Favorite Reporter

Favorite Reporter

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Dear Santa - Don't put me on the naughty curler list

Dear Santa;

Once again, I am writing to you with a set of wishes for Christmas for me and some of my fellow curlers. I realize that I was on the “naughty” list last year, which explains the autographed Wayne Middaugh shirt I found under the tree. Unfortunately I have not been able to find a good home for it on eBay yet, but I am still trying.

I feel that I have been particularly nice this year; my broom slamming and throwing was limited to but a few thoroughly justifiable occasions (I think even Mrs. Claus would have whammed something if her draw had stopped an inch short of shot in an extra end); hardly enough to warrant inclusion on the infamous “naughty curler” list.

So here are some gift suggestions: 

- For Mark Dacey; a postcard from Charlevoix – saying: Come Back Soon! While I was not at Charlevoix this year, I heard he enjoyed himself very much, and had an especially good time with our local on-ice officials. (there might be some sarcasm here)

- For Brad Gushue; A new nickname. Not sure how or why Gush-bag (pronounced Gouche-Bag) came into being, but I think it clearly needs to be replaced by something more appropriate.

- For Ontario: Somebody other than Glenn Howard at the Brier. I like this team (except for Middaugh of course), but there are so many other quality teams of nice guys (Kean, Balsdon, Rumfeldt), you have to figure one of them will beat Glenn at some point. Some fresh faces in Red jackets would be a good thing.

- For Marco Ferraro: A better 2nd year at the helm of Curling Quebec.  Over the Holidays, let’s hope Marco finds some love in his stocking, so we can all end the bitter feelings he has engendered within Quebec curling.  He could start by finding a way to salvage the Caledonia Cup (a Ryder Cup-like event for club-level curlers), even if it means swallowing his pride. Quebec Curling is in need of all of us working together to make things better, not in-fighting and nasty letters.

 - For Brad Jacobs and team; a fresh supply of protein shakes and a curling facility with full length mirrors along the sheets, so that their front end can check out their pipes and make squinty weightlifter faces after every shot they have to sweep.

- For Mike McEwen; A trip to the Brier. I don’t think he needs anything else.

- For Montreal – another National Championship. Montreal curling needs more exposure like the kind it got from the Mixed. (Okay Santa – I admit, I might have peeked in your bag already and seen the 2014 Scotties Montreal banner – don’t worry I will keep it a secret).

- For James Gratten: His own pair of onesie pyjamas, a new box of clementines, 20oz. of tequila and some colored nail polish. Still laughing at that one.

- For Kevin Martin: a quick recovery from Hernia surgery. I have always said he was a “gutsy” curler; he didn’t need to show us.

- For the CCA; Some brains and some balls to put an end to the horrible idea that is RELEGATION (where the bottom 4 Territories and Provinces have to play a double-knockout for the right to play at a National in the days before the event starts). I saw it this year at the Mixed - it is just too cruel a thing to do for the two teams that get sent home. That’s just not what the Brier/Scotties/Mixed is about. Shame on the CCA for not knowing better.

- For the NHL players and owners: Big lumps of coal in your stockings. And by “coal” I really mean lumps of shitballs, as Heather Nedohin would say.

- For my wife and my boss; A Mike clone to fill in for me around the house and at work when I am away spieling. (As long as she does not use the clone to fill in for other unmet needs when I am out of town).  

- For me; I hear Edmonton in early March is beautiful.

Thanks Santa.

PS I will leave some cookies and a Rye and Coke out for you by the tree as usual.

And best of luck in your upcoming Santa spiel!!!  (see link for video from last year)

Santa Spiel on Youtube 



So what has been going on in Quebec Curling?

On the Men’s side:

- Ferland, Desjardins, Ménard and Lemay have all qualified for Provincials, to be held in Victoriaville at the end of January. Regional playdowns to determine the other 6 teams will be held the first week of January. I get to play in Quebec City with my team of Saguenéens, despite the fact that a Regional is being held all of 10 minutes from my house in my home club. 

Who is the favorite? Hard to tell. Nobody has been even close to dominant in Quebec this year.
Ferland has looked great at times, but has looked kinda stinky in at least a few spiels. Ménard has probably been the most consistent, but they have had a mediocre season - at least by their high standards. Desjardins and Lemay? Both have struggled. So to sum up – it seems pretty wide open. Smart money as usual in on Ménard or Ferland, but that has been the case for the last three years where neither team ended up at the Brier.


