Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The Curling Shuffle

One of the country's great writers, Cam Cole, offers up a nice piece on the changing of the guard in curling. The information isn't really all that newsy but the perspective on the changes is very interesting.

Cole talked with Kevin Martin, who decided to invite all the curlers at the final Grand Slam in Summerside, PEI, back to his room for an end-of-the-season bash.

And while he was at it, he opened his hotel room, stocked up with booze, and invited all his old rivals and pals from decades of bonspieling and cutthroat competition to “come over and we’ll sit around bulls--tting and have a drink,” said the 12-time Alberta, four-time Brier, 2008 world and 2010 Olympic champion. 
“But for about 15 minutes,” Martin said, “I went to the (players’) hospitality room, and I sat in there, myself and Glenn Howard and (Martin’s forever coach) Jules Owchar -- and everybody else in the room was pretty much my son’s age. That room was full of athletes, young and fit and strong. I’ve got no business in there any more. It’s time 
“I can’t believe I’m the only one that retired. I thought there was going to be a whole bunch of us.”

Cole also talked to John Morris about the perspective of the game's best players now and how the Brier is no longer the brass ring. 

“We all have Brier championships now,” said Morris, 35. “The only guys that don’t that are in this equation are maybe Gushue and McEwen, and yes, (the Briers) are a feather in our caps and we’re proud to have them, but the Olympics is where it’s at, and that is why these changes are happening.”

Monday, April 28, 2014

The Second Special General Meeting

So by most accounts, Sunday’s OCA special general meeting turned out to be a positive affair. After months and months of nasty, dirty, down-in-the-ditch attacks and lies and innuendo, the board came to the table with something that Ontario curlers could feel good about.

It wasn’t perfect. And there’s a lot that needs to happen to reassure the curlers from Windsor to Ottawa, but for the first time in oh, about six months, there actually seems to be progress.

The meeting was long, slipping past four hours in length. At times there was good-natured laughter and other times, some heated finger-pointing.

To me one of the biggest things that happened during the afternoon was that the OCA board actually took a step back, acknowledged its errors on a few issues and accepted that it needs to change. Up to this point, my sense was that it didn’t think it was at fault for any of the troubles and that it viewed this entire uprising as merely a few malcontents speaking out.

I still don’t have total faith in the current board members; I will need to see some of the promises made yesterday come to fruition before that will happen.

So here’s what did happen. The meeting got underway with Gord Gark announcing that president Ian McGillis had taken a leave of absence from the board for personal reasons. The board had voted to have Gark handle the president’s duties and so he was at the helm for the meeting.

The first step for the board was to get the minutes of the last meeting passed, which it did after several revisions, and then to change the agenda. It wanted to be able to present its story first, presumably to show the assembled group (which I would estimate was larger than the one at Annandale a month earlier) what it was doing.

Several board members made presentations and it was announced that a number of new committees had been formed (although I was surprised there was no communications committee). All good stuff.
Then the new Executive Director was introduced and he spoke. I didn’t know Steve Chenier prior to this meeting but he spoke well and clearly has his finger on the situation. He seems to have figured out the shortcomings of his predecessor and has taken the bull by the horns.

He said that he has instituted a policy that all communication received at the OCA office will get a response within 24 hours. It doesn’t mean the problem will be solved or an answer provided but at the very least an acknowledgement made that the message has been received.

He also announced that there would be a bi-weekly newsletter coming out during the curling season, and that his staff was already undertaking a review of companies to update the web site, and that there will be a component of that where scores of competitions will be updated promptly.

He also announced that Travelers (aka Dominion) would not return as a sponsor for any OCA events outside the Trillium Camp and the Dominion Club Championship. He said the loss was caused by bad communication and it wouldn’t happen again under his watch.

(That leaves the Ontario men’s championship without a sponsor, by the way, a massive hole).

When he stepped down, I think a lot of people felt very reassured that he has energy and passion for his new job.

Following Chenier, there were more presentations by board members. It was learned that the board is planning on a new set of bylaws for the OCA, which it hopes to have ready for the 2015 AGM.

Next up was Hugh Avery, the chair of the CCA board of governors. He spoke about the Member Not In Good Standing ruling of last fall and said it was really the result of some things that were said that were not true, as simple as that. He also apologized for the black mark that the situation left on the game, and that some member associations wanted the CCA to go farther than it did in responding.

Then, in a very interesting moment, he said he wanted to make it clear that the CCA had never received any correspondence or had any contact with Dale Curtis, the ousted VP of the OCA. That comment certainly took the knees out from the OCA board’s allegations of what Curtis had done.

He also said that there were personality conflicts and friction between certain people on the OCA and the CCA. Although he didn’t mention it, that was likely Doug Bakes the former ED of the OCA.

