Bossios Invincible in 2009-10

Bossios Invincible in 2009-10

Gino and Carlo Sweep Hockey sur Table Quebec
Carlo Captures 3rd Consecutive Quebec Cup

Quebec City, May 23, 2010

In a season-long display of truly invincible table hockey, Carlo and Gino Bossio emerged as the dominant forces in the 2009-10 Hockey sur Table Quebec Colceo tour. They split the four tournaments between them: Carlo won Montreal and Sherbrooke in 2009, while Gino prevailed in Drummondville and Quebec City in 2010.

Even though Carlo lost to Gino in the Drummondville final, he mathematically clinched the 2009-10 Quebec Cup in Drummondville. His three results at that stage were 1-1-2 , while Gino's were 1-3-3. By winning Quebec City, Gino improved his best results to 1-1-3, but was still edged out by Carlo's 1-1-2. In any case, the Bossio brothers were unbeatable this season, at least on the HTQ tour.

Honorable mentions go to Pat Cote and Sam Anoussis. Pat was the finalist in Quebec, his best performance on the tour this year, forcing Gino to the limit in a high-scoring 3-game series. Pat also won the Montreal league this year, the premier league for Coleco, which features 8 of Quebec's top-10 players. Pat won the inaugural Quebec Cup in 2006-07, but that cup has since become the annual property of Carlo.

Sam Anoussis owned an impressive 2-2-3-3 record on the year, losing two finals to Carlo and finishing 3rd in Drummondville and in Quebec. Sam is a ferocious competitor, now in his late forties but playing the greatest table hockey of his life -- even better than he was 30 years ago, when his speed and ferocity were already well-established.

Sam's comeback in 2007 has taken him tantalizingly close to an HTQ tournament win. Close, but no cigar. Since the Quebec Cup was inaugurated in 2006, there have been 16 tournaments, and only 5 players have been tournament winners: Carlo (10) , Martin (2), Gino (2) , Pat (1), and Dany (1).

It's no accident that Martin Labelle used to drive from Sherbooke to compete in the Montreal league, as did Burt Brassard from Quebec. I did it a couple of times from New York, and it was well-worth the trip. The best way to get to the top of your game, and beyond, is to compete against the best. The top 5 players -- Carlo, Gino, Sam, Pat and Dany -- are all playing out of Montreal. They play each other regularly, with all the speed and power attainable on the current generation of 5380 boards.

Carlo Bossio (left) wins third straight Quebec Cup
presentation by Burt Brassard (right)

Champions Start Young

A new feature in the 2009-10 season, thanks primarily to Dany Leclerc, was the introduction of a children's pool in the Drummondville tournament. Just as in music as well as in sports, most of the best players start young, typically around 5 years of age. The nervous system is still quite immature at that age, so it's possible to "hardwire" many new neural pathways. Skills acquired at this age will be deeply embedded in the brain, allowing gifted players to rise to ever-greater heights later in life.

Beyond this, table hockey is an ideal sport for developing attention span, depth of concentration, hand-eye coordination, competition against real (as opposed to virtual) opponents, and all the virtues of sportsmanship. Table hockey is therefore a remedy for many of the current ills afflicting our youth: ADHD, social dsyfunctions, TV and video-game overdose, and so on. Exposing our kids to organized table hockey is incomparably better than drugging them with Ritalin, baby-sitting them with Nintendo, or sending them into deep cyberspace, where they lose touch with reality.

The kids who played in Drummondville had a great time. They discovered the challenges and thrills of competitive table hockey, and they got a lot of positive reinforcement from the adult players. The memory of this day will remain with them for a long time, and I hope we will see them play in future HTQ events. They *are* the future of table hockey. If we fail to transmit the game to the next generation, they will lose a priceless cultural asset.

Drummondville 2010: Intense action from the children's final. No ADHD here.

Gino's Route to the Quebec Title

Nobody can accuse Gino of doing things the easy way, at least not in Quebec City. Coming in as a favorite, having defeated Carlo for the Drummondville title, Gino found himself relegated to the B-pool after a first round mêlée in Quebec. Denis Begin, another top-10 player, fell all the way to C-pool. I missed the A-pool by one game, and joined Gino and Michel Decarie in B. We all played our way back to A for the playoffs, but as necessarily lower seeds. Gino began the round of 16 in 11th place, better than my 13th, but not exactly enviable or advantageous. Unless you happen to be Gino.

