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Thursday, March 24, 2016

Thoughts on the Brier - and announcing some team change news!

So much has happened since my last blog! Where to start!

The Brier.
That was another awesome Brier. People can talk about the Slams being better curling, and they can talk about the Brier becoming a 2nd tier-event, but manI did not see it. That was some of the best shot-making I have ever seen. ICYMI, the Brier was won by Kevin Koe – who went on a tear coming from 3rd place and then not missing anything straight through to the final.
Koe was ridiculous. They were making long runbacks look routine. I don’t know if it was the sweeping – or just that they were ridiculously hot, but it looked like a different game.
Felt bad for Gushue; it would have been nice to see him wearing the Maple Leaf in St-John’s next year (he would have returned as Team Canada, allowing Newfoundland the opportunity to send somebody else to the Brier!).
Brier highlights:
-          Craig Savill night. That was well done by all. It was a great feel-good moment; reminded me when Saku Koivu played his first game after cancer at the Bell Center. Both brought a tear to my usually dry and cynical eyes.
-          Gushue’s comeback victory over Jacobs. He made so many great shots. The 2 wide inturn, hack weight hits he made in the 10th end were absolutely beautiful. Those were incredibly tough shots – and if he misses one, he loses.  Two outstanding pressure shots – as good as it gets.
-          Okay – I will not dump on Jacobs this year. They were actually pretty cool to watch – and anyone who would sport that beard in public is clearly not taking themselves too seriously. I found myself feeling bad for them as they somewhat came apart against Gushue.
-          Ben Hebert’s sweeping is ridiculously good. Best ever. I heard the rock whimper as he swept it.
-          The Quebec boys gave it a good run. Normally 4-7 would be seen as a poor showing – but in the field that was there, 4-7 was pretty good. JM made some BIG SHOTS (like the fancy quad to beat Cotter) – but when push came to shove, the top 10 Teams showed why they were in the top 10.
-          The hit and roll guard that Fry made in the the 11th end of a losing effort against Gushue is among the best shots I have ever seen. Just to have called it was brilliant. To call it, then make it – even better. One of the best players in the world (Gushue) did not even see it coming.   

I have read a lot of comments about how the Brier will evolve/adapt over the next few years out of necessity. I am not sure what will come of being more inclusive with teams from the Territories and the Atlantic provinces (there was no Team Nova Scotia again this year L). The Brier is such a unique animal – an elite event with a notion of Pan-Canadian participation – there will always be a multitude of pros and cons involved with making any change.

So where do I stand on this? Relegation still sucks. Having said that – with all due respect to the curlers from Nunavut, it is difficult to conceive that people are expected to shell out real dollars to watch a team curl 50% on the big stage. Including these guys at the Brier feels like a mistake.

But there is something magical about an event that brings together the best from every region. However, new residency rules have made that somewhat obsolete. The Alberta champions this year hail from Ontario (Laing), the Territories (Koe), Saskatchewan (Hebert) and wherever Kennedy is from. And that is not even talking about the multi-province Team Canada. Lax residency rules have taken some of the magic out of the Pan-Canadian nature of the Brier.  

But damn it was fun to watch this year. As a  curling fan , it is hard to complain about a field that included so many great teams. Who was not there that you really wanted to watch? Reid Caruthers maybe? Charley Thomas?
The word is that the Brier will be heading the way of the mixed, Junior and Senior championships – a more inclusive split round robin event. I know why they have to go down this road, and I am increasingly of the opinion that there is no magical solution that will satisfy both the need to have a Pan-Canadian inclusive event and the need to have a GREAT PRODUCT on the Ice.  But I am scared to alter the formula that yielded the level of entertainment we saw this year.

Some team news:

Another reason I have been laying low – is I have been going through the process of Team Change.
I am sad to announce that Trois Bleuets et un Bloque, also known as team Fournier is no more. After 4 years, a provincial final, a semi-final, some truly awesome wins and some soul-crushing defeats, we have amicably parted ways.
I was lucky to have found these guys. Yannick Martel called me about 5 years ago and pulled me out of quasi-retirement to skip les boys, and it has been a fun ride. The guys are dedicated, fun and a pleasure to play with. Francois throws missiles like no other 3rd in the province, Yannick puts his heart into everything he does and JF is one of the smartest leads around.
I hear they are still playing together, and I wish them luck.
So what is next:
I am going to play with junior champ Felix Asselin, Will Dion and Miguel Bernard. Or as the Fake JM Menard called them on Twitter – a squirrel and a lumberjack.
Average age of the team: 26. My age 44. I feel as old as f*#k. When did I become the old cagey veteran? Seems like just yesterday I was the young kid who threw too many big-weight hits. Now I am the old veteran draw guy.  

Any other rumours out there? I hear that Marty Ferly is coming back after a year off – to skip Francois Roberge, Max and Johnny Gagnon. Good to have all of those guys back in the Big Leagues – Quebec Curling has missed them!

A few other juicy rumours are going around as usual – but will have to wait and see if they are based on fact or are just wild speculation. 
Hint: a few of the rumours involve a Team that throws a lot of outturns!


One more thing: In a couple of weeks I will be curling at Glenmore in Kurling for Kids - an annual fundraising event that benefits Montreal Children's hospitals.
It is an awesome event that raises a lot of money for a great cause.
It raises money for the Montreal Children's hospital foundation and L'Hôpital St-Justine - both organisations that make sure the money is put to good use helping sick kids. 
I have always had a soft spot for this tournament - I have been lucky to only have to use the Children's for some pretty routine ailments (knock on wood) for my kids...
But a number of our close friends have spent a significant part of their lives there - and seeing first hand how this hospital makes such an effort to help kids go though things that kids should not have to go through always inspires me to do what I can to help. Plus it is a great opportunity to see the lovable Stan Fong cry in public!

The money that Kurling for Kids raises goes directly to making it better for kids who have the misfortune of having to spend a large part of their lives in a hospital. I cannot think of a better cause than this.
So if you can enjoy reading my blog -as I know some of you do...throw a few $$$ to this worthy cause.
Attached is a handy link to donate a few dollars to the cause. I promise you it will not go to waste.

Donate to K4K