Trail Times Columnist Dave Thompson

Trail Times Columnist Dave Thompson

Finesse falters for Canadian Olympic curlers

Sports ā€˜nā€™ Things

The historic failure of Canadian curling at Pyeonchang has a simple explanation – Canadian timidity as the result of neither skip ever becoming comfortable with the weight of the ice, very similar to the ice they always play on, throughout the competiton.

A while ago, I skipped a J.L. Crowe team at a Bean Feed with the Trail Men’s Curling Club, against a team of geezers skipped by Johnny Cameron. Johnny Cameron may be the best thrower of a curling rock that ever lived – he was a relatively tiny combination of athletic competitor and preternatural balance – but our team was much stronger than his.

Still, Johhny’s team came out on top. Against oodles of our stones, every end, he deposited hidden draws, freezes and the like against which my last rock was often useless. After the game, he, one of the many generous mentors I enjoyed at the club while my own curling career skills were developing, said, “The draw is still the biggest shot in Curling, Dave.”

That was during the time when curling was changing to emphasize power hitting – spurred, I suppose, by the takeout mastery of the Richardson family of that era – and more open, lower scoring game strategies. We kids could bomb, but finesse kissed us off.

Johnny’s comment was right on, then, and it is true today. While it is true line and up-weight skills have improved vastly, for teams around the world, it is also true that finesse is what wins championships, especially at the elite levels of the game.

Back to Homan – not even in the playoff round, and Koe – deserved losers to the usually also-ran Americans in the semi finals. Neither skip was a guarantee when an end-saving or extra-point producing finesse shot was required. Other skips were, at least were more often than the Canadians.

Both Canadian skips had almost egregious misses on straightforward draw shots. Koe threw one through early against Switzerland – so instead of forcing a single by simply touching the nine foot area, gave up a four, and lost. Wednesday night he came up well short of the house and gave up a steal of two in the all important eighth end. He also missed an extra point draw earlier.

Can’t do that and pretend to be competitive for the gold medal.

Homan had similar misses, mostly only slightly heavy, but sometimes undeweight because of a difficulty adjusting.

I hope coaches across the country are emphasizing, “feel,” as well as accuracy with their up and comers, because, “feel,” is still a would-be champions greatest need.

Don’t worry, curling fans, this is still the premier place for the sport in the world. Dozens of teams from Canada could have done as well, or better, that the seeming powerhouses we sent to the Games, even though the only gold comes home around the necks of our underdog doubles team – both only there because they lost in the main competition for Games’ spots.

Despite massive government support everywhere else which allows the few players involved to devote their lives to curling, no other country can produce elite players in anything like Canadian quantities. So, this is still the home of curling, regardless of the results in a single event.

Still, I hope future big bonspiel entrants take Johnny’s observation to heart.

• KIJHL playoff hockey begins tonight. We have known most of the details for several weeks thanks to updates and projections on the league web site.

The Smokies play their last home game, with little on the line, tonight as well.

What happens next we will find out sometime (soon, I hope), even though the BCHL appears to believe Junior A fans will just drop everything and line up for playoff tickets at the last minute – because, of course, with Spring Break looming they have no need to make plans for their time.

I get that some of the races for playoff spots are still under way, but if the underfunded junior B types can provide so much notice, at least in general terms, so early, it seems something more than “No Games Scheduled,” or anticipated, or likely, for March, could have been added to the BCHL web site before the league got down to three regular season days remaining.