By Mike Fournier
MONTREAL – Quebec is having a tough week. I sat and watched the home team take an absolute arse-kicking at the hands of Manitoba yesterday. I believe the largest crowd of the week watched Allison Ross get absolutely pasted, by a football-like score of 15-3 against Chelsea Carey. This leaves the Quebec side at 1-8.
So you had a bad day?
Allison and her team are having a bad week. There is no hiding from it, and it seems to be what everyone in the crowd is talking about. Everyone asks me why, as if I understood the mysteries of curling slumps. All I can say for sure is that I have seen it happen to everyone, and have lived through it as well.
I have been there: games where you just can’t seem to find draw weight - games where you feel you cannot hit and stick on a takeout anywhere. It happens. Curling is a lot like golf: when you miss that first three or four-foot putt in a round, it makes it easier to miss the second one. However, when I have a bad curling weekend, it usually means we are out of a bonspiel by early Saturday morning, and we skulk out of town with our tail between our legs without anyone noticing.
But Allison is having a bad week at the STOH in Quebec. In the case of a national championship, you still need to play 11 games, and eight ends in each of them. And in this case, she is in front of pretty much the entire Quebec curling world, as well as family and friends. You have to feel for her.
To the people who say: “It doesn’t look like they are having any fun out there.” You are right. They are not. Losing is no fun, and Allison and her team are competitors. She practices hard, she plays hard. She wants to win. She wants to play well.
So keep cheering them on. It is easy to cheer for a team that is winning: “way to go, keep it going” and so on. But when a team is losing we tend to avoid eye contact, and there are a lot less positive e-mails or posts on the team Facebook page. Unfortunate, because that is when they need it the most!
They will be playing Ontario in what will likely be a meaningless game in the standings tonight – sorry, that's the pre-relegation era talking, using the word “meaningless” (see yesterday's blog). But I guarantee Quebec will be giving it their all to win. I will be there cheering them on.
Eight ends? Really?
The CCA implemented a rule that during the round robin, teams must play at least eight ends. On one hand I get the logic of this rule; people are paying to watch. They need to keep the players on the ice for at least two hours. But yesterday seemed to highlight to me why this rule has no place at the STOH.
The early handshake is part of the charm of curling. It relives the team that is having a bad day from having to endure an hour of meaninglessly throwing rocks up and down the ice when they really just want to go and regroup or have a beer. It also saves the team that is winning from the uncomfortable feeling that they are clubbing a baby seal, in front of the seal’s home fans at that. I am sure Chelsea Carey drew no pleasure in running up the score, and the fans drew no pleasure from watching. It was awkward. It is just not curling. I get it for the playoffs, when there is only one game on the ice. But for the round robin, it makes no sense at all.
Big teams pulling away
The rest of the field seems to be playing out as expected in a round robin that has offered little in the way of surprises so far. The four teams that were at the Olympic Trials are predictably pulling away from the field. Rachel Homan (Ontario), Carey, Stefanie Lawton (Sask) seem all but guaranteed a playoff spot. Of the three, Homan seems to be a notch above so far, but there is a lot of curling left. Val Sweeting (Alberta) seems to be having a bit more trouble, and might bring some of the four or five loss teams back into the fold.
Some random thoughts:
- I am guessing some of the teams and their fans got to enjoy the pleasure of Montreal traffic yesterday! Five centimetres of snow = a two-hour drive home at rush hour. Bienvenue à Montréal.
- Strangely, in the games I have watched, nobody seems to be able to make a draw after the seventh end. It looks like the ice gets a bit flat in the slide path, and every draw seems to come up a few feet short or crash the center guard. I am just surprised the teams don’t seem to have figured this out yet.
[Kruger Products photo by Andrew Klaver]