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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Scotties picks

OK - since so many of you have been asking...and my last blog entry did not include any...

Some picks for the Scotties:

1. Rachel Homan is by far the best women's team in the country. This is the best team to come out of juniors since John Morris. 
This team is insanely better then anyone else there. They peel like men (and I mean good men, not like a seniors men's team), and Rachel calls a good aggressive game. Rachel also looks like she has ice water instead of blood. They are calm, and look more mature than older more seasoned teams.
They will win. They have been beating women's teams while playing juniors for years now, they are ready to win at this level.
Yes I know it is easy to pick an undefeated team half way through the week - but I picked them before the week started. This will be the next dominating team in women's curling.

2. Jennifer Jones. Yes she is off to her usual brutal start, but when the chips are on the table, JJ is still the best clutch curler I have ever seen. If she makes the payoffs, she will make the finals -  But will lose to the Rachel Homan juggernaut.

3. Amber Holland (Sask). They have all of that solid trials experience, but are not yet ready to win a Scotties. Give them a few more years. They will make playoffs, then falter.

4. Marie-France: Not sure she has the horsepower to win it all this week, but look for them to finish strong and squeak into the playoffs, despite a slow start. Will likely have to play a tie-breaker against Kleibrink.

Kelly Scott - not this year. They look awful.
The maritime teams all look kinda average -there will not be a Heather O'Rourke / Erin Carmody again this year.

Some other thoughts:
I like the way Kelly Scott calls a game, I like the way she throws...but I just can't take the voice.
She sounds like the Church Lady from SNL.

(tried to find a link to a Church Lady sketch on you tube or the web - NBC keeps a pretty tight reign on this!)

Side note: I am amazed at how happy Kelly Scott and team seem to be when they are losing. I am not advocating broom banging or rage-a-holic behaviour...but TSN showed them right before the opposition threw an open hit to win...And they were chatting at the hog-line, laughing and making stupid jokes. Seems to me they are lacking a killer instinct this time around. (But who am I to criticize the on-ice demeanor of a 2-time champ.)

Monday, February 21, 2011

Happy Squirrels and Bitter break-ups

Started watching the Scotties this weekend...surprised that Marie-France is already 1-2.
Definitely some entertaining curling to watch, although I certainly saw a lot of misses in the games I was watching.
This is the first year I am watching in HD. It is definitely better to watch the game, although I must say that HD is not flattering to all...

I always enjoy the commercials during the curling season.
From Strauss to Tim's, from Capital One to Grey Power - and you usually see the same commercials over and  over and over again.
But this year there is a special treat; a commercial by the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (clearly a fair-minded and unbiased source of information), that explains how the big oil companies plant a tree or two to make the world a better place.
And I thought burning oil was bad for the environment! Silly me. The squirrels in the commercial look happy (well you don't actually see the squirrels, but the guy says that they are having fun).

Their new spokesperson is way better than the the CAPP's previous spokesperson:


As curling fans head into the season of good TV curling; another season begins across the country. It is the season of the team change.

This is the true season of hope...the season of salesmanship, the season of networking. Teams break-up, re-form. Unusual and unheard of teams emerge (Few would ever have predicted Gagné and Desjardins together).

Many outside of the world of competitive curlers do not understand why teams change so often, or why it has to be so complicated.

Let me try to explain it:
You will spend over 1000 hours together with you teammates during a competitive curling season. 
During the peak season, I spend more time with my teammates than I do with my wife.
Finding 3 guys that have the same level of commitment, that have a sufficient level of talent, and that you do not want to strangle after a five hour car ride is a very tall order.
Not surprisingly, after a long season many try to improve their lot by picking up a new body and changing the chemistry. Of course everyone knows that to build a successful team, you need to stick with the same guys for a while. But the temptation of the unknown, of the unfamiliar is a powerful calling.

So any big changes coming in Quebec curling? Too early to tell.
It is hard to believe that all of the big teams will stick together; and the rumour is that Danny B is looking to retire for a few years. So there will surely be some player movement in the weeks to come. Usually, the big teams tend to lead the process, as other teams wait and see what will happen with the Menards, Ferlands and Reids before making any big moves.

So expect in the next few weeks to see some changes. And it will not always be pretty.

Curling teams are notoriously bad for firing players in an insensitive manner;
- I found out I was no longer curling with Guy Hemmings by noticing that our team had entered a big spiel in North Bay - without me!
- The guys from Buckingham once fired Ted Butler 12 hours BEFORE they were about to play in the provincial final. (although I'm not sure Ted knew he was fired)
- Gushue and Ferby (both usually nice guys) have been taking shots at each other ever since their break-up a few weeks ago.Ferbey and Gushue article. Ouch.
- As of yet - nobody to my knowledge has ever been fired in a Blog.

As the song goes: Breaking up is hard to do.


Some plugs:

2 charity events are coming up in the next few weeks that are worth your time.

