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Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Olympic Trials Preview and Team Update

So the obnoxiously named Roar of the Rings tournament is finally upon us. This week has become the pinnacle week in our sport. Sure the Olympics are cool, the Brier looks like fun, but the fact is there is no more pressure-laden, intense, gut check curling week in the world that can compare to the Canadian Olympic Trials. The fact is, representing Canada in curling at the Olympics is life-changing. You will likely medal – and are expected to win gold. You instantly become a celebrity beyond the curling world.

Very often an Olympic win can turn into a career. Look at Cheryl Bernard, who honestly was not a top tier curler for that long before her Olympic appearance in Vancouver. But look what it has done for her! She has turned that Silver Medal into a broadcast/public speaking career! The Brier or Scotties can make you a big name in curling, but the Olympics can make you big EVERYWHERE.

That is why this is the big prize in today’s game. The big teams plan everything around this one week of curling. The Slams are fun, the Brier is awesome, but the Olympics are EVERYTHING.

So there are now 9 Men’s and 9 women’s teams left that will play down for this prize. I will review them here. Here are my picks, for what they are worth, with odds for each team!


It all starts and ends with Brad Gushue (3-1). For sure, this is the odds-on favorite to win.
Right now – if I was betting – if you gave me the entire field or Brad Gushue – not sure who I would pick. They are not playing curling anymore, they are playing Perfect. They are at some different, mystic-like level of curling now. They really do seem to be playing the game with remote control rocks. They are defending Brier champs, have won more Slams than Hulk Hogan and will be untouchable if they are on. This team has no weakness. Their front end sweeps like beasts, and they all throw with robot like precision. Mark Nichols is the best 3rd in the world.
Their biggest opponent will be themselves. They surely know everything I just wrote in the previous paragraph, and curling is a game where our own expectations can often be crushing. The favorites do not always win at the Trials. Gushue in 2006, Jacobs in 2014, Harris in 1998. None of these were even remotely favorites to win, and this lack of expectation might have helped them overcome the pressure.
But they are my pick.

KEVIN KOE  (5-1):
Kevin has shown that he has the game to beat Gushue. He is likely the most talented skip in the game today, and can win games almost all by himself. He showed this at the Brier last year and the year before. They have not been stellar of late, but none of that matters. They have boatloads of experience, with two Olympic Medalists on the team. Ben Hebert is probably the best sweeper on the planet. With Hebert sweeping, you have no idea how bad Koe has to throw an out-turn to miss it.
They seem a notch below Gushue right now, but this team has repeatedly shown the ability to step up at the right time.

JACOBS (5-1):
Our defending Olympic reps have been up and down since their last event. They have not experienced the same level of success that they experienced heading into the previous trials, where they were the hottest team in the world, coming off a Brier win.
They have become a little harder to cheer against since the last Olympics as well. They have toned down the crazy yelling and chest bumps, and seem generally less angry. I think they took a bit too much abuse for being over-the-top obnoxious (some of it from me) – and it forced them to be very quiet during the whole broomgate scandal. 

The Rest:

EPPING (8-1): Some strong slam performances, but at best an outside chance of winning. The Slams they won seemed to be when John was standing on his head, as opposed to the team dominating the game, which is what you will need to win this week. 

McEWEN (7-1):  This team was so strong at the beginning of this Olympic Cycle, and yet they are so absent from having any promising results in over a year now. I am cheering for them more than anyone (need to see a toe-tucker at the Olympics), but I have a feeling this is not their year. Hope I am wrong here.

CARUTHERS (7-1): Reid has played well at times, but I am thinking their lack of experience at this level will catch up with them when the chips are on the table. 

LAYCOCK (20-1): No chance. Dunstone at 2nd seems like a llama playing tennis.

MORRIS (15-1): Definitely seem better after flipping skip and 3rd (Cotter was skipping right up until the pre-trials). Morris has been clutch at the trials. Not sure they have the horses to beat the big teams (they have not so far this year). Definitely a dark horse contender.

BOTTCHER (20-1): Playing well, but not at the same level as the big boys.


The Big 2:

The women’s field does not have a clear cut favorite the same way the men’s does. But 2 teams clearly stand out:

Jenny Jones (3-1):  Tough to bet against a women  who is simply put the best clutch curler on the planet (male or female). JJ is riding a winning streak into the event, and looks to be the clear favorite. Not sure if I can stand to watch another 4 years of WTF WFG commercials, but what the heck – let’s call her the favorite.

