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Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Old Man Rantings and Team Changes



Man I have been re-reading my last few blogs – I am starting to sound like one of the angry old guys that sits around Tim Horton’s all day nursing a small coffee and complaining about everything that he just read about in the newspaper that he has been hogging since his arrival.

I think I just need to get a hat, a Timmy’s gift card, some pants that I can wear high up on my waist (maybe an inch below my nipples) and I am all set for my retirement. Here is my random old guy Tim Horton’s rant:



“I remember when curling mattered! I remember when there were no young whipper-snappers that would turn down a Brier spot! We would have given our left nut to go to a Brier. There were thousands of teams that would try to get to the Brier every year. Thousands! Even in PEI. And we didn’t get paid. But we had fun! You would play three 10 end games with corn brooms per day, then peel the scabs off your hands and hit the hospitality suite until 5am! Those were the days. And the women weren’t wearing those flimsy yoga pants that they wear to curl today! They wore thick wool kilts – below the knees! You had to use your imagination back then! ”

Okay I am back. At least I know I will be ready in about 30 years.


***


Watched the World Women’s championship final Sunday night. Felt bad for Rachel Homan. We have all been there; a couple of ends where you just plain forget how to curl. I was just surprised to see it happen to Homan. She has been SO solid for so many games. It just took a couple of misses by the front end, and a couple of heavy draws and the wheels came off. It has hard watching them lose, and then have to give the pained interview to TSN right after, when it looked like they all just wanted to have a big team cry.
Okay – I have said it before and I am going to risk the wrath of all of the Homaniacs out there – but I will say it again: I HATE THE TICK!!! Homan’s problems started with Weagle missing ticks in 8 and 9. And she did not miss them by much. But when you miss them – you are in SHIT. They were only up 2 - with playing the 8th end, and the 1 down in 9, and yet they still tried the TICK? I have no doubt Weagle could have drawn the 4, and brought the play into the rings. The tick is just asking for trouble.
By the way – Homan’s 2nd – Allison Kreviazuk,is off the team, as she is moving to Sweden to be with her hunky Swedish curling boyfriend. They have replaced her with the headband chick from Val Sweeting’s team with the big arms (Joanne Courtney). Here is a pic of her:






Oh wait - wrong front end player with a headband and biceps. 



***
  

Big drama in the curling world, as some Canada’s best teams are already doing line-up changes.

  • It looks like Team Howard, Team Martin, Team Koe and team Stoughton are all done. Kevin Koe is blowing up his team (or they are stepping aside, or whatever), and is apparently picking up Brett Laing from Howard’s team and  Kennedy and Hebert from Martin’s team.
  • Mark Nicholls is moving back to Newfoundland, after realizing that Winnipeg is not the glamorous lifestyle destination that he had hoped for.  I expect him to be back on Team Gushue about 3 seconds after he gets off the ferry.
So what does next year look like: Mike McEwen, Kevin Koe 2.0, Brad Gushue with Nicholls, and some guy named Jacobs. The next big question is: where will Johnny Mo end up, will he stay in BC? Will Stoughton, Martin and Howard hang up their shoes or form new teams?   

In all this speculation, one of the big questions is what happens to the Team Canada spot at next year's Tim Horton's Brier? The CCA in its infinite wisdom has changed the Brier format to include a Team Canada men's team. But with Koe breaking up, Team Canada will be no more. So the spot goes to…John Morris, I guess (who finished 2nd at the Brier)…assuming he stays in BC. If they break up, the Team Canada spot goes to…Stoughton ?(who finished 3rd at the Brier)…oh wait – they have broken up too. Maybe Team Ménard as team Canada at the 2015 Brier?
If enough teams break up ahead of him, maybe Eddie Mackenzie can wear the Maple Leaf and avoid relegation!!!

It really makes you wonder why the CCA is bending over backwards and screwing the Atlantic Provinces with relegation, all to add a Team Canada to the Brier when Team Canada apparently does not even want the spot.


***

Last chance to sponsor me before Kurling for Kids this weekend!  You know you want to! Click here:


Every dollar counts! It’s for the kids!
Seriously, so many people I know have had to rely on the Children’s hospitals in times of great need. These places do an awesome job, and they need our help. Be generous.


