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Sunday, February 21, 2016

The Duffer in the Hall of Fame - and Scotties preview

Duffer in the Hall of Fame.

Pierre “Duffer” Charrette was inducted this week into the Canadian Curling Hall of Fame - clearly a well-deserved spot in the hall from one of the most successful and enigmatic curlers to come from la Belle Province. He has won a Grand Slam Event, lost 2 Brier Finals and played in a pile of Briers at just about every position. He likely has won more money than any other curler in Quebec. He now runs the World Curling Tour, he is coaching Marie-France at the Scotties and will once again play 5th man at the Brier for Jean-Michel this year in Ottawa.  Not a bad career by any measure.
For you younger readers of my blog – Pierre is more than just the guy standing behind the ice at the Grand Slams. In the 1990’s, Pierre was the Man. Every team he was one was the team to beat, every team he is was on seemed to have more swagger, more confidence, more luck and more money than any other team. He went to more than half the Brier’s in the 90’s, while playing on a number of different teams. He dominated curling at a time when there were 100-150 teams vying to represent Quebec at the Brier every year.
To be honest, I really hated him back then. I got kicked off of Guy Hemming’s team in 1996, and was replaced by none other than Pierre Charrette, who then took Guy to back-to-back Brier finals. And at the time, I always struggled to understand how Pierre had so much success. The consensus was that he really did not throw the prettiest of curling stones. At the time, the game was ruled by guys like Stoughton, Howard, Martin and Middaugh, all with picture-perfect curling slides. Pierre was a stark contrast: his slide was high and awkward – his release had too much rotation and he wasn’t the best sweeper in the world. Yet, he always seemed to be on the winning end of games.

Ted Butler (another Buckingham curling legend) explained it best to me back in the 90’s. 
I asked Ted how Pierre managed to win so much, despite his unattractive looking curling slide.
Ted sat back, took a sip of his Coors Lite, and sighed deeply.
“Mike, you just don’t get it. Pierre is a winner. He wins. Mike, do you ever go to the racetrack to bet on the horses?”
“No, not really Ted.”
“Well, if you are ever at the racetrack, and you look at the program, and the next race features Pierre Charrette running (without a horse) against 6 horses – take all the money you have and bet it on Pierre to win.”
“Are you saying that he will run faster than a horse?” I asked naively.
“You are still not getting it Mike. Pierre will win. He does not have to run faster than the horses. He will talk to two of the other jockeys before the race and get them to fight each other and get disqualified. He will whisper in one of the horse’s ears before the race, and convince the horse he should not run. One of the horses will run straight through the first bend into the crowd. And the 6th horse will break it’s leg on the final turn. You can guarantee that down the stretch, it will be just Pierre jogging across the finish line. Slowly. Pierre is a winner. Plain and simple.”
So congrats to one of the smartest curlers to ever play the game. Well deserved.

The Scotties
So the Scotties started this year.
Last year in my daughter’s soccer league, the organizers made a mistake and ordered white uniforms for all eight teams in the league, forcing us to play with pinnies all season. I wondered how anyone could be so dumb to make such a mistake. Apparently Curling Canada also made the same mistake!!!
I cannot handicap the teams, quite honestly because I really do not know them that well.

I will go out on a limb and say that either Chelsea Carey or Jennifer Jones will likely win. JJ is probably the greatest clutch curler in the World (male or female).  Chelsea Carey beat Val Sweeting in Alberta, probably the 2nd or 3rd best female team in the country right now. Of course the Scotties is missing Rachel Homan, who surprisingly lost the Ontario final to Jenn Hanna.

Marie-France Larouche (Qc) should do well.  She is experienced and throwing pretty well. To be honest, they have likely not played enough this year to be serious contenders at a national level, but I am counting on their wisdom and experience to win them some games that they shouldn’t. I would not be surprised to see them in the playoffs in what is a relatively weak field.

No Hair:
As was to be expected, hair brooms have been banned from competitive play. Once the Gushue video came out, the writing was on the wall. So like the top of my head, the Brier and Scotties will be bereft of hair this year. So teams will have to find another non-banned item to direct their rocks. Not sure what is next, but I still believe we are headed for a one-material rule.
Somehow, a little part of me is sad. I was sweeping with hair before it was cool (or directional). Although I usually only sweep six feet at a time.

Longue Pointe CC

I am sad to see another Montreal curling club bite the dust; especially one that still has a decent membership and revenue base.  Not surprisingly, the Military Leaders that run the base are not keen on keeping a curling club open when none of their military personnel use it. 
Sadly the francophone Montreal curling community has become completely irrelevant.
Apart from Boucherville CC on the South Shore and Laval CC, Montreal lacks a Francophone curling club that entices growth in the game within one of Canada's largest Metropolitan areas. 
While I always liked Longue Pointe, I think it was still an old-style curling club. The old club model, relying on volunteers to find new members and promote the sport has become a dinosaur. The sport needs a new business model to survive. The modern curling club needs to look more like a city sports complex (ideally it is situated right next to the municipal arena/pool/gym) so as to present itself as a viable activity for all ages. The sport needs to embrace modernity while maintaining a strong connection to its history and tradition which is still a big part of the game’s charm and lure.

Instead, old-style curling clubs tend to be located on dead-end streets in forgotten parts of town where they have little hope of attracting significant numbers of new members.

Lots of solid thinking, marketing and effort is required to ensure that most curling clubs do not suffer the same fate as Longue Pointe.
Here is hoping that the new head of Curling Canada picks up the mantle of helping develop curling at the club level, and not just focusing on the Elite level of the game.


  1. Funny...but I have never thought of specific curling clubs as "anglophone nor francophone"! Many of the Montreal clubs have attracted members from both cultures and the sport has grown because of this joint appreciation for the involvement of all members...regardless of their ethnic origins! Vive la difference!

  2. I agree the traditionally anglo clubs have done a good job of being much more bilingual - but I am talking more about geography. If you look in the more Francophone parts of Montreal - there will be essentially no curling clubs! I think curling still suffers the perception in Montreal of being a sport for the English, and that the remaining clubs on the island are all in Anglophone areas of town does not help this perception.

  3. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/ottawa/new-curling-club-chelsea-1.3457036