Had Avery stopped at that point, I think he might have been the hit of the afternoon, but he kept talking and babbling on about sitting down in the future at a barbeque with Gord Gark and getting to know him and all sorts of stuff that sounded a bit patronizing. It wasn’t necessary and it made him look silly.
It was good to hear from the CCA on the issues. I still think the national body got off with a free pass in all of this and that they weren’t exactly squeaky clean. However, I digress.

After some discussion about how best to assemble the next board, and the promise that there would be open nominations rather than the vote-yourself-in process currently used, Gark announced that on the day prior, the board had voted to re-instate Bill Rourke who’d been essentially punted from his position as a member at large at the last annual meeting. Rourke had accepted and is back on the team.

After a break there were two more votes.

The first was to re-instate Dale Curtis to her position as first vice-president. I thought this one might be a slam-dunk, especially since it became clear that all the reasons the board gave for kicking her out were unfounded. But after the secret ballot, the vote was 22-11 in favour. I can only assume that the board voted in solidarity and made up most of those 11 votes, which if true, is pretty sad.

After the votes were read, Gark welcomed Curtis back on the board. Perhaps nothing shocked me more about the entire afternoon – and maybe it was just a slip – but there was no apology offered to Curtis for essentially railroading her out of her position. I mean, the board essentially made wild accusations about her, some of which I would say were defamatory, which it could not back up and they said nothing about it. That’s unacceptable in my view and to me shows the pettiness of the folks who were sitting at the head table. 

The next item was supposed to be a vote of non-confidence in the president but it was removed since McGillis was not there and therefore unable to speak to the motion.

It was followed by the final item – the motion of non-confidence in the board. There was lots of back and forth on this. Speaker after speaker rose with points on both sides. There was clarification given on what happened if the board was removed but in the end, the vote came in 31-3 against removing the board.

And with that, the meeting ended. Now the OCA has to get to work. It will need to show curlers that it can look to the future and get the association working again, living up to all the promises it made Sunday afternoon. There are certainly enough issues on the table that need to be dealt with and I think many curlers still doubt whether the current board can handle them.

Certainly some of this board will be out at the annual general meeting in June and I’m sure a few are happy about that. New blood is clearly needed. 

The next few months should be calmer, but assuredly no less interesting.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

What to expect at Sunday's OCA meeting

Sunday’s special general meeting is approaching and with it, the future path of curling in Ontario.
The meeting will be the second in a month for the embattled Ontario Curling Association, which will once again face its membership over a variety of issues. However this time, it won’t be in control of the agenda.

On the table this time out are votes of non-confidence for both the board and the president.

A few items of note have arisen ahead of the meeting.

First is that president Ian McGillis has taken a leave of absence from his position. The leave is for health reasons and I understand McGillis has been sick for some time.

While this blog has been critical of his handling of affairs, we certainly hope for the best in dealing with his health issues.

Second is that since the last meeting, the Toronto Curling Association, the Ottawa Valley Curling Association and the Hamilton and Area Curling Association have come out and publicly stated their opposition to the current OCA board and its operations, which has undoubtedly ratcheted up the heat.

And third, yesterday was the last formal day on the job for Doug Bakes. He was the OCA’s executive director for the past dozen years and while I never had any issue with him on a media basis, some suggest he has been part of the problems for the OCA.

Stephen Chenier takes over his new role as the executive director on Monday.

On Sunday, presumably the current board will present the case for the future -- how it plans to deal with the issues that have arisen and move ahead.

Since the last meeting there haven’t been many signs of change but to be fair, a month isn’t a long time. Communication, one of the hot-button issues and one for which the board apologized, has shown very little in the way of improvement. There are a few new posts on the web site. The draft of the minutes from the previous meeting were made available and were distributed to those who requested it (The content of those minutes, however, left a few people scratching their heads.)

And sadly, a business of curling workshop slated for early May at Queen’s University was cancelled. I wonder how much of that was due to a lack of communication?

There will be several votes on Sunday. The first will be to reinstate Bill Rourke as a member at large.

Rourke has been a longtime member of the OCA executive and a talented rules official. At last year’s OCA General Meeting, a list of the new executive was included in a binder and voted on by the members. For some reason, Rourke’s name was left off that list and when the vote was held he was gone.

According to one person, a few members of the OCA executive decided that since he’d missed a number of meetings and turned down the request to work at one or two events, he should be punted.
Rourke apparently disagrees with that version of events, but no matter. The bigger issue is that no one asked him if he was interested in staying on, no one called him to say he was being left off and no one thanked him for his past efforts.

There is also another part to this story. Remember I said Rourke was a talented official? He worked at a number of CCA events and that allegedly upset some at the OCA who viewed him as an ally of the CCA. He hasn’t worked an OCA event in a long, long time.