***

Oh- with all the excitement, I almost forgot to congratulate some friends who won the Quebec Mixed Title last week (which I accurately predicted!!!).  Tom Wharry, Amélie Blais, Mike Kenendy and MJ Fortier pulled off a bunch of wins after a slow start to win over Marty Ferland in the final. THey will represent Quebec at the Mixed Nationals in North Bay next fall.

I am seriously overjoyed for this team. Mikey K and Tom are definite candidates for the Nice Guy Hall of Fame. This team will represent Quebec well both on and off the ice. Nice guys do finish 1st sometimes.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Sitting Out the Mixed - and hoping for Laycock Wang



I miss the Mixed.
There, I said it. After winning the Mixed for the past two seasons, and having two extremely fun runs at Mixed Nationals, I am sitting out the Mixed this year. The season has been long and taxing on my family. My wife needed to carry a picture around of me in November to remember what I look like. My kids started telling their classmates that there Dad was overseas in the military (it made for a better story than “off Curling in Val d’Or”).
So I have decided to sit this one out. And I am glad that I did. The fact that it would have meant yet another 6+ hour drive to a provincial also made it a little easier to say no, as well as the fact that my men’s team will be happy to have me a bit more available next fall.
But I miss it.
The Mixed is awesome. I frankly do not understand why more curlers do not try to win the Mixed. It leads to an awesome National championship, the curling is competitive and the atmosphere is more social. And it’s real curling, unlike that bizarre mini-putt game that is Mixed Doubles (which is also going on this weekend in Ottawa).
The lack of participation has by no means made it easy to win, and this year’s Quebec field is as strong as I have seen, with a number of Brier reps and champions competing for the title.
My bold prediction for the week: Tom Wharry sneaks past the bigger names to earn a well-deserved trip to a National. 

Here is my Team pic, for Old Times sake. Sniff.





***

PAY UP!!!
Okay. You all have been reading my blog for free all year. And there are a lot of you! You all tell me how much you enjoy it. Well now it’s time to PAY UP!!! As a former boss of mine once said: “There is no such thing as a Free Lunch, and if there were it would be a taxable benefit anyway.”
On the 29th of March, I will be curling in Kurling for Kids, a charity bonspiel held every year across Montreal curling clubs to benefit The Montreal Children’s Hospital and l’Hôpital Ste-Justine. This is a first class event, and for anyone who has ever had to take their children to either of these two fine hospitals knows, this is an extremely worthy cause.
My favorite part of the tournament every year is when Stan Fong (the uber-organizer of the even at Glenmore) weeps like a little girl while speaking at the dinner.
Seriously, this is a superbly run event that has raised over a quarter million last year. It is also a supremely fun and uplifting day. And this is way better way to spend money than to give it to the CCA!!!
 
CLICK HERE: 


So Sponsor me!!!! No amount is too small. $10, $50, $100!!! You can choose to support the event by buying raffle tickets (with some seriously awesome prizes) from me, either in person or on-line. But nobody I sell to ever wins – you are probably better off with an income tax receipt!!!
 
 ***


There are an endless stream of rumours about teams breaking up and new teams in the works in both men’s and women’s curling. The dust has not yet settled, but expect some big announcements in the week to come. I will not report on any of the rumours that I have heard. Instead I am going to make up teams that SHOULD exist, if only for our entertainment:

- Jonathan Mead will move to Quebec and play with me, BJ Neufeld and Jacques Dufresne on the All-Bald Toe-Tucking All Stars. Mert Thompset will be our honorary 5th man, and we will accept an application from Johnny Stewart if he is willing to shave his remaining hair.

- Jamie Koe / Rob Ford / Justin Bieber and Paul Flemming on Team Drunken Bender. Team goals for the year will be to remember where they parked the car.

-  Me, Pauline Marois, PKP, and Bernard Drainville: Team Quebec – with a bye directly to the World Championship! No need to play in the Brier – we are a Nation! Probably the only way I will ever get to play in a World Championship. It will however be difficult for me to learn the proper French curling terminology. “Visez ma brosse avec un pésenteur bloc de départ”. Ah Tabernouche.

- On the women’s side: Anna Sidorova, Carmen Schaefer, Margarita Fomina (2nd on Sidorova’s team) and the 3rd from team Sweden, for no reason other than the team photo shoot.