1. Kurling for Kids (www.kurlingforkids.com)

This is a Montreal-wide fun day of curling that benefits the Montreal Children's and Ste-Justine hospitals. It is truly a great event run by the most sincere and dedicated volounteers you will ever meet. There is curling followed by a dinner, and usually a tear-jerking speech or two. (I'm as stoic as the next guy, but sick kid stories always make me cry like a 5 year old girl)
It is also a great way to introduce new curlers to the game, as the format encourages you to bring out new curlers. It is held March 26th at most curling clubs around Montreal

2. Curling for Leukemia Day

This is a new event held at TMR curling club March 6th. One of the organizers is Big Luc Chevalier - who can be reached at luc.chevalier@videotron.ca for details. There is a link on the Curling Quebec Facebook page.

The reality is that we all get a lot out of this great game, and we should all take the time to give a little back to those who need our help. Plus - both of these days are usually a lot of fun.

3. I have been asked to do some recruiting for a university study on curlers of all levels. Not sure if it is related to alcoholism, or the insanity involved in driving 10 hours to lose 3 games in some god-forsaken small arse-hole of a town. Either way - if you are interested, contact Gail Casey at  gcasey@wisc.edu. Apparently it involves a 30 minute Skype interview.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Pon-Pon and Javelin throws

My apologies to my loyal readers for missing a week...
First of all – I think I little applause for me is in order for being pretty solid with my predictions for provincials...
On the men’s side – I had picked Francois Gagné as my dark horse pick to win it all – and he did.
I only saw one game – but Frankie was on fire. His team played well in front of him – but the finals were very much the Francois Gagné show, with Frank making everything, including a spectacular raise pick in 9 to set up a steal of 3.
Here is the link – if you want to see the shot. The Shot
Wow. Absolute pistol. As my old teammate Sebastian “Snaps” Robillard would surely say: “That was SICK!”
He also made a crazy draw against Serge Reid in the semis on Saturday night, burying around a rock in the top 8 against 4(!) and setting up a steal with no guards. Clutch.
I have been curling with or against Frank and Christian for over 20 years now - these guys deserve to go to a Brier. They have lived curling.
So Frank goes to the Brier, and with him goes Bob Desjardins playing 3rd. Bob is definitely the Phil Mickelson of curling, a guy who has deserved to go to the Brier for a long time but has never pulled off the big win. He has lost a lot of finals...including one where he blew a 4 point lead against Guy Hemmings.
A lot of people give Bob a hard time. His nickname is Pon-Pon, and it is not meant to be flattering. Admittedly, very little about Bob is “normal”. He is somewhat socially dysfunctional, and rubs people the wrong way sometimes. But the truth for those who know him well is that he is a passionate proponent of the game, and has worked harder than anyone to get to the show. He has a genuine love for all things curling, including the people who play it. I honestly think the game could use a few more Bobs - but alas there is only one. 
Expect this team to be entertaining, and likely fan favourites at the Brier. The boys play with a LOT of emotion on the ice (some might even say too much), but it will be a refreshing change from watching Stoughton make a 20 foot runback triple and not even crack a damn smile.
I wish them luck. If Frank and Bob stay as hot as they are – expect to see them above 500, and possibly creeping into a playoff spot. As is the case with most highly emotional teams – if it goes well it will go very well, if it goes bad...
Speaking of emotion, I hear Curling Quebec will have to pick up a new scoreboard, after one of the boards was assailed by a javelined Performance broom from Marty Ferland. Here is a video of the broom throw:

Oops - wrong video.
On the women’s side, my pick to win (Chantal Osborne) fell just short, losing in an extra end to Marie -France Larouche. MF will of course represent Quebec well again at the Scotties, and has a very good chance of playing on the weekend. They are playing very well - and I promise to stop with the Star Trek jokes.
The event:
I think the combination men’s and women’s event has to be called a success. While the weekdays saw relatively few in attendance, the weekend draws were well attended. The curlers I have spoken to seemed to have had a great time with it. The women enjoyed playing in an arena - and the men enjoyed watching the women play in the arena.  
I went to see some games on Saturday - and there was a very good atmosphere. I think a similar event held somewhere around Quebec City or Montreal would draw some serious crowds. Could have done without the freak snowstorm on the drive home!
What else is there to speak of?
Strangely – I am curling in a Calcutta at Glenmore this week.
For those of you who do not know what a Calcutta is, it is basically a week of gambling, and I believe there is some curling played as well. It is definitely good for clubs to get all of their members to mix it up and play in something fun for a week. It definitely gets the members talking, and exposes many new members to playing with fun skips who actually know what they are doing.
Hopefully I can make some cash - but will enjoy it either way. Betting on club-level curling is strangely entertaining. I found myself screaming from behind the glass last night, trying to implore a guy to throw a draw instead of the hit he was calling. He called the hit and lost - costing me a $73 exacta. Damn.
Other notes: 
- The junior finals were on this weekend. Apparently the men's final was won a great shot. Unfortunately I had slipped in to a chicken-wing-induced coma following a Super Bowl party, so I only heard about it after.  Whose idea was it to run the finals at the same time as the Super Bowl anyways?