Wednesday, September 28, 2011

How early is too early?

Last night I played my first curling game of the year. Sept. 27th. That’s early for me and probably about the earliest I’ve ever thrown a rock.

I was sparing in the last round of the Oakville CC’s summer league, which, to my surprise, is jammed to the rafters.

Of course the competitive players are three or four spiels into the season already, a season which seems to start earlier and earlier. Most have been on the ice through the summer months as well, either for a week or two at a camp or in a league such as the one they run in Oakville.

I’m not sure about you, but I think that a good break in the summer is needed, not only for knee-sliders such as me, but just about everyone. I remember my son playing hockey 12 months – a regular league in the winter and then three-on-three in the summer – and it led to burnout. Same thing in golf. I did a feature for TSN this year on a school in Orlando that allows Canadian kids to come down, go to school, either on-line or in the local community, and work on their games while it’s snowing up north.

Too much, but that’s just me. I enjoyed last night’s contest because it’s close enough to the start of the season that it felt like the beginning of the year (we begin for real just after Thanksgiving), but I’m not sure I’d want to play all summer.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Richard Hart on retirement

The timing of our lunch was rather appropriate. Last Thursday, when he would normally be making the trek down the 401 to Brockville for the Shorty Jenkins Classic, Richard Hart was saddling up to a table in a pub near Pearson Airport.

For the first time in ages, Hart isn’t suiting up along side longtime teammates Glenn Howard, Brent Laing and Craig Savill. As most fans know by now, he’s retiring from the competitive part of the game to spend more time with his family and at his job.

Most of our interview will appear in the Globe and Mail and Ontario Curling Report in the coming weeks, but safe to say that an hour with Richard is never enough for all the stories, all his sharp observations about the game and his funny stories that usually left me trying not to snort the Diet Coke out my nose.

Hart is one of those genuine people in curling. Honest, forthright and extremely likable. He’s a go-to guy for us scribes who want a good quote.

And he really, truly loves the game. That’s so obvious whenever you’re around him and what must have made his decision to quit agonizingly hard.

He told me that the idea of parting with the pebbled ice was on his mind for about four months and he had long conversations with his wife, who ended up encouraging him to keep playing. But in the end, it was clear to him that the drive and desire weren’t at the top of his priority list any more.

He’ll still likely spare here and there and he’s also going to coach his two sons in Bantam curling. Of course thanks to the draconian coaching standards put in place these days, this past Olympic medalist, world and Canadian champion was slated to attend a two-day coaching course so he would be allowed to do that. (That’s a rant for a different day.)

I think Hart will miss the game, but I suspect curlers and curling will miss him more.