Authors note: Originally I envisioned this as a single blog entry. Unfortunately, it morphed into a huge monstrosity. So, for the sake of the reader’s patience, I decided to break Cranbrook into a couple of blogs, focusing first on our participation in the event itself, then on the Slam concept itself.
This first part is pretty much lifted, whole, from note entries I made throughout the duration of the event. Early morning entries, between, before and after games. They’re a lot of my fresh thoughts and memories of the moments that occurred as opposed to cleaned up and edited versions.
Day One, Tuesday Night
Just got back to the hotel after a late practice session at Memorial. First off, big bloody room here at a very new Best Western which, I see, is located right beside a rail line. Hope the rooms are soundproofed…
Glad I took the Drive BC recommended route through Golden on the TCH then south to Cranbrook. Weather was good and traffic light after I got off Highway One. Made it here in about 5 1/2 hours. Lots of deer on the road, but only had to hit the brakes hard once to avoid a buck. Too bad. Big guy. Would’ve filled the freezer. Did not like, however, having to drive by Lori’s accident site. Guess that is never going to change for me, no matter how much time passes.
Disappointing US election results on the radio. Sure, Clinton is no angel, but Donald Trump? God help us mice sleeping next to the elephant.
Brady Clark and his entire Seattle team asked if it’s possible to defect to Canada and play out of Nunavut. Made sure to post that on Facebook tonight.
Got to Memorial with lots of time to suit up and stretch before our practice at 1030pm. The boys were already there watching the ladies draw that started at 8. Brant is still dealing with health issues so we’ve brought Cody Johnston in to play second (Shawn will step down to lead). Nice young kid, at least he brings our team average age close to 40. Also supplies some eye candy for Stephen and Shawn-lol.
Ice is great. Lots of movement, quick-but not overly so, speed about the same as the Vernon Curling Club. Rocks, at first glance and based on one practice sheet, are lively and appear evenly matched. Interestingly, they’re the regular sets used for the Tier One teams who are using, instead, brand new stones for their event. Strange, you think us lowly Tier Two guys would be used as guinea pigs for the new ones.
Post practice stop at the beer store for Shawn followed by McDonalds for me-starving. Scoffed down the Quarter Pounder BLT meal after a brief team meeting in Cody and Shawn’s room, now back to mine. We play at 9am, it’s just after midnight and I don’t sleep well the first night in a hotel.
Day Two, Game One
Sigh, why do we never win our first game in an event?
Played Tom Brewster from Scotland. You know you’re the oldest guy in the event when you realize that two of your opponents are adult sons of guys you played over 20 years ago.
Started well, good force in one, unfortunate steal of one in the 2nd, took a single point in the 3rd then watched the wheels fall off in the 4th, giving up 5. Played two more ends just to get a feel for the ice and get Stephen used to watching Cody’s release.
Had a look at the Tier One arena; Western Financial Place, home of the WHL Kootenay Ice (pretty certain that used to be a beer…). Relatively new building seating over 4,000. Slam’s tend not to draw that well in big arenas, hope that’s different here.
The boys are disappointed; the draw was already over so there were no games to watch. And the Pinty’s Pub and Grill at ice level appears to have no chicken wings!
Checked out the Cranbrook Curling Club, home of the Brier Pa…oops, my bad. The official Slam Beer Garden, Social House or whatever it’s called. Nice club, located just across the parking lot from the Tier One arena and a block from our venue. Good to have everything within stumbling distance. We stay for a beverage, then head out for lunch (Subway) and a rest at the hotel.
Day Two, Game Two
Well, whaddaya know? The curling gods smiled on us for a change. The team with little or no breaks this season finally gets a big one with a steal of two in the last end to snatch victory from defeat with a 6-5 win over Willie Lyburn of Winnipeg.
Really well played game by both teams. Surprised to see they’re keeping statistics but they reflected how close the score was. We had a team percentage of 84 to their 82 and, if I may pat myself on the back, was high man at 91%. Secretly pleased the most for Stephen. He’s been getting no luck at all and deserved better in some of our past games.
Very pleased with the win. Gets us a split on the first day, $1,000.00 for the victory (so the entry is paid for at least) and we beat the number 22 ranked team in the world. Most importantly it stopped a small slump we’d been in since Kamloops.
Now it’s time to play a provincial nemesis tomorrow at 1pm; Dean Joanisse. Be nice to win and head into the final game with a 2-1 record. 2-2 guarantees us at least a tie-breaker-if not direct advancement into the quarter finals.
Decided to go back to the club and partake of the Beer Garden food. (I wanted to go to Mr. Mikes but nooo). Sadly, but not too surprising-it is only Wednesday after all, we’re about the only team there and just about the only people period. Did have, though, a very nice pulled pork BBQ style sandwich from one of the vendors.
