Our team walked away from the closing ceremony at the Golden Gate Bonspiel with a medal. Normally you might think this would be a memory hard to top, but in actuallity I’m not sure it cracked the top 10. But maybe I should go back to the beginning of the story…
Having recruited Guy Davis, John Vesel, and my daughter Emily to the team, we set out the Thursday before Memorial Day to Shark’s Ice in Fremont, California for a weekend of fun and competition. I had developed a scratchy throat the night before, but my spirits were high and I was looking forward to the guaranteed four games. From a competitive standpoint Goal 1 was to play 5 games. Goal 2 was to play 6 games.
Draw One on Friday found us matched against Bone, a team from the San Francisco Bay Area Curling Club (SFBACC). The weekend started perfectly as we won our match, had Guy throw a great tie-breaking draw (5-3/4 inches), and made some friends with some great people from the opposing side (this would be a recurring theme). Later on Friday we were grounded by “Joe Smith!, Joe Smith!” (Wine Country), a game that showed us how much pressure a good team can really keep on you. “Joe Smith!, Joe Smith!” would go on to reach the semis in the A division.
Watching the commentary on the replay of our second game late Friday night, where they were struggling with pronouncing my last name, the commentators found the team name that I had missed — “Sharks With Glaesers”. Oh well.
Saturday morning things started getting a bit interesting. I woke up without a voice as my throat was getting worse, due in some part I’m sure to the extensive sweep calling from the day before. In any case Emily and I headed out to pick up Guy in San Jose and then John from the BART station in Fremont where he was coming in from San Francisco just as we had done the day before. But where Friday had been a regular work day, BART was using the long weekend to do some track maintenance and John’s route now included a bus jump from one station to another to bypass the in-progress work. The delay was so much that it threatened our ability to arrive in time, so the remainder of the team headed for the rink so as to avoid the forfeit. Upon arrival, I asked at the registration desk, in a cracking and often inaudible voice, if there might be a friendly local who could pick John up and bring him back for us. Two of the ladies immediately volunteered, and while Emily set up communication between the volunteer and John, I inquired about the rules for playing with three and having a fourth join. We could indeed start with three, and for John to join he would have to make it for the start of the second end, otherwise we would have to continue without him.
Having no control at this point over that emergency, we turned our attention to our other issue of the day — my laryngitis. After joking about me texting sweep instructions, we decided that if I could not be heard, I would clap if I wanted the brooms in action. I actually used this method a few times over the next few days, and it worked for us.
Now it was time to head down to the ice and, including our team, the total number of curlers there to throw the game was three. For the uninitiated, I will tell you this is fewer than you would normally expect for a curling match. As the other games were getting under way, one of the players from the other team, Yo Banana Boy (SFBACC), arrived. She said that the others were in a car and on their way. So there we waited, in a bit of an awkward position, not helped by the fact that I really couldn’t talk. Finally, the rest of YBB arrived, and their first rock was thrown about the time John arrived, just in time for our first throw. The game itelf was another lesson that decent shots were punished and that we would need to be really throwing sharp to compete. We were never in the game and rarely in an end.
Our pool play was done, and with a record of 1-2, we were placed in to the C division for the elimination phase of the bonspiel, and Guy’s great tie-breaking draw wasn’t needed after all.
Our opponent for the quarter-finals was Bisons on the Bay, a composite team from all over, but all originally from Winnipeg. The Bisons were easy to pick out in a crowd — they were the ones wearing the huge, furry bison hats with horns. Once again we were facing a team that kept placing shot after shot, but this time we upped our game. The ends were very interesting and competitive, and we pulled off several key shots to keep the Bisons from getting a big end when they had control of the house. Our good play had earned us only a 6 to 2 deficit entering the 7th, but unlike our last two games we had limited the damage.
In the 7th we were able to split the house and put some pressure on the Bisons, and they finally missed some takeouts. With the hammer, we had a shot for a double takeout on touching, but angled rocks. A nose hit and stick would give us four and tie the game. Unfortunately, my line was not right and Guy was a bit off the broom. Not to the side that corrected my line, the side that accentuated the error. The miss left us sitting one and headed to the 8th down three and without hammer.
By the time that the back end of the final end was to be played, the house had stones all over the front of the 12 foot, and guards covering practically every shot. Bisons had one rock at the top of the 8 foot on the left side, the shot rock with plenty of cover. We were sitting 2, 3, 4 in the 12 foot, but needed to get shot rock out. Our 7th stone was an attempt at a light takeout through a small gap, which barely caught the guard. Bisons quickly and effectively replaced the guard to an even better position, eliminating any chance for the takeout. A straight runback was also not an option, as we couldn’t risk sending a Bison rock in. The only play was a runback of our outside guard, angling it back in and getting a direct hit on the shot rock six feet away.
Now the miss in the 7th came back to help us. There was some fall on the sheet (well, not compared to our ice, but, you know, enough to notice), but the recent line miscalculation was based on the side of the sheet playing true with no need to worry about fall. A line was chosen, a shot was thrown, and vigorous sweeping was employed to keep the stone on line. As the red Bison stone was swept to the back of the house and the promoted yellow now sat on the inside of the 12 foot, nearly equidistant with its two brothers and joined by another at the outside of the ring, yellow sat four. It had only been moments before that in analyzing the shot to be attempted a Bison had said “Stranger things have happened.”
Now it was time for the hammer shot — equally difficult for them if they were to remain in the game. A hit and roll was chosen and delivered. Off target, but nicking a guard, the shooter rolled into the house with enough weight to get to the 8 foot. As it headed in it kissed shot rock and spun to the middle of the 12 foot to sit fourth. The game was 6-6 and a skip’s shot would determine who would advance.
Guy went first and threw a perfect rock, and with some sweeping on and off throughout the shot, ended up at the edge of the one foot, just under 6 inches from the button. So maybe that tie-breaking rock from the previous day was important after all? In any case, when the Bison rock came up short, we had secured our spot in the semis for Sunday morning.
At broomstacking, the Bisons could not have been more friendly and gracious. We knew from the game that were great guys and a lot of fun, and we had a great time with them after. John headed back to San Fran and the next thing I knew Ken and Tim from the Bisons had recruited Emily and Guy to join them for live stream announcing duties for the last 15 minutes of Draw 11, Draw 12, and the start of Draw 13. I, of course, was physically unable to perform any announcing duties. There may not have been a lot of key strategy commentary delivered on the games in play, but here is an UPDATE!!! for you: there was a lot of fun and frequent Bison references to having their “guts pulled out of their stomachs”. There may have also been some libations in the booth. (Draw 12 can be seen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YL16q-VWchY)
On Sunday we cruised through the semis and had a short break before throwing in the finals. Again facing a tough team that didn’t seem to miss many shots, we played well (never gave up more than one in an end), but just couldn’t hit enough shots to pull it out, bowing out at 5-2 after seven ends.
It was great throwing six games and learning some “flattish ice” strategy as well as learning never to throw blue-handled rocks. It was alos a great confidence boost to play on ice that you could trust your shots on, it seemed to be easier to make shots as the weekend went on. It was awesome to take some Lone Star Curling Club pride to the west coast and show folks that we can curl a bit in Texas.
That gets us back to the award ceremonies, where we got our C runner-up medals. Great to be sure, but just a capper to a memorable weekend filled with curling, fun, pins, and new friends.
You can check out information on the bonspiel, results, and broadcasts at these locations:
Or feel free to ask Guy, John, Emily, or myself about the experience. We’d be glad to fill in some details, and will no doubt get you yearning to head to a bonspiel next season.