March 8, Gatineau, Quebec
Carlo Bossio proved he
is the undisputed king of Classic Table Hockey, defeating
a talent-laden field to capture the title in Gatineau. In
the process, Carlo also added to his earlier tournament
wins in Montreal (October 2007) and Sherbrooke (November
2007), thus clinching the Quebec Cup this 2007-08 season.
The Quebec Cup is awarded to the player who compiles the
best three out of four tournament scores, during each annual
cycle of the four major events By winning the first three
of them—an amazing achievement
on this highly competitive tour—Carlo has clinched
the Cup, no matter who wins May’s event in Quebec
Martin Labelle, displaying
a meticulous style that won Johnny Good Guy and the New
York Classic in 2007, was Carlo’s worthy opponent
in the finals. Martin had rebounded from a less-then spectacular
performance in Sherbrooke, and by reaching the finals in
Gatineau he vaulted into 4th place in the overall standings,
trailing only Carlo, Pat and Gino. Martin lost two close
games to Carlo—including a classic 1-0 nail-biter—in
that final series. In my opinion, if Martin can unbottle
his emotions and open his game up once in a while, he just
might prevail over Carlo. He certainly has the talent.
last year’s Quebec Cup winner, is consistently among
the best, and he managed to finish third on the day. Pat
and I had a strange start. We faced off in the first game
of the first round, and I scored 4 goals in the first minute.
A mistake: this woke him up. Pat chipped away, then pulled
away, winning 8-6. Just then the last three stragglers arrived
from Montreal, having fixed a flat tire en route. So the
first round was restarted, and our 8-6 game was annulled.
Pat remained unflappable. He beat me 6-4 next time, and
went on from there to his third-place finish.
These three champions—Carlo,
Martin, Pat—were at the top their games in a stormy
field, on a stormy day. You may recall their photo from
an earlier episode of The Comeback Trail. This trio of "table
hockey terminators" won virtually every major Classic
tournament in 2006-07. Anyone who wants to stand at the
summit of Mount Table Hockey must be able, on a given day,
to defeat all three of them. That’s quite a daunting
challenge. If you don’t believe me, just try it sometime.
However, since table hockey
players like nothing better than a daunting challenge, 27
out of 27 registered participants showed up at the venue,
which is unbelievable considering the monster storm that
blanketed the region surrounding Lake Ontario and the Saint
Lawrence river. We all drove to Gatineau, and no matter
where we came from we were inundated by blowing snow, freezing
rain, and blizzard conditions. Driving in from Montreal,
Sherbrooke, Quebec, Toronto, New York, and Virginia, everyone
had to contend with treacherous weather. Entire cities were
shut down. Drifting snow blocked roads and reduced highway
visibility to zero. Yet 27 out of 27 table hockey players
braved this tempest to test their mettle on the board.
March 7: maniacs and table
March 8: trans-
Canada parking lot
Are we crazy to do this?
A fair question. We are certainly not normal. This would
give us lots of credibility in France, where postmodern
pundits are now diagnosing normalcy itself as a “disease”
– normosité. (If you prefer Freudian
terminology, it’s normosis.) Table hockey
players are apparently resistant, if not immune, to normalcy.
A surprising number of table hockey champions have sustained
spinal, neurological, or cerebral injuries of one kind or
another, whether congenital or accidental. This did not
deter them from becoming champions on the board. Au
contraire: such injuries have made them even more fiercely
On top of this, there was
so much desire to compete in Gatineau that 27 players either
denied or defied a mammoth March blizzard, risking their
very lives to show up at this tournament. “Do you
play for money?” the US Border Officer asked me when
I crossed back over. “Not at all,” I assured
him, “We play for glory.” He smiled and waved
me through. Nice to encounter fans of Don Quixote.
They immediately appreciate table hockey.
Like knights of old, we joust
What's easier to find: a needle
in a haystack,
or a table-hockey puck in a snowbank?
When I arrived at
that Border crossing, somebody in the next lane
called my name, and it was none other than John Power. He
had driven from Ottawa to Thousand Islands that Monday morning,
while I had come from Bristol, an hour north-west of Ottawa.
We had not arranged to meet anywhere on the way back, and
even if we had, it would have been almost impossible to
arrive at the same moment. Yet this actually happened, with
no arrangement, as if by coincidence. What are the odds?
John gets my nomination for Table Hockey Road Warrior Maniac
of the Gatineau event: He drove up from New York City, and
back, without snow tires.