Rachel Homan  (4-1): If you would have asked me 12 months ago, I would have called the Homanator a clear favorite. They are defending Scotties champs, and are the best prepared team I have ever seen. Plus they spend their days eating Pinty’s chicken strips; that must be worth something. Only hiccup has been their play of late, although they seem like the kind of team that will peak at the right time. 

Best of the Rest:

Sheidegger (8-1):  Okay, I admit it. I have a soft spot for toe-tucking women. This is a young team with no Scotties experience – but the skip toe-tucks! My 9 –year old daughter has started curling little rocks, and I am crushed that she has a high, classic curling slide. Was hoping she would genetically tuck that heel into her leg and set her chin right behind the rock. So we will put Sheidegger as our 3rd ranked team just because. And because they looked very good at the last slam.

Sweeting (8-1): Good team, lots of big game experience. Expect her to be in the playoffs. She has been solid for a while, and is a top-10 world team.

Carey (8-1): Chelsea Carey seems a little less consistent, but winning a Scotties means you could win here.

Not This Time:

Flaxey: (12-1): A strong Ontario Team, just not sure they have the big-game experience to win at this level.

Englot (15-1): I think their run at the Scotties last year was an outlier, expect them to finish below .500. (despite my aforementioned adoration of toe-tucking women - Kate Cameron!)

McCarville (15-1):  Hot team coming out of the trials, with some solid experience at the Scotties to back her up. I don't think they are capable of beating the Big 2 if they are on.

Tippin (20-1): The last team to qualify, looks like they will be in a bit over their heads. They are the 20th ranked women’s team in the world, in a game where the gap between 1 and 10 is huge. Would require a miracle of Disney-movie proportions.


Team Fournier Update:

Well that sucked.
We played like arses in Charlevoix, and fumbled our way to a 2W-3L out-of-the-money finish. Blech. We are having an opposite season to last year: Last season we won a pile of money and then stunk at provincials. This year we have tried stinking during the season – maybe that means we will play well at provs??!? Very clever of us.

The event was won by Marty Ferland, who is having a great season. Imagine how good these guys will be playing in the seniors event in a couple of years! (I hope they need a 5th)

Next up: The Quebec Tour Championship in Sorel this weekend!

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Red-Fleeced Nostalgia

Road Trip.

It was time for our annual curling road trip to a faraway place to curl. This year’s exotic destination: Val D’Or, aka the City of Gold!
For those of you uninitiated in the complexities of Quebec geography, Val d’Or in located in Abitibi – about 6 hours North-West of Montreal. To get there you actually have to drive through about 3 hours of no cell phone coverage! The horror. We actually had to listen to music and talk with each other! How old school.
We were playing in the Air Creebec Nord Ouest Open – a relatively new event (I believe this is their 2nd year). The event managed to draw most of Quebec’s top teams (except for JM Ménard was on his own road trip – to Summerside PEI to play in the Olympic Pre-Trials). This event is actually a pretty cool idea. Their goal is not to service the “elite” curlers, but instead to help develop the sport in the region. The format reflects this. They mixed up the elite teams into 5 pools of 5 mostly local teams. The top 2 teams from each section got to the quarters, but 4 of the 2nd place teams had to playoff to get down to 8 quarter finalists. The top third place teams got to play a consolation event. This format gave the local teams a chance to play against the big teams, but also gave them a decent prize pool to play for if they did not manage to finish 1st or 2nd. Teams also received 100$ per win in the round robin – so every game carried some meaning for the teams involved.
I like this format a lot – and I think it provides a great example of how to develop interest in the game at a local/regional level. It helps elevate the game for local teams, and lets them compete against stronger competition. It should serve as an example for a lot of regional curling associations looking to grow curling in their part of the world; hold an event! It bring in teams, media, sponsors and if run well can even make a few dollars for the host club. The Belvedere Curling Club in Val d’Or was full of people all weekend.

