This year’s edition of the Canadian Team Masters Squash Championships (Championnat canadien des maîtres par équipe 2012) was held at Club La Sportheque in Gatineau, Quebec. This was the first time Quebec has hosted the Masters event, which features mixed gender teams of seven players in the categories of Men’s 40+, 45+, 50+, 55+, and Women’s 40+, 45+, 50+. Team Ontario was looking to defend their title from the 2011 event in Burlington but they had to face off against stiff competition from across the country, including the first ever appearance from the Atlantic provinces.
Team BC featured a group of Masters veterans and a couple of “rookies” to the tour. Captain Garett Henningan (VRC) lead the squad in position one, followed closely by Dave Watson (EVE). Robert Pacey (VRC), one of the two rookies on the team and the youngest Master at the event (“Junior Master”) played position three while Rick Ng (VRC) rounded out the men’s side of the team. Leading the BC women was Laura Ramsey (EVE). She was followed by the second rookie, Anna Kirbyson (VRC) and then by Dana Merrit (EVE).
Thursday, January 12th
The team caught a brutal red-eye out of Vancouver and four hours later were met at the Ottawa airport by Helene and Denis and taken on a world wind tour of the city of Ottawa during rush hour. (Helene is the wife of Stephen Wren, the pro at La Sportheque, and Denis is perhaps the most organized volunteer I’ve ever met. He should have been a traffic controller the way he juggled pickups and deliveries.) It was pretty cool to catch my first glimpse of the Parliament buildings and the famous Rideau Canal but at this point in the day it was a balmy -16 and skating had not opened on the Canal. Twenty minutes later and one quick bridge hop and we were in Gatineau, our third province of the day! Who knew Ottawa and Gatineau were so close to each other? We checked in to the Ramada-on-the-Highway and Rick Ng and I found the liquor store but it wasn’t a dépanneur. Tant pis. We all headed to La Sportheque for our first practice round which was a good idea considering the courts were a little “Bentall-esque” and we’d need time to acclimatize to the loss of “just under a foot of width”.
The club was great. Five squash courts and two racquetball courts (apparently still a popular game in Quebec) and a bar that opened at 9am and sold cheese curds and fantastic smoothies! The workout area and change rooms were upstairs and there was free serviette service.
After our practice we were lucky enough to have Peter volunteer to be our team’s personal chauffeur and take us to dinner. He suggested we head to Brasseurs De Temps for some good old time Quebecois cooking and home brewed beer! Our no nonsense waiter suggested “L’Horage” which was a “clock” of beer and consisted of 12 of the establishment’s brewed-on-the-premises finest. My favourite turned out to be “Et La Lumiére Fut!” which translates to “And There Was Light”. Kudos to Dana for even drinking beer:) The BDT maintains a mini brewery and beer museum on the premises and can’t be missed if you’re ever in Gatineau.
Friday, January 13th
Our first of five matches was scheduled for the afternoon so we headed to club to take on Team Ontario. A picture is worth a thousand words:
Our second match was a little later in the day and was against “Quebec 1”. As the host, Quebec was allowed to put forward two teams and this team was decidedly the stronger of the two Quebec teams. I’m not sure how they managed to get Glen Wilson, Ex -PSA and New Zealander to play on their team but it might have something to do with the awesome kit they had:) Garett put up a good fight against the #177th in the world but it wasn’t to be.
We managed to win two matches this time (Yay Rick and Dana!) but the end result was unfortunately the same as our first match. Team captain Garett Hennigan assured us that Squash BC would not pull our sponsorship and we all headed to “La Station” for dinner. (Think “Sirloiner” but French.) I won’t forget the walk home that night and was glad we all had our chic H&M Elmer Fudd hats to help fight off the -23 night air.
Saturday, January 14th
Our first of two matches on Saturday was against Atlantic Canada which was a team I was looking forward to playing. I had heard a rumour that John Power, (Yes, HIS Dad!), was to be playing in my position. It turned out that he wasn’t and Rick Ng got to play him instead. This was probably a good thing as Little Ricky pulled out a win that led us to a 4-3 decision over the Easterners. Our first win! I wish you could have seen Dave Watson and Laura Ramsay battle to five! And who can forget Anna Kirbyson’s first win as a Master! Awesome hustle:)
Our close win over Atlantic Canada put us in third place in our group and meant that we got to face Quebec 2 in the Semi-Finals. I’m not sure if our “team meeting” the night before had anything to do with out turnaround but Team BC was on fire on Day 2! Wins by Rick, Laura, Anna (13-11 in the 5th!) and myself put us over the top but kudos seriously need to go out to Dana who busted hump and narrowly lost 10-12 in the fifth!
Saturday night was the tournament dinner and the spread was fabulous. Luckily our team had written and practiced our skit the night before (during our “team meeting” in room 107) and our performance of “Occupy Gatineau” was flawless but only resulted in an honourable mention. Damn refs! Suffice to say it was a late night and there might have been dancing. Of course we all were tucked in at a reasonable hour as the final was scheduled for 9am the next morning.
Sunday, January 15th
I was up first against the squash pirate known as Ray and managed a 3-0 win. In true East Coast style, Ray bought us both a beer. It had been hours since my last one:) Thanks Ray!
Dave also managed a win over Tom Evans while Anna and Dana, who had been injured in her last five-setter, didn’t do so well. The match of the day found Laura Ramsay up against Janet Macleod: In their earlier match Janet had pulled off a five set win over Laura with a decisive 11-2 win in the fifth. This match would prove to be much closer. Laura won the first 11-9 only to lose the second 11-2. She bounced back with an 11-6 win only to lose the 4th 11-5. It was a seriously intense match! In the fifth, with Laura up 10-8 chaos struck. I don’t remember the rally but I do remember Laura screaming out and doubling over in pain. We ran on to the court to find Laura’s non-playing arm dangling from her shoulder! Suddenly my early morning beer didn’t seem like such a good idea but I managed to keep it down when Laura just stood up and said “I’m fine. Let’s go.” I guess the change in posture had popped her shoulder back into place and she beat the ref’s warning of “Three minutes!” by 30 seconds! Unfortunately her come back from the brink was not to be and she lost 10-12 but no one who was there will ever forget how she popped back up and soldiered on. (There was talk of an action figure being created.)
Laura’s defeat left everything, fittingly, in the captain’s hands. Garett faced Chris Petropolis in the deciding match. Winner take all. The battle for 5th place! Now remember, Chris had crushed Garett in their first encounter AND he strongly resembles the Gendarme in TinTin so things did not look good for BC:) Garett got off to an amazing start by winning the first two games but Chris was not to be outdone and he quickly evened the score at two apiece. At this point in their match BC and Atlantic Canada were effectively tied. 3 matches each and 2-2 in the decider. I called for a referendum and suggested we call it a tie and share 5th place. Unfortunately, I was defeated and Chris went on to defeat our heroic captain. What a match and what a weekend!
I’d like to take this opportunity to thank all of my team mates, Garett, Dave, Rick, Laura, Anna and Dana, for being such great sports and for playing hard every day. I’d like to thank Stephen and Helene at La Sportheque and all their volunteers (Pierre, Mario, Denis, Peter, Helene and Larry and all the staff) and the entire organizing committee for all their work to make the event such a success. I would also like to thank the 56 competitors who came from across the country to play and the awesome National Referees that climbed the ladders to score our matches: Merci, Guy, Mikola, Penny and Dom. Well done amigos. See you next year in BC!
(L-R) Captain Garett Hennigan, Robert Pacey, Laura Ramsay, Dana Merritt, Anna Kirbyson, Rick Ng and, holding our “trophy”, Dave Watson.