Well, like I said, the best laid plans of mice and men…
I had hoped to provide a daily installment of our time at the 55+ BC Senior Games, however things got a wee bit busy after the first blog on this topic. In between playing games and having some fun, a few domestic issues (a house sale that almost went sideways-due to a buyer getting edgy about pets) crept in which took a bunch of my off ice attention. Plus, the back end was very busy teaching the front end the proper way to play liars dice.
All of which means I have to now encapsulate the event in a few quick paragraphs-because I know you’re on the edge of your seat just dying to know how we did.
What’s interesting about the philosophy of these games is the emphasis not on the athlete, but on the zone from which you came. For example, win a medal and they announce your zone, not your name, when they hang the hardware around your neck. This puts participation first and results second in the importance hierarchy. Finish last? who cares? you’re here to have fun, do your best and congratulate each other (probably just for surviving this far in life).
So instead of saying that our first game was against Tony Abriel from Kitimat. It was against Zone 10. We won that game on Wednesday afternoon 8-5, so we were off to a good start. Entries were down in our category (Men 55-64) from ten teams last year to only 4, so winning two games pretty much guaranteed you a spot in the Gold medal game. As a side bonus, fewer teams meant a nice, leisurely 1 game per day. Plenty of time to kick back, relax, take in the local sites and heal between games.
Why were entries down? I surmise it was a couple of reasons. First, the location. Cranbrook is a gorgeous, winding, mountainous, 7 hour drive from Vernon in the summertime. It’s pretty much a two day journey from the North, Island and Lower Mainland. But it’s kind of a lame excuse to blame distance. Teams should suck it up and play. If the event was in their part of the province, you’d hear bitching if teams decided it was too far to drive-particularly if it was held in Vancouver. So if a team from Kitimat happily drove 2 days to participate, then someone from the Vancouver and South Island zones could have easily done the same (although in fairness, West and East Kootenay 55-64 men stayed away from playing in their own backyard).
The second reason? Well, the 55+ Games does not, IMO, do a very good job of promoting itself to athletes. Hell, two years ago I had no idea it even existed let alone Curling was one of the sports (and I’m one of those guys who actually does read the bonspiel posters at my club and the ads in the Curl BC Yearbook). Had it not been for Don stumbling upon it on the internet I would’ve been oblivious. And I’m far from the only person in this position. Right now there are dozens of people reading this going; ‘Huh? WTF? didn’t know this thing existed’
Bet you also didn’t know that every 2nd year there is also a Canada 55+ Games with the same sports. In fact, although it did not apply this games-being an off year, when you win your category (as Myron Nichol’s team did in 2017) in the year prior to the national event, you get to be Team BC at the Canada games. So we’re already planning for the 2019 BC Games. Hosted just down the road in Kelowna.
So BC 55+ Games directors? You might want to try some different promotions to get more curling interest. I know there’s a lot more folks out there who would probably enter-if they knew about it.
In case of ties that couldn’t be broken we had the dreaded, accumulated draw to the button after the first game. Last year we posted the best numbers of any team. Not so this year. The ice had changed at the end of our game from a quick 26 seconds, hog to tee, down to about 23.5.
We tried to adjust but failed. I came up short of the rings, the front end put their stones in the back 8 and only Don found the four foot. The end result was dead last out of 4 teams. But, like I mentioned, win another game and it wouldn’t matter.
We skipped the opening ceremonies in favor of dinner and hopefully a hot tub back at the hotel-the Trickle Creek Lodge in the Kimberly ski village. While staying in Kimberly meant a 20 minute drive to and from the curling club, it also meant access to the best pubs and restaurants in the area. Kimberly, being a ski/golf destination, has several excellent places. We did not go hungry during our stay (Dave is still raving about the Veal Cannelloni at the Pedal and Tap). It also didn’t hurt that the event was held in between seasons, so prices were very reasonable.
There’s a lot to do in both cities. Museums, historical sites, plenty of outdoor activities and an absolute shit ton of golf courses to indulge your passion for Whack-Fuck. Between our hotel and Cranbrook I counted no fewer than 6 outstanding layouts. Most of which were of the resort/buy-a-house-on-the-course variety with more empty lots for sale than finished homes.
In fact, it would be my personal suggestion that, come next spring, anyone looking for a golf course property should take a long, serious look at the area. With a real estate slow down and price correction happening (finally) in BC, there could be bargains here.
The weather and time didn’t allow for a round, but we did hit a bucket of balls at Shadow Mountain (gorgeous layout with a lot of those ‘For Sale’ signs) to justify hauling four sets of clubs all the way from Vernon. No doubt we gave everyone on the practice tee a decent chuckle although we were all groaning like a bunch of eighty year olds when we climbed back into Wayne’s F150.
Anyway, back to curling. Game two and three shared, unfortunately, the same ending; extra-end losses to teams from the Fraser Valley and North Vancouver Island respectively. We dug a hole for ourselves against the FV team and made a 5 point rally in the last 3 ends to tie, but they drew the four foot to beat us in overtime. Against the NVI team we had an opportunity for the win in the 8th end only to watch my first rock pick. On my second we tried to navigate an offset port for a tap back for two, but shaved a guard and rolled in for the single and a tie. The extra end was textbook for the other team and my attempt at a corner freeze in the top twelve came up short to give them the win.
To use the old cliché, we were on the wrong side of the inch in both games (against the FV we had 5 picked stones alone) and instead of being 3-0 we were 1-2 and relegated to the Bronze Medal game. A quick note about the format: instead of a proper playoff, the two best records go to the Gold Medal game and the next two play for Bronze. I get that there is a time concern for the event coordinators, however the extra games are easily integrated by simply scheduling additional draws in the evening.
As it is, the last draw each day (in both of the Games we have played in) starts at 4pm. Now we may be older, but I’m pretty certain all of us can handle a 7pm draw (or even 630pm) and still get up to play the next day. I guess what I’m saying is this: we’re older-not dead. Have a proper playoff format for chrissakes. Ok, that’s my only beef with the event, small rant over.
We won the bronze game handily, 7-1 in six ends, so at least we took home some hardware (and we didn’t let someone steal 8 against us). More importantly, we had a blast on our road trip and seeing as the 2019 BC Senior Men’s Championship is just down the road in Trail, we got a good preview of the route to take should we qualify for the event.
Although to be honest, I’m leaning more towards entering a team in Men’s and taking advantage of Curl BC’s; ‘enter any zone you want’ rule, by putting a team in the North zone. It’s a no-lose situation. If one other team enters the North we make a 6 hour drive to Quesnel for a best 2 out of 3. If no other team enters, then we revert back to the Okanagan and bring the berth from the North to our event. It’s a bizarre rule that only serves to discourage entries but, as usual, Curl BC continues to defy logic and common sense.
Now this is something that I would not have done in the past. But hey, my justification is pretty simple: if Curl BC is going to allow rich teams/athletes to parachute unhindered into my province (next blog, btw), then I’m going to take advantage of a stupid rule with absolutely zero guilt.
Right now though, it’s the post holiday letdown as I return to work and plan a move (house sale went through, regardless of kitty cat concerns) while letting my knee take a break for a couple of more days before hitting the ice again. So if you’ll excuse me, I have to start accumulating empty boxes.