His attitude was clear: "I don't care. I'm gonna beat them all." And so he would. Playoffs are about match-ups, not seedings. As the playoffs began, I said to Gino, "You certainly have more attitude than anyone. Now all you have to do is score more goals than anyone." And so he did.

Gino's first victim was Dany LeClerc. Dany won the opening game, but Gino roared back to take the next two. That set up a quarter-final match between the Bossio brothers, which Carlo seemed anxious to avoid. Normally Carlo is fearless, but on that day he must have sensed that Gino was especially dangerous. If not for an astounding comeback by Eric Larochelle against Remi Lemieux in the round of 16, Carlo and Gino would not have met in the quarters. After splitting the first two games 4-3 and 3-4, Remi led Eric 5-0 in game three. Carlo was the ref, and he decided to change pucks at that point. Suddenly, Eric's luck changed too, and he stormed back to tie Remi 5-5. Then Eric won in overtime. And because of that, Carlo and Gino met in the quarterfinals. Carlo kept saying "If only I hadn't changed pucks!"

Carlo won the first game against Gino (5-3). But once again Gino won games two (7-4) and three (5-1). In the semi-finals, Gino met Sam. Sam has given him trouble in the past. But on this day Gino prevailed in two close games, both 4-3. That propelled Gino to the finals.

The other semi-final was between Pat and Eric. Pat's offence was very productive on the day, and he defeated Eric 6-3 and 5-4. I had asked Pat who he would rather play in the final, Gino or Sam. Pat wanted no part of Sam, who had demolished him 7-1 in the A-pool. So Pat said he preferred Gino. And he got his choice.

I had also asked Gino who he preferred to play in the final, Eric or Pat. Gino said "I don't care. I'm going to win." This was not egotism. It was supreme self-belief, the most prized asset of any competitor -- in love, in war, or in table hockey.

Pat won the opening game of the final series, in an 8-7 score-fest. But once again, Gino elevated his play, crushing Pat 6-0 in game 2. Game three was another shoot-out, a seesaw battle, in which Gino triumphed 8-6. Gino scored 21 goals in these 3 games, a relentless offensive pounding, while his defense held Pat mostly at bay.

Gino (left) versus Pat (right) in the Quebec City final

I have participated in 14 of the 16 HTQ tournaments in the past 4 years, and have never seen a more impressive playoff performance than Gino's on this day. Think about it. Gino started in 11th place, and disposed of Dany, Carlo, Sam and Pat -- the top 4 players other than himself, winning 8 of 11 playoff games against them. And he came from behind in three of the four series, having lost game one in every case except against Sam. Truly formidable.

I can personally attest to how strong a player Gino can be. For it is Gino who has stopped me from reaching tournament semi-finals on no fewer than three occasions in the past two years. Each time I had won the first game of the series, only to lose the next two. I guess I felt a bit consoled, seeing Gino doing the same thing to Dany, Carlo and Pat (well, maybe not). An amazing performance by Bossio the Elder.

Congratulations also go to Burt Brassard, who organized his 10th consecutive tournament in Quebec City. Burt is an accomplished organizer and a talented player, breathing down the necks of Carlo, Gino, Sam, Pat and Dany this season.

Quebec 2010: Sam Anoussis #3 (left), Gino Bossio #1 (center), Pat Cote #2 (right)

King Carlo's Three Quebec Cups

Gino's outstanding performance in Quebec City illustrates just how great you have to be, on a given day, to win an HTQ tournament. Now put that in perspective: Carlo and Gino, between them, won all four tournaments in this 2009-10 season -- two apiece. That's keeping it in the family. And there are quite a few top-notch players out there, hungry to collect some hardware.

Now put all that in perspective: Carlo and Gino have won 12 of the 16 HTQ tournaments to date. And 10 of those victories are Carlo's. That is an incredible degree of domination. It has resulted in Carlo winning 3 consecutive Quebec Cups. In the table-hockey hotbed of eastern North America, the Quebec-Ontario-New England-New York region, that is a feat of legendary proportions. Let's review how Carlo managed it.

Quebec Cup #1, 2006-07. There were only three tournaments in 2006-07, and Carlo actually won the first two. But Carlo was unable to play the third event, and so his 1-1-0 record was eclipsed, on total points from three events, by Pat's 1-3-8, Gino's 2-2-8, and Burt's 3-4-5 records. Pat defeated Gino in the 2007 Quebec City final to win the inaugural Quebec Cup. Had Gino defeated Pat in that series, the Cup was Gino's that year. Had Carlo played and finished in the top-10 (inconceivable that he wouldn't), the inaugural Cup would have been Carlo's. But credit Pat Cote for seizing his opportunity in 2006-07.