The second vote will be to re-instate Dale Curtis as the first vice-president of the OCA. Just prior to the last meeting, Curtis was dumped from her position as veep but stayed on the board, despite a heavy-handed push to get her off.

At the time the board said they believed she was funneling board documents to “blogs and the media” for which they offered no proof whatsoever.

What’s silly about the move is that it changed nothing in terms of what Curtis had access to. She is still a board member and still gets board documents.

The next two votes will be the biggest ones – non-confidence votes on the president and the entire board. Those are self-explanitory.

Now I’m presuming that the board will have enough votes and proxies to control all four votes. I hope I’m wrong in that but we’ll see.

I have heard from a few different people that there is a plan in place should the vote to oust the board pass. I’ve also heard of people with some governance plans, which is in dire need of alterations.

I understand the board is bringing in a person skilled at running meetings to keep order and ensure rules are followed, a positive step. I wonder if we’ll have another police officer there?

So what am I looking for on Sunday? I’m looking for signs that the board understands the gravity of this situation in which it finds itself.

I want to see that the members aren’t viewing this as just a few malcontents speaking out, that they realize this is a wide-spread issue that could affect the very existence of the Ontario Curling Association.

I also want to see that the board isn’t just saying things to keep their positions, that they truly understand the need for change.

One way or another, the meeting will be a turning point for curling in Ontario. 

Thursday, April 24, 2014

From Brazil to Yukon to Dumfries

A brief story of the team from Brazil competing at the mixed doubles world championship in Scotland this week. Turns out Aline Lima Goncalves moved from Brazil to the Yukon (can you say culture shock?) and took to curling in a big way, says this CBC article:

"I started playing in 2011 and since then I became hooked to the sport. I am always playing or practising doing one of those things."
And, to show how difficult it is to find curlers from Brazil, Goncalves only met her partner last week!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Morris to skip Team Canada, Bailey to fill in for Rycroft

Yup. Just a few weeks after announcing he was going to take the year off, Johnny Mo is back. In a release from the CCA, Morris said has agreed to skip the three remaining Team Canada players although the schedule will be quite limited. 

“My plan was to take the 2014-15 season off as I move ahead in my career as a firefighter,” said Morris, a resident of Chestermere, Alta., just outside of Calgary. “But to be able to play for Team Canada, and considering the Alberta events are so close to home, it was hard to pass up on this offer. I talked it over with Jim, Tyrel and Rick and they were very understanding. I can’t thank them enough for the season we had, and I wish them nothing but the very best going forward.”

As well, Carter Rycroft will be appearing in a limited fashion for the team, with Scott Bailey taking his place outside of the Brier, Canada Cup and Continental Cup.

The announcement comes after Kevin Koe left the team. Many expected Kevin Martin to take over but he retired after last weekend's Grand Slam. 

Agenda for the OCA's meeting could spell fireworks

This Sunday is the special general meeting of the Ontario Curling Association, the one that was called by Dale Curtis, the former vice-president who was ousted from her position by the current board. The meeting is at 1 p.m. at the Mississaugua G&CC (NOT High Park which was the original location). For those planning to attend, please note there is a dress code at the club.

As of this morning, any notice of the meeting has not been posted on the OCA's web site. There is a notice about the minutes from the last SGM. Anyone interested in getting a draft version of those minutes can e-mail the OCA and it will send them on.

Below is the official agenda for the day. Although all the items look interesting, I suspect the afternoon will focus around items E to I. At the last meeting, the board had enough votes and proxies to control things. Will that happen again? And if it does, what will the reaction of the membership be? Already, we've heard from the Toronto Curling Association along with the Ottawa Valley and Hamilton and Area associations looking for some change. As well, the Canadian Curling Association will be heard from.

It is possible that if the board controls the voting and remains intact, it could very well mark the start of the end of the OCA as we know it. No club has to pay its dues to the OCA and it's possible there could be a move afoot to leave.

On the other hand, the current board might show enough that it will indicate some change will happen.

It should be an interesting day.

1.  Call to Order, Welcome and Explanation of Meeting Protocol                                                                                           

2.  Notice of Meeting and Proof of Distribution

3.  Report on Credentials of Delegates and Quorum

4.  Approval of Agenda

5.  Motion to accept minutes of March 30th, 2014 SGM as distributed

6.  Business

a)     Presentation of information from the “in camera” session of September 2013

b)    CCA Presentation

c)    What steps has the Board taken to insure this situation does not happen again?

d)    Explanation of current Policy Governance

e)    Board Action Plan on items from March 30th SGM

f)     Motion of re-instatement of Bill Rourke to Member at Large due to incorrect removal procedure

g)    Motion of re-instatement of Dale Curtis to Vice President

h)    Motion of non- confidence in President of the OCA

i)      Motion of non-confidence in Board of the OCA

7.  Adjournment