Team Fournier–aka the Horses–has been selected to represent Quebec at the 2021 Brier to be held in Calgary, March 5-14.
The whole thing has a very surreal feeling to it. I have to admit that I really wanted this. I know I am not alone in finding the pandemic tough, but being picked to curl in a Brier seems like the first good news I’ve heard in a long time. Of course, I would rather have won my way there, but given the circumstances, I’ll take what I can get.
Why were we chosen? The process defined by Curling Quebec was to rely on a committee of experts to pick “the best” team from a list of applicants. I am guessing the fact that we’ve been the No. 1 ranked team in the province for a couple of years now, coupled with our experience, weighed heavily in the final decision.
I’m sure this feels like a kick in the teeth for Alek Bédard and his team, our 2020 Brier representatives. They would have made fine reps this year as well, but the selection committee seems to have placed more weight on the fact that we have been top-ranked squad for a few years now. Was this the right choice? Who knows. As I said in an earlier post, there is no fair way to “pick” a provincial representative. Obviously, I am a bit biased, but I think we are a good choice, and I am grateful for the opportunity.
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Now I have to figure out a way to practice despite a lockdown. I was practicing almost daily up until January 8, but since then our government has continued to keep curling in lockdown, no exceptions!
I am not “allowed” to practice anywhere. I’ve had to become a practice ninja, stealthily stealing practice hours when nobody is watching on vacant fields of ice. If you have a backyard skating rink for your kids–beware! The practice ninja might strike in your yard soon!
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I have been reading online a lot, about people asking if we should even try to hold a Brier or a Scotties amidst the chaos of a pandemic. Opponents make a number of compelling arguments:
• It’s not fair. This is true. Some provinces have two-week quarantine periods upon returning from the Brier, making it impractical for many amateur curlers who would need to skip two weeks of work upon their return. Teams like Northern Ontario’s Krista McCarville have backed out, as well as some individuals, and nobody can blame them.
• We are putting people at risk. This event will require players, volunteers, TSN television crews and others to travel, at a time when travel carries risk.
• We are taking up testing and health care resources, at a time when most places do not have any to spare.
• Restrictions in many provinces (including mine) are keeping the competitors off the ice, so many teams will show up cold, without having thrown a rock in a couple of weeks or even months.
I get it. There are a pile of good reasons to cancel or delay the event.
But I say screw it, let’s do it.
I think by March, we are all going to need something to distract us. Winters are long in Canada. If you are like me, you are so sick of watching Netflix that the chime that comes on when you open it makes my eye twitch. Geez, I even watched Bridgerton last week. Do you know how desperate for entertainment I was to watch a show based on Jane Austen meets the Bachelor? I hate Jane Austen novels, and I hate the Bachelor; imagine both together. And yet I watched it. I am counting the days until I am able to watch the Scotties!
Canada needs the Brier. I am struck by the number of fans who have reached out to tell me how they will be glued to their TVs in March. In a nation of millions of curling fans, we need this. Winter is long, and by March we will be even more fed up with lockdowns, restrictions and social distancing.
Curling needs the Brier. This is an opportunity for the game to pick up a new audience. People are ravenous for something to watch. A Brier that is even half as compelling as last year will surely garner some new eyeballs, and provide the sport a much-needed shot in the arm (excuse the term!).
Sure, it could all turn to shit if only one poor soul brings that nasty virus into our fragile bubble, but I still think it is worth the risk. The safety and testing protocols I have seen so far seem exhaustive. I think the bubble is way less risky than my grocery run to Costco on a Saturday morning. Fingers crossed.
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I wanted to end with a few sincere thank-you wishes.
First, to Curling Canada and Curling Quebec (and all the provincial associations), who have all worked incredibly hard to make lemonade from a pile of rotten, stinky lemons. This is certainly not easy for anyone, and the work they have done to keep things moving is remarkable.
Thanks to our sponsors for their ongoing support. Hardline, RBC, Cedar Springs, Dynasty, Injection Classique and Wesdome. We have fancy new jackets with our sponsor logos on them that unfortunately will likely not see a single game this year. At least they are ready for next season!
I also need to thank the folks at the Glenmore, Val d’Or and Victoria curling clubs for keeping their ice in for practice with the hopes of resuming a season. It would have been easier for these clubs to close their doors back in October or November as many clubs have done when the second wave hit, but a few employees and many volunteers worked tirelessly to keep things going. This has made it possible for us to be as prepared as possible for what is to come. Thank you!