Favorite Reporter

Favorite Reporter

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.