Favorite Reporter

Favorite Reporter

Monday, March 26, 2012

15 years ago...

Very happy today! I will be returning to a National Championship!

My team – namely Alanna Routledge, Mikey Kennedy and Joëlle St-Hilaire won the Mixed Provincial Championship at TMR Curling club this past weekend. We beat Tom Wharry in the semis, and then snuck by Phil Lemay in the finals in what could best be described as an unusual game.

My last trip to a National Curling Championship was some 15 years ago, playing 2nd on a mixed team skipped by none other than Guy Hemmings.
How long ago was it? Well, to give you an idea, 15 years ago:

- The internet was really only for nerds
- My 2nd (Mike K) had not even taken up curling yet. (Although he says he had already gotten the drinking part down). I was actually at Lachine CC the day he and 3 of his drunken buddies stumbled into the club and said “We wanna curl!”
- TSN actually covered the Mixed on TV (the semis and finals at least)
- Princess Diana was still alive
- Jonathan Mead, Kevin Koe, Mike Fournier, and the sweeping tools we used all had hair.
- AMJ Campbell Van Lines launches its exciting new commercial featuring Russ Howard!
- My lead and 3rd were starting 1st Grade.
- The Korean Women’s Team from the Worlds were not born. (Or at least they look that young)
- People went to Dunkin Donuts, not Tim Horton’s.
- Only cool people had a cell phone – text messages came from Western Union.
- “Google” was the term used for trying to sneak a peek under a girl’s curling kilt when she bent down to call sweeping, and if you saw something good you would say “Yahoo”.  (I hadn't yet met my wife!). As in "I googled Marylin Bodough when she was making that sweeping call, and Yahoo!".

It certainly does seem like a long time ago.

So where do we get to travel to for our National Championship? TMR. About a 20 minute drive from my house (no traffic).

Actually – I think it will be very cool to be the home team at Nationals; we will get to introduce curlers from all over the country to Montreal delicacies such as Smoked Meat, Poutine and Chez Parée. Should be an awesome week – and amazingly the finals fall on the day of my birthday!


Some random observations from the Women’s World Championships:

- Was impressed by the level of play in the final – watched the last 3-4 ends of Sweden-Switzerland, and saw some brilliant shot-making. Mirjam Ott still looks seriously freaky when she throws a stone, but she’s got game.

- I like watching Heather Nedohin on TV for the same reason I like watching NASCAR; you never know when there will be a crash. She made some seriously weird calls. It’s amazing how roles have reversed – 10 years ago Canadian Women were always seen as by far the best curling strategists in the world, now they look weak compared to Sweden, Scotland and Switzerland.

- The Korean team was pretty good for a bunch of 12 year olds.

- The Ford on the ice looked too realistic. It looked like there was a car parked on the ice. Glad I do not have a 3D TV.

- Eve Muirhead might have missed playoffs, but she is still smokin’ hot.
Oh - and someone posted this pic of the Swiss 3rd, Carmen Schaefer this morning. I think I will Google her, and then say "Yahoo"!


Kurling For Kids:

I have very little curling left this season – all of one game left in the club. But this Saturday I am playing in Kurling for Kids.

Kurling for Kids is a fundraising curling day that raises money for Montreal area Children’s hospitals – a very worthy cause. So here is your chance to show me how much you loved reading my blog this season – throw a few bucks to a worthy cause through the website – or if you prefer e-mail me directly to buy some Kurling for Kids raffle tickets (the prizes this year are awesome: trips to Hawaii, iPads, KLM passes). All donations get either a tax receipt or a "Thank You" raffle ticket ($5 gets you one raffle ticket, $20 gets you 7).

It’s for the kids!!! Be generous!!! Here is the link to sponsor my team. Anything helps!!!


Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Brier recap - and So Long to K-Y

Thus ends another Brier. Here are some thoughts:
- Glenn Howard wins, as expected. The final itself was a perfect Sunday night final –free of any drama or excitement that would cause you to have any difficulty sleeping. SportsCenter on TSN described the game as a narrow 7-6 victory that came down to last stone. Were they watching the same game? This one was never close. It never felt close. It was a complete domination.
- The bronze medal game is here to stay. This year featured a game with two teams who looked like wanted to be there. There was less pressure, great shot-making – and it resulted in by far the most entertaining game of the weekend. This was what the bronze medal game should be!
 - Now that the Brier is over, Rob Fowler can get back to his day job: professional Matthew Perry impersonator.

- Best line from the Brier: Wayne Middaugh to Glenn Howard, after finding out that there were only a few inches of separation between two stones, and not the six inches that he was told by the front end: “Well, I guess everybody has a different idea of what 6 inches is.”
-It was fun to see the contrast between Team Howard and Team Koe – two teams on the opposite end of the intensity spectrum. The strength of Team Howard to me has always been their ability to stay loose and focussed, making jokes and not taking themselves too seriously. Team Koe on the other hand barely cracked a smile for 3 hours. I am not saying one style works better than the other - both styles can work – but you need to find teammates that share the same approach as you. I am definitely more of a Team Howard kinda guy – and when I have played with super-intense serious guys it usually results in disaster. It’s Lee Trevino vs. Jack Nicklaus, or Rory McIlroy vs. Tiger Woods if you prefer a more up-to-date comparison.  
- I will claim responsibility for the Gazette devoting some ink to Brier coverage this weekend, as surprisingly many of you took the time to scribble a note to our esteemed local purveyor of news. Now we just need to get them to cover the local curling scene a bit better! (thanks for cc'ing me to those who took the time!)


I am completely out of the loop this year as far as which teams are changing and which are sticking together. All I know is my phone has not been ringing off the wall with offers (still waiting for the Jeff Stoughton call). This being Quebec, I can’t imagine all the teams will be sticking it out. Usually Quebec teams get changed more often than my 1-month old daughter (and often for the same reason: can’t stand the smell anymore).  
Usually the guy who goes to the Brier is the one team that does not change – although even that was proven wrong last season. Of course everybody knows that the key to being a great team is to stick together – like Martin, Howard, Koe who have more or less kept the same teams over the past 5-6 years. But the temptation to try something new – to catch lightning in a bottle is too great for many.


I lost a curling friend of mine this week, rather unexpectedly. Kevin Yerbury, a man so smooth and easy-going that his nickname was K-Y, passed away Brier Sunday at the tender young age of 52. I have curled with/against Kevin for over 20 years, first at Lachine, then Glenmore. He was a fun, big-hearted guy with a smile that was almost as wide as is outurn usually was.

My best Kevin Story was getting snowed in at Lachine CC after a Calcutta or something in a crazy March blizzard with about dozen people.   We ended up spending the night at the curling club until a plow came by at around 6am to “rescue” us.
Kevin’s passing certainly caused me to stop and reflect. It’s easy to put off our goals and dreams, thinking we can get back to them when we have more time. Glenn Howard is pushing 50, and still trying to get to the Olympics. Kevin was 52 and looking forward to curling in seniors. Moral of the story: don’t put anything big off. Do it now – there might not be a later.  

Friday, March 9, 2012

Random Thoughts from the Brier

I love Brier week. This year the Brier happened to fall on my kids' spiring break, and the last week of my paternity leave. So I actually got to watch some bits and pieces of games. (note: a week of spring break with 3 kids at home is really not a "break" - it will feel like a "break" when I am back at work next week).
·         Brier week is the ultimate showcase for curling. It gives curlers a chance to watch a ton of curling on TV. It is also one of the great amateur sports events on the planet. The Grand Slams offer much better curling –with a better field of the top teams, but they will never be able to approach the Brier in terms of prestige –and tradition. 
·         Quebec had a respectable week, finishing at 4-7. As expected, Bob was entertaining. The boys just did not put up decent enough numbers to win games. Russ Howard called Bob the best 71% curler in the competition, and Bob called himself the best 1-4 team at the Brier, (at the same time that Gushue was 1-4). sad fact: you just will not win many games if you cannot curl above 80% consistently as a team. They had some great moments, especially when they were on TV – they just seemed to be sandwiched between some pretty awful shots.
·         I am glad I have HD, otherwise I would have never known that Pat Simmons from Alberta was trying to grow a beard. I have dated women with thicker beards.

