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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Letters from the Mixed

After a great week of curling at the Mixed Nationals, I need to take care of some correspondence.

Dear Boss;
Thanks again for letting me have a week off of work during our busiest period of the year. Your largesse allowed me to play in the Mixed National Championships in my home town. It was a truly great week.
And thanks again for your understanding when you found me asleep at my computer on Monday morning. I guess the cumulative fatigue from the week took its toll. Also, thanks for understanding that the time I was actually awake on Monday I spent mostly lost thinking about the week past, and sending and accepting new friend requests on Facebook. I will try to make it up next week.

Oh, and thanks for not saying anything about the rye-soaked Balsdon shirt I wore to work on Monday. I realize it was slightly unprofessional for an office environment, but it just felt right. To be honest – it was probably not just the shirt that smelled like rye; I believe rye was still coming out from my pores.

And as for the incriminating pictures of me circulating on the internet, firstly it was not me, and secondly rest assured that few if any of our clients will likely ever stumble across them.

And finally, I just wanted to let you know that I will likely be away for a week in January, and hopefully another in early March.  Oh, and thanks for all those Fridays I took off in Sept-Nov.

Your sincerely and please don’t fire me;


Dear Wife;

Thanks again for taking care of our three young kids while I was playing in the Mixed National Championships a mere 30 minutes from our house. It was a great experience, full of fantastic memories.
Thanks again for showing up to cheer me on! Even though the kids watched all of 30 seconds of curling, it was fun having them around when I got off of the ice.

About the incriminating pictures of me on the internet; firstly, I swear it was not me, and secondly I was merely administering the Heimlich maneuver to a troubled lady who was possibly choking on some ice from her drink.  Really.

Oh, and thanks for also taking care of everything during the other  6 weekends that I was away prior to the Mixed. And by the way, I am hoping to be away 3 more days for Men’s regionals, 7 more days for provincials and if all goes well, 10 more days for the Brier in early March. I am sure my remaining 2 vacation days will allow us to have a spectacular long weekend at some point this summer.

Oh, and thanks for understanding that I spent a lot of our Christmas-gift budget last week. I hope you will enjoy the Balsdon shirt that I got for you, and no, I don’t know what that stain is on the back of it.

Yours sincerely and please don’t divorce me,


Dear Mister Marsan (Client Services Manager at Ruby Foo’s Hotel):

I am writing to acknowledge receipt of your letter dated November 29th 2012 regarding incidental damage charges that you will be applying to my credit card, relating to our stay at your hotel during the week of November 17th, 2012.

I would first of all like to apologize for any damage our activities might have caused to your hotel. However, I would claim that the unfortunate stains on the hallway carpet were in fact there before our stay, and are not due to the events of last Saturday night following our closing banquet.

Furthermore, while I will stipulate that a considerable amount of beer, rye, tequila and Clementines were likely found on the carpet and linen in our room, reasonable efforts were made to clean said spillage, notably with a Balsdon shirt. As for the nail polish stains, and the discarded, badly soiled one-piece muppet pyjamas,  I have no idea how these items ended up where they did.

Finally, I would of course be willing to help defray the trauma therapy costs for the member of your cleaning staff who found me lying naked the next morning next to the aforementioned stains. While I thought her reaction was a bit extreme, it was nonetheless an unfortunate incident, and will gladly help pay to help wash that image out of her memories.

Yours sincerely, and please invoice the Canadian Curling Association directly for all charges,

Greg Balsdon, Team Ontario


Seriously, the Mixed was a great week - one of the most fun I have ever had curling. We played very well. We met a pile of great people, and were spoiled by the support of our home town fans. If you wanted to summarize everything that is great about curling, the Mixed pretty much has it all: shot-making, drama, fun and lots of sportsmanship.
I would tell a few stories, but the Mixed is kinda like Vegas. (what happens  at the Mixed, stays at the Mixed, including James Grattan in a onesie).

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Wang is Looking for Some Skin

I thought the election was over. Obama won. But there is a new election to take its place: the TSN curling  skins game will now feature a fan vote to determine who will play. From what I understand, TSN will RANDOMLY combine the top vote-getters onto different teams (kinda like pickup hockey at the local skating rink).

