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Monday, March 30, 2020

Doing Jello Shots with my Kids - And a Team Fournier update!

I am in week 3 of isolation/quarantine/home schooling and getting a little squirrel-y. Personal hygiene has become optional. The kids have watched the entire Netflix Kids library. Twice. So I figure why not write a long, meandering curling blog to kill off some time.

Curling is of course over for this season. As is the case with many Tier 2 curlers, my season essentially ended once we lost at provincials in January, but for those of you who play in events like Slams, or Mixed, or Travellers, or whatever, now find themselves pining for next year.  

There will be no World Championships. There will be no Slams. I am not even sure that we will be starting next season! 2020 will have no Glenmore Intermediate, the usual end of season send-off party (I have had to show my kids how to do virgin Jello shots). The competitive curlers I know have resorted to on-line curling spiels!

I guess there is nothing like a global pandemic to provide us all with a bit of perspective. It is good to remember that we devote so much of our time and energy to something that is just a dumb GAME.

If you want a reminder of how dumb this game is, try explaining it to someone from South America who has never seen it or even heard of it (as I recently did). Here goes: you slide a big rock made of granite down a sheet of ice with little bumps on it towards a bullseye while yelling at people using push brooms to clean the path of the sliding granite. Make sense?

It is just such a dumb game. But damn I miss it.


Team Fournier news:

It was a year of ups and downs for Team Fournier in 2019-20. We had some great success, and managed to climb the world rankings, getting as high as 25th in the World before coming back down to 33rd after a disappointing Quebec provincial. We got to play in a Tier 2 Slam event, and played a lot of games against the best teams in the World! We flew to 3 spiels, went out West, got 5 speeding tickets (damn that Alberta photo radar). Unfortunately the provincials did not end the way we had hoped, but all in all a good season.

Team Fournier will have a new look next year (assuming there is curling!). We have added a new horse to the stable: Martin Crête will be playing 3rd for us next year, while Félix slides into the the 2nd position. Jean Francois will stay at lead.

As JF put it, we should be better at shooting and at shouting! With next season being the last year before the Olympic trials, we will be trying to get a spot at pre-trials. To do that we will have to get to the top 15 in Canada (we are currently 17th). So we wanted to make ourselves stronger as a team, and bring on someone who could help us take it up a notch. Enter Martin!

I really look forward to playing with Martin – I have admired him as a competitor for a lot of years. And now I won’t have to try to yell over him on the next sheet anymore! I have seen him make soooooo many great shots against me over the years (his last one from the provincial finals last year still haunts my dreams); it will be weird for him to be making shots FOR me. I am amazed that this game continues to provide me opportunities to learn from my teammates, even at my advanced age (as Felix would say).

This unfortunately means that William will be stepping back this year. We are still trying to figure out if Will can still play a role on the team, but his new baby/job made it impossible for him to commit to the kind of schedule we were looking to play next season.

I will miss him a lot. Will has been one of the best teammates I could ask for over the past 4 seasons, both on and off the ice. He taught me a lot about team dynamics, about keeping a positive attitude and about how to win. He has taught me how to translate English pop songs into French in real time. He is the originator of the term “Feed the horses” which has become part of our team psyche. 
I am hoping that our curling futures will intertwine again.

I will also miss him sweeping my outturn!
Felix will be spending the summer bulking up. Here he is with JF preparing for next season:

Pump You Up Hans And Franz GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY


With the end of the season – we would like to say thanks to the sponsors that helped us compete this year.
  • Hardline Curling: Have been with these guys forever – love their brooms and what they do. They have become the weapon of choice for most of the big teams in the country. They have been sponsoring Felix for so long they started with their logo on his diapers, and have been sponsoring Team Fournier for a long time now. I am grateful for their support.  
  • Royal Bank of Canada Dominion Securities – big thanks to Kevin O’Connor for his support this season.
  • And big thanks to our other sponsors:  Cedar Springs Landscaping (514-453-4662 – Grant), and Injection Classique(Marc Don) foundation repair. If you are looking for landscaping or snow removal in the West Island, or if your foundation has cracks/leaks – please use our sponsors and mention Team Fournier!  The links above take you directly to their websites.

Without their help, we really would not have been able to compete at the level we competed at. This game has gotten expensive. Even with these sponsors and all the cashspiel success we had, our season was still scarcely break even! We won’t be turning pro anytime soon.


If you are looking to kill some time, a couple of guys from Abitibi have started a podcast interviewing Quebec curlers! Sonny and Adam’s podcast is available (en français) at the following link:

They interviewed me last night, JM Ménard a few days ago and  Laurie St-Georges (OMG! - THE Laurie St-Georges) will be on Tuesday, (with some other guy I have never heard of). 
The great thing about a pandemic is that pretty much everybody is available to appear on their show! They are doing interviews every 2 days.
Great idea! As I have said in the past, every sport needs storytellers to make the game great. Podcasts like this one and From the Hack and  2 Girls and a Game help fans better relate to the game, and are an awesome way to pass the time, especially after you have gone through everything good on Netflix!

