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Friday, December 19, 2014

To tank or not to tank?

The Regional playdowns are going on this weekend at Glenmore and Dolbeau to determine the last 6 qualifiers for Quebec Men’s Provincials, and amazingly I am not there!!!
My team qualified via the cash we won this year, finishing a close second in the province behind Jean-Michel. (we were only about 20,000$ behind them). Robert Desjardins has qualified via cash as well, and Steven Munroe won the Circuit Provincial spot a few weeks ago. 
I cannot tell you how ridiculously happy I am to not be driving 7 hours alone in my car to Dolbeau to play an extremely tough triple knockout regional the weekend before Christmas.
The final 6 will be determined in 2 regional playdowns that are usually brutal weekends of curling. The draws can be found via the Curling Quebec Website. Here is a link:  http://www.curling.ca/quebecscores/#/
My picks (Although playdowns never work out as predicted):
East: Ferly, Richard and Robichaud. Maybe Caron.
West: Gagnon, Doyon and Wharry.
I would say the West is a big tossup – lots of teams can be in the mix: Benoit (with the Trepannier brothers), Kennerknect, Max Dufresne and others can easily provide a few upsets.
Also interesting: Felix Asselin with Lawren Steventon playing 3rd, Possibly the only Junior-Masters combination team in the history of the Quebec tankard.  They will be tough to beat playing on their home ice.


To tank or not to tank – that is the question.

Here is a hypothetical situation:
You are signed up in a round robin bonspiel. You have won your first two games, and are assured of qualifying for the playoffs. You are the last game to be played. You look at the draw, and realize that if you lose, you fall into an easier section of the draw, and have a better chance of winning the tournament. The team you are playing is eliminated from the playoffs either way.
So do you tank the game?
In case you have not guessed, this situation happened recently in a non-hypothetical way, to a team I will not name here. I will say that the team in question lost the game where they were heavily favored, and made some ridiculously bad calls and threw some very bad rocks in doing so. I will not go as far as to say they tanked the game, but to those watching, it was an entertaining spectacle, with one team trying to win and the other trying to lose without appearing as if they were trying to lose. At very least, it was a very strange game, with some very weird calls and one of the funniest measures I have ever seen.
So is it wrong to lose on purpose? I am not sure. I can honestly say that I have never tanked a game. It is just not in my DNA to do so. But was the skip is question wrong for throwing the game? Or was it just intelligent draw management….like giving the other team a point in the seventh end to keep the hammer in 8. Honestly – I am not sure. If I had been in his spot, how motivated would I have been to win? How would that have affected my concentration? What if the other team had caught on to what was happening and just decided to shake? I think this is not as clear cut as many make it out to be.
Anyway – feel free to comment below. Curious to get some opinions on this. But if you name names – I will delete your comment!!!
Lesson to be learned here: Never run a round robin where one game is played after all the other games are completed! This is why FIFA starting playing the final 2 games of its round robin stage of the World Cup simultaneously.


Where are all the women gone?

The Scotties playdowns are also this weekend. In an exciting turn of events, 6 teams filled out the form, and qualify directly for provincials.
6 teams. Out of all the curling clubs, out of all the female curlers in Quebec, only 6 teams decided it was worthwhile trying out. Wow.
Where is everybody? I know a lot of competitive curlers have dropped out because of pregnancy, families, life, etc. I guess the question is why do women stop curling when they have families, whereas men seem to keep playing? (not that the number of men’s teams is not also in decline!)
So how do we get more teams out? Should we offer free daycare during the provincials? Should curling clubs make more of an effort to be more family friendly? (like offering free babysitting during certain leagues – which some clubs in the West already do).
Not sure what the solution is– but the lack of teams reflects badly on the sport. The six teams that have signed up are all working hard and practicing, but they would all benefit from having more local competition to make them better.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

This might hurt a little....

