Montreal 2014: Homan, Harper and The Flag Guy

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Bring back the curlers we have lost

By Mike Fournier

Fembot curling!

Robot curling? Homan (left) and Co. crushed them all

MONTREAL – So it was as expected in the end; Rachel Homan and her team of Ontario robots destroyed the competition. Rachel did not have to throw her last rock all week. It felt like the other teams were pretty much playing for second place all week.

Val Sweeting's Alberta gang gave it a valiant effort in the final, but you just can’t miss shots early and get down two or three to Homan. You are fighting an uphill battle against a team that is just not going to miss many. The sixth end looked a little hairy after a few misses, but Homan threw two pistols to get out of pretty much the only trouble they were in all game.

Some random thoughts...

Stephen Harper in the House!

I was impressed to see the PM in the house for both the bronze medal game and the final. Regardless of what many Quebecers might think of his politics, it was still pretty cool to have him there. (Although I honestly thought his security detail was going to tackle the superfan who runs around the arena with a Canadian flag). However it was surprising that an Alberta guy would be wearing a Team Canada sweatshirt!

The Hairband

I need to get a hairband to curl, just like Alberta third Joanne Courtney. It just looks so cool. Maybe I can find one that comes with hair.

The Tick

Okay. I acknowledge that Homan is the best team in the country (excepting, perhaps, Jennifer Jones). I acknowledge that she calls a brilliant game, and is capable of dominating a tournament like few other women’s teams in history. But I am just going to say it: I don’t like the Lisa Weagle Tick shot that everyone raves about.

Of course when you are tied in the 10th end and you have hammer, the tick is brilliant. But in the fourth end? Really? Seems like a wasted rock – especially when you miss it.

I think there is a reason that most competitive teams play a come around to the top four instead of the tick in most ends other than 10. It’s because it is a shot you will make more often, and you force the other team to throw their next one into the rings. It makes more sense to me. Even if I thought my lead would make the tick two out of three times, I think I would still call the draw more often.

Lisa Weagle missed a few ticks in the final, and her team found herself in a lot of trouble in those ends. I am not saying it’s not impressive when she makes them, I am just wondering why she calls them.

Don’t tell me “Mike you must be wrong – because they are winning.” I know... they are awesome. They did not come close to losing this week. But they win because they make way more shots than the other teams, not because of the brilliant tick strategy.

What hosting meant to Montreal curling

So the finals are done, the crowd has gone home. What did the STOH mean to Montreal?

I spent a large part of the week walking around – in both the arena and the Lounge. I talked to the countless volunteers, the fans from all over, the teams, the bartenders (okay maybe I spent a bit too much time with the bartenders).

Le Flag Guy!

Le Flag Guy!

I have to say I think the Montreal STOH was a big success. I am sure the organizers will say it would have been nice to have a few more people in the stands, and the “no beer” policy in the arena also drew more than a couple of complaints. But from Thursday on the crowds were respectable and very animated. It was a fun place to be.

Perhaps the most important success story of the event is that it seemed to re-animate the Montreal curling scene. Montreal used to be the heart of curling in Quebec. It had more clubs, more curlers, more parties and more fun places than anywhere else, by far. But this success has waned. Clubs have closed, many curlers have drifted away and many of the tournaments that drew teams from all over are but memories of a past era.

I will admit, when I heard that Montreal would be hosting this, I was afraid. I was afraid that we would not have the volunteer base or the fan required to run a national championship. I am happy to report that I was wrong to be scared. Fans came. Volunteers volunteered.

The championship was a great gathering of the Quebec curling community. I walked around and saw so many people that I had not seen in 10 or 15 years – people who love curling, but just don’t get out as much anymore. Or people who had given up the game, but were drawn out to watch a few games this week. It was great to see them all, and I seemed to hear a lot of people saying how they missed curling, and want to get back into the game.

Montreal (and Quebec) still has a vibrant curling community; I think this event showed us that all we need to do is re-engage it. The STOH showed us that it is possible.

The powers that be spend a lot of effort trying to think of how to draw new people into curling, when maybe we should spend more time trying to bring back the curlers we have lost. I think they are an easier sell, and this week convinced me that there are a lot of them around.

Let’ s hope we can keep the momentum going from what we have generated here.

And finally...

It was fun, but I am kinda glad the week is done, and for one reason: I no longer have to tell the story to everyone I see about what happened in my 10th against Jean-Michel Menard at provincials!!!

[STOH photo by Andrew Klaver/Kruger Products Ltd. Other image by the author. Click on images to increase viewing size]