Sunday, March 8, 2020

I Think I Need Some Crop Insurance and a New Tractor

What the hell was that?

I just watched the Brier final – and to be honest watched a bit too much curling this week. But how could I not? The Brier this year was ridiculous. It was like bacon-wrapped filet-mignon. It was simply the best curling I have ever seen.

It absolutely killed me to not be there.

Seriously, I have watched curling all my life, and I can’t remember anything even remotely comparable to the level of play this year. They talked about this being the best field ever, but damn. McEwen, Epping and Koe were amazing all week, and did not even make the final 4. The level of play and strategy was next-level. The fact that you know your opponent is going to make every make-able shot changes the way you play. The number of insanely good shots, the ridiculously well-curled games - I don’t even know where to begin.
  • Let’s start with Gushue. What can you say? The pressure of a Brier final, and this guy curls 97%. Ninety-freaking-seven percent! He simply did not throw one rock tonight that was not absolutely perfect. Nichols was awesome as well. His front end actually got out-curled in the final, but when your back end plays that well, who cares.
  • To give you an idea of how deep the field was, Mike McEwan’s team were all 1st or 2nd team all-starts, and they did not even make the final 4 of the tournament. Kevin Koe makes one of the greatest shots I have seen to win a game, and is out Saturday morning. Are you kidding me?
  • As a 48-year-old from Eastern Canada living in a big city, I realize that I am just not the target demographic for curling ads. I watched ads all week for crop insurance, tractors and denture cream. I love the ad for the kick-ass snow tires for the snowplough, I wonder if they would fit on my wife’s Prius. The National rental car guy was starting to drive me a bit crazy. Seriously, I want to support the sponsors, but I think the only one that product I could use would be a cup of Timmies – but that would get me fired!
  • Also, I have never been to a Mr. Mike’s Steakhouse, but the idea of playing Jenga next to my meal seems like a bad idea.
  • Felt bad for the kids from Quebec. I am sure they are disappointed at 1-6, but the experience will surely serve them well. They earned their spot there, and were entertaining. From what I hear they became the crowd favorites, and I am sure the experience will make them hungrier to get back. Just hope its not for a while J
  • Was cheering hard for my Tier 2 compatriots from the East: Grattan and Murphy. Was hoping to see one of them sneak into the championship pool, just to shake things up again and remind the curling world that curling does not stop East of the Ontario border (except for Gushue!). Sadly, the Brier highlighted just how wide the gulf is right now in Canada between the Pros and the Joes. When the big 5 or 6 teams start playing for real, it looks like you are watching a PeeWee hockey team playing against the Washington Capitals. I say this not as a knock on the Tier 2 guys (of which I am one), but to highlight just how good the best teams are.
  • Loved watching Matt Dunstone this week. He is a genuinely nice kid – and obviously will be back. The raise triple to win was one of the best shots to win I have ever seen in all my years watching Briers, but at this Brier it barely makes the top 3! (Koe’s triple to win was just insane, and Gunnlaughson’s double-raise-double actually made me spit out my coffee)
  • Team Bottcher is truly a remarkable curling team. You can judge a team’s character by how they react when things are not going well. They are incredibly tough. They look and act the same if they are 4 up or 4 down. Brandon had a shitty final, which I am sure will haunt him for a long time, but this is still obviously one of the top teams in Canada.
  • Okay – don’t jump on me for criticizing shot selection – but I think if Bottcher draws for 1 in the 1st end of the final it is a very different game. I mean you work all week to earn hammer in the finals, and then give it away trying too hard to blank. I think there is a stat on tour that the team that scores first wins something like 60-65% of the time. Take. Your. One. Settle the nerves.
  • It was amazing watching Jacobs this week. I have been hard on these guys in the past, but man are they a classy squad now. They were 1-3 early in the week, but you felt like they had more to offer. The addition of Kennedy has changed these guys. Even though they have not won a Brier in a long time, I would be hard-pressed to bet against them for the Trials spot in 2021.
  • Shout out to Colin Hodgson. Don’t let the Bieber-like sleeve tattoo or the greasy hair fool you; this guy is completely deserving of the sportsmanship award he earned this year. A class act, and genuinely good for the game.
  • To me, the best example of how good curling has become was the first end of Gushue-Jacobs earlier this week. Gushue basically made 8 shots perfectly, and gave up a 4. If you get a chance, go back and watch that first end.  Amazing stuff. That end was like porn for curling fans. 
  • Early week highlight: The 10th end measure in the Jacobs-Gunnlaughson game. The poor official who had to measure was like a deer in the headlights; and just as eager to get off the highway as soon as possible. Marc Kennedy was about as Canadian as you can get; I think his face after the first measure is now a meme. But to his credit, he stayed unbelievably polite and respectful. This would simply not happen in any other sport. I’m not sure I would have remained as calm.
  • So can we all agree to stop arguing about the format for a while? This year highlighted why the current format works. You get full provincial representation - but you get the entertainment value of watching the best in the business bash each-others' heads in as the week progresses. This format is working. It might not be perfect, but its getting pretty close.

Damn I have to get back. Even it is just to be cannon-fodder for the Slam teams.