- Laycock and Wang need to form a Mixed  Doubles team. I will say no more.


(ed note: please excuse the political reference in the blog. Please note that if you do want to talk politics - the chat section of my blog is NOT the place to do so.)

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

TSN not showing the Love to Quebec and Love Notes from Brad



The Brier is done.

It was a yawner of a final, with Cotter apparently forgetting to show up after playing great all week. Koe's team played up to form, and Carter Rycroft was exceptional. 

Mighty fine job from our Quebec representatives. JM and team exceeded expectations, and came very close to making a final. They played well all week.
I think it might be time to highlight that Quebec competitive men’s curling is not that bad. TSN kind of implies that it is a miracle that a team from the curling wasteland of Quebec can be so competitive at the Brier. Cathy Gauthier before one of the games talked about how JM prepares – and said something like this: “It`s all about spending time on the ice practicing for Jean-Michel, because the team does not face the kind of competition in Quebec that they need to prepare for a National Championship.” Really? 
Don’t get me wrong - I am a huge fan of the TSN coverage. Russ, Vic and Linda are by far the best commentary team in curling; Russ always adds immeasurable insight to the analysis of a curling game. But man did they ever beat to death the point that JM likes to throw his outturn. Here is a quote from the 3-4  game against Stoughton.  Vic: “How can a team with only 1 turn make it this far into the competition?”
Then they backpedalled a bit before the semi-final, saying “We know they can throw an in-turn, it’s just that throw so many out-turns.”
Yes, they are an out-turn team, and maybe more than most. They like to throw it more than the in-turn, and when given the choice play out-turns. Anyone who has played them in Quebec knows this to be true. But so what? So they always peel with the out-turn. I have played against JM for years, and I usually am not thinking “Oh thank God he is throwing his in-turn – he is bound to miss it!” JM has beaten me on both turns before. I think TSN kinda went overboard on this one a bit.

In general, I found TSN kind of dismissive of the Quebec Team. They often said things like “their passion for the game makes them tough to beat.” No, the fact that they are a great team makes them tough to beat. JM has won the Brier, won a ton of money in Canada, and consistently beats a lot of the big teams at the Brier, and yet everyone always seems surprised when they win. I don’t get it.
Maybe I am being over-sensitive here. Was there an anti-Quebec bias? Did anyone else notice it?

***

Wow - the bronze medal "game" was probably the best example ever of why there should not be a bronze medal game. Quebec totally deserved 3rd place. It was just mean to make them get up and play at 9am (8am if you count the time change) after playing an 11 end heart-breaker of a game late the night before. At least we got to see the Duffer (Pierre Charette) throw a couple of rocks at the Brier.


***

Lucky Me!


I got a personalized letter from Brad Jacobs in the mail! Brad Loves Me! He really loves me! He even started it with “Dear Mike”!





Unfortunately, like the lovely lady I ran into on rue Ste-Catherine the other week, his love will cost me money. Brad says that because I love curling so much, I should write a cheque to the CCA so that they can help grow curling in Canada, apparently by holding more events in Las Vegas, and in buying more protein shakes for Team Jacobs.
Okay. I really do love curling. And I am a pretty charitable guy. But somehow I think I can find a way to better support the development of the sport I love then sending my hard earned cash to the people that brought us Relegation, Conflict with the OCA, the Canada Cup, and the infamous CBC deal (a few years ago).  
I am really not trying to be anti-CCA. I really do love curling, and I have no doubt that there are some good people at the CCA doing some good work. But they just seem to be straying a bit away from their stated mission of late, and shaking down the curling community for cash is another example.

 **


Speaking of Relegation;

My Anti-relegation tirade last week was rather popular, having been read and shared a few thousand times in the past week. Not surprisingly, a lot of the support and comments have come from NS and PEI, that now they find themselves in relegation at the Brier.
A petition is afoot, to illustrate the widespread disapproval of this stinker of an idea:

I will be signing.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Why Relegation in Curling Sucks



Why relegation sucks the bag.