Marie-France Larouche is once again the odds-on favorite, but a lot of teams can surely beat her on any given day. Allison Ross and team have been throwing about a million practice rocks, Julie Hamel has looked strong and Eve Bélisle has a new team. So expect an interesting provincial.  
 Not sure what this means, but Marie-France just narrowly lost a semi-final in a Men’s spiel featuring most of Quebec’s top teams.

So – Happy Holidays to all my readers – will update in the New Year or when I have something funny to say.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Letters from the Mixed

After a great week of curling at the Mixed Nationals, I need to take care of some correspondence.

Dear Boss;
Thanks again for letting me have a week off of work during our busiest period of the year. Your largesse allowed me to play in the Mixed National Championships in my home town. It was a truly great week.
And thanks again for your understanding when you found me asleep at my computer on Monday morning. I guess the cumulative fatigue from the week took its toll. Also, thanks for understanding that the time I was actually awake on Monday I spent mostly lost thinking about the week past, and sending and accepting new friend requests on Facebook. I will try to make it up next week.

Oh, and thanks for not saying anything about the rye-soaked Balsdon shirt I wore to work on Monday. I realize it was slightly unprofessional for an office environment, but it just felt right. To be honest – it was probably not just the shirt that smelled like rye; I believe rye was still coming out from my pores.

And as for the incriminating pictures of me circulating on the internet, firstly it was not me, and secondly rest assured that few if any of our clients will likely ever stumble across them.

And finally, I just wanted to let you know that I will likely be away for a week in January, and hopefully another in early March.  Oh, and thanks for all those Fridays I took off in Sept-Nov.

Your sincerely and please don’t fire me;


Dear Wife;

Thanks again for taking care of our three young kids while I was playing in the Mixed National Championships a mere 30 minutes from our house. It was a great experience, full of fantastic memories.
Thanks again for showing up to cheer me on! Even though the kids watched all of 30 seconds of curling, it was fun having them around when I got off of the ice.

About the incriminating pictures of me on the internet; firstly, I swear it was not me, and secondly I was merely administering the Heimlich maneuver to a troubled lady who was possibly choking on some ice from her drink.  Really.

Oh, and thanks for also taking care of everything during the other  6 weekends that I was away prior to the Mixed. And by the way, I am hoping to be away 3 more days for Men’s regionals, 7 more days for provincials and if all goes well, 10 more days for the Brier in early March. I am sure my remaining 2 vacation days will allow us to have a spectacular long weekend at some point this summer.

Oh, and thanks for understanding that I spent a lot of our Christmas-gift budget last week. I hope you will enjoy the Balsdon shirt that I got for you, and no, I don’t know what that stain is on the back of it.

Yours sincerely and please don’t divorce me,


Dear Mister Marsan (Client Services Manager at Ruby Foo’s Hotel):

I am writing to acknowledge receipt of your letter dated November 29th 2012 regarding incidental damage charges that you will be applying to my credit card, relating to our stay at your hotel during the week of November 17th, 2012.

I would first of all like to apologize for any damage our activities might have caused to your hotel. However, I would claim that the unfortunate stains on the hallway carpet were in fact there before our stay, and are not due to the events of last Saturday night following our closing banquet.

Furthermore, while I will stipulate that a considerable amount of beer, rye, tequila and Clementines were likely found on the carpet and linen in our room, reasonable efforts were made to clean said spillage, notably with a Balsdon shirt. As for the nail polish stains, and the discarded, badly soiled one-piece muppet pyjamas,  I have no idea how these items ended up where they did.

Finally, I would of course be willing to help defray the trauma therapy costs for the member of your cleaning staff who found me lying naked the next morning next to the aforementioned stains. While I thought her reaction was a bit extreme, it was nonetheless an unfortunate incident, and will gladly help pay to help wash that image out of her memories.

Yours sincerely, and please invoice the Canadian Curling Association directly for all charges,

Greg Balsdon, Team Ontario


Seriously, the Mixed was a great week - one of the most fun I have ever had curling. We played very well. We met a pile of great people, and were spoiled by the support of our home town fans. If you wanted to summarize everything that is great about curling, the Mixed pretty much has it all: shot-making, drama, fun and lots of sportsmanship.
I would tell a few stories, but the Mixed is kinda like Vegas. (what happens  at the Mixed, stays at the Mixed, including James Grattan in a onesie).

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Wang is Looking for Some Skin

I thought the election was over. Obama won. But there is a new election to take its place: the TSN curling  skins game will now feature a fan vote to determine who will play. From what I understand, TSN will RANDOMLY combine the top vote-getters onto different teams (kinda like pickup hockey at the local skating rink).

