often see blowout after blowout, with the big name teams trying to not trip over one of the teams that will likely go 3-6 or 2-7.

8. Going to provincials should be an honor. It should be special. It should be an achievement. For the teams that are not in the top 5 or 6,  it will now be special again. It is the kind of achievement that should get you support from your local club. With 20 teams, it was just not that big a deal anymore.
One of my favorite movie quotes - from Tom Hanks in a League of their Own: "Its supposed to be hard. If it wasn't hard then everyone would do it. Its the hard that makes it great."  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m888nlVxZu8 (skip to the last minute of this clip to see the quote).
It has to be hard to get to provincials.

9.  More people in the stands - and curlers. I will actually want to go and see games during the other draw. In all my years at provincials, I never went to see complete games on the other side of the draw. Just having the men's teams watching the women's games and the women watching the men's teams will increase the number of fans in attendance.

10. I will only have to write one blog about the week - not 2!

I'm sure some people will disagree with this format change. People in Sept-Iles or Rouyn-Noranda, who now face the prospect of having to travel to a "pre-provincial" likely are not in love with the new format. I agree this sucks.
My dream is that we increase the stature and profitability of these events, so as to be able to maybe subsidize some travel costs for teams in remote areas. It will not happen right away though, so it will be tough for remote teams. But I think it is a small price to pay.


- Guy! Guy! Guy! Guy Hemmings very quietly went to Ontario last week and lost the finals of a big spiel in Brampton. The spiel had some big Ontario names, and Guy earned $2G for his effots. Is this a Guy resurgence?

- I am curling in Valleyfield this weekend. This is smallish, open spiel with decent teams and pretty good ice. Its a good weekend to get a few games in before Alma (the Circuit Championship) and Charlevoix. I will discuss results next week.

- Just reading on CQ website that Ferbey (with Gushue) AND Mike McEwan (a kick-ass cashspiel team from Winnipeg) will be in Charlevoix. This is now the best spiel in Canada, and we should expect to see more quality teams from the West making the trip East. The spiel is exceptionally well run, with a 64 team open happening alongside the 20 team invitational. The Manoir Richelieu is a spectacular host.
This spiel gets bigger and better every year.
And it always falls on the same weekend as my birthday. Awesome.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Casino Lac Leamy spiel report

I have had some nice moments curling in my life...

This weekend I definitely added another one to the highlight reel.
Randy Ferbey shook my hand, said "good game" and then stood staring at at my 2 rocks counting in the four foot.
For those who did not follow, my team survived an eventful weekend in Gatineau, qualified for the quarter finals and got to play Brad Gushue and Randy Ferby in the quarters Sunday morning.
And we beat them.
There was no fluke - we played even with them all game, came home tied without the hammer and played about as perfect an 8th end as I've ever played and left them with no shot. Zero.
Tom made two perfect freezes, I made one freeze and a difficult to explain hit, roll, tap freeze shot...and they had nothing. We won! We knocked out the favorites.
I realize of course that these guys lose games all the time, and lots of people have stories about having beaten a big name here or there...but we  beat Gushue and Ferby in Gatineau. Love it.
We lost a tough game to JM in the semis, but all in all a very good weekend.

Ok enough bragging.
The spiel was won by Serge Reid. Serge beat us in the B qualifier in a game that I estimate will take 2 years and some prescription drugs for me to forget (I was up 4 at one point). But enough about me.
Serge beat Jean-Michel in the finals in a tight game, winning 5-4.
Serge is an interseting team. They never seem to win easily, and they are not as flashy or seemingly as solid as some of the big teams in curling today. They are not even remotely intimidating to play against. But they win.
They won the province. They are on a crazy winning streak. But every time I watch one of their games, they always are a shot or a bad break away from losing. They could have lost to Charette early in the B. They definitely should have lost to me. They looked like they were constantly in trouble agaisnt Rahala in the semis.
And yet, at the end of the game, Serge and the boys always seems to be buying the first round.
They win. And they win. And they win.
Even in the Brier last year, they finished 6-5, but looked like they should have lost more games. The fact is, at the end of tight games, Serge makes his shots and wins games.
They seem intent on proving that last year was no fluke.
They are playing with confidence, they seem to know how to be patient, stay in games, and eventually make the shot they need when they need it. And they won again, and now they are off to the Canada Cup where they will likely win more games than you would think.