John "New Yorkers Don't Need
Snow Tires" Power
Like Quixotic knights
in armor, we players joust in the table hockey
lists, taking turns trying to slay each other in pitiless
5-minute contests. For slayer and slain alike, the clock
is reset before each new game. We are reincarnated to joust
again. Like a new life with a blank slate, every game begins
scoreless. Players eagerly seize yet another chance for
victory, and redemption. We battle without quarter, from
the opening face-off to the final buzzer. There is tremendous
camaraderie, and respect, between and even during the fiercest
Carlo has defeated some
very talented table hockey players—again and again—en
route to his three consecutive Quebec tour wins. He came
from behind to beat Pat Cote in the Montreal 2007 final.
He swept Dave Kraehling in the Sherbrooke final, and Martin
Labelle in Gatineau. But after Carlo, who clearly merits
his #1 position, there are a lot of excellent players vying
for the top 10 spots. In fact there are at least sixteen
players with the talent to crack the top 10 in any given
tournament, depending on how well they perform on the day.
If you think this makes for volatile standings, you are
Consider this: After the
opening round-robin in Gatineau, three of the top-10 players
coming into the tournament found themselves in the B-pool:
Gino Bossio, Denis Begin, and Eric Larochelle. That’s
a scary B-pool! Just imagine the A. Another top-10 player
coming into the tournament found himself in C-pool—yours
truly. “What are you doing here?” asked Guy
Mason, who has fully recovered from surgeries on both eyes.
Now he can not only see the puck (a big plus in this sport),
but can also recognize his opponents. I had pulled a “Dave
Kraehling.” Dave is a top-5 player who tumbled into
the C-Pool in Montreal 2007, then played his way back to
win B. At the very next event (Sherbrooke 2007) Dave made
the finals, where Carlo swept him. How’s that for
a roller coaster ride?
Overall on the day, Pat
Cote gained the most ground, improving from 15th in Sherbrooke
to 3rd in Gatineau – a jump of 12 places. Martin Labelle
climbed 7 places, improving from 9th in Sherbrooke to 2nd.in
Gatineau. Dave Kraehling slipped 10 places, dropping from
2nd in Sherbrooke to 12th in Gatineau. And I slipped 9 places,
dropping from 6th in Sherbrooke to 15th in Gatineau. Except
for Carlo, who manages to win every time, performances can
vary greatly from one event to another. This is surely because
of the depth of desire and talent in the field. Anyone having
a sub-par day will get mauled.
Congratulations to Sam Anoussis,
a great player from the Montreal Table Hockey League of
the early 1980s, who along with his brother Alex has embarked
on the comeback trail. The Anoussis brothers are currently
playing in the Bossios’ ATHL, and Sam’s game
in particular is still devastatingly fast. Sam cracked the
top-10 in Gatineau, finishing 9th and winning the B-pool.
I think Sam can climb even higher.
After the event, my buddy
Ron Chesick emailed me his condolences, and asked if I was
disappointed by my performance. Of course I did not play
very well, but that is no excuse. Others played far better,
and deserved to win. But an ironic thing happened: I ended
up winning the C-pool. It was partly the luck of the draw
in this field of 27: Places 1,2,3 won A-medals; 9,10,11
won B-medals; 15,16,17 won C-medals. The competition was
fierce in C-pool as well, I assure you. Every player is
hungry to win every game. Nobody lets up. So despite my
worst performance to date in Quebec, I actually took home
some hardware. That is encouraging.
Old-guard die-hards: Ron Chesick,
Sam Anoussis, Yours Truly, Alex Anoussis
More table hockey hardware
flows into La Belle Province, or else circulates around
it, than flows out of it. Greg Peden and Dave Kraehling
have both removed some hardware from Quebec, and now I have
joined that club. That’s my “silver lining”
from the storm clouds of Gatineau. Thanks to Eric Desjardins
and everyone at LAHTO, for their great hospitality and organization.
(Thanks also to the 12 guys who helped me extricate my car
from the snowbound parking lot. And I had snow tires!)
The next stop on the Hockey
Sur Table Quebec tour is Quebec City, in May. Carlo Bossio
is guaranteed to finish #1 in 2007-08, and he earned it.
But the other places remain to be settled. Given the hunger
of the players, and volatility of the standings, any scenarios
are possible. More players will rise or fall in May. The
weather will be fair, but storms will rage on the board.
A la prochaine, mes amis.
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