April 21, 2012, Brampton, Ontario
The 39th Annual Johnny Good Guy invitational
tournament was held (as always) in Brampton, Ontario, this
April 21. You may remember "Sweet Sixteen" parties
from your teenage years, but this year it was "Sweet
Sixty" at JGG, as a couple of sixty-year-olds dominated
the standings. In the opening round-robin it was John Beedham
who prevailed as #1 playoff seed, while Lou Marinoff won
the playoff round. Marinoff defeated Dave Kraehling in the
finals, in 3 straight overtime games: 4-3, 3-2, 2-1. In
a strong performance, Bernie Kunzler defeated Vito Brundio
to take third place.
I posed some questions to tournament
founder and former champion John Beedham. He last won the
event in 1980, but is still a perennial contender. His son
Sean won it last year, in 2011.
Lance: You got off to a
great start, John, beating your son (and defending champ)
Sean in the opening round robin, and you were #1 seed overall.
How did things look to you at that point?
John: You always want to
start with a win and when it’s over someone like Sean
that’s a bonus. But to be fair to Sean it was the
first time he had touched a game since winning last year,
and I did score with only seconds to go. If he had more
time left I’m sure the result would have been different.
Lance: You encountered
Bernie Kunzler, #10 seed, in the quarterfinals. What happened?
Whatever it was, Bernie had a great day, going on to defeat
Vito Brundio for 3rd place.
John: Bernie is a really
good table hockey player don’t forget. To get beat
by a player like him is not embarrassing. Bernie put Sean
out a few years ago and also he’s beat me a number
of times in the past. And another thing to remember: when
you get to the top 8 of any tournament, the competition
becomes very, very close.
Lance: What went through
your mind as you watched Sean and Lou face off in their
John: I knew Sean would
have his hands full with Lou, as they have always been close.
Lance: How about their
deciding game 3? Scoreless after regulation! Then, the overtime.
John: When table hockey
goes into overtime who knows! I did know Lou was playing
really well and the longer the OT went the better chance
he’d have. Lou won a well-deserved victory and I think
when he was gathering himself off to one side after that
series I told him “This is your year Lou, I know it.”
Lance: You had the best
seat in the house for the finals -- you refereed the whole
series, Kraehling versus Marinoff. Tell our readers about
John: The final was another
great one , in a history of greatness. When Lou went ahead
in the series, my prediction of it being Lou’s year
seemed to me a for sure. Lou always plays with such intensity,
but what I admire is his absolute passion for the game.
He still has that extreme desire to excel at table hockey
and that is his ‘ace-in-the-hole’ when it comes
to crunch time. I personally was happy that Lou won, not
to take anything from Dave but it is always good to have
a first time champ.
Lance: Lou said he was
very inspired by you, when you made the finals a couple
of years ago. Like Jimmy Connors' run to the US Open tennis
semis at age 39. But you were 58! You and Lou have talked
about "energy management" -- what does that mean?
John: A couple of years
ago when I did get to the finals, I again had the feeling
it was maybe going to be my year. Things seemed to flow
along and the tournament play almost seemed effortless.
I think every now and then at our age when that situation
arises you have to identify it and ride the wave as far
as you can. The energy factor is something when you get
older you can’t summons it up like when you're young,
so when it’s there you’d better run with it.
Lance: At 60, Lou the oldest
guy ever to win JGG. What's the average or usual age of
prior winners? Maybe you'll eclipse Lou next year, when
you guys will be 61? You two sure don't quit!
John: The average is a
lot younger I can tell you that!!! As far as next year who
Lance: This was the 39th
JGG. Have you played in them all? To players who keep coming
back year after year, the event has a special allure. Tell
our readers what makes it so special.
John: I have missed a couple
of years, as I was a player myself in an ice hockey tournament.
The big reason people come back year after year is the friendship
and the social part of the day. Most of us are friends from
way back and it’s a chance to catch up on things.
Kraehling #2, Marinoff #1, Kunzler
I caught up with Lou Marinoff back in
New York, and asked him a couple of questions too.
on winning Johnny Good Guy 2012. At sixty, you're the oldest
JGG champion ever. But you sure didn't play like 60! How
did you do it?