Some other random fun stories and facts from the weekend:

1. Many were surprised to see my entertaining spare choice for the weekend: the illustrious Scott Hill (Derek is still recovering from his broken bones). For those unfimiliar with the giant sized curling philosopher, he is as entertaining as it gets on a curling sheet. He can throw as well as anyone - and his sports psychology training, combined with not seeming to care about what people think of him make him hilarious. There is no way to describe Scott other than as a super-genius 12 year old in a giant- sized 40 year old body.

2. Danny Bedard has picked up JP Venne to play 3rd for the season, with Dale Ness being unable to find the time needed. JP is a good choice - a guy who can throw well and knows the game. It was especially entertaining to watch JP play with Danny: Danny has always been a soft shot, touch weight kinda curler who tries to avoid peel weight like it was some kind of plague, while JP seems to get a gleam in his eye and a bulge in his performance pants whenever he gets to take a big backswing. Here is a sample conversation between JP and Danny:
Danny: "Can you give me back four weight for this shot?"
JP: "Peel?"
Danny: "How about backline?"
JP: "Peel?"
Danny: "Hack weight?"
JP: "Calisse".
Should make for an interesting season. All kidding aside - they seem to fit well together.

3. I saw a new one this weekend: a guy got so mad playing against me - he threw MY broom. Really. He threw my Hardline Curling Ultralight over the scoreboard. (I was at the other end holding my sliding broom at the time). He did go and get it before I got to the other end of the ice, but still very impressive.
I have been known to bang my own broom a few times in anger, but have never tried breaking somebody else's equipment. That is a first.
We will keep him anonymous.

4. Dany Beaulieu does a great job running this spiel.

5. Rumours are circulating for a big WCT event in Montreal - possibly sponsored by the Casino! Let us keep our fingers crossed. It is usually not a tough sell to get the best teams in the world to spend in weekend in Montreal, as opposed to Moose Jaw or Gander.

6. Way to go Rick Faguy for winning the open section.

What is next? Nothing big around for a few weeks. Glad that there is no spiel on Halloween - my popularity at home would be very low if I left my wife to handle trick or treating on her own.
Valleyfield - then the Circuit Provincial finals on November 11-14.
Will be back next week to discuss the new men's provincial format.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Mac Ice....

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.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Quebec Men's preview

My golf clubs have gone from my car trunk to my closet, therefore it must be curling season.
Many of Quebec's finest have already been out curling in Brockville and Trois Rivieres, but most teams will be starting up in the next few weeks as clubs put their ice in.

I have never understood the idea of curling in September, especially before my curling club opens. I like to practice. But apparently September is the new October, and most competitive teams feel the need to get out early and often.

So who are the favorites on the men's side? Who is worth talking about? Who will win? Who will be broken up by November?
Read on.

1. Jimmy Menard

The first team to talk about is of course Jean Michel. While they did not win last year, they are undoubtedly always the favorites heading into the season. Their VERY impressive win at the Shorty in Brockville last week (they beat Stoughton, Howard and Jacobs on the same day!!) confirms their status as the top dog in Quebec curling. And for the first time, they are dressing as loudly as they yell, with some serious seizure-inducing pants.
JM seems to have taken their defeat last year at provincials personally. They seem mad. They will be insanely tough to beat. This team has longevity, chemistry and talent
JM is a new Dad, as is Martin. Speaking from experience, it gets a lot harder to find time to throw the practice rocks you need to stay sharp. Not a big obstacle, but worth considering.