The rumours of my death have been greatly exaggerated!
For those of you have not been following the US-Style emergency room drama that has been my life for the last little while, I thought I would use my blog to catch you all up!
A week ago Sunday, after losing in the finals of the TMR open with my ridiculously good club team from Glenmore to an even better Ghislain Doyon/Max Elmalah team, I decided to play an indoor soccer game Sunday evening. Despite being a bit tired, I thought it would be good for the cardio, and help me get out a bit of the frustration of having gotten our arses kicked in the final.
Early in the first half, I caught a stray elbow from a teammate in the Adam’s Apple, and have been pretty much laid up ever since. The blow pretty much shattered the cartilage in my throat, and left me with a big lump in my throat. What followed the blow was a week of Emergency Rooms, specialists, reconstructive throat surgery, recovery, tubes going in and out of all kinds of places, fancy titanium plates and screws, swelling, bleeding and now home resting. Fun.
Here are some memorable quotes that sum up the experience:
-          “This empty space here is where the cartilage is supposed to be.” (Doctor pointing at CT Scan of my neck.
-          “Uh – are you sure you are breathing right now?” (Doctor while looking at image from a camera stuck up my nose and down my throat)
-          “This might hurt a little – I am going to pull the catheter out” - (nurse after the surgery). OUCH.
Seriously, all in all , it has been quite an experience. I definitely witnessed both the best and the worst that our Health Care System can provide.

Best: the Jewish General Hospital in Montreal. An awesome hospital staffed with insanely competent people who genuinely seem to care. It felt a lot like a cool US TV show. They have a brand new emergency room. They had gadgets and flatscreens and 3D models of my throat and funky cameras and magical titanium plates that now hold together the cartilage in my neck. All available to me at no cost. Truly an impressive example of the best of our healthcare system.

Worst: Lakeshore General Hospital – where I foolishly stumbled into Monday early AM. The triage nurse looked at me and told me point blank: “You don’t look that bad – it will probably be 8-9 hours before anyone will see you. If you access to a doctor at a private clinic you should go there instead. Make sure you tell me if you are going to leave”. So I left. With a cracked and displaced trachea, that was swelling with internal bleeding, I was sent out to fend for myself. I do not think this place should still be allowed to call itself a hospital. It is a glorified CLSC. Never again. Do not send your dog there.

So what does this do for my curling season?

Well – I am off the ice for now as I heal and adjust to having a titanium plate in my neck. Not sure when I will be back, but likely before provincials.
I must say that our curling season has felt a bit snake-bitten this year. We have had injury, death, sickness, and that was before my soccer mishap! All if we need is some locusts and would be a Bible story. But with the team that I have somehow I strangely feel like we are still getting stronger. Every stick in our spokes, every challenge we deal with, every agonizing loss (and we have had a few of those!) is making us tougher, and meaner. It almost makes me feel bad for the unfortunate teams who will have to play us when all 4 guys are back and in good health.
I am just hoping that that will happen at some point before the end of the season!


Screw You Charlevoix again!!!
The Challenge du Casino de Charlevoix will be on this weekend. Of course I will not be there, again. The curse of Charlevoixc continues. So I fully expect every team in Quebec to benefit from my absence to magically all make money and pass us in the race to qualify for Quebec provincials on points. My pessimism is due to the fact that Charlevoix hates me. I am cursed there. Read the full story here:  Screw You Charlevoix
My Men's Team is playing in the Open section, which is an awesome 64 team event without equal in Quebec. I wish them well. Hopefully Charlevoix will take mercy on them since I am not there with them!
There is a strong field in the Invitational section as well.  


