Favorite Reporter

Favorite Reporter

Saturday, February 25, 2023

Why We Need Curling Now More Than Ever


My wife has a recurring dream where she wakes up angry at me. She wakes up and tells me that she dreamt that I was cheating on her with an unknown mistress. She spends the whole dream trying to figure out who the other woman is, only to find out in the end that it is a curling sheet. Weird, but understandable. Admittedly I have had a life-long affair with curling.

It started when I was 13. I started curling in a junior league at Lachine Curling Club, and I loved it. I started Saturday morning juniors in September, and by Christmas I was hooked. I was asked to spare for a team with some older kids at the annual Christmas Bonspiel at the TMR curling club. I remember getting picked at my house to go and play by 3 seventeen-year-old girls with 80’s hair in their parent’s Oldsmobile with Bon Jovi blasting on the radio. For a shy 13-year-old boy, this was obviously the highlight of my life at that point. I do not remember how we played that tournament, but I remember the car ride. I wish I had a copy of our team picture from that event.

Since then, curling has given me so much. I curled juniors and had ridiculous amounts of fun getting into trouble with friends in crazy places. I loved the game. The drama, the strategy, the history. I soaked it all in. I would practice after school with my friends. We would play tournaments on weekends. It allowed me to get into the right amount of trouble.

After juniors, I started curling in men’s and mixed leagues. I curled with or against grandmas, police officers, union reps, lawyers, conspiracy theorists (we called them “crazy guys at the end of the bar” back then), politicians, World War 2 vets, students. The curling club was a diverse cross-section of society. And after every game, you would sit and have a drink (or usually 2 or more) with the teams. What I did not realize at the time was how valuable a gift this was.

Curling takes you out of your bubbles. Normally we tend to hang out with people who are like us: people with similar backgrounds, similar beliefs and similar habits. But at a curling club we are all just curlers. And I learned how to talk to people. I learned how to disagree. We learned to laugh at our differences, and not let them define us. I could disagree with someone’s views, but still curl with or against them. Curling was the bridge.

We need this today more than ever. We have lost the ability to tolerate those that we disagree with. Social Media has allowed us to crawl back into our like-minded bubbles. The Crazy Guy at the End of the Bar can now find millions of on-line allies, emboldening his views. Our differences now define us.

Curling is the enemy of this. It is not pretentious, it is welcoming. I applaud those working to bring diversity into the sport, we need this. While curling clubs are generally welcoming by nature, it takes awareness to recognize that maybe not all feel welcome, and hard work is required to fix this. We can be better at this, to better reflect the communities we live in. This will help curling continue to play its role in helping to build relationships across boundaries.

I recently moved for work, from Montreal to Toronto. Once again, curling is helping me to fit in somewhere new. Forty years after walking into Saturday morning juniors, I have joined a new league. I have a new team, and I continue to learn and make new friends. I can’t think of another sport that can give you this.

So on this Curling Day in Canada, I declare that this is the greatest game of them all.  We need it now more than ever.

Thursday, February 23, 2023

LSG! LSG! And what I want to be when I grow up.



A bit sleep deprived this week watching my friends Laurie St-Georges and team kicking some butt at the Scotties this week. Watched her shoot the lights out tonight against BC, after watching her shoot the lights out last night against Lawes. And it looks like her game against NS tomorrow night will again force me to stay too late at a curling club after my Thursday night game to watch.

I am usually a big Russ Howard fan – but he keeps talking about how Laurie is such an underdog since her team has only played 4 spiels this year. Yes that is true, but Laurie eats, sleeps, drinks and poops curling. She practices more than anyone I know and she plays a ton of mixed doubles. Oh, and she won the Canadian Mixed this year (with Emily of course, who also plays Mixed Doubles). I saw her team playing in a number of spiels, and often with their 5th as a couple of them are busy with school or work.  This is a very good curling team, and Laurie plays the game with no fear and a big smile.

I am hoping they keep this run going! 