Strolled back over to the Tier One and watched a game from the luxury of a private box (thanks, Lisa!) and got to enjoy a nice scotch as a belated birthday present. Saw lots of missed shots from the so-called ‘elite’ teams. Apparently there’s been grumbling about the ice-which ironically timed fine (that’s right, I actually timed stones while spectating. Sue me. We could possible play on this stuff. I want to know how fast it is) and seems to have consistent movement. Wonder if it’s the new rocks? Or maybe, as I’ve always believed, these guys are just as human as the rest of us.
Stayed until the games were done then took a van back to the hotel. One thing for certain, the host committee has got the organization of the event down pat. Nice to have transportation at hand quickly when wanted.
Day Three, Game Three
Grrr. We completely let this slip away and lost 6-3 to Joanisse. One bad end giving up a steal of 3 when we were in a position to get 3 earlier. To Dean’s credit he made two nice shots to set up the steal and we were just short on a last rock draw to cut the steal to one.
Game started well. We had an opportunity for 3 in the first but had the wrong ice for Stephen’s final stone. Still a solid deuce and then an even better force of one in the 2nd end. Then the steal of 3 in the 3rd. Damn.
Had lots of time to get back in the game. I missed a wide open hit in the 4th or we had a deuce set up to tie. Very pissed at myself for that right now. Got the blank though and headed into the 5th only down 2 but gave up a steal. 3 ends left and we couldn’t manufacture a deuce, just traded singles with Dean. Got run out of rocks in the 8th.
Game was way closer than the percentages indicated and we carried the play for most of the ends. The positive we take away is the score was not indicative of our performance. Maybe we get a rematch if we make the playoffs-tomorrow’s game against Mark Bice is now a must win for us to advance.
Stephen gets his Boston Pizza dinner. It’s a mandatory spiel tradition wherever we go. Back to the Tier One arena afterwards to hang out in the Pinty’s Bar and Grill. It’s a small section on the ice at one of the ends of the hockey arena. A few seats and tables but the rest of us had to stand.
We hung out with Sean Geall and his team. Geall and Schneider in usual fine form. Sean teasing Stephen that he was waiting for him in his room wearing nothing but a ribbon in a bow. Stephen replying that Sean is just a tease and he’s really here to watch Swedish Meatballs (Team Edin from Sweden). Sean replies with mock jealousy-and the best line of the night-that he no longer has any interest in Stephen and his ‘purple-headed yogurt slinger’. Should have taken pictures of the facial reactions of the those around us-who obviously had no idea who we were.
30 minutes into this my lower back begins to hurt-a lot. Had to keep moving as it got stiffer and stiffer. Thinking this is related to the car accident I finally get an open seat and the relief is almost instant. If it is from the accident back in October, I’m betting that standing on ice, covered in a thin layer of outdoor carpet while wearing street shoes wasn’t an overly bright idea.
Seeing as we don’t play until 5pm tomorrow it’s back over to the Social House. Things are a little bit livelier than last night, we’ve got a live band (who are quite good) and a few more bodies in the building. We stay for a few wobbly pops then head out just before midnight. While waiting for a shuttle van Stephen and Cody can’t resist taking advantage of the life size cutouts of Rachel Homan and Brad Gushue. I’ve got pictures but can’t quite bring myself to post them on Facebook. Well, not yet anyways…
Day Four, Game Four
Playing in a Slam is like that 80’s Styx hit; ‘Too Much Time On My Hands’. Four games in 3 days with huge stretches between them.
Which is maybe just as well. The back issue from last night is still here. I slept lousy. Kept being awoken with a stiff and aching back and then having to find a position that was comfortable. I’m guessing I was sleeping in two hour stretches, max. It’s 7am as I write this and I’m going to take another Aleve and go back to bed.
It’s now much later. 2am Saturday morning to be exact. Just got back from closing down the club with the team-seeing as we don’t have to get up early to play a tiebreaker. Our Slam is unfortunately over. We lost to Mark Bice, 8-7 in an extra end.
It’s hard, right this instant, to describe what happened. It was a game that was exciting to be a part of. Good shots, bad shots and an awesome decision by Stephen in the 7th end to shift gears from trying to blank the end to have last rock coming home to going aggressive on my last stone of the end. It paid off with a score of three that was just millimeters away from a 4.
The decision gave us a 7-5 lead in the last end and Bice was able to manufacture a deuce to tie. Then we could only watch as our last stone was just heavy enough to allow Bice to steal the win in the extra end.
I guess it’s some consolation that I got through the game in minimal pain with the highest percentage out of both teams. But not really. I wanted to win this game for lots of reasons. For the team, for Stephen-who deserves a true day in the sun in this sport, for myself, for the money but, more than anything, because I wanted to keep playing.
It’s true that I want to win and I believe I still can. If anything, this week has reinforced a few things I believe in; that I can still, at 56, compete with guys decades younger than me. That this team has the talent to be in the serious hunt for our provincial title-because we are playing as well as any other team in BC right now and lastly, that I’m still having lots of fun playing this sport.
That’s enough for now. I’m going to bed.