In our second week in Morris Garion and I were lucky enough to be able to enter the Dekalb SuperSpiel! The Dekalb SuperSpiel is a tournament where teams from across Canada and the US (and a few international) compete for substantial prize money. This year was the 12th SuperSpiel, with 24 men’s teams and 19 women’s entering, making it the largest tournament either of us had ever played in.
The format of the tournament was something quite foreign to us also, played as a triple elimination bracket. This means that when you lose your first game you drop into the B division, where losing a game in the B division drops you into the C division. Any teams that lose in the C division have lost 3 games and are therefore eliminated. As long as you only lose two games, you can hang in there all the way to the playoffs. By the Monday of competition, the 24 men’s teams would be reduced to just 8.
Ice Ice Baby
Because there were so many teams competing, 6 sheets of curling ice would not do, oh no no no. This meant we were allowed to take over the arena next door for the week. But before we could curl on this ice, a little bit of work had to be done. Or quite a lot of work, as we discovered. Where 45 mins of ice prep is all we get in Auckland, the arena would undergo 4 days of preparation here!
We started bright and early on the Monday morning (I can’t quite remember but I feel like it was 8am?), painting over the ice hockey lines and logos so we’d have lovely white ice. As curlers whose club league is occasionally (read: often) disrupted by ice hockey, Garion and I found this part incredibly cathartic. The rings and all the lines on the ice had to be painted / placed in. After all the painting was done, there was much water flooded onto the ice in order to make it flat. This took an incredibly long time, it’s amazing how much work the rest of the ice crew put in. We were also there for some of it, but these guys put in some mighty long hours getting the ice in tip top shape for the competition.
Playing with the big boys
So now that we had the ice sorted, we just needed a team to play with. Thankfully our main man Lorne was on the job, and sorted us Ethan and Steve, who train in the Practice Perfect program that is held at the Morris rink. It was their first tournament of this size too, with Ethan being just 15 years old! With lofty visions of success and comically large cheques in our heads, we set off to compete.
What we were met with was some of the best curling we’ve ever seen live. As mentioned before, some curlers travelled a long way (although not quite as long as us) to compete at the SuperSpiel. There were some big name curlers like Mike McEwen’s rink, Tanner Horgan, and Laura Walker, who all compete in either the Tier 1 or Tier 2 Grand Slam of Curling events. There were Junior development squads from the US, and experienced Canadian teams who’d been here many times before.
The competition was both fierce and clever, and early on we struggled with not having played together before. In curling there are many subtleties about each player’s technique that you learn over the years, and communication patterns that you develop together to work to get that stone in just the right place. While we learned fast and improved with every shot, we quickly found ourselves down 0W-2L in the draw.
Now if you’ve been paying attention, you’d know that this was sub-optimal for our chances of winning the tournament. Any loss from here on in would mean the last game for us, and it was only Friday evening. Moreover, we’d still have to win 4 games (in a row) to make the playoffs, and another 3 after that to clinch the title. It was looking bleak for Team Long, but we were determined to push on and get that W.
And on Saturday at lunchtime, that’s precisely what we did. A near-perfect game from Garion built on some strong work from our front end to give me very easy shots to secure each end. A deuce first up was followed by a steal and a force, and when we hit and stayed to score three. This put us 6-1 up halfway through the game, and after teams traded ones with the last stone advantage our opposition conceded. We had our first win of the spiel, 7-2!
The highs continued after the game, as we were presented with our winnings. Each game won at the Dekalb SuperSpiel nets the team $100 in prize money. Garion and I realised for the first time ever we’d actually been paid for playing the sport we love, and by nobody’s definition (dictionary or otherwise) we decided we were now professional athletes!
Sadly we could not replicate the same performance that evening, and the next game of the tournament would be our last. We dropped behind early on, and while we played well in the rest of the game, it’s hard to come from far behind in curling. Despite the disappointment of the loss we were hugely happy to have won a game and to have taken part in such a high level tournament.
Coming up are some fairly exciting times for us here in Morris. Most importantly, we’re receiving our third team member Brett Sargon express from China! (He’s actually already here but I’m slack at getting these out). We start the South Central Super League and compete in the Mordon Men’s Bonspiel, where there is more prize money on the line!
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Until next time, Mā Te Wā – Benji