Quebec Cup #2, 2007-08. Carlo Bossio left nothing to chance in 2007-08, winning the first three tournaments in a row. He defeated Pat in the Montreal final, Dave Kraehling in Sherbrooke, and Martin Labelle in Gatineau. So this time Carlo didn't even have to show up in Quebec City to claim the top prize. But of course he showed up, hoping to win there too, thus completing the table-hockey equivalent of the ATP's "Grand Slam." No tennis player since "Rocket" Rod Laver has won all four majors in the same season (Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon, US Open), and Laver did it twice! Andre Agassi and Roger Federer have won all four, but not in the same season. So when Carlo arrived in Quebec City to attempt this feat, he met with stiff opposition. There's a lot of pride on the HTQ circuit, and on that day Junior Gelinas stepped up and took down both Carlo and Pat in the playoffs. Junior ran out of gas in the final series, losing to Danny Leclerc. But Carlo had already clinched his first Quebec Cup.

Gatineau 2008: Carlo clinches his first Quebec Cup
left-to-right: Martin Labelle, Carlo Bossio, Pat Cote, Eric Desjardins

Quebec Cup #3, 2008-09. Would Carlo repeat in 2008-09? Not if Martin Labelle had his way. Martin had been sidelined in spring 2008, almost losing his arm to a severe bacterial infection. But Martin recovered and came charging back in the 2008-09 season. Carlo won the Montreal event, while Martin placed 3rd. But Martin won in Sherbrooke and again in Drummondville, while Carlo was eliminated twice by Sam Anoussis. So after 3 tournaments, Martin led the race with a strong 1-1-3 record, while Carlo trailed badly at 1-5-9. But there were five tournaments scheduled that season, so Carlo could overtake Martin by winning in Gatineau and Quebec. They met in the quarter-finals in Gatineau, and that was the turning point. Carlo defeated Martin and went on to win the event, while Martin finished 7th. Now Carlo was 1-1-5, still trailing Martin's 1-1-3, with one event remaining. Carlo won in Quebec City, thus overtaking Martin and capturing his second consecutive Quebec Cup. That was an amazing feat. The greatest players are able to come from behind, and Carlo (like his brother) possesses that greatness.

Quebec City 2009: Carlo Repeats as Quebec Cup Champion

Quebec Cup #4, 2009-10. As we have seen, Carlo continued his winning ways this season, taking the Montreal and Sherbrooke tournaments. Those victories gave him 4 tournament wins in a row in 2009 -- Gatineau, Quebec, Montreal, Sherbrooke -- an historic feat. Gino finally derailed his superstar brother in the Drummondville finals 2010, and Gino went on to win in Quebec City as well. But Carlo's 1-1-2 record edged out Gino's 1-1-3, giving Carlo an unprecedented three Quebec Cups in a row. Carlo can justly lay claim to being the greatest Coleco player of all time.

Drummondville 2010: Gino Defeats Carlo in Final
But Carlo Clinches Third Consecutive Quebec Cup

Best Meets Worst

I consider myself fortunate to be playing on the HTQ tour, competing against the huge talents of this generation of Quebecois players, and witnessing the greatness of today's Coleco champions. My best HTQ result this season was 5th (in Sherbrooke), while Carlo's worst result was also 5th (in Quebec). It's a thrill to cross paths with Carlo any which way, and it's even kind of inspiring to know that my best was as good as his worst this season!

Anyone who wants to play classic Coleco 5380 table hockey (nowadays Labelle-Coleco and Carleco boards) at the absolute highest levels, must compete in an HTQ tournament. Or arrange to be a guest in the hospitable but brutal Montreal league, which is basically equivalent to playing in the A-pool at an HTQ event. Either way, you will encounter the Bossio brothers. You will probably emerge on the short end of the score, but you will experience the ultra-high-end of talented play in this fiercely competitive and formidably fast-paced sport.

Chez Bossio: Montreal league date, 2007

Congratulations to Carlo and Gino for sustaining such a high standard of table-hockey, and for being unbeatable in this 2009-10 season. A la prochaine, mes amis!

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