So how did we do?
Pretty good. We finished 5-1, losing the final to Bob Desjardins and his travelling band of curlers. We got outplayed in the final –we got down a few points early trying to figure out the ice and then Bob did not miss anything. But still a good tournament for us.
Some highlights from the road trip:
  • We managed to show up late for a round robin game. We pulled the absolute rookie mistake of not checking the draw before leaving the club, thinking that our next game was at 8:30AM against local Val d’Or legend “Tiger” Larouche. (side note: really curious how you earn the nickname “Tiger”). The game was actually at 8AM. We showed up late, gave up the hammer, and then proceeded to give up and easy 4 in the 1st end. We eventually came back and won – but not our finest moment.
  • Discovered that Alexander Keith’s Blond does not mix well with Mike’s Cheesesteak poutine. #dontstandbehindmeinthehouse
  • Found out I have no career potential as a ninja. Managed to wake up my entire team multiple times just trying to find the bathroom in our hotel room. Love having all 4 in the same room.

Baie d’Urfe
As I write this – we are 3-0 at the Experience IT Classic at Baie d’Urfe Curling Club – playing in the quarter finals tomorrow morning!
Fred Lawton runs a quality bonspiel, live music, free meals. Unfortunately Curling Quebec kicked him out of his usual time slot (the spiel was always at the beginning of December), and it seems to have hurt his entries. Hopefully he will find a niche for next season, this is a spiel that deserves a full set of teams.

Curling Uniforms.

Due to some unforced errors on our part, we only ordered our teams curling uniforms for this season in September, and we are still waiting for them. This explains why we look like a traveling band of hobos instead of an actual curling team, and why we have not posted a team picture of ourselves yet anywhere.
All this has made me reflect on the evolution of the curling uniform.
My first curling sweater was a red All Canada fleece pullover with black checks. We wore it to our first Junior Provincials. It felt awesome. Here is a pic. (Note that this team had awesome hair; a little Beatles on the left, some Jon Bon Jovi from the skipper!) Not sure why our lead was wearing jeans in this pic. (@John Cullen – how would you rate these unis?)

Since these long-ago days, curling wear has evolved considerably. Curling teams now all seem to be decked out in hi-tech, printed fabric sportswear – usually emblazoned with sponsor logos and yes – of course – numbers (!) and names.
The strange outcome of this is that a number of Curling-focused sports-printing clothing companies have popped up to take advantage of this trend. Dynasty Curling, Runback Curling, PCW, Hardline now all have the ability to make customized designs, with sublimated logos and designs. most of these companies are run by curlers. This has created a serious arms race, as teams try to out-jacket each other.

Makes me long for my red-fleece.

Olympic Pre-Trials

So as I write this, the Olympic pre-trials are coming to an end in PEI. Unfortunately, it was not Jean Michel's week; after a great start they dropped a couple of games that they seemed to be in control of and then finished a game out of the playoffs.

My buddy Greg Balsdon is still alive as I write this, and is poised to knock out Charley Thomas; hoping to see him squeak through, although it looks like Botcher, Morris and Howard are the favorites for the 2 spots at this point. 

On the women's side, I think they will be playing tie-breakers until mid next week. Holy parity Batman!

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

February Beer by the Fireplace, mmmmm

So much to talk about in the World of Curling

Let’s start with some Big News. The Quebec Men’s Provincial Championship will be held in my home club – Glenmore – in February. Yay!

Curling Quebec has made the decision (or had the decision made for it) that Quebec Provincials will no longer be held in an arena with the Scotties in January. I think it was time. While arenas provide a larger venue, increased crowd capacity and some experience in arena conditions to the team that will represent us at the Brier, the cost was just too high. An arena typically costs around 30K to rent and maintain for a week, versus a curling club that is essentially free. Also, good luck trying to pry an arena away from our hockey-starved kids and grownups in a populated area like Montreal or Quebec City. Convincing an arena to give up its ice for 10 days in the middle of hockey season is a huge ask, so we often ended up in arenas in remote parts of the province.
Not sure how many provinces still have their provincial in an arena - I am sure the Prairie provinces as well as Ontario still have the scale to be able to reasonably fill a small arena - but I am pretty sure most provinces have abandoned the idea (if they were ever even held in an arena).

The other big advantage of moving to a club lies in the ambiance. While I believe that a full arena is a great venue, a half-full arena often looks depressing. The days of Guy Hemmings filling the Sorel arena for his comeback win against Bob Desjardins are sadly a relic of the past. While some recent events have been somewhat well attended, there is definitely no danger of a sellout crowd at a Quebec Provincial finals in an arena. 

So the provincials are back at a curling club – and MY curling club! Glenmore will do a great job. Ice conditions are probably the only worry – Glenmore often has trouble keeping ice for 10 ends, especially with competitive male sweepers. For sure the ambiance/atmosphere will be awesome. There will be crowds fighting for viewing space. It will feel more like a party. The fact is that nobody wants to hang out at an arena; it’s cold and uncomfortable. But hanging out at Glenmore in February with a beer by the fire…MMMM.