When I grow up…I want to be Krista McCarville

I am getting a bit tired of the Curling Canada Foundation commercial with all the goofy kids saying what they want to be when they grow up…with the girl who wants to be scientist while holding a pebble hose. (Bad start!). This commercial has been on for so long I feel like even the kid who didn’t know what he wanted to be probably has a job by now.

But following this theme – I wanted to add my voice to this cheesy commercial:  When I grow up, I want to be Krista McCarville.

Okay I am already grown up, so its too late for me. But if you are a young curler looking for a role model – I hope you are watching this team.

They are unlike the other top teams. Most top teams follow the same formula: try to play well enough to get into the slams - play a million tournaments to get better 

The challenge with the Olympic movement is that we have created a generation of curlers who are aspiring to be professional curlers, and nothing else. I have to say, when I was a young curler decades ago, that was not an option. The best curlers and role models that I knew had day jobs; they curled for fun, mostly on weekdays and weeknights.

Today, aspiring young curlers look at the Slams. This is a series of 6 big cash tournaments for the top 15 teams in the world. If you play in these, you need multiple weeks off work (as these tournaments run all week). This is not conducive to having a career. So the model for a young curler looking to grow up to be a champion, the model is to go all in.

But here is an alternate model for success: Krista McCarville. They are the Oakland A’s in Moneyball. Except instead of having less money than the other teams like the A’s, they have less time.

They achieve an incredibly high level of play while having lives. This team has been close to winning the Scotties multiple times (she has lost 2 finals), and was final 3 to represent Canada in the Olympics last Olympic Trials. This is undisputedly one of the top 5 teams in Canada.

So how do they do this? How do they manage to compete with the best women’s teams in the world while actually having families, jobs and lives?

Well, they practice. A lot.

And they have some pretty good coaching, from no less than my childhood hero and the guy whose slide my random Quebec toe-tuck is modeled after: Rick Lang.

They shun the Slams. They play only small schedule. They come into this event with hardly any CTRS points, ranked 15th out of 18.

But they currently sit at 6-1, and are looking likely to be in the mix again this year.

I hope young teams that are asking themselves if this is a model they can emulate to be good at curling. Maybe there is another path to curling success. You can compete against the pro teams. 

Now if we can just get the commentators to stop talking about how their reduced schedule kills their chance of winning.

Saturday, February 18, 2023

Time for the Scotties!!!


The Scotties kicks off this week, which signals the beginning of the season of curling on TV. Sure there is curling before, there are Slams before Christmas, but the Scotties kicks off the full TSN coverage, which they do very well.

I really enjoy the Scotties. The curling is good, and the women will tend to have a few more rocks in play than you would see at the Brier. The women’s game also seems to have more emotion and fun.

This will be a compelling week of curling. Teams have been shuffled since last year, so apart from the defending champs, most of the favorites are using new line ups. And of course I will cheer for LSG – aka Laurie St-Georges to defy the odds and make some noise.

As far as predictions go, you have to think that Homan and Einerson are the favorites. Both have the experience and the talent to win the big games. Smart money would have them playing each other in the finals again. Lawes and Jones will likely round out the final 4. I am curious to see how some of the younger teams fare. I think the women’s game is more likely to see new teams be in contention for the next Olympic qualifying than the men’s game. Teams like Skrlik, Grandy and Zackarias (with or without Jones) will be interesting to watch develop over this event and the next few years.

TSN Coverage vs. Streaming

There has been a lot discussion of late around streaming and TV coverage of curling. In Ontario Provincials, an event with 1/10th the budget of a national championship, every single game was available via streaming, yet in a Brier or a Scotties I only get to watch the TSN feature game.

I get that TSN has been using the same format for many years, but it is hard to believe that it might not be time for a re-think in how they cover the big events to help drive more exposure and better coverage.

-        Firstly, they need to be more flexible to switch games, and switch back if needed. Can we get updates that are more than just the occasional shot?  I am watching the first draw, and while we are watching the Alberta-WC1 game, the commentators are telling us how good the Canada-Quebec game is, and all we see is the occasional skip rock.

