Sunday, March 30, 2014

A National Championship From A Different Perspective

The Canadian Senior Curling Championship (CSCC) for 2014 is being hosted by the Yellowknife Curling Centre. Of course I'm always interested in this national event as I am honoured to accompany the winner in each gender category to the 2015 World Senior Curling Championship (WSCC). As a result, the two new Team Canadas will have approximately 13 months to prepare so even though they could be anywhere in the this vast land, I'll have opportunities as I travel the country to hopefully meet with them along the way.

This year, one of the teams I will take to the 2014 WSCC in Dumfries, Scotland late next month is here representing the province of Nova Scotia based upon its win in the NS provincial senior playdown. It's the Colleen Pinkney team from Truro.

Championships like this involve three groups of people, the local organizing committee, the officials and the Canadian Curling Association. The CCA staff person who is responsible to see that everything (and I'll define "everything" in a moment) arrives at the host site and is positioned so that the best senior athletes can compete for a national championship and entertain spectators is Danny Lamoureux who doesn't get nearly enough recognition for not only the work he does but his professionalism in doing that work!

Danny's official title with the CCA is "Director, Championship Services & Curling Club Development". Sounds like a cool job but as this post will reveal, it's demanding and onerous!

For four days leading to the onset of play, I tried to be Danny Lamoureux in Yellowknife as the World Senior Women's Curling Championship in Saint John, NB was under the direction of the CCA from a logistics perspective but of course the World Curling Federation conducted the event and therefore Danny was on site in Saint John. When the word "logistics" is mentioned, enter Danny and even Danny can't be in two places at one time so given my desire to attend the CSCC to see the competitors, again two of whom I'll take to the WSCC, I've always offered to be put to work at the event. This time Danny took me seriously about the "put me to work" part. He asked if I'd pinch hit for him until he arrived on the first day of competition.

As I begin to write this, we're on the first day of the pre-qualifying portion of the event. It's the event that takes place two days before the start of round robin play involving provincial & territorial representative teams. The pre-qualifying teams attempt to play their way into the event in a four team competition.

But before those teams could take to the ice, there were a seemingly endless number of tasks to be completed including but not limited to; erecting that blue bunting around the rink boards you see on TV, assembling the scoreboards (a vinyl fabric held erect with aluminum rods), finding the boxes of numerals for the scoreboards, uncrating the CCA time clocks and hanging them from the hockey Plexiglas (without breaking the Plexiglas), finding the wireless consoles and connecting them (to control the time clocks), finding the boxes with the team standings boards and erecting them, finding the boxes with the computers for statistics and live game scoring, assisting with the ice installation crew and technician to make sure they and he have/has everything required, finding the shipping crate with the provincial/territorial placards and flags, checking the crates with the trophies and awards. There were more responsibilities but I don't think you'll find the extended list too stimulating.

As you might guess by now, all the equipment we, as TV spectators take for granted, arrives at the site of the event via shipping crates, many shipping crates, each with a numeral and Danny knows what's inside, or should be inside each and everyone of them. This time, the contents were not complete for a few of them so it was Danny on speed dial that saved the day.

Another one of Danny's tasks is to ensure that players and officials have accommodations which means dialoguing with area hotels to reserve rooms which if you've ever done that for you and your family can be exacting and time consuming. Try doing it for over 100 people coming from all over the country. There were some "glitches" with which Danny had to deal and in the true spirit of co-operation and fellowship, the local teams put up their hands to make what could have been a very awkward situation work out! Heh, it's curling after all!

Then of course there's the dialoguing with the local organizing committee(s) to ensure what the CCA requires is being executed by the heads and members of those committees. In the case of Yellowknife, Maureen Miller, her steering committee and 170+ volunteers made our job very easy. They not only crossed all the "t's" and dotted all the "i's" but did it with a sense of humour that permeated everything we needed done! In terms of statistics, line scoring, time clock operation etc., many of those volunteers attended training sessions to ensure that the data gathered was accurate and meaningful to the athletes, spectators and media. If you've ever been part of a CCA event you know that it would come crashing to an unceremonious halt were it not for volunteers!

The head official for this event is Janie Hobart from Fort Smith, NT, ably assisted by her good friend, Marg White from Whitehorse, YK. Along with Janie and Marg, highly certified officials from western Canada joined them to complete that component.

When Danny finally arrived I was happy, and relieved that all was in place and pretty much ready to go. To say I was exhausted would be putting it mildly. Now I could watch the teams play and get a sense for which two I might be with in 2015.

I'm delighted to report that two of the teams in the semi-finals came from the pre-qualfying event, one women's team and one men's team and although they were not successful in reaching the final, it was an endorsement of the process to the point that if your province or territory is involved in the pre-qualifying portion of a national championship, don't despair, in fact, see the glass as half full as the two teams to which I referred above both saw the games played in the pre-qualifer as a chance to acclimate themselves to the ice, rocks and general competitive environment. And it's worthy of note that both the teams played the maximum number of games in the pre-qualifier!

As I was about to board the aircraft to head back to BC last Tuesday morning, I knew that should Danny ever need a back up, heh, I now knew what to do and what was in all those shipping crates. But the most important thing I took away was a much greater respect for all the little things needed to conduct a national championship!

As I'm about to hit "publish" on my software, the final games are about to start in Yellowknife and to two of those teams, congratulations. I'll be contacting you to get ready for 2015!!!

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