The other big advantage of the move is we can now hold the event in February, instead of early January. This will be a big plus for whoever wins, as they will not have to wait over 2 months before playing in the Brier, as was the case before. This delay is brutal, and there are very few practice events that are available to make sure you stay sharp in the weeks before the Brier.
And my Mom can come and watch a few games!


RIP Moosie

Ray Turnbull passed away a few weeks ago. For those too young to remember, Ray was the knowledgeable voice of curling on TSN before Russ Howard. Vic-Linda-Ray set the gold standard for smart curling commentary. Vic Rauter provided the dramatic sports reporting (as he does so well in a number of other sports), while Ray and Linda Moore provided the knowledgeable debate and passion. The lifeblood of our sport is in the storytelling – and Ray was one of the best. He was a key contributor to the fabric of the game, and did a lot to help develop the watch-ability of curling.


What about us?

Well – we have played some okay curling over the past three events – all around the Ottawa area. We did not qualify at the Fall Open, after losing to a pretty bad American Team (sorry if you guys are reading this!) and then we lost the semi-finals at the Moosehead Fall Classic to eventual winner Francois Gagné.
Then we went 3-3 in Gatineau – just a bit short of making some money, having played 6 really good teams. Gatineau was a very strong spiel as usual, featuring many teams that we will see in the Olympics in the spring. We got to play the Japanese Olympic Team (and the Swiss team - but I missed that one), who came to play with a a documentary film crew in tow. The evolution in the scale and scope of curling with the game's inclusion in the Olympics still amazes me.

We are off to a slow start, but it feels like we are getting better every week. Just need to make a few more shots here are there. It is strange – last year we got off to a hot start, and had already won about $5000 at this point in our season. This year, it feels like we are playing better, but not getting nearly the same results. We will continue to practice and be patient.

What's up next? ROAD TRIP! We are off to that vacation paradise in the north known as the City of Gold – namely Val d’Or. They are running an excellent tournament, and amazingly a lot of the top  Quebec teams are taking the 6 hour drive North to play in the event. 
The fact is we are hungry to put any event on our calendar that can provide decent ice, decent competition and decent money without having to get on an airplane. Not that it is not fun to have Air Canada break my curling brooms or lose my luggage, but the fact is flying to a bonspiel is a very expensive proposition, one that is often only attainable for the most well-sponsored teams.

Val d’Or definitely brings back bittersweet memories for me. I lost the Provincial semi-finals to JM Ménard there a few years back -in a game that still causes me to wake up screaming in the middle of the night. Hopefully the City of Gold will reserve a kinder fate for me this time.


Also worth watching in the coming weeks is the Olympic Pre-Trials in Summerside, PEI. This is an event that qualifies the final 2 men’s and women’s teams in to the Olympic Trials held in December. So this is your last chance to be among the final 9 teams to go to the Olympics. The only Quebec team still in the hunt is Jean Michel Ménard – aka the best amateur curling team in Canada. I am cheering hard for JM in this one – I kind of feel like he is carrying the banner for all those curlers who still believe you should sit and have a drink with the other team after every game, who still believe you should play a ladder game in your club every week, and who still believe that curling is a game you play, not your job. Seriously hope he gets through - the field is remarkably wide-open.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Strange Smells on an Airplane

So – I find myself on a long late night flight home from Vancouver, so why not write a blog.

Forgive me if this blog sounds a bit incoherent, I am writing while watching the Baywatch remake on Air Canada’s crappy in-flight entertainment system. This may well be the worst movie ever made. Not even the slow-mo bikini shots can save this movie.

