Favorite Reporter

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Monday, January 27, 2020

Hey You Kids - Get Off my Lawn!!!

Oh my God I feel old. I have curled in Quebec Provincials before, and I have lost before. But this year seemed different. In years past, I lost to my peers. And when I won, I beat my peers. I felt like I belonged. This year I felt like a damn dinosaur. I did not lose to my peers; I lost to their kids! 
Seriously. I got knocked out by Bédard and Roberge’s damn kids!!! 

For those not following – the Quebec Men’s provincials were held last week in Valleyfield Quebec. The winner was Alek Bédard (son of former competitor and current senior champion Dan Bédard), who defeated Vincent Roberge in the finals (son of 2006 Brier champ and current senior champ Francois Roberge). We lost an absolute heart-breaker to Bédard in the Semi on Saturday night. He made 2 great shots in 10 for a deuce, including a hack-weight through a port that was maybe a rock and an inch or two wide. We had lost the 1-2 game to Roberge earlier in the day, after a pick on a draw against 2 got us down early. Bédard then beat Roberge in the finals rather easily for the win.

Screw you, young people. You guys are not supposed to be so good so quickly.

Seriously, I can only vaguely remember being 25. I threw a really nice rock at 25. I was brash, and I likely thought I was better than I was. But I lacked in experience. I made dumb calls. I fell into traps set by older, wiser curlers. I choked a lot. I missed big shots under pressure.  Only after YEARS of learning (through repeatedly screwing up) did I learn the wisdom and patience required to win.

But these guys have it now! Not fair. You are supposed to be young and dumb or old and wise, not 
young and wise. WTF?

This is a new wave in curling. Curlers are better at a younger age. Look at Quebec Provincials. Look at Dunstone. And Tardi. And Calvert. And Dropkin. And Felix. And Bottcher. And the juniors that were on TV this weekend. They are amazing, and come factory-ready to win in men’s curling. I think there are 2 reasons for this:

1. Better Coaching: Young teams are better coached than we were, often benefiting from their parents knowledge and from the enhanced level of instruction offered to the elite junior teams, either from Curling Canada or their provincial associations, or even from University curling programs in some provinces (unfortunately not Quebec). The closest we ever came to a sports psychologist was Doctor Bacardi, who helped console us after a tough loss.

2. TV: More curling on TV means that you benefit from watching more elite level curling with better commentary. Back in the day – we really only had the Brier, which was once a year. Now you can watch (and re-watch on Youtube) games almost every weekend – all with great commentary. And you are consistently watching the very best week-in and week-out. Few knew what the gear effect was before, or the drag effect. But now every ladder player in our club seems to understand the basics, and will use terms like “directional sweeping” and “control zone”.

So young Alek Bédard will now be introduced to the world of curling at the Brier in Kingston. The team also features Émile Asselin, who was my 5th at the Brier in 2018 and who curled with us at the Tier 2 Slam in November. This is a classy team that will represent the province well, and will surely surprise the big teams who likely will have never heard of them. They go in as dark horse underdogs, but will surely end the week as something else.

Oh well. Another year over. The most annoying thing about losing at provincials if you are a Tier 2 team is you go from curling every day to not at all. Zero. I will not curl in a meaningful game until next fall.  Sigh.


Quebec Women’s curling seems to have rallied around my battle cry after last year’s under-attended Scotties. There were 8 women’s teams in Valleyfield – and the caliber of play was visibly up from last year. You can see that many teams have increased their effort level to be competitive.

The winners are some close friends of mine, and I could not be prouder of them. Noémie Verreault, Alanna and Jill Routledge and Marie-Pier Côté will represent Quebec in Moose Jaw. Alanna was my 3rd at 2 Mixed Nationals, and Jill has played with me at Glenmore for a bunch of years. I can’t wait to watch them on TV.


A note on tie-breakers. This year on the women’s side, 4 teams were tied for the last playoff spot at 4-3. 2 of the teams were eliminated (Tippin and Boisvert) based on the rather arbitrary criteria of their record vs. the other 4-3 teams. BTW – the 1st place team was at 5-2, so it’s not like these teams were a mile away. But the rules were clear and unwavering, so 2 teams got to go home because they lost against the wrong teams (even though both had managed to beat the 1st place team).

