Favorite Reporter

Favorite Reporter

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Post Brier Depression and Team Announcement

Serious post-Brier depression has set in. 

I want to be back at the Brier.
  • I walk into every room of my house and pretend that I am on TSN.
  • I signed my kids’ report card with a Sharpie and wrote: “Good Curling, Mike Fournier, Team Quebec”.
  • I pretend every water cooler conversation I have at work is actually a Media Scrum.
  • I stood outside my house waiting for the Brier Shuttle to pick me up and give me a lift.
  • I picked my kids up at school the other day and as they got in the car said “Count ‘em up, 1…2…3 for Team Quebec.”
  • At the conclusion of some “special time” with my wife, I shouted out “Make the Final…”. I was also wearing my Quebec jacket at the time.
I want to be back at the Brier.

Free Agent Frenzy

So the entire curling world is in freak-out mode this week as most of Canada’s competitive teams have re-shuffled the deck, swapping players and seeing others “retire”.

This is the new reality in curling. The Olympic cycle and curling tour have become incredibly time demanding. The 7-8 teams that are invested in getting to the Olympics now have to be playing 25+ weekends per season together, and most likely cannot hold down a real job that involves actually being at work. So that means that teams will change. Guys will come in and out, as they try to manage life and curling and family commitments.

There are only a handful of teams in Canada for whom it is financially viable to take a shot at the Olympic dream. And even for those teams, they are not living the life of luxury and are often having to run off-season jobs to try to raise money. So, as you can imagine, a great deal of thought and consideration goes into picking the 3 dudes you want to spend the next 4 years of your life married to. 

So what has changed? If we look at the teams from the Trials…

  • At the top of the heap, the defending Olympic Team reshuffled completely, with Kevin Koe now skipping BJ Newfeld, Colton Flasch and Ben Hebert. Mark Kennedy is taking a break.
  • Team Mike McEwen is no more, with Mike hooking up with Reid Caruthers' team (minus Braeden Moskowy). Team Gushue, Bottcher and Team Jacobs are staying put.    
  • John Epping ditched his front end to go with the classic pairing of Laing and Savill.
  • Not sure what will happen with Dunstone and Laycock or Cotter. It appears John Morris will be off doing other life-affirming stuff.

All interesting changes. Teams will likely test drive their squads next year, (as next year is relatively unimportant in qualifying for the 2022 Olympics), and see how the new teams work. Maybe a few more minor changes before kicking it into high gear for the next cycle.
And who will be the next big team to break through? Tardi in BC? Horgan in Northern Ontario?

What About Quebec?

Well, so far I know what I have read on Facebook and Twitter.

  • JM Ménard is taking a well-deserved year off. Not sure how long he will be away, but I suspect that he needs to recharge his batteries after a tough Olympic qualifying cycle that saw his team fall out of contention at the Pre-Trials in November. His team has brought in Phil Lemay to play 3rd, with Martin taking over as skip.
  • Martin Ferland and Francois Roberge appear to be taking a step back from competition, although I will believe that one when I see the final list of teams signed up for Provs. next December.
  • Have not seen any press releases from Desjardins, so I expect Super Bob and JS to be back next year. 
  • Not sure what is happening elsewhere.
  • Oh ya, our team is sticking together, in case you were wondering.

(We were going to do a super-cool-trendy Youtube/Twitter/Facebook/Instagram/Snapchat/Tinder/Grinder/Minecraft/LinkedIn/Youporn social media blitz to announce it, but figured this might be easier. Plus our Social Media Team manager (Felix) is busy curling in the Mixed Provincials this week)

Kurling for Kids

Okay – I have one final ask.
If you have been reading my blog this year – and have enjoyed it (and I know a lot of you have been), then help me out here.

I am curling on April 7th with my daughter Victoria in Kurling for Kids, an annual charity spiel that raises much-needed funds in support of the Montreal Children’s and St-Justine Hospital. This is my one cause that I will shamelessly plug for. They do great work, and could use your support. Also, my super-niece Zoë happens to be fighting cancer this year, and spends a great deal of her time at the Children’s.

So click on this link: it will take you to my fundraising page and make a donation. Anything helps. Consider it your annual fee for enjoying my blog this year! 

Here is the link. Go here and click Donate! NOW!

Click Here to Donate to Kurling for Kids

Sunday, March 11, 2018

It's over? A post-Brier blog.

I am now officially in post-Brier depression. I can’t believe it is over. Back to real life.

That was absolutely the most fun week of my life. Some perspective – if I had to rank the Brier on a scale of 1 to 10, where 10 is the best week of curling I had ever had, the Brier is a 37. I can’t believe it’s over, and I absolutely need to get back.