But the forced confinement of a long flight has given me a burst of creative energy. Not sure if it’s the thin, recycled cabin air or the wafting smell of farts from some unknown culprit sitting around me, but I am feeling especially creative. Here in no particular order, are some thoughts on the upcoming season and curling in general;
  •       The big event this year will be the Olympic Trials. Honestly, I think the Trials finals are more exciting (and probably harder to win) than the actual Olympics. Looking forward to it.
  •          So who will Canada send to the Olympics? Gushue looks indestructible. They are absolutely the team to beat heading into the Olympic qualifying this year. Other teams are good, but Gushue is perfect. This guy keeps tossing 100% games like they are nothing. Cheering for McEwen though.
  •          The pre-trials should also be fun in early November. The pre-trials are a 14-Team event that qualifies 2 teams to be in the final 9 at the Olympic Trials. My 2 picks to make it through to the pre-trials: Simmons and Ménard. Last Olympics, 2 of the teams that made it through the pre-trials ended up in the Trials finals: Jacobs and Cotter. That will not happen this time.
  •          Very anxious to see the carnage on the big teams this year once the Olympic dreams die for all but one team. The nation’s top teams are all now forced to stick together for most of an Olympic cycle, so once the Olympic dream fades for all but one of the Big Teams, they will break up faster than teenagers after the prom.
  •          I hope Quebec women’s curling can get better. We saw some signs of life last year, with a strong team performing well at the Scotties. I hope we can build off this, and maybe have a Quebec Scotties with more than a handful of teams in attendance. Eve lost the semis at the tough Shorty Jenkins spiel last week – and Quebec juniors Laurie St-Georges actually qualified! I do not remember the last time a Quebec junior girls team even played in an event that big, let alone qualified! Promising.

Me on a Podcast

Hey Mom, I’m famous now! I was asked to be on the From the Hack Curling Podcast with fellow curling humorist John Cullen. Thanks to Frank for the invite!
John and I randomly opine on what it’s like to be a lowly Tier 2 competitive curler.
Curling Podcasts are the new thing. The From the Hack Podcast, as well as 2 Girls and a Game are providing some much-needed story-telling and discussion for the game in an easily digestible format. Here is the link:

We play this weekend in Ottawa at the RCMP in the Moosehead Fall Open. Its supposed to be 30 and sunny all weekend and I will happily be in a curling club. 
We start Friday against some unknown Quebec team named Ménard. Should be an easy one.
Here is the link for results:


So my 9-year-old daughter wants to try curling. Finally. 

 I have not pushed my 12 year-old son into the game (he is more into hockey, golf and soccer so far), so this will be the first year where one of my kids actually tries curling. I am excited to see how it works out – to see someone start on a path that I have been on for so many years. 
Will she like it? Will she be good? Will she toe-tuck? Will she want to compete? Will I be one of those crazy curling parents yelling from behind the glass? The journey begins.
Who knows what will come – but it surely will make for a good blog or two!!! I am just blissfully happy that I no longer have to try to pretend to understand the rules of ringuette. 


Confession: I was actually the guy who was farting on the airplane. #hewhosmeltitdealtit

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Burned my Stones

So, as promised, I said I would blog a bit from our tournaments. So here I sit in our Airbnb at midnight, after lots of curling, awaiting our C game tomorrow in the Stu Sells Oakville Classic against Kyle Smith from Scotland.

How is it going? Well we are a solid 2-2, having played 4 teams that are higher ranked than us so far.
We beat Tom Brewster from Scotland, lost to Pat Simmons, beat Dayna Deruelle than lost to Greg Balsdon. All in all not bad, given that all of these teams are theoretically higher ranked than us. But we need 2 more big wins tomorrow to bring home some cash.

This a cool event. There are teams from Korea, Denmark, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, China, Scotland, the US, Sweden, Russia, Japan, Switzerland and possibly even Canada, with many teams prepping for the upcoming winter Olympics.

So what have I learned curling with Olympic hopefuls from around the world?

  • I learned that we need an Entourage. It is no longer enough to be a Team of 4. You need a Coach, a nutritionist, a physiotherapist, a masseuse, a psychologist, a videographer, an animal trainer, a court jester, a driver, a biographer, a public relations specialist and an equipment manager. Seriously, teams from around the world do not travel light. Team Fournier will be accepting job applications (volunteer of course!). We already have a coach, but the masseuse position is open!
  • I learned that apparently stretching is important. It is so weird to be walking into the curling club, and to see 4 or 5 teams stretching outside, doing calisthenics, with a coach. If I had been caught doing that 20 years ago outside a curling club, I can’t imagine the derision and mockery I would have endured, both from my teammates and the opposition.   
  • I learned that I really do not like fusion jazz.
  • I learned that there are more and more teams taking curling to a new level now. They have coaches, and discuss each performance in great detail, revisiting every choice thanks to video cameras and iPads recording every moment of every game. Very intense.
  • I learned that when your teammate lends you his special muscle rub cream to put on an aching leg, make sure to wash your hands before touching your more sensitive areas. #burnedstones

Anyway, hoping we can pull out a couple of wins tomorrow.