So what is going on in The World of Competitive Curling?
You really only need to be talking about one team so far this year: (And sadly it is not Team Fournier).
Team McEwen has been absolutely on an epic run this year. They have been BY FAR the best team in the world. They have won a Grand Slam, and lost the final of the other. They have won a pile of tour events. They are already approaching 100K in winnings this season. Plus Mike made what is undoubtedly the shot of the season so far. (see it here!) McEwen Shot  
I think the big challenge for this team will be how to maintain the pace for the long run. Competitive teams seem to exist on Olympic Cycles now, meaning that this team needs to stay on top until December 2017, when Canada will pick its team for the 2018 Winter Olympics.
So how do you stay on top for so long? The answer I think is:  you can’t. It is just too much. Too much travel, too much practice, too much training, too much intensity. I am interested in seeing if this team will even try to play at peak until 2017 – or will they intentionally slow down at some point and then ramp it up again in the Olympic Year? Jacobs (our defending Olympic rep) was really only at the summit for less than 1 year before the Trials, before that they were a lot more human, and were far from the best team around. If McEwen's goal is getting to the Olympics, then I would argue that they should push hard until they secure a birth at the Trials, then slow their pace for a year, then ramp up again for the Trials, or risk burning out!
Another nice storyline to follow on the tour this season is Adam Casey and his crew from PEI. They have climbed into the World Top 10 by playing solidly just about everywhere. I got to play them in Gatineau in the C Qualifier. Seriously nice guys. It will be especially fun to see them playing in the relegation event at the Brier, where they could end up having to face a tough Nova Scotia team in a relegation battle. This would be an epic pie-in-the-face of relegation, where a solid Maritime team is sent home before the Brier, and yet the reconstructed and no-fun-to-watch Team Canada skipped by Johnny Mo gets a free birth. Blech!


Hardline Dragon’s Den Success
I hope you all were watching! The boys from Hardline did curling proud in the Den, securing a bit of funding for their company to get into the business of sponsoring teams and rolling out their product line. 
So the secret is out! They made a deal. They have secured their ability to make some noise in market – and they are making some noise!!! They have benefited by sponsoring Team McEwen, and have had their brooms and flashy red curling pants on display for the world to see. And they are getting lots of love from the Best Team in the World in the form of endorsement and publicly praising the Ice Pad.
The word is that business is booming since the episode – with on-line orders a plenty and club pro-shops jumping on board.
Of course, I have a self-interest in promoting these guys in that they also sponsor ME, but this is an easy story to get behind and cheer for the underdog! The little company from Quebec that is ready to take off and lead the next revolution of curling brooms! I can’t wait to see what these guys will do next! Here is a link to their appearance Hardline on DD

Saturday, October 18, 2014

We want to Pump *clap* you Up!!!!

Okay. I just saw the latest commercial from the CCA for the Continental Cup of Curling (a made for TV even that features a bunch of Canadians playing a bunch of foreigners for some cash and a trophy). It shows curlers pumping iron in some gym - cleverly portrayed as curling rocks. Here is a link to it:


I am happy that curling has evolved from the perception that it is a sport for flabby old people. Having Ed Werenich as your poster boy admittedly did not make for a positive, healthy image for the game.
But have we gone a bit crazy with this? The Olympics became a homage to tight shirts and bulging biceps. If I heard another commentator say “The Jacobs rink is changing the face of curling” I was going to throw a dumbbell through my flat screen.  
The message we now seem to be sending is:  “I need to have huge pipes and make squinty faces after sweeping to be really good at this game.” And then there are the calendars. Shirtless curling hunks showing off their six packs (and I don't mean beers).

I love curling, and I work really hard to get better at it. But do I really need to look like Hans and Franz to play this game at a competitive level?

 I am going to say something that might seem like heresy these days, but here goes:
I have played with and against a ton of competitive players, and some of the best sweepers I have seen are relatively thin – relatively un-muscular guys. I am in no way saying that you do not have to be in shape to curl competitively (Cardio is essential for sweeping), but I am definitely saying that you do not have to look like a commercial for protein shakes to get the rock down the ice effectively. Savill and Laing, Sylvain and Elmalah. All are spectacular front ends, and are all in great shape. But none of them look like they need to turn sideways to get through a door.    

I think we can safely say that we have evolved the perception of curling from a drinking sport for old flabby people.  But has this perception change come with an increase in participation? I don’t think so. The sport used to popular because of the characters that played. I grew up watching Russ Howard, Ed Werenich, Kevin Martin, Pat Ryan, Hackner and Lang. The personalities sold the game. And they looked like cool everyday guys. The sport looked accessible. It made you want to go to the club and try. It looked fun.