Over the past few days I have been carpet-bombed on Social Media by curlers shamelessly begging for votes. I think Ryan Fry has now officially made more annoying Facebook posts than Farmville.

Overall, I think its a great idea. Should make for some fun match-ups. But I question TSN' s choice for candidates. They went with the nation's top ranked curlers. Boring.
Why don't the good folks at TSN allow for write-in candidates??? They missed a great opportunity. With this in mind, here is my list of write-in candidates that should be at the skins game:

- Scott Hill:  One of the most brilliantly insane curlers on the planet. Not even sure if he has thrown a rock in the last year, but it does not matter. Scott at the skins game would be pure entertainment. Pair him up with a Brad Gushue, and wait for Gushue's head to explode when Scott come into the house and said something like: "Brad, you need to throw the soft cheese at this one, and throw it like a lefty."

- Eve Muirhead:  Oh wait, skins does not mean that one team will play "shirts", while the other gets "skins"? Never mind.

- Brad Heidt: Many may remember Brad from a Brier final in the mid-90's, where he chewed out his incompetent 3rd (Mark Dacey!), in the middle of the 10th end. I played Brad Heidt a few years back, and he interrupted us while we talking about a shot to say: "I will try to keep it simpler for you guys next time." We need Brad Heidt at the skins game. Otherwise John Morris will be the only powder keg that might break a broom over his own leg.

- Robert Desjardins: Bob is one of the most amusing characters in curling. Plus, I think we need a little French flavor at the skins. Why was there not one token Quebec player invited to be in the list? I am going to send 20 e-mails a day to TSN demanding some linguistic equality at the Skins game.

- Joƫlle Sabourin: Joelle makes watching any televised curling better. Plus, she sweeps better than Steve Gould.

- Pierre Charrette: Actually, maybe only Pierre's brain should be invited. They could make it a lifeline (like in "Who Wants to be A Millionaire). Instead of "Phone a Friend", skips could "Ask Pierre's brain" what shot they should play.

- Heath "Heater" McCormick: Just to watch his body contort, twist, and wail as if being tortured while he called sweeping...on an open draw.

- Ed Werenich: I am not sure how old Ed is now, but he was the uncontested master of all things skins for about 20 years. I would be glued to my TV waiting for him to make a hack-weight triple. And you know he would.

- Shane Park: Shane is the craziest MF I have ever seen on the ice. Also one of the best throwers. But rest assured, if anyone playing for him threw a bad shot, the TV coverage would sound like this:  "Get your Bleep Bleeping head out of your bleep, you bleep bleep bleep. And why don't you go bleep yourself while you're at it!"

- Binyu Wang: Just once, I need to hear Vic Router say: "Wang is looking for some Skin". Tee hee.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

“Quebec teams are better prepared for the Brier Patch than they are for the Brier.”

The Mixed is coming! Only a week and a half until I am curling in the National mixed Championships at TMR. We get our Quebec jackets this week!  I suspect most competitive curlers get the same rush that I will from a Provincial Jacket. It is colorful, has your name on the back and a really cool crest. It makes you feel like you’ve done something great. You feel like you are going to “The Show”. 

It should be fun to be the home team. Talking with Greg Balsdon (who will be there representing Ontario) makes me think that there might be a little bit of socializing to accompany the fine curling that will play out on the ice.

So how will we do? Not sure. We are all throwing pretty well, but it is hard to predict anything at a National Mixed. Looking at the teams, I think we will fare well. But these weeks usually come down to 2 or 3 games that will turn on one shot. Those games are the difference between 7-4 (in playoffs) or 4-7, (not even close to playoffs). 

Here is the link to the event site for anyone looking for info:

For anyone around Montreal this Sunday (the 11th), we are having a team fundraiser at Duffy’s bar in Dorval (on the service road next to the 20). Should be an entertaining and eclectic mix of people that is our fan base, so come by and have a beer and some wings, and help us raise a few bucks to cover our costs for the week. Only 10$ gets you entrance, access to cheap Guinness, chicken wings and some door prizes.


