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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.