2: Marty Ferly:

Ferland is back with the same team, surely with the bitter taste of defeat in their mouths, after an extra end loss to go to the Brier. Will they be better or worse? Frank and Max provide some serious experience. And the thinner of the Fowler brothers adds some intense sweeping ability. Tough to bounce back after having come so close last year.
This is technically as good a team as there is. Look to them to have a strong cash season as well.
Been there, done that. Experienced team, big shot makers.
They always look angry on the ice. But I guess it works for them.

3: Serge "I can't believe I finally won" Reid.

Serge comes off a season where he provided hope to all the "B" teams in the province. For many years, only the 1 or 2 top seed went to the Brier. Serge proved the pundits wrong, and pulled off arguably the biggest upset at Quebec Provincials since...Ghislain Doyon?
This team was always good, but never great. So how will they do this year? Well, they are surely not lacking in confidence. It is difficult to see them repeating as champions, but nobody would have predicted them winning last year.  Who knows - they will likely struggle in the cash circuit...expectations will be tough to manage.
Is this a dynasty - or a "one hit wonder"?

4. Bob the Legend Desjardins.

For those who do not know - Bob is playing with Francois Gagne, Christian Bouchard and Phil Menard. This team is like women who claim to be impregnated by space aliens: you don't know how it happened, and you are not sure what is going to come out in the end.
Bob and Frank are among the best shotmakers in the land, but can they play together?
This is the mystery team of the year. They could be great - or they could be killing each other by November.

5. Simon "he's just gone for a quick smoke outside" Dupuis

Simon returns with his cast of veterans. Dan and Louis will win games just by being Dan and Louis. Simon has all of the shots in his bag. This is a dangerous team - but they can also slip off the rails pretty quickly. They can beat anyone, but can also lose to anyone in spectacular fashion.
Always an entertaining team to play against.

6. Johnny King (Jean Sebastien Roy)

A new team - JS after taking a year off has come back to competitive curling with Steven Munroe, Phil Brassard and Dany Beaulieu. An interseting new team, remains to be seen how JS will do skipping, and how these guys will fit together. Good poetential - let's see if they can reach it. each of the guys has good experience and past successes.

7. Me (Mike Fournier)

Had to include myself somewhere. I have picked up Tom "don't worry" Wharry to play 3rd, otherwise the same squad as last year. We should be solidly decent - always a danger depending on which team shows up.
We seem to be having injury problems (Derek's leg looked like one of those angled performance brush handles this summer after he ran himself over with an ATV). And Tom is still learning which end of the brush to use. Might take us a while to get going...

8. Pierre (the Genius) Charette:

Isnt this a senior team? Pierre being Pierre - he will find a way to win far more games than he should in men's spiels. Not sure who is team is from tournamnet to tournament, but whoever shows up - they will win games. (is Louis playing with Pierre or Simon or both or neither)

9. Danny Bedard - Dale Ness:

Not sure how many spiels these guys will be playing this year - but when they do show up they will be tough to beat.

Anybody I missed? Feel free to add a comment about anyone else.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Hello Curling Fans

Welcome to my blog.

Having far too much time on my hands between spiels - and due to the incredible lack of curling reporting in Eastern Canada - I have taken it upon myself to update the curling world on happenings from an insider's perspective.

So who am I? Most of you curlers know me. I am a journeyman curler from Montreal. I curl competitively on the Eastern Canada scene - mostly around Quebec and Ottawa.
I have never been to a Brier :-( , but definitely plan to some day.
I like to write. And - as you will all soon be the judge...I like to think I write pretty well.

So I will blog from time to time, usually to offer a preview of a big spiel - or to discuss results. I welcome feedback and comments. I will try to keep the content light and entertaining.

Pour mes amis francophones. Je regrette que mon Blog est en English. Comme cuex qui me connaissent savent, je parle assez bien le francais - et j'ecris assez bien aussi. Mais ca prend trop long temps. Mes excuses. Si vous voulez "poster" en francais - vous etes le bienvenue!

Anyway - will post some updates soon - including a preview of the men's season ahead.

So subsribe to my blog - post a reply! Its time we started talking about curling again.