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Wednesday, February 14, 2018

A 46 Year-Old Rookie?

So I guess the first time I saw the Brier on TV, I was around 8 years old.

My Dad never really curled, but he seemed to watch it a lot on TV when the Brier was on. Apparently my Grandfather EJ Fournier used to curl, and lost the Provincial Final in New Brunswick in the 1950’s. So my Dad used to watch curling on TV. And I watched with him. And I loved it.

Looking back, I guess it was a bit unusual for an 8 year-old kid to watch curling on TV, but I guess I was just that kind of kid. I used to run around my house screaming – pretending I was making some impossible angle raise to win the Brier. Sounds downright crazy now as I write it.

It was a golden age for curling. You had the Wrench, Fast Eddy, the Ryan Express and the Ice Man. Curlers all had cool nicknames, and even cooler personas. I remember Hackner’s improbable double. I remember the Wrench throwing hack-weight triple takeouts in a house that seemed to have 26 rocks in it. I remember the whack-whack of a corn broom. And all this before I had ever stepped through doors of a curling club. I loved the game already.

Imagine my shock to discover that I lived all of four blocks away from Lachine Curling Club, a hidden-away three-sheeter with one of the coziest clubhouses I’ve ever come across – and my friend from Andrew Mackay from High School actually curled. It took all of one day at Saturday morning junior curling – and I was hooked.

My junior career was tons of fun but without any kind of championship to speak of. We were good, but never as good as the Ferland Boys, or later on that kid from Amos named Ménard. To be honest, many of my junior teams were more about playing cards in hotel rooms, trying to pick up junior girls and underage drinking (shhhh!). At least my priorities were in the right place.

But after juniors the Brier was always on my mind. Lachine had the good fortune of having a number of Purple Heart owners hanging around. Geoff Hinks, Lawren Steventon, Peter Gawel, Andrew Carter, Kevin Adams to name a few. The Brier always seemed plausible, and attainable. So I played. And a few years out of junior, I was pretty good. I managed to skip a team to provincials back in 1994 in Rouyn Noranda. But we did not win. Not even close.

Then I played with a lot of guys. Guy Hemmings, Dan Rafael, Malcolm Turner, the LeCouffes and Robertsons, Claude Brazeau, Francois Gagné, Dwayne Fowler, Tom Wharry, Mike Kennedy, Brad Fitzherbert and so many, many more. For so long, I struggled to find that magic bit of chemistry that would take me to the Brier. Many of my former team mates would of course win to get there without me, leaving me at home like the ugly stepsister, unable to find a date to the ball. It seemed like the more I learned about the game, the more I realized that I was further away from the Brier than I had ever thought.

I had all but given up. I assumed the Brier was not for me. By then I was having my 3rd child, working long hours and curling became more of a pastime. "Life" was definitely getting in the way. I started playing in the Mixed Championship, quite frankly because it seemed like something I could win.

But somewhere along the way I started practicing more, and started winning more. I fortuitously lost my job and started consulting, which allowed me time to actually throw rocks. I won the Mixed, twice in a row, and played pretty well at the 2 Mixed Nationals. And then I got asked to pick up what was essentially Bob Desjardins’ old team: three great guys from the Saguenay who were looking for a skip. One of them had even been to the Brier! It seemed like a weird mix, but what the hell.

With Gionest, Martel and Charest I would come painfully close to reaching my dream. This team reminded me the value of practice, and I started throwing a quarry full of rocks every day at Glenmore, my new home. I started seeing the value of lots and lots of practice. Sure I had practiced before, but I was now seeing the results of throwing a LOT of rocks. My in-turn stopped over-curling. Draw weight got easier and easier to find. As my buddy Greg Balsdon would say: my outturn peel was now just like my first car: automatic baby.
I spent lunch hours practicing. We even picked up a coach – Michel St-Onge, not so much for the curling but to work on the mental discipline that you need to win at the highest levels.

And our hard work paid off. We got very good; and had some promising results. We lost a soul-crushing semi-final to Ménard in 2014 in Val d’Or, and then the finals to him again the year after in Victoriaville. The dream seemed so close, and yet further away than ever.

Meanwhile, some kid from Glenmore was doing rather well in juniors. I had known his Dad for probably over 20 years. His Dad suggested we talk, and I met this bizarrely mature and confident practice-obsessed kid named Felix. I liked the way he played. I liked the way he practiced. Maybe I could give it one more shot…


And that brings me to today. That is how roughly 36 years after I fell for this wacky sport, and 32 years after first stumbling into a curling club, I find myself heading to the Tim Horton’s Brier in Regina. 
A rookie at age 46.


Looking back at the week that was the Tankard, it still seems surreal. We played great all week, we made lots of shots. But our semi-final game against Ferland will live in my memories for ever. We were 7-2 down after 4, and managed to steal an extra-end win. This comeback was a mix of skill, perseverance and plain-old luck. It felt like we could no longer lose after that.

And we did not. We won a tight final against Menard, stealing the last end as JM tried a very tough double for 2 to win. And I have had a perma-smile pasted on my face ever since.


So I will experience the Brier for the first time.
Yes – you heard right – I have never been to a Brier before, not even as a spectator. I wanted to go there as a player first, not as a fan – so I never went. Not even when it was in Ottawa. Sounds kinda silly and superstitious as I write it now. I have been to a few Scotties, a couple of World Championships, but never the Brier.

I now get the privilege of going to the Brier with Will, Felix, JF, Emile and Michel, the best team I have ever stepped on the ice with. I have no idea how we will do (and don’t expect to get any Brier predictions from me this year!), but I promise we will fight for every point of every game. I don’t think this team is capable of anything less.

And I promise I will enjoy every single minute of it.


A big thanks to the numerous people who have written/texted/phoned since Sunday. It has meant a lot to me to hear from so many old friends (and new ones) congratulating me and wishing me the best. The support we have gotten so far has been truly awesome. 


  1. A huge congrats Mike! I started my own Brier journey this year with a competitive team and lost the Page semi. You have now given me hope that I will do it in the next couple of years.

    Nick S

  2. Great words Mike, as well as sincere relief for all your friends who have been watching you for years. We have all shared your emotional highs and heartbreak. No heartbreak this year though. That's a good feeling.

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  4. A truly movingly frank and honest Brier story as I've ever heard! You'll be the darlings in Regina, sans doubt! Go get 'em, guys!

  5. Congratulations! We'll be rooting for you.

  6. Can't wait to read the post Brier blog :) Good luck and congrats.

  7. After Nova Scotia, I'll be rooting for you guys!

  8. If you can curl half as well as you write, you're in!

  9. I'll be at the Championship weekend - good luck, perhaps I'll see you on the ice.