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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.


  1. Marco once again has forgotten that the mandate of Curling Quebec is to implement the wishes of the athletes. Not the other way around. Just because he applied for the job doesn't automatically make him the most knowledgeable decision maker.

    This mentality of dictating to the masses is wrong and has been proven wrong in the past. I suspect that the villagers with the torches will have to rise up one more time and start rattling the gates at CQ until somebody wakes up.

    1. Gerry,
      The first slide in the presentation stated very clearly that it was to be an exchange of ideas, an initial meeting to discuss ways of improoving our playdown format and tour. No more no less. To ask our teams why they don't have coaches, is not an insult but simply a question. To point out that most teams play very little in December and January is not an insult but a fact that it's not the best preparation for the provincials. A so called dictator wouldn't have driven 5 hours to share ideas with players.
      Marco Ferraro

  2. Mike,

    Small correction regarding the proposed playdowns format : the 2 spots ''by the points'' would actually be a last chance type of qualification. Hence, all the points accumulated throughout the year would only be used for the teams not making it through ''hybrid regions''. Points would then be used to select the four teams that would play another spiel to select the last 2 teams going to provincials.

    Philippe Menard

    1. Oh - that's right! I had forgotten about that part! The proposal was even worse than I remembered!

  3. I propose that the last two teams be selected by having the skips throw footballs through tires.

  4. Perhaps it is time to combine a few of the under represented regions? Either combine them or force them to hold elimination playoffs. The age-old tradition of there being 12 regions is not set in stone. And, a return to the unwieldy 16 team, two pool round-robin is unthinkable! There is no question we want to have the best teams at the provincial championship. Denying a spot to the "money" teams would help to kill the "Circuit" faster than a fire out of control! A 10 team round-robin works well. Give one spot each to seven "regional" winners, two to the top "money" teams and one spot to the Circuit champion. Marco's out-dated proposal which seeks to protect and placate the "Regions" of la belle province is counter productive!

  5. Wow Mike,

    It was a proposal for discussion based on statistics and ideas/options. It was presented in the form of questions not statements. Had it been truly offensive and mostly nonsense people would have walked out instead they stayed around for almost 2 hours. The objective was to come up with solutions/ways of doing better. If it served to unite the players, well that's good. There will be other meetings this winter. I hope people come up with suggestions that take into account all the contraints we face.
    Good luck in the Canadian Mixed
    Marco Ferraro

  6. Shit, j'ai manqué ça!

    Comment performer comme Martin? Facile:

    - se trouver une job genre golfeur, "artiste" (Genre Bambino) ou critique littéraire

    - Trouver 50 000$ de commandite

    - trouver 3 autres personnes qui ont le même genre de "job" que soi.

    - trouver un club qui accepte que tu pratiques seul quand bon te semble

    - engager un coach et un psychologue sportif pour permettre à l'équipe de survivre plus de 2 semaines

    - engager un consultant pour expliquer à ta blonde que t'es parti de Septembre à Mars et que tu vas la voir plus souvent sur Skype qu'en vrai

    Donc c'est très facile.

    Mike, I will see you in TMR next weekend. Good luck.

    Christian Bouchard