-        There needs to be a way to watch the other games on-line, even without commentary. I know TSN dabbled with covering multiple games across TSN 3-4-5, but I get why that is tougher given the production value that they put in each game. So why not stream the other games on the TSN platform? I get that they want eyeballs on their main feed, but it seems like a low-cost way of drawing in fans. Eyeballs = revenue.

The current TSN model is based on the notion that most people still watch TV, but if you are trying to reach the next generation of curling fans, you need to offer options that appeal to the multi-screen, streaming-only crowd.

WTF, where F is for Format

So let me explain how the Scotties format works:

  •           Two pools of 9 play an eight game round robin.
  •          The top 3 teams advance to the playoffs.
  •          Then the 2nd place in Pool A plays 3rd place in Pool B, for the right to play 1st place in Pool B for a spot in the 1-2 Page playoff.
  •           2nd place in Pool B plays 3rd place in pool A, for the right to play 1st place in Pool A for the other spot in the 1-2 page playoff.
  •          The losers of the Cross-over final play each other for the right to play the loser of the 1-2 Page playoff game.
  •      The the winner of that game then plays the .... ah forget it. Finals are Sunday.

What the hell are they trying to do? This is the most confusing format I have ever seen. I don’t know any other sport that tries to give teams so many chances to lose and still win.  

Here is a truth: at a certain point, it comes down to a game where you need to win or go home. Why is curling obsessed with giving everybody so many chances to lose? It just makes the event seem interminable. It is hard to maintain the drama over so many damn games. There must be a better way.

I mean the friggin’ Olympics are sudden death after the Round Robin!  

Tuesday, February 7, 2023

An open letter to David Murdoch

 Dear David;

I am overjoyed to hear of your appointment to lead the High Performance program at Curling Canada. I have enjoyed curling against you and watching you over many years of success at beating Canadian teams and in teaching other how to do the same.

So as a fellow steward of this great game that we love, let me share with you my wishes to help this increasingly troubled Canadian program develop.

First, you need to recognize that curling in Canada is unlike any other country. Yes, you Scots might have invented the game, but we made it more than something you do on a frozen loch waiting for the ice to melt so you can golf.

Competitive curling in Canada is history. From Werenich to Hemmings, from Jones to Jones, from Gervais to Jacobs, from Schmirler to Homan, Lukowich to Gushue, from the Ryan Express to the Iceman, from the Richardsons to Koe, from the Howards to, er well, the Howards. Competitive curling in Canada is a legacy. It is the Brier. It is the Scotties. It is big Silver trophies carried by Mounties. It is TSN (or the CBC before). It is the Hackner double, the Schmirler Gold, the Jones in-off, and the Gushue trio. It is Ray Turnbull, Vic Router and Don Duguid, Linda Moore and Cheryl. 
These people and moments in and of themselves are only made special by the legacy and by the context that created them. This legacy and history made Canada the undisputed curling superpower for decades. Canadian curlers were better because curling meant so much to so many. Every year, an ARMY of curlers would mobilize to try to get to the Brier or Scotties. Thousands of teams aspired for greatness. This was the pinnacle. And it was readily accessible.  

But this is no longer the world we live in. The Olympics have replaced the Brier as the pinnacle of the sport. And Canadian teams that used to aspire to winning a trophy now aim for the privilege of wearing the Maple Leaf at the Olympics.

That has changed our game. The bar has gotten considerably higher. The strength that used to come from sheer numbers and competition now is replaced by relatively few teams that dedicate the better part of their lives to reaching the top of the sport. It has created the professional curler; of which you were one, David!

The rewards of Olympic curling have brought other countries into the curling mix. Countries like Sweden, Switzerland, the US and Scotland have realized that they can also reach the pinnacles of the sport with a given formula:

Coaching + time + funding + a dedicated team + practice together + play in the Slams = get very good = potential medals!

Gone are the days of listing the players day jobs on the screen as they compete.

So how do we continue to succeed in this new world, and what is success?