I will admit to crying at the usual Vic Router Brier wrap-up video. Here is the link to it:

Some highlights of the week, in no particular order:

Game 1 vs. Saskatchewan
So my first game of the Regina Brier was against the home team and local favorite Stephen Laycock.  I can’t even verbalize what it was like to be bagpiped on the ice in front of an absolutely full Brandt Center. My goosebumps had goosebumps. But what an awesome feeling. We had arrived.
Great past Saskatchewan champions were also part of the opening ceremonies, with Sandra Schmirler’s team and daughters, as well as Ernie Richardson and other past legends. The experience was beyond surreal.
I honestly do not remember the game that followed, which is surprising for me. I remember we played extremely well. As nervous as we were, our opponent was Matt Dunstone who despite his ridiculous curling CV was also playing his very first Brier game. We won a tightly-played contest, and for a few hours we were undefeated.

First TV Game
On Sunday, we found out that our game against Ontario was going to be the TSN game. As much as you want to tell yourself this is just another curling game, I have to admit I was a little bit freaked out to look up at the Jumbotron and see me, and realize that a National TV audience was also seeing me at the same time. Took me an end to get used to that, and by then we were down a cheap 3 to a team curling 100%. 
Ouch. It was a humbling learning experience.

Vs. Jacobs
Or game against Jacobs on Tuesday night was if nothing else entertaining. This game was the Brad Jacobs show, and the rest of us were just secondary characters. Brad made 2 ridiculously good shots in 4 and 5 to break us. After the game, somebody told me that Brad’s shot was the TSN 1v1 winner – and I actually had to ask “which one?” When they showed the top 5 shots of the Brier, his last rock in 4 and 5 both made the list. (I actually thought his triple takeout in 4 was a better shot than the raise in 5).  It was very cool to be the TSN highlight of the night, would have preferred to be on the other side of it.
I hate losing, but that game was still fun.

The Patch
For my non-curling readers, the Brier Patch is a bar usually set up somewhere close to the arena where fans and players can go between and after the games. The patch in Regina was ridiculous. I think it was the size of 2 or 3 football fields, and a mere 5 minute indoor walk from the arena. On the last few nights, there were likely 8000+ plus fans there. There is nothing else like it in curling. It felt like every curler and fan in Canada was there. It was simply put the biggest curling party I have ever seen. There is live music. There is food. And there are…

Tacos in a Bag
I need to bring this to Quebec. So you take a bag of Doritos, you cut it open along the side, and add Salsa, Sour Cream, beef, lettuce and tomato and then eat it with a fork. A Taco in a chip bag. Brilliant. Apparently this is a Saskatchewan thing. Needs to be exported.

The Fans
Okay – I come from Quebec. In Quebec, my level of celebrity is exactly zero. Telling somebody you curl is an open invitation to get a “I’ll bet you are great at sweeping up around the house”, or “isn’t that a sport for old people” joke. So to play somewhere where people stop you in the street to sign an autograph, or where the flight crew on your flight home asks for a selfie with me is a whole new set of experiences. I literally could not walk 100 feet in the patch without somebody stopping to congratulate us and to say how much the enjoyed watching us curl. We had fans of all ages. Somebody donated $200 to the Sandra Schmirler foundation for one of MY Quebec shirts. Surreal.

Special thanks to our Quebec entourage who traveled to Regina to make us feel at home. They were awesome all week.

The Volunteers/Workers
Have never met a nicer bunch of folks. Every driver, flag bearer, bartender, and countless others were all incredible all week long. Also the TSN folks - I never thought about just how many people it takes to put on a production like TSN does the Brier. What a dedicated and fun group of people.

The Format:
So this was the first Brier with the new 2-section round robin + championship pool. I will say the same thing that I said after the Scotties; it is far from ideal – but I am still waiting for a better idea.
I do like the inclusiveness of it, I like the fact that the games get better as the week progresses. I like it a lot better than relegation. I am not in love with the idea of a Wild Card, but you need to find a 16th team from somewhere.
Still holding back on criticism while waiting for a better idea that still satisfies all the constraints.

My Team
I was really proud of how my guys approached the game. We played hard, but we had a lot of fun. I know that taking the emotion out and keeping your focus is a big part of what takes to win, but being too serious is not what works for us. So we had fun, and people seemed to like that. I think my front end said something stupid/crazy/silly/hilarious before almost every rock I threw. The most common thing I heard from fans all week is how much they enjoyed watching us curl, because we were having fun.
Line of the week from JF, during an end where we were set-up well one end: “Notre set-up est aussi beau que le profil Tinder de Will.” (translation: our set-up is as pretty as Will’s Tinder profile). Awesome.
Love these guys - and hope we can get back to the Brier again together.

I also received the single greatest compliment I have ever/will ever get in my curling life. Before our final round robin game, while we were warming up, Vic Router came down from the broadcast booth to chat. He came over to me, shook my hand and said: “We really enjoyed covering you guys this week, Mike. You are what curling is all about.”

Highlight of my curling life.    (So far! J)