Over the past few days I have been carpet-bombed on Social Media by curlers shamelessly begging for votes. I think Ryan Fry has now officially made more annoying Facebook posts than Farmville.

Overall, I think its a great idea. Should make for some fun match-ups. But I question TSN' s choice for candidates. They went with the nation's top ranked curlers. Boring.
Why don't the good folks at TSN allow for write-in candidates??? They missed a great opportunity. With this in mind, here is my list of write-in candidates that should be at the skins game:

- Scott Hill:  One of the most brilliantly insane curlers on the planet. Not even sure if he has thrown a rock in the last year, but it does not matter. Scott at the skins game would be pure entertainment. Pair him up with a Brad Gushue, and wait for Gushue's head to explode when Scott come into the house and said something like: "Brad, you need to throw the soft cheese at this one, and throw it like a lefty."

- Eve Muirhead:  Oh wait, skins does not mean that one team will play "shirts", while the other gets "skins"? Never mind.

- Brad Heidt: Many may remember Brad from a Brier final in the mid-90's, where he chewed out his incompetent 3rd (Mark Dacey!), in the middle of the 10th end. I played Brad Heidt a few years back, and he interrupted us while we talking about a shot to say: "I will try to keep it simpler for you guys next time." We need Brad Heidt at the skins game. Otherwise John Morris will be the only powder keg that might break a broom over his own leg.

- Robert Desjardins: Bob is one of the most amusing characters in curling. Plus, I think we need a little French flavor at the skins. Why was there not one token Quebec player invited to be in the list? I am going to send 20 e-mails a day to TSN demanding some linguistic equality at the Skins game.

- Joëlle Sabourin: Joelle makes watching any televised curling better. Plus, she sweeps better than Steve Gould.

- Pierre Charrette: Actually, maybe only Pierre's brain should be invited. They could make it a lifeline (like in "Who Wants to be A Millionaire). Instead of "Phone a Friend", skips could "Ask Pierre's brain" what shot they should play.

- Heath "Heater" McCormick: Just to watch his body contort, twist, and wail as if being tortured while he called sweeping...on an open draw.

- Ed Werenich: I am not sure how old Ed is now, but he was the uncontested master of all things skins for about 20 years. I would be glued to my TV waiting for him to make a hack-weight triple. And you know he would.

- Shane Park: Shane is the craziest MF I have ever seen on the ice. Also one of the best throwers. But rest assured, if anyone playing for him threw a bad shot, the TV coverage would sound like this:  "Get your Bleep Bleeping head out of your bleep, you bleep bleep bleep. And why don't you go bleep yourself while you're at it!"

- Binyu Wang: Just once, I need to hear Vic Router say: "Wang is looking for some Skin". Tee hee.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

“Quebec teams are better prepared for the Brier Patch than they are for the Brier.”

The Mixed is coming! Only a week and a half until I am curling in the National mixed Championships at TMR. We get our Quebec jackets this week!  I suspect most competitive curlers get the same rush that I will from a Provincial Jacket. It is colorful, has your name on the back and a really cool crest. It makes you feel like you’ve done something great. You feel like you are going to “The Show”. 

It should be fun to be the home team. Talking with Greg Balsdon (who will be there representing Ontario) makes me think that there might be a little bit of socializing to accompany the fine curling that will play out on the ice.

So how will we do? Not sure. We are all throwing pretty well, but it is hard to predict anything at a National Mixed. Looking at the teams, I think we will fare well. But these weeks usually come down to 2 or 3 games that will turn on one shot. Those games are the difference between 7-4 (in playoffs) or 4-7, (not even close to playoffs). 

Here is the link to the event site for anyone looking for info:

For anyone around Montreal this Sunday (the 11th), we are having a team fundraiser at Duffy’s bar in Dorval (on the service road next to the 20). Should be an entertaining and eclectic mix of people that is our fan base, so come by and have a beer and some wings, and help us raise a few bucks to cover our costs for the week. Only 10$ gets you entrance, access to cheap Guinness, chicken wings and some door prizes.


So the Circuit Provincial finals were last weekend in Chicoutimi. My team continued its run of good play, qualifying A-side then losing Sunday to Steeve Gagnon in the Semis. We actually lost by an inch – my last draw in an extra end coming up that much short of winning. Argh. 
Bob Desjardins recovered from a pretty mediocre start to come through the C and win the spiel, and thus earn a spot at provincials.