Sorry to hear of the passing of Marco Ferraro last week. My condolences to his family.
Marco represented Quebec at the 1989 Brier in Chicoutimi, and at a senior national a few years back. He was the head of Curling Quebec for a number of years. But he will best be remembered for being a man of ideas.
While I did not always see eye to eye with Marco in his days as head of Curling Quebec (you can look in my archives and find a few angry blogs with his name in the title),  I always respected the creative genius that he brought to our game.
Curlers do not remember the days of sliding from holes in the ice that often got icy and slippery. Marco invented the modern hack, which of course bears his name. He always looked for ways to make the game more exciting, more marketable and more accessible.
Marco was always full of ideas, passion and love for the game. He is one of the great characters that always pushed the envelope and challenged the status quo. You had to admire him for that.
He will be missed.


So I watched a bit of the Everest thing on TV last week. I have to say, as a curler it was painful. Apart from Gushue, everybody looked in very early season form. Games were won more on misses than made shots, and the cheesy “I love my new temporary team” moments were awkward. Although they were playing for a winner-take-all $200K purse, consensus seems to be that there was likely some behind-the-scenes split of this among participating teams. So basically, this was a televised early season training game and cash grab for the top 4 men’s and women’s teams in the country. Blech. Truly painful to see an earnest corporate sponsor putting their money into curling, but in such a contrived way.

Also for a game that is increasingly trying to market itself to younger curlers, it is rather troubling that all of the event sponsors were either funeral services, reverse-mortgages or home insurance. Next we will have the Acorn Stair Climber Invitational followed by the Cialis/Viagra Hurry Hard Classic.
Seriously though, I have a hard time watching a new sponsor pour that much money into the game with so little benefit for the game.


So one interesting thing that did come out of the Everest thingee was the 2 point-pin shot. For this event, they introduced a rule that if your rocks covered the screw hole (the very middle of the circles) it was worth 2 POINTS. This might not sound like much of a change to non-curlers - like a three point shot in basketball – but it totally changes the game.
While I am always open to changes that could make the game more interesting, this one seems like a no-go. It is just too much of a change. So much of the game is managing the scoreboard at the end of a game – controlling the hammer. But this rule makes that impossible.
It did make it more interesting for the Everest event, likely because there were a lot of misses anyway, but I am thinking that this rule might encourage the best teams to keep it even more open, and then draw for a risk-free 2 every end. Or not. Who knows? Just seems like a wildly radical rule change.
Changes like the 5-rock rule are made to encourage more offence – but the game stays fundamentally the same. Seems saner to me than introducing a bonus point for the bulls-eye.


Update from Monday:

Well that sucked. We lost to Kyle Smith, and came home at 2-3 for the weekend. Not a horrible showing, but short of the money.
Next up, Ottawa at the RCMP curling club in a few weeks.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Televised Curling In August? WTF

Hello curling fans! Welcome back from your summer away from the game!
What’s that you say? It’s still summer? WRONG
It’s curling season.
This week TSN will feature the Everest Curling Challenge; A mixed format event where they handpicked some men’s and women’s teams and will awkwardly force them to play with each other for a weekend  for some actual cash.
I honestly wonder how some people sat in a room and thought: “what does curling need? How about a random event in AUGUST before Labour Day where we throw a pile of money at elite curlers to have them play in an event that they surely will not give a rat’s ass about - except for the $$$?”

I am sorry – I am really trying hard to not be cynical here. But here is a thought:

Let’s say you have a pile of corporate cash to give away and you want to run an event in Fredericton. Why wouldn’t you run something like the old McCain Superspiel? A sorely-missed event that actually brought a lot of teams, money and interest to curling in New Brunswick? There is a huge lack of money and competition in East-Coast curling in general. Elite curlers in the Maritimes are an increasingly rare commodity, and are forced into ridiculous travel schedules to try to stay competitive. Why not have a spiel with enough money to draw the best teams in the country East, while giving East Coast teams the opportunity to play an elite event without having to get on an airplane? It seems criminal to me to hold an event in the East Coast without involving a single team from New Brunswick or Nova Scotia. (and maybe don't hold it in August) Did we really need another Continental Cup?

But alas this is the new way of curling. The notion of having a large base of competitive curlers across the country is a bygone notion, destined for the dusty shelves along with corn brooms and wool sweaters. Curling is about the elite: those who are chasing the Olympic Rings and often are not bound by such trivialities as day jobs. Days of 64-team events are as dead as the idea of sitting down with your opponents after a game.

