Favorite Reporter

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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.