For those of you unaware what I am talking about, the competitive curling world has recently been introduced to the concept of relegation. In order to fit a Team Canada into the Brier, and in order to give Canada’s 3 Territories (Nunavut, NWT and the Yukon) a shot at qualifying for the Brier while still capping it at 12 teams, 4 teams will now have to play off in a mini-event 2 days before the Brier in order to qualify for the Brier.
The teams in relegation will be the teams with the fewest wins in the previous three Briers. Right now, this will be NS, PEI and the 2 “new” provinces, Nunavut and Yukon who have the fewest wins in the last three Briers.
By the way, the Mixed National Championship (of which I have played in the last 2) and the Scotties have both implemented similar policies. The Mixed has had relegation for 2 years, the Scotties will start next year.

So here are some reasons as to why this is HORRIBLE IDEA.
1. The Brier, and the Scotties are a unique Canadian tradition. Few other sports offer such a unifying, universal and inclusive National Championship experience. It is part of what makes the Brier somewhat magical. There are flags. There are provincial jackets. There are bagpipes. There are people with pins. There are fans with Moose Calls, fans with Yellow raincoats and guys who run around the arenas carrying flags. The Brier is more than a curling tournament, it is a reflection of who we are.
I know the “professional” teams, like Koe, Martin, Howard et al. will likely disagree, and say that their presence enhances the event, and we need to have the best teams in Canada represented. I call bullshit on this. People go to the Brier because it is awesome. There is enough quality and regional parity across the land to always ensure that 5-6 of the top teams in the world will always be there. To be honest, the curling is better in Slams, but the Slams are played in front of empty seats in small arenas.
And the Brier is a democratic playoff; you need to win to get there. You do not get invited because you are ranked high in the CTRS rankings. You need to beat everyone that has $300 and a dream. There is something magical about that. I think relegation goes against these basic principles, and seems to be trying to move the Brier in the wrong direction.
And if this is true for the Brier, than this is even more true for the Mixed National Championship. 
2. It crates the all time shittiest event in Canada, the RELEGATION EVENT. I have seen it first hand at the Mixed. It is an awful, awful tournament. You have one bad day, and you have to go home IN SHAME. And you get to do it again next year. And to make it worse, they invite you to the opening ceremonies. You get to parade with your flag in your provincial jackets, and then you stand there and listen to the organizers tell you what a great week they have planned for everyone. Everyone except you. You get to go home, because you suck! Because your province was not good enough. And guess what, you had to take a week off work anyway, in case you won. So you get to go home, and feel shitty FOR A WEEK.   
It’s like organizing the most fun party in the world, and telling some of your guests that they are only invited for the opening 20 minutes, then they have to leave before the fun starts. Better to not invite them in the first place!
How can we do this to people? This is just not what Canadians do. This is not how I was raised. It’s just plain mean.

3. It really punishes provinces for sending “rookies” to the Brier. Quebec is fortunate that it has been well represented for the past few years by JM who wins his fair share of games. But if I go back a few years to where an “underdog” won the province, Quebec would be in relegation territory as result. How does this make sense?  


4. I like Nunavut. I have met the Mixed team from Nunavut, and they are awesome people. But can we agree that the 1 curling club located in their Territory should not give them access to a Brier, even a relegation spot? Can we find a better way to accommodate this one club?
And does anyone believe that Nova Scotia does not belong at the Brier? Jamie Murphy has had a tough week, but there are at least 5-6 quality teams in Nova Scotia that can at least be considered as playoff contenders at a Brier. Jeez, they won the whole thing 10 years ago. And yet, the way things are playing out, they will be in relegation next year. So we are one bad day away from not having any BlueNosers in the crowd at the Calgary Brier. That would be a travesty. Will Halifax be hosting a Brier any time soon?




In short, I can’t believe there are a bunch of people who sat around a table to try to make things better, and THIS is what they came up with. This is the best solution? What a pile of crap.
I find it IMPOSSIBLE to believe that this is the best way to do things.
I wrote a blog before Christmas that asked what the Olympic movement has done to competitive curling in Canada. A lot of people seemed to think that I was against the top teams in Canada being well sponsored and funded to curl. 
I have nothing against the top teams. But I am suggesting that the CCA has maybe lost its way in terms of prioritizing the needs of the elite teams in Canada ahead of the needs of the larger curling community. Relegation is another shameful example of this.