Favorite Reporter

Favorite Reporter

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Dear Diary: Rye and Sushi don't mix well

I just got back from a long and sadly unfruitful weekend of curling in Gatineau, at the Chateau Cartier Challenge. In my ongoing efforts to provide my cherished readers of what it is actually like to be a competitive curler, here is a recounting of our adventures in curling, as experienced by me.

Dear Diary:
Thursday 8:30am: Departure from my house in Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue: We pile into Francois’s vintage Jeep Patriot and hit the road.
Thursday 8:40 am: first of many breakfasts at Tim Horton’s. I think I spend enough at Tim’s during the season to actually buy a Tim’s franchise.
Thursday 11am: Arrival at arena for 1st game, against Marty Ferland. Feeling intimidated by Ferland’s fancy matching jackets and shirts, that kinda look like a cross between Star Trek costumes and a Green plastic tablecloth. Game summary: They kicked the crap out of us.
 Thursday 2PM:  Check into Chateau Cartier: Likely the nicest hotel we will be staying at this year. It has a pool, a eucalyptus sauna and a gym.
Thursday 7PM: Game 2 against former teammate Simon Lejour. This time it was our turn to administer an arse-kicking; apart from a few early scares the game was never really close.
Thursday night: Very little socializing. Post game snack at McDonalds, then straight to bed. (not sure why, but I love the Monopoly promotion that McDo’s has this time of year. If only I can collect Boardwalk, I can sponsor the team forever!)     
Friday 11am: arrival at Arena for game 3, this time against Eddie Mackenzie from PEI. Despite Eddie curling 100% on every draw he threw, we still pull out a convincing win, and move to 2-1. Funny to watch my mostly French-speaking teammates try to understand Eddie, who speaks in a very Maritime accent that sometimes vaguely resembles English.
Friday 1:30PM: Team lunch at Subway, another curling weekend staple food. Curling weekends usually consist of trying to find food that will fill you up while not making you feel crappy while sweeping. 
Friday 4PM: Game 4 versus Howard Rahala. Definitely our most eventful game of the weekend. After getting dominated most of the game, we pull a steal of 4 out of nowhere in the 7th end to win. After I made my last shot in 7, every skip on the ice winced at the situation Howard was in, much the same way that men wince when watching another man get kicked in the balls. We move to 3-1, and play in the b-semis later that night.
Friday 8PM: Team dinner at Sushi shop. Collectively we eat 100 pieces of sushi. I ate so much sushi, I was peeing soya sauce. JF almost dies after eating a chunk of Wasabi.
Friday 10PM: Game 5 versus JM Menard. With sushi in belly, we win in 6 ends, after taking a nice 3-ender in 5 and then stealing in 6. Definitely feeling good despite the sushi hangover. Consume a number of post-game ryes with JM, telling crazy stories until 2am about curling against the bombastic Park brothers.  No need for post-game McDonalds snack, sushi still swimming in belly.
Saturday 8am: Wake up early, excited to play. We have a 10:45 game against Greg Balsdon, a solid team from Ontario, the winner qualifies for Sunday and earns $3500. The loser gets a second chance.
Saturday 10:30am:  Scary moment: Near death experience in locker room, as beer, rye and sushi have combined to create a potent intestinal weapon that results in a vile brown cloud filling the locker room, forcing evacuation.
Saturday 11am: Game 6 versus the one they call Ballsy. The game starts badly. The first two ends are about survival. I make a hit and stick to give him a steal in 1, and make a crazy Hail-Mary draw against 5 in 2 to keep us on the ice. We give up a cheap deuce in 3, take 1 back in 4. The 5th end was our demise; Ballsy makes a 15-foot slash with a corner guard to take 3 and put the game pretty much out of reach. Damn.  Fortunately, we get a 2nd chance at the $3500, at 10PM.
Our opponents at 10 are Mark Kean, a sharp young team from Ontario. Not one of them was yet born when I started curling.  I feel old. And 10PM is past my bedtime.
Saturday 10PM: Game 7: The game starts badly, then gets worse. We give up a crappy 3 in the first end. Then we play a very bad 2nd end, but I save the day with a nice come around tap on my first shot - except Kean makes a better shot; an insane wide draw through a port to freeze his rock on the edge of the button to steal. Bastard. Down 4-0 after 2. We play a very good 3rd end, and I miss a tough shot for 4 by about ½ an inch. Argh. Kean makes a brilliant tap to the button against 2 in 4, and our evening is pretty much done.  We gamble and lose in the 5th, and it’s handshakes for all. Our weekend is done.
Saturday midnight: Start consuming a few adult beverages, to remove the sting of defeat. Fortunately, a number of people are sympathetic to my plight; I use my considerable charm and guile to scam a few drink tickets and free drinks off of others to successfully drown sorrows in Crown Royal at a minimal cost. We return to hotel, and consume the remainder of a case of beer purchased earlier.
Saturday 2:30AM: Can’t help but hear a party in an adjacent room at the hotel. Amazingly, 20 curlers are still up drinking and partying well past 3AM. I will not mention names to protect the guilty, but suffice it say that many were curling at 9am the next morning. Good to see some teams still placing value on the social aspect of the game.  My presence is at party is essential to do some simultaneous translation for my teammates.
Sunday at 10am. Wake up. Go home. Of course, only after a breakfast at Tim Horton’s. Back at it next weekend in Chicoutimi.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Your Pet Seal Named Chris Missed the Broom