So the Circuit Provincial finals were last weekend in Chicoutimi. My team continued its run of good play, qualifying A-side then losing Sunday to Steeve Gagnon in the Semis. We actually lost by an inch – my last draw in an extra end coming up that much short of winning. Argh. 
Bob Desjardins recovered from a pretty mediocre start to come through the C and win the spiel, and thus earn a spot at provincials.

Another weird draw for us, after playing Thursday and Friday – we were off until Sunday, leaving me with 36 hours to kill off in wet, cold and rainy Chicoutimi. I saw the mall. I watched the Lucien Bute fight. I ate. I slept. I ate again. Slept some more. Zzzzz. I sometimes feel like I am taking time off of work in order to kill time away from home. A significant part of a competitive curling season seems to be about waiting.


Almost as interesting as the curling was a meeting held by the head of Curling Quebec on the Friday afternoon of the Circuit Finals. CQ invited the competitive Quebec teams to meet and discuss the running of the Circuit and the Provincials. I thought it was a great idea! CQ would get some feedback from the players, and to hear what the fearless leader of CQ has to say. So I sat down at 2PM with McDonalds in hand and an open mind.
Unfortunately, my good feelings did not last long. The head of Curling Quebec, Marco Ferraro presented us with a presentation on how to improve Quebec’s performance at the Brier, where he feels that our recent performance has been a disappointment over the past few years.
He showed us a picture of Kevin Martin, and asked us why we can’t be more like him. He said we should practice more.
Then he actually showed us a picture of the Brier Patch (the bar / concert hall that is the social center of every Brier), and said “Quebec teams are better prepared for the Brier Patch than they are for the Brier.” 

Wow. I am translating from French, but I believe this was the exact quote. I must tell you I felt very motivated at this point, and my heart was aglow from the love and support I was getting from Curling Quebec. Quote of the year so far.

So what was Curling Quebec’s solution to this lack of success?
Well Marco wanted to turn back time, and create a new structure for men’s provincials that looks a lot like the one we got rid of a few years back. He wants to return to regional qualifying (Quebec is split into 12 regions), where each region would be paired with another region to send 1 team to provincials. And 2 teams would be given money spots, making for an 8-team provincial. Marco never really explained why this was better preparation for the Brier than out current system.
I highlighted that we actually removed regional qualifying a few years back for a couple of reasons:

  • The best 4-5 teams in the province no longer play from the same region. The best players from all over the province try to put the best team on the ice to compete at the National level, and regional qualifying seemed antiquated.
  • Regions are not all the same, both in terms of number of teams, and quality of teams. So some regions would give a free pass to a weak team, while another region would have 15 teams fighting for 1 spot. Clearly not the best way to get your best teams at provincials, and it usually resulting in teams searching to find an easy region to play in to get to provincials.

Hence, we removed the notion of regions and created 2 qualifying events for provincials, open to all. However, at this point I was told that I was being unreasonable, and not giving a fair chance to Marco’s antiquated and self-contradicting proposal.
The meeting pretty much degenerated from there. Marco heaped further insults on the curlers present (and at this point took some as well), and remained closed to anything we had to say. My fear is that he will go back to the CQ Board and rant and rave about how unreasonable and unaccommodating the competitive curlers were, when in fact this was really not the case.
I am honestly perplexed as to why the head of curling Quebec would act like such a buffoon, as if he were intentionally trying to alienate the province’s best male curlers. Maybe it was his attempt to motivate us through ridicule.
The one thing this meeting actually accomplished was unifying the competitive men’s curlers. Usually this is a relatively divided bunch. But I must say that there was complete unanimity after the meeting on 2 points:

  1. Marco’s proposal for Quebec Provincials was crappy. We can only pray it does not pass.
  2. Marco is definitely not winning friends amongst the province’s top curlers. (That is a very polite way of saying that we all thought he was an arse at the meeting).

Very strange.  Not sure how this one is going to play out. I usually try to stay clear of curling politics in my blog, and I hope that posting this does not create a shit-storm of comments and replies.