Now we portray our top teams as uber athletes who would turn up their nose at a beer or an order of fries. We have made curling look like going to the gym!
And I really hate going to the gym. I hate everything about it:
  • I hate the smug look of the muscular dudes who make squinty constipated faces as they work out.
  • I hate the fact that I usually end up going alone to the gym.
  • I hate having to spray down the machines with disinfectant after I sweat all over it.
  • I hate getting onto a machine that some sweaty dude did not spray down after he used it.
  • I hate watching the shared TV with some other doofus who wants to watch CNN.
  • I hate having some 20 year old nutrition major try to sell me protein shakes or vitamin supplements.
I curl, and play soccer, and play golf, and play tennis and play whatever game I can find because I infinitely prefer playing any game to stay in shape rather than going to the f?%$%?$ gym.

So can we relax a bit on the recent fitness obsession in our curling promotion? I promise do my part. After every game I will repeatedly lift 12 ounce-liquid filled weights from the table to my lips. I might even make a squinty face while doing it.

Competitive preview:

So what is happening in Quebec Men’s Curling this year? Lots of changes. Here is your primer of the top teams. (They are listed in order of how they are seeded at the upcoming Quebec Curling Tour.)

Jean-Michel “Outturn” Ménard:  Quebec’s top team is back, and looking particularly fierce already. They won the Mac Ice spiel last weekend in Ottawa, and look ready to take on the best teams. Imagine how good they could be if they could throw an In-turn, or if Phil Ménard was in shape!!

Martin “Ferly” Ferland: Martin has taken over Phil Lemay’s team from last year. They have new jackets that look like the 80’s Houston Astros shirts, and seem ready to kick ass. They have looked thoroughly shitty so far this year, but will surely be tough to beat once they gel. And you do not want to get down to this team, as their peel weight makes you want to stand on the backboards.

Un bloque et 3 bleuets: My team is back for another kick at the can. We spent months in a Bhuddist monastery, learning meditation and balance. We went to Harvard to study probability theory and risk analysis. We went to Vegas to work on our gambling and our nerves. We are ready.

Robert Desjardins: Bob has once again had a busy off-season, switching his team around once again. He has kept Fred Lawton, and picked up a couple of youthful looking seniors to play; Louis Biron and Mo Caillouette. To quote Forrest Gump “This team will be like a box of chocolates”. Bob will pull out some tasty wins, but sometimes they will get stuck with a dried-up chunk of tasteless goop.  

Steeve Gagnon. The Steve with an extra “E” is always one of the toughest teams to play against. They grind and fight and never make it easy. Not sure how they will work now that they got rid of their lone Anglophone (Mike has gone back to his home planet).

Ghislain Richard. This is a new and solid team. Max Elmalah has put together this squad with part of William Dion’s former junior champion team. They will be tough to beat, especially when they bring out super-spare Francois Roberge!

Everybody else:  A few promising new teams, but will have to do a lot of hard work to catch up to the top teams.

btw I will talk about woman's curling some other time, when I figure out who is playing with who.

What is coming up?

The big cash season kicks off next week with the Challenge Chateau Cartier in Gatineau. This is one of the biggest spiels in Eastern Canada, and features a star-studded international line-up. My first game is against none other than David Murdoch, the Olympic Silver Medalist from Scotland! I plan on painting half my face blue – wearing a kilt and yelling “FREEEEEEEDOOMMMM” before the game. Cue the bagpipes.


Wednesday, October 1, 2014

An Ode to Fall

Some people complain about the end of the summer. Some gripe when the nights gets chilly, when the leaves turn yellow. But not I.

Some look mournfully towards a sky full of southward-flying geese. Some grumble about the leaves they need to rake, the windows they need to seal or the winter tires they need to install. But not I.

Some lament the period before Christmas, when the frigid winds howl, when the golf courses cover their greens with hay and tarps. But not I.

Some regret having to defer shorts and t-shirts and flip flops to the back of the closet, while digging for gloves and scarves and boots. But not I.