Okay, first of all my apologies for not blogging for almost a month now. Having three kids, a job, a wife and trying to curl competitively is a bit like trying to drive while talking on your cell phone, eating a hamburger, texting and changing your socks at the same time. My usual hours dedicated to blogging have recently been spent passed out.

 So what have I missed? Well, there has been some curling.
So far, a few teams are somewhat hot in the competitive world, although nobody seems to be on fire.

- JM Ménard and friends are off to a good start, having won a few bucks at a very tough Shorty Jenkins cashspiel and the Mac Ice Classic.
- MF Larouche has won already, and has looked somewhat dominant so far in Quebec.

- Pierre Charette’s senior team has won more money already than most men’s teams.

- Lemay and Ferly have each won an Open, but not much else.
- Guy Hemmings (back after a year off) qualified in a tough spiel in Toronto, playing with Francois Gagné.
- The rest of the teams are off to a relatively slow start.


My new team has played well so far, having lost the semis at the Mac Ice to the eventual winner. Still early, but I like what I see so far! However, I am having to learn how to curl and call sweeping in French. It does not sound natural so far. Here is what I have picked up so far, with the English translation for my out of province readers:

“Y’a de la place en masse, stie!” (Room)
“La ligne est sublime” (Line is good – learned this one from Robert Desjardins!)
"T'étais tight en calisse" (You were just a bit inside
“T’as manqué le crisse de balai, Phoque” (Your pet seal named Chris missed the broom)

“On est dans marde, tabernak.” (I do not see an easy shot for us to escape from this difficult situation)

“Arrête de regarder la fille avec les belles fesses sur la glace à côté". (Perhaps you should direct your attention to our game, and not the adjoining sheet)

(note - surprisingly I did not take this picture)
Live and learn.

The next few weeks offer some more interesting curling, like the Gatineau Chateau Cartier Challenge, featuring most of the top teams in Eastern Canada.  This is followed by the Circuit Provincial finals. After these two events, you can usually figure out who is going to be fighting for the top of the money tour.


The Last Mixed:

The CCA has announced its new format for the Mixed Nationals; it will eventually be replaced by the Mixed Doubles format, the first event being held this year in Leduc, Alberta in the spring. I am not sure if there will be another Mixed Provincial championship this year, or if I am the last Quebec Mixed champion. I assume CQ will follow the CCA, which means there might be one more, as there is a Mixed National championship planned for November 2013 in Ottawa.

The CCA is doing this to accommodate The World Curling people, who seem to think that mixed doubles is a good idea. (I always though Mixed Doubles was what you ordered at the bar after a tough loss). They are trying to have mixed doubles included as an Olympic Sport in 2018, and ensuring solid Canadian participation has become a priority.

For those of you who have never played a game of mixed doubles (which includes me!), mixed doubles is a little bit like real curling, only sillier. Each team throws five rocks per end, and two rocks are already placed in front or in the rings before each end starts. You sweep your own stones, and are still encouraged to yell.  It’s kind of like curling-“light”. Kind of like having NFL players playing flag football, or watching the PGA tour playing at a pitch-and-putt. It seems like a game that I would play for practice.

It all seems like an inglorious end to Mixed curling in Canada. The Mixed has served as a proving ground for some of the game’s biggest names, who obtained National-level experience at the Mixed before going on to Brier or Scotties success. Eve Bélisle, Guy Hemmings, Jean-Michel Ménard, Pierre Charette come to mind in Quebec, all having won the Mixed prior to their National success. I understand the desire to comply with World standards, I just think we should have more power to change the standards. As much as I would like to see another sport where Canada could medal, Mixed Doubles has no more place at the Olympics than Ice Fishing.

I don’t like being a naysayer, or a guy who is against change, but this seems like a bad one to me. However, I have to admit, the Mixed as an event no longer seems to attract the same quality of teams and players as it did a while back.
No Hockey?
So amazingly the NHL and Players union have once again conspired to shut down hockey for a while. I never understand how not playing is better than playing while negotiating a settlement. What is achieved by reaching a deal only after a lockout? I think a movement should be started to boycott the first game back. Not the season, not a week, just the first game. Teach these guys a lesson. Make them play in front of an empty arena, at least once, if only for their first game back. Remind them that we are the ones paying for all of this. Otherwise, the next lockout/strike will only be a few years away.
Just a dream – of course they will be welcomed back with full arenas and countless masses paying $200 for their authentic Colby Armstrong jersey. Blech.