Sigh. I sound like an old communist. 

(btw - if you are on Twitter - worth following @cullentheculer if you do not already - a stand-up comedian/curler and with a refreshingly honest and similar view)

On a brighter note, my season kicks off on Labour Day weekend in Toronto! We step on the ice – careful to remember to put the grippy foot down first, and start playing immediately against the Olympic silver medalists from Scotland. Not surprisingly, practice ice in Montreal is hard to come by this time of year, so this will be our first time on the ice.
Few clubs seem to have the infrastructure needed to have ice when it is still hot outside, and I am not sure the demand would be there anyway. Still need to keep buying 6/49 tickets so as to be able to build my own basement curling club.

So what to expect from the upcoming season in Quebec?

Ferly and Ménard are back with the same squads, (as tempting as it is to float rumours about them changing teams!) and a few minor changes to some of the other top teams. I will update once I start seeing teams on the ice again!

So I was looking back at my blogs from last year…and I did not blog much! Will have to change that this year. Will try posting shorter and more frequent blogs – and maybe even from spiels!

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Cloning, Double Rye and Coke and Investing with a Porpoise

Okay…have not blogged in forever. My apologies. I could make an excuse about work/kids/busy blah blah, but the truth is that my heart just has not been in it. I started a lot of blogs, but never seemed to finish them. Was a little heartbroken after provincials this year – so took a bit of a mental break from watching or caring too much about the game. But watching the Brier on TV, and playing at the Club has gotten me back in it! So here goes.

Random comments on the Scotties/Brier.
  • Ménard was awesome at the Brier. They are clearly the best amateur team in Canada. The fact is that the 4 teams who finished above Quebec (McEwen, Gushue, Jacobs and Koe) are full time, pro curlers. Some might have day jobs, but for the most part, they are guys with nothing else to do but curl ! They play all the slams, 20-25 events and make enough $$$ to make a decent living. The fact that Ménard can compete with these guys while holding down a life and a job is actually pretty remarkable.
  • Gushue winning in St-John’s was perfect. Imagine the scene if Gushue’s draw comes up a foot shorter. Would have been a travesty. Not that Koe did not deserve it after having played a crazy game, but it would have been the ultimate shitty ending to something great. Like the Soprano’s fading to black. No doubt that Gushue is the best curling team in the world right now. Period.  
  • The Brier in St-John’s, as expected was a big success. Newfoundlanders are proud of their province and are generally the most hospitable people on the planet. I am assuming it will not be that long before it returns.   
  • Looking forward to following the Newfoundland Tankard next year! With Gushue coming back as Team Canada, Newfoundland will see another team at the Brier. So who will emerge from the Rock? I am sure there are decent curlers there somewhere, just have not seen any out and about in a while. I think these guys have a shot:
Newfoundland Curling Team
  • The sweeping seems to be back to “normal”. The mustard-yellow fabric solution seems universally accepted, and teams are back to disliking each other for far healthier reasons than sweeping choices - like excessive celebrations!
  • Rachel Homan is by far the best woman’s team on the planet right now. As I write this, she is 9-0 at worlds, despite struggling with rocks and ice and apparently breathing in Beijing. You read it here first; she is a lock to go to the next winter Olympics. #boldprediction
  • The Scotties was remarkably entertaining – including the epic final. Homan is quickly becoming one of the greatest clutch shot makers in the game.
  • Great job by Team Bélisle at the Scotties. Going 7-4 and missing the playoffs was a shitty outcome following a good week. There is still room to improve, but they were playing some solid curling from what I watched.
  • If I was not a happily married man – I must say I would be intrigued by a toe-tucking curler with an arm-sleeve tattoo and multiple piercings. #katecameronfanclub
  • Man I hate losing at Quebec Provincials. My team was kind of shitty this year, posting a far worse result than we had hoped for. Not sure what happened. It was as if we all decided to be mediocre for a few games at the same time. #betterlucknextyear
  • Losing at Provs. is especially tough because it happens in Quebec in the FIRST WEEK OF JANUARY. So I will go 9 months before playing a single game of curling that I really care about. That is a crazy long time. It also sucks for Ménard, who basically sat on his butt for 2 months waiting for the Brier - then started 0-2 (albeit against 2 monster teams).  Made me think we need to get a Quebec Curling Tour event happening in early February – something so that curling does not end in January. The fact is the top teams in the world keep getting better for 4 months, while in Quebec we play in nothing but drinking spiels after Jan 15th. I might have to reconsider my aversion to Mixed Doubles, just to have something to do until the end of the winter. #Iwillhaveadoubleryeandcokeplease