Lou: Somehow I found that
championship zone, like the one I inhabited 30 years ago!
As John Beedham says, at our age it comes and it goes. But
on this night it came, and never went. I think table hockey
is a fountain of youth. Everyone who plays stays young at
heart, and especially us old-timers. It's the only sport
where a 60-year old can be competitive with a 25-five year
old. That can't happen on the ice, or on the gridiron, or
on the court, or on the diamond, or on the links, but it
sure can happen on the table.
Lance: Your quarterfinal
series with Sean was a nail-biter. You traded 4-3 (OT),
3-4 games, then went scoreless in game three. What happened
in the overtime?
Lou: I was so focused that
I hardly remember. Sean and I are both abundant goal-scorers,
so you better believe we were both making heroic saves.
The OT also went scoreless for around 3 minutes, and then
I got a lucky break. Sean blasted the puck from his left
defense, and it ricocheted off the glass, maybe deflected
off a player, then started rolling on a wicked curve. Before
either of us could react, it rolled into the short side
of his net. He just missed squeezing it against the post
with his goalie. Sean is a great champion, and I was lucky
to get past him. That's when John came over, and said "It's
your year, Lou."
Lance: What about the final
-- three straight overtime wins against multiple champion
Lou: The truth is, I was
so focused that I don't even remember most of it. I recall
my OT goal in game #1, a low tip from the right wing. I
have no recollection whatsoever of game #2. Game #3 went
scoreless into the last minute, when Dave got a go-ahead
goal. I think he thought it would stand up. It did, until
there were 7 seconds left, and I managed to tie him with
a "wrong corner" play from the left side.
Lance: What happened in
Lou: I said to myself "You'd
better win this here and now, and not let him back into
the series. He's a dangerous player." But the OT went
on for a while, and we both had great scoring chances. Then
I got the puck on the right wing, and saw that Dave had
absolutely everything covered. So I said to myself, "Just
send the puck toward the net, or on goal, and good things
can happen." I remember swatting a rebound, watching
the puck bounce around behind his goalie, and realizing
that it was going to stay in the net. Then, elation!
Lance: This was your sixth
JGG. How does it feel to finally win one?
Lou: There's no feeling
like it! Believe me, at sixty I should know. Holding that
massive trophy, and joining the pantheon of table hockey
greats who have won it, is a feeling unlike any other experience.
It lights up a special set of brain cells. Only table hockey
champions know that feeling, and we can never forget it.
Winning this JGG is a highlight of my life.
Lance: I heard that Mark
Sokolski asked to be credited with "an assist"
on your JGG win. Can you explain that?
Lou: I can try. Mark has
a fine sense of humor. He is also a savvy sportsman, who
understands sports psychology. Mark was the first one to
email me congratulations, and he sought credit for an "assist"
in giving me "extra incentive" to perform well
at JGG, after getting my clock cleaned in his PP2 tournament
two weeks earlier. I think Mark was right on the mark! I
was definitely looking for some redemption at JGG. So Mark
deserves my thanks ... At the same time, I want to thank
my two US sparring partners, Kenny Dubois and John Fayolle,
for many hours of quality practice. They deserve a bushel
practicing with Kenny Dubois
practicing with John Fayolle
Lance: Do you plan to defend
your title next year?
Lou: God willing, you bet.
This is an invitational event, a wonderful community of
families and friends who get together every year to keep
up the JGG tradition. I've made many good friends here in
the past six years. And while there's a lot of love and
camaraderie around the table, the competition itself is
fierce, especially in the playoffs. Nobody has really dominated
this event -- a lot of different guys have won it over the
years. And this is what draws people back: the friendship,
the tradition, plus the thought that maybe it's gonna be
And Lou's year it was, in 2012. He finished
#6 in Quebec, finally reaching the top ten in La Belle Province.
At JGG, he went 9-1 in the playoffs, winning all five overtime
games, and defeating three former JGG champions -- Sean
Beedham, Vito Brundio, Dave Kraehling -- en route to hoisting
the trophy. So forget about sweet sixteen: Aim for sweet
"How Sweet It Is"
photo: Matt Walma
-- Lance Rondell,
Lou's Playoff Path