For reasons unknown to me, tie-breakers have gone out of style. It used to be that the unwritten rule was that you could not be eliminated from a Provincial or a National if you have the same record as the team above you. If you are 4-3, and the 5 Teams above you are 4-3, then you are not out. But lately we have added the measuring of pre-game shootouts (which I believe should only serve to rank teams that have the same record, but not eliminate) and have limited the number of possible tie-breaker rounds to 1.

I think we need to go back to the old rule. The fact is that the teams at provincials have taken a week off of work, and many have devoted a significant amount of their life and time to be ready for this week. It just feels a bit too arbitrary to send them home on such a weak set of criteria. I understand that organizers want to limit ice time and be able to commit to schedules…but I think when so much is on the line – let them play. Even if it has to be a 6 end game!

Quebec got spooked one year over a decade ago when in a 10-team round robin, there was 7-way tie for the last playoff spot at 4-5 (yes that meant 3 rounds of tie-breakers). Since then – we have added more and more rules to try to eliminate even the remotest possibility of multiple tie-breakers, as if they were some sort of plague, and there is talk of eliminating them altogether. I say let them play!

Chant it with me: Let them play, LET THEM PLAY…you get the idea.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Open the Chute! Time for Provs - and to Stop Watching the Continental Cup

The week before Provincials is the single longest week of the year for a curler.
You feel like one of those rodeo bull riders waiting for the chute door to open and the chaos to begin. I have thrown more practice rocks than I care to count, the crest is sewn on the jacket and I have purchased a medicinal bottle of rye for the week. I am ready. 

Any predictions? Sorry, no.

I will say the men’s field is as strong as I have seen in a while, with a remarkably deep field of teams that have put more effort and time into improving their game. Add a couple of Ontario imports, a few wily veterans and you have the makings for a crazy week of curling. Can’t wait. Definitely worth a quick drive to Valleyfield to watch if you are a fan.


So I was watching the Continental Cup this weekend. At the risk of pissing off my Curling Canada friends; this event should not exist.
For the uninitiated, the Continental Cup is a TSN made for TV event that pits the best teams from Europe against Canada’s best in a “match-play” kind of format, featuring numerous formats such as mixed doubles, skins, mixed and regular curling. The teams are playing for a trophy and bragging rights, with the winners splitting some token amount of cash.
I get the idea. The premise sounds exciting: let’s do a Ryder Cup, but for curling. It all sounds like a good idea. Until you watch…
Here is the rub; as a competitive curling team, there are only so many things you are mentally able to give a shit about. This is true for all level of competitive teams, and in other sports as well.
In British soccer for example, there is the FA Cup, The Champions League, the League Title, plus multiple more pre-season and in-season shields/trophies. At a certain point, big teams end up focusing on or two events at most, often fielding a “B-team” when they play in events they care less about. But curling teams don't have that option.
It is true for my team as well. I love curling, and I love playing as much as I can. But do I have the same level of intensity in every event I play in? Of course not. But nobody televises my Tuesday night ladder games.
As much as you can try to be up for every single event you play in, the fact is that there are events that get you more jacked than others. The Brier. A Slam. Provincials. Canada Cup. Trials. As hyped as the Continental Cup is, and as much as I think the teams try to get into it - they are not. I don't begrudge the teams that are there. They try their best to look like they are giving it their all.
Sure they eat donuts on the bench while cheering. They use noisemakers like some suburban hockey mom cheering on her 8 year old. They wear cool lumberjack-like jackets. I think they honestly try their best. 
But you just can’t fake caring.

Also – this year we had the added joy of misogyny! We got to watch some of the country’s best male curlers mansplaining shot selection to some top women’s skips! As the Stones Across the Pond podcast described it:  the Saturday game was cringe-worthy, and a fine example for coaches to use to highlight bad team dynamics.

I don’t want to sound too much like an old man standing on his front lawn yelling at the clouds, but this contrived made-for-TV event has done its time. Maybe its time to think of some other ways of getting exposure for curling, and better using the platforms provided by a TV audience to sell the game. I understand that TV ratings drive decision making, but I find it hard to believe that this is the most compelling contest we can put on TV.


A shout out to Hudson Whitlock Curling Club for putting on a great spiel last weekend. The club itself is beautiful, they had great food, decent money, great ice, big crowds of people watching and live bands on Friday and Saturday (featuring Brian Greenway of April Wine, no less)!
Funny that at the end of the spiel, as they were handing out the prizes, many of the thank you speeches from the curlers said “thanks for running a great bonspiel – this is how curling tournaments USED TO BE.” 
It should serve as a great reminder that if you want to run a great tournament, try to make sure people are having fun first.