I love this time of year. 
I love rustling through a pile of dried up leaves on the sidewalk. 
I love when women put on leather boots and scarves. 
I love when TSN2 starts running old Brier games to fill content. 
I love sorting through my curling bag, unopened since the spring and sifting through my musty-smelling curling shirts.   
I love walking onto the fresh air of the curling ice, and seeing the freshly-painted rings. 
And I love talking about curling again, after a good five months of barely thinking about it. With anyone who will listen.


I don’t love seeing that I forgot to pay off my bar tab from the end of last year.

My season kicks off this weekend at Glenmore at the Equinox Open, and annual event that has served as the kickoff to many a curling season. It is a good chance to shake off the rust and get some good games in on good ice.
We are starting late this year again, I feel that we are already behind some of the other competitive teams. But nobody wins the province in September, and the curling of meaning is still many months away. For me the road to the Brier begins alone on a sheet of practice ice. 


It’s been a long time since my last blog, so here is a pile of updates and news that you need to know:

I Can No Longer Bitch About Curling Quebec:
As many of my loyal readers surely know, Curling Quebec has often been a target of my griping and ranting over the past few years. Well I can gripe no more…if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em!
Yes I have joined the Dark Side. Not sure why I feel like Anakin Skywalker being lured by seductive power of the Empire (that was for you fellow Star Wars nerds out there), but I have been elected to the Board of Directors of Curling Quebec (yes there was an actual election!).
Now that I am a DIRECTOR, I now posses power over all things curling. I am now expecting free beer, an entourage of minions and some fanfare every time I enter a Curling Club. Worship Me Mortals!!!  
Some other big changes at Curling Quebec over the summer. Marco Ferraro has left the building. The embattled former Head of Curling Quebec stepped aside in early September, and was immediately replaced by Marc-André Robitaille (his friends call him Marco!). Marco is a great guy, and has been Director of competitions for a year. He brings some level-headed stability to the role that was somewhat needed at this stage.
So Goodbye Marco Ferraro! I will resist the temptation to speak ill of the departed. Suffice it to say that Marco always governed CQ with purpose and passion. Unfortunately his passion sometimes got in the way of building positive relationships with the curling community, but I do believe that his heart was always in the right place. Let us see what his replacement can do!
Marco Robitaille has been replaced by none other than Alanna Routledge as the new Director of Competitions. Alanna is of course most famous for playing 3rd for me at mixed Nationals, which of course means she is experienced at dealing with stupidity. This should serve her well!

My Men’s Team has an Awesome New Sponsor:
We have joined Team Hardline, and will be sweeping with IcePads this winter. We are excited to get some support from a great bunch of guys, and hoping that the magic sticks they will give us will make my excellent-sweeping front end even more proficient at dragging my draws to the right spot.

So the guys from Hardline will be on Dragon’s Den (the Canadian show where a bunch of rich investors audition potential companies upon which to heap cash in return for a piece of their company). I have no idea how it will turn out (the show was taped in the Spring, but the boys have been sworn to secrecy until the episode airs). However, since taping the show, Stan and Archie have been spending money like the guy who just won the half-and-half at the Brier! 
They have signed on Reid Caruthers and Mike McEwen, two of the biggest names on the Tour to play with their equipment, and seem to have really stepped up their marketing. Anxious to see what is next!

The CCA is Caving (a bit) on Relegation:
The Mixed and Senior championships will no longer feature the horrible idea that is relegation. They will now adopt the same format that the juniors use. It would take me a page to explain it, but it means that everybody who gets invited to their National Championship gets to play – so I like it. 
I like to credit my blog for having solved this one! It remains to be seen how this will play out at the Brier and the Scotties, which will both have their first ever relegation tournaments this year.

RIP Bruce Lerner:
The Curling World lost a friend this summer with the passing of Bruce Lerner, long-time Montreal-area curler. I was out of town when it happened, but I think it would be appropriate for us all to raise a glass next time we are in a curling club, and remember.