My take:

To me, the biggest challenge is to understand what success looks like. Many use medals as the ultimate barometer of curling excellence. But I would argue that might be true for other programs in countries that likely have 1/100th of the competitive teams that Canada has, but if medals come at the expense of the competitive curling world in Canada, if medals come at the expense of the rich tradition that is the Brier and the Scotties, to me that is failure.

So how do you achieve both?

-          Success on the podium

-          Continuing to develop the mass of competitive teams from coast to coast, and protecting the rich legacy of the Brier and Scotties.

To me, success in one at the expense of the other is failure.

So here are my two cents:

-          This one seems obvious, but let’s qualify the Olympic teams WAY earlier. Like at least a year in advance. This would allow us to fund the team for a year, and let them get used to the weight of curling with the Maple Leaf on their back. The Trials have to be the most stressful event in the WORLD, maybe even more than the Olympics themselves. I get stressed out watching.   It is unreasonable to think that teams could go through that stress and not be a bit burnt out for the next couple of months. Let’s declare our teams a year in advance, and then let them train and play for a year with an optimized schedule that helps them peak at the right time.

-          Unlike other countries, Curling Canada should not be in the team-picking business. This might have worked in the UK, where the teams can be selected from a smaller set of competitive players, but it comes at a price. Create the playing field – and provide the coaching opportunities for the winning teams (like Brier winners or top ranked CTRS teams).

-          Support the base. Canadian curling success has come from the strength of the base. Teams have to go through difficult times and challenge to get great. They need to grind. Make it hard, then let the cream rise to the top. Stop funneling funding to the top teams. Our last Olympic men's winner was Brad Jacobs - who worked their way up the ladder and grinded in the years leading up to the Olympics. They qualfied for the Trials through the pre-trials. The grind made them better. They peaked at the perfect time.

-          A lot is made of residency rules. This is a giant red herring. It really only matters to a small handful of teams, who should be able to work within the rules. We have now made exceptions for birthright, we allow an import, and quite frankly I do not care if EJ Harnden’s official curling residence is Brad Gushue’s basement. Further bending of the rules is not needed.

Well David, I wish you luck. Having hoisted a few pints with you over the years, I am confident that you get it. I am confident that you will not sacrifice the rich legacies of the Brier and Scotties in the pursuit of Olympic excellence. I am confident that you will help make us better.

Yours in curling,
Mike Fournier

Friday, January 13, 2023




After much thought and careful consideration, Team Mike Fournier has decided to part ways with team Astrologist and Meditation Consultant Salvadore Zabat-Kihn.

This decision was far from easy, as Salvadore has been a part of the team since his spiritual chanting of "Boom, Boom" was instrumental in the team winning the Kitchener-Waterloo bonspiel earlier this season, but as the team prepares for the upcoming Ontario Provincial Championship, we felt the need to seek out a new spiritual and mental direction.

We wish Salvadore all the best as a curling advisor, as a spiritual being and most importantly as a human, on both this plane and the next.

As a team, we will take a moment to assess our spiritual state before seeking out new guidance and will produce a similarly artificial press release once we have chosen Salvadore’s replacement.

Thank you, and Namaste.



But seriously, I am very excited to be headed to the Ontario Provincials next week.

After having curled in countless Quebec provincials, I get to try my luck in the land of Trillium. We qualified by the skin of our teeth via some moderate success on the Ontario curling tour. But it’s a new game, and everyone starts at zero wins and zero losses.

Honestly, for a hard-core curling lover, the idea of playing Glenn Howard in a likely-full arena in an evening draw at an Ontario Provincial is goosebump-inducing.

For those following along, I believe the event will be streamed on www.curlOnTV.ca.

The Provincial Season is my favorite time of the year. You can talk about Slams, and Worlds, but nothing beats the drama, the passion and the pressure of trying to get to the Brier or Scotties. The finals from most provinces are usually broadcast on Sportsnet or via streaming, and unlike many televised curling games, you can usually feel the anxiety and nervousness of a game where finishing second sucks (trust me on that one).