Another weird draw for us, after playing Thursday and Friday – we were off until Sunday, leaving me with 36 hours to kill off in wet, cold and rainy Chicoutimi. I saw the mall. I watched the Lucien Bute fight. I ate. I slept. I ate again. Slept some more. Zzzzz. I sometimes feel like I am taking time off of work in order to kill time away from home. A significant part of a competitive curling season seems to be about waiting.


Almost as interesting as the curling was a meeting held by the head of Curling Quebec on the Friday afternoon of the Circuit Finals. CQ invited the competitive Quebec teams to meet and discuss the running of the Circuit and the Provincials. I thought it was a great idea! CQ would get some feedback from the players, and to hear what the fearless leader of CQ has to say. So I sat down at 2PM with McDonalds in hand and an open mind.
Unfortunately, my good feelings did not last long. The head of Curling Quebec, Marco Ferraro presented us with a presentation on how to improve Quebec’s performance at the Brier, where he feels that our recent performance has been a disappointment over the past few years.
He showed us a picture of Kevin Martin, and asked us why we can’t be more like him. He said we should practice more.
Then he actually showed us a picture of the Brier Patch (the bar / concert hall that is the social center of every Brier), and said “Quebec teams are better prepared for the Brier Patch than they are for the Brier.” 

Wow. I am translating from French, but I believe this was the exact quote. I must tell you I felt very motivated at this point, and my heart was aglow from the love and support I was getting from Curling Quebec. Quote of the year so far.

So what was Curling Quebec’s solution to this lack of success?
Well Marco wanted to turn back time, and create a new structure for men’s provincials that looks a lot like the one we got rid of a few years back. He wants to return to regional qualifying (Quebec is split into 12 regions), where each region would be paired with another region to send 1 team to provincials. And 2 teams would be given money spots, making for an 8-team provincial. Marco never really explained why this was better preparation for the Brier than out current system.
I highlighted that we actually removed regional qualifying a few years back for a couple of reasons:

  • The best 4-5 teams in the province no longer play from the same region. The best players from all over the province try to put the best team on the ice to compete at the National level, and regional qualifying seemed antiquated.
  • Regions are not all the same, both in terms of number of teams, and quality of teams. So some regions would give a free pass to a weak team, while another region would have 15 teams fighting for 1 spot. Clearly not the best way to get your best teams at provincials, and it usually resulting in teams searching to find an easy region to play in to get to provincials.

Hence, we removed the notion of regions and created 2 qualifying events for provincials, open to all. However, at this point I was told that I was being unreasonable, and not giving a fair chance to Marco’s antiquated and self-contradicting proposal.
The meeting pretty much degenerated from there. Marco heaped further insults on the curlers present (and at this point took some as well), and remained closed to anything we had to say. My fear is that he will go back to the CQ Board and rant and rave about how unreasonable and unaccommodating the competitive curlers were, when in fact this was really not the case.
I am honestly perplexed as to why the head of curling Quebec would act like such a buffoon, as if he were intentionally trying to alienate the province’s best male curlers. Maybe it was his attempt to motivate us through ridicule.
The one thing this meeting actually accomplished was unifying the competitive men’s curlers. Usually this is a relatively divided bunch. But I must say that there was complete unanimity after the meeting on 2 points:

  1. Marco’s proposal for Quebec Provincials was crappy. We can only pray it does not pass.
  2. Marco is definitely not winning friends amongst the province’s top curlers. (That is a very polite way of saying that we all thought he was an arse at the meeting).

Very strange.  Not sure how this one is going to play out. I usually try to stay clear of curling politics in my blog, and I hope that posting this does not create a shit-storm of comments and replies.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Dear Diary: Rye and Sushi don't mix well

I just got back from a long and sadly unfruitful weekend of curling in Gatineau, at the Chateau Cartier Challenge. In my ongoing efforts to provide my cherished readers of what it is actually like to be a competitive curler, here is a recounting of our adventures in curling, as experienced by me.