There have been a few team changes in Quebec worth discussing:

  • First of all, we changed leads! Mig is taking a year off, so we picked up JF Trépanier to play lead. We are glad to have him on board – if only because he uses the coolest sliding broom this side of Manitoba. #tuckersrule
  • Desjardins has reunited with JS Roy. JS is a shooter, and understands the game very well, and Bob is pound for pound, the top shot-maker in the province. Should be an interesting mix, however their team was already complicated, and is now even more so. So Pierre-Luc will call the game, throw second rocks (I guess). Bob will surely throw skip rocks, and sweep. JS will throw 3rd rocks, and sweep. I think if they can figure out whose turn it is to throw they will be good! And I am assuming Bob is still working on a way to sweep his own rocks, while timing them. This is probably a good interim team for Bob, as he continues to work on cloning himself 3 times to make his ideal squad. #sendintheclones
  • Not sure what else is going on. I am assuming that Jean Michel and Martin Ferly’s teams are sticking together, although I think I should make up another breakup/retirement rumor about JM’s team:  I hear Martin Crete is retiring from competitive curling to coach this young singer as she perfects her craft. Martin's vocal skills will come in handy here:
Martin Crete singing prodigy
  •  The changes with JS and  JF will surely result in a lot of movement from other teams – but I am way out of the loop on these.


Congrats to my teammate Felix Asselin and Jill Routledge on winning the mixed Doubles provincials! They will head to Nationals in April in Saskatoon.
For those of you not familiar with Mixed Doubles, it is a two-on-two 8-end curling game where each team throws 5 rocks each, and the ends all start with rocks already in play in pre-set situations. Amazingly it has been admitted as an Olympic discipline, making its debut in Korea in 2018. Canada will send one team of two.
I admit that I have made a lot of fun of Mixed Doubles in the past in this blog, and still I still think it looks more like a mini-golf version of the game I love, but if this is what it takes to get more millennials into the game, then so be it. The games are shorter, quicker, still involve a lot of sweeping and in the end come down to shot-making. They appeal to an ADD, short attention span crowd that can’t stomach the idea of watching baseball, or anything that last longer than 20 minutes.
I mean look at the sports that have gained prominence in the last 10 years: Ultimate fighting (which lasts 15 minutes – max), rugby Sevens instead of full rugby, Futsal soccer instead of a 90 minute game (although when I play soccer I always feel like 90 minutes goes by too fast). Even going to the gym is faster; everybody I know is doing cross-fit, which apparently involves completing as many chore-like exercises as possible in the space of 20-25 minutes, packaged as the WOD (workout of the day). Cross-fit people generally spend more time talking about about cross-fit then they spend doing it! Golf courses are closing – but golf activity centers are the new trend - where you sit on a couch and then drive balls into targets.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not disparaging any of these new sports, but they all have a common theme:  don’t waste my time with long, drawn out strategy or games requiring patience, let’s get this over with quickly. Within this context, Mixed Doubles makes sense. It is quick, fast-paced and active; everything a 10-end curling game is not. It seems like a perfect fit for the couple looking to curl and make it back in time for the babysitter. Its like Tinder for curling!

Anyway, I still have not been converted yet. I am still a dinosaur: I like long relaxing rounds of golf, a three hour 10-end curling game and a good baseball game on a lazy summer afternoon. But all the best to Felix and Jill at Nationals!!!

Random Grievance not related to curling:

I have been on a lot of Air Canada flights lately, and my new least favorite person in the world is Som Seif. Anyone who has flown on an Air Canada flight knows that Som Seif is the douchebag president of Purpose Investments who makes you watch his commercial before every single freaking movie they show on Air Canada flights. He basically walks around and tells you that he will invest your money with PURPOSE (as opposed the usual investment firm strategy of randomly burying your money in bags in your back yard). Maybe Som is the new Warren Buffett and some sort of financial wizard, but given that their marketing strategy seems to be to make you suffer through their cheesy commercials to watch a friggin’ movie – I think I will stick to my current Freedom 85 approach of randomly hiding rolled up $20s in my sock drawer.