·         It was awesome to see Jamie Koe from the Terrotories making the playoffs, the first time ever for a team from the North. I like these guys. I played Jamie in Saskatoon a few years ago. We beat him in a C-qualifier in a cash spiel, and then proceeded to drink with him for the next 7-8 hours. Jamie and his team are old school curlers – they believe in partying hard regardless of where they are in a tournament. Earlier this season, they lost the finals of a big cashspiel while simultaneously emptying the contents of multiple kegs of beer at the curling club bar. This is a role model!
·         Glenn Howard and team are just too good - especially with Middaugh. I think they will win it all this time. Maybe if they win, they can get Wayner some chin implants.
·         The “Rockumentary” on Team Howard that TSN showed endlessly this week felt a little like a collection of bad home videos. Not sure what the point was. I like these guys, but this was 30 minutes of my life I will never get back.
·         The Northern Ontario front end scares the shit out of me. These guys look like they could bench press my entire team. I’m not saying their front end is on steroids, but their coach was Ben Johnson, and their 5th man was Jose Canseco. Seriously though, these guys need to spend a little  less time in the gym, more time curling. In curling, brains usually wins over braun. Maybe they should quit curling – and try to get to the arm wrestling national championships, like Sylvester Stallone in this horrible 80s movie:

     (maybe I am just jealous – my wife seemed to watch their sweeping a little more intently than the scrawny PEI guys who looked more like Kermit the Frog sweeping up the backstage at the Muppet theater).
·         Rob Fowler has been solid this week after a bad start. After looking like a club curler in his first Brier game against Quebec – Rob played some solid big-hit curling. They controlled most of their games – and have a good shot at beating either of the the Koes to get to the final.
·         Gushue was awful this week. He looked pretty bad out on the tour this year as well, so this was not a complete shocker. Expect some team changes here. His front end has been killing him all year, and Fry is just not a 3rd. Nicholls certainly leaves a pair of big shoes to fill.
·         PEI was not nearly as bad as last year. I think they would likely go 5-2 or 4-3 in my club's A-ladder.
·         I honestly enjoyed watching the crappy games more than the good games this year. Alberta-Ontario was a snooze-fest. They are just too good. But NS – NB? It’s a little like watching Nascar – you are just watching for the crash.  There are strategy mistakes, there are good shots – there are bad shots – there are 3-enders, 4-enders - there are a million rocks in play no matter what the score is. Way more fun for an armchair skip.
·         The Saskatchewan team looked like a seriously nerdy bunch of nice guys. I would like to have seen them play a little better for the home crowd. Their games were also fun to watch.
·         Ok – here is a Pet Peeve of mine: The Brier was going on this week – but it was hard to find anything but the standings available in the Gazette sports section. Once again, the Brier gets relegated to the same back-page status as bobsleigh times and European cycling results. So why do they not cover the Brier more? TSN released numbers that they get the same level of viewership for curling as they do for NHL hockey or CFL football. Curling has become one of their pillars. I guess the Gazette thinks that nobody cares. They neglect that there are thousands of curlers in the Montreal area that care about curling. So what can we do?
Here is my plan:
Let’s all e-mail the Gazette sports editor, Stu Cowan:  scowan@montrealgazette.com and tell him the following:
“Stu: I want more curling coverage in the Gazette, and so do all of my friends!” or something similar.
It will only take you a minute, and if they get a mere 10 or 20 e-mails like this, they will likely start to listen. If you can, mention this to any senior curlers that you might know. (in my experience, old people still read newspapers, and actually take the time to sit down and write letters to the editor when they are angry). My goal is to get at least one letter published in the Letters section bemoaning the Gazette’s lacklustre curling coverage. So let’s use our voice and raise the profile of our sport in Quebec!
Pour mes amis francophones, je suis certain que la couverture du curling dans La Presse et le Journal de cette semaine était probablement aussi faible que la Gazette – ils méritent surement une lettre aussi!