Dear Diary:
Thursday 8:30am: Departure from my house in Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue: We pile into Francois’s vintage Jeep Patriot and hit the road.
Thursday 8:40 am: first of many breakfasts at Tim Horton’s. I think I spend enough at Tim’s during the season to actually buy a Tim’s franchise.
Thursday 11am: Arrival at arena for 1st game, against Marty Ferland. Feeling intimidated by Ferland’s fancy matching jackets and shirts, that kinda look like a cross between Star Trek costumes and a Green plastic tablecloth. Game summary: They kicked the crap out of us.
 Thursday 2PM:  Check into Chateau Cartier: Likely the nicest hotel we will be staying at this year. It has a pool, a eucalyptus sauna and a gym.
Thursday 7PM: Game 2 against former teammate Simon Lejour. This time it was our turn to administer an arse-kicking; apart from a few early scares the game was never really close.
Thursday night: Very little socializing. Post game snack at McDonalds, then straight to bed. (not sure why, but I love the Monopoly promotion that McDo’s has this time of year. If only I can collect Boardwalk, I can sponsor the team forever!)     
Friday 11am: arrival at Arena for game 3, this time against Eddie Mackenzie from PEI. Despite Eddie curling 100% on every draw he threw, we still pull out a convincing win, and move to 2-1. Funny to watch my mostly French-speaking teammates try to understand Eddie, who speaks in a very Maritime accent that sometimes vaguely resembles English.
Friday 1:30PM: Team lunch at Subway, another curling weekend staple food. Curling weekends usually consist of trying to find food that will fill you up while not making you feel crappy while sweeping. 
Friday 4PM: Game 4 versus Howard Rahala. Definitely our most eventful game of the weekend. After getting dominated most of the game, we pull a steal of 4 out of nowhere in the 7th end to win. After I made my last shot in 7, every skip on the ice winced at the situation Howard was in, much the same way that men wince when watching another man get kicked in the balls. We move to 3-1, and play in the b-semis later that night.
Friday 8PM: Team dinner at Sushi shop. Collectively we eat 100 pieces of sushi. I ate so much sushi, I was peeing soya sauce. JF almost dies after eating a chunk of Wasabi.
Friday 10PM: Game 5 versus JM Menard. With sushi in belly, we win in 6 ends, after taking a nice 3-ender in 5 and then stealing in 6. Definitely feeling good despite the sushi hangover. Consume a number of post-game ryes with JM, telling crazy stories until 2am about curling against the bombastic Park brothers.  No need for post-game McDonalds snack, sushi still swimming in belly.
Saturday 8am: Wake up early, excited to play. We have a 10:45 game against Greg Balsdon, a solid team from Ontario, the winner qualifies for Sunday and earns $3500. The loser gets a second chance.
Saturday 10:30am:  Scary moment: Near death experience in locker room, as beer, rye and sushi have combined to create a potent intestinal weapon that results in a vile brown cloud filling the locker room, forcing evacuation.
Saturday 11am: Game 6 versus the one they call Ballsy. The game starts badly. The first two ends are about survival. I make a hit and stick to give him a steal in 1, and make a crazy Hail-Mary draw against 5 in 2 to keep us on the ice. We give up a cheap deuce in 3, take 1 back in 4. The 5th end was our demise; Ballsy makes a 15-foot slash with a corner guard to take 3 and put the game pretty much out of reach. Damn.  Fortunately, we get a 2nd chance at the $3500, at 10PM.
Our opponents at 10 are Mark Kean, a sharp young team from Ontario. Not one of them was yet born when I started curling.  I feel old. And 10PM is past my bedtime.
Saturday 10PM: Game 7: The game starts badly, then gets worse. We give up a crappy 3 in the first end. Then we play a very bad 2nd end, but I save the day with a nice come around tap on my first shot - except Kean makes a better shot; an insane wide draw through a port to freeze his rock on the edge of the button to steal. Bastard. Down 4-0 after 2. We play a very good 3rd end, and I miss a tough shot for 4 by about ½ an inch. Argh. Kean makes a brilliant tap to the button against 2 in 4, and our evening is pretty much done.  We gamble and lose in the 5th, and it’s handshakes for all. Our weekend is done.
Saturday midnight: Start consuming a few adult beverages, to remove the sting of defeat. Fortunately, a number of people are sympathetic to my plight; I use my considerable charm and guile to scam a few drink tickets and free drinks off of others to successfully drown sorrows in Crown Royal at a minimal cost. We return to hotel, and consume the remainder of a case of beer purchased earlier.
Saturday 2:30AM: Can’t help but hear a party in an adjacent room at the hotel. Amazingly, 20 curlers are still up drinking and partying well past 3AM. I will not mention names to protect the guilty, but suffice it say that many were curling at 9am the next morning. Good to see some teams still placing value on the social aspect of the game.  My presence is at party is essential to do some simultaneous translation for my teammates.
Sunday at 10am. Wake up. Go home. Of course, only after a breakfast at Tim Horton’s. Back at it next weekend in Chicoutimi.