Tavistock will host the World Crokinole Championship for the 16th time this June 7th, 2014. The one day event is a spectacular display of sportsmanship, camaraderie and competitiveness that's usually over too quickly. But to help you get the most of it, CrokinoleCentre provides 10 stories you can follow when the first June Saturday arrives.
#1 - Conrad attempts to join an Exclusive Club
This is an obvious one as the 2-time defending World Champion will try to join Brian Cook and Joe Fulop as the only men to have completed a hat-trick of World titles. Fulop earned his 3 titles over a 4-year span with wins in 2001, 02, 04 while Cook won 3-straight from 2007-2009. Last year Conrad joined these men as the only players to have won multiple World titles, and now a third is up for grabs.
Looking at the NCA season would indicate that Conrad is not in his best form. Despite his 1st place finish on the NCA Tour, most of those points came from the 2013 WCC. However, it should be remembered that his wins in 2012 and 2013 were preempted with winless NCA campaigns.
#2 - Cook looks for record 4th
Amazingly Brian Cook comes into this year's tournament as quiet as he did 10 years ago. In 2012 his streak of 8 straight trips to the world final was ended, and in 2013 his run of 9 straight visits to the top 4 came to a close. He has been quiet on the NCA Tour, finishing 8th, with his best finish of the year as a 2nd place in Belleville in September.
While story #1 is Conrad looking to join Cook and Fulop with 3 world titles, Cook has a strong chance of capturing a record-breaking 4th title. And just as Cook quietly found his way to 2nd in 2004, he once again comes in as a quiet favourite for the 2014 title.
#3 - Wide Open Field
The 6th NCA Tour season has come to a close and featured several competitors. The season saw a record 11 different winners take home titles in the 14 events, more than any other NCA season. It also saw a record number of 1st-time winners, suggesting that many new players are rising to the top.
Even outside of the top spot, there has been a lot of different names making up the tournament's top 4 positions. Jon Conrad, Brian Cook, Louis Gauthier, Nathan Walsh, Fred Slater, Matt Brown, Roy Campbell, Ron Haymes, Eric Miltenburg, Justin Slater and Ray Beierling have all had at least one top 4 singles performance this year.
Clearly there are a number of competitors with the potential to crack the top 4 in Tavistock, we'll just have to wait to see who it is.
#4 - Doubles Showdown
The doubles competition is a lot like the singles; while there are many teams in contention, there are a few who are a cut above the rest. Those include the Beierlings, the Slaters, the Haymes, and the team of Conrad/Snyder. Together they have been a part of 13 of the 15 Doubles World Champions.
Due to the low number of games played in the doubles event, only those playing the best in the short time span will advance to the playoffs. Often some of the best teams are left on the outside. Last year however, these 4 teams met in the round of 6 playoffs. They cleaned up the top 4 spots, and Justin and Fred Slater took home their first doubles title.
Coming into this year's tournament each team only looks stronger. The Slater's are defending world champions, both finished in the top 6 in NCA Tour, and top 7 in St. Jacob's. Jason and Raymond Beierling both finished in the top 10 on the NCA Tour, and won the Ontario Doubles Crokinole Championship back in October. The Haymes were runners-up at the ODCC and have had even better success in singles. Ray Haymes finished second at last year's world championships, and Ron Haymes won the Hamilton tournament in January to finish 5th on the NCA Tour. Jon Conrad and Tony Snyder took 3rd place at the ODCC and finished 1st and 24th on the NCA Tour respectively. ...Oh, and they also have the 2-time defending singles World Champion on their team.
#5 - New Contenders at the Top
As previously mentioned the NCA Tour was extremely competitive last season, and a big reason for that was the number of different winners this season. Among those were 3 winners grabbing their first NCA singles title this season. Nathan Walsh, Louis Gauthier and Ron Haymes all achieved this feat and have their sights set for more in Tavistock. Since the inauguration of the NCA in 2009, no player had won the world title without winning an event earlier in that NCA season. The one exception is that of Jon Conrad in 2012, and it's not like he was far off, finishing in the top 4 three times that season.
Clearly, NCA success is crucial, and Walsh, Gauthier and Haymes have proven they can contend with the best, but will they do so on the first Saturday of June?
#6 - Outside Competition
Last year Wilf Olson made a splash as an unknown from Saskatchewan to make the top 16, after finishing 11th in the preliminary round. The year before Lawson Lea of PEI made the playoff round with a 10th place finish in round one. And if you go back even further, Julian Chalmers of BC finished 5th in 2011 after a great tournament. While no competitors from outside of Ontario have been able to crack the top 4 yet, several are getting close. Perhaps we'll see a couple of Olson's return this year, along with crews from PEI, and several pockets of the USA.
All are welcome at the World Championships, and it would appear all have an opportunity to win the world title.
#7 - Lucky Number 7?
The doubles competition was already mentioned, but one team does deserve special attention. Ray and Jason Beierling won the doubles competition in 1999 and 2000, then again from 2007-2010. A record 6 doubles victories, but the 7th has alluded them for a few years. It has actually alluded them since their creation of the Ontario Doubles Crokinole Championship. For three straight years, one of the best doubles teams around was kept from winning one of the most competitive doubles tournaments (due to some great play from Brian Cook and Fred Slater).
But that streak could not last forever, and the Beierling's won their first ODCC last October. Now they are looking for more. Will they make in 7 wins on June 7th?
#8 - 20's Rubber Match
In the 15 year history of the World Championships, 16 crowns have been handed out to 20's champions. (Confused? Read A Word about 20's Shootouts). Those 16 awards have been hoarded by 8 men. Only 3 of which have earned a single title, 2 more winning twice (Cook and Fulop), and 3 others who have racked up 3 wins each. Those 3 are Al Fuhr, Ray Beierling and Justin Slater. Al Fuhr has not been on the crokinole scene in years, and collected all of his wins from 2001 to 2005. The real battle has been between Beierling and Slater, who have won the title in each of the last 6 years. And it's been quite a ride!
These last 6 years have seen a world record destroying 142 20's by Slater, and two 20's shootouts between Beierling and Slater. Now they are both level at 3 wins each, and the next victory will push one of them to the historic feat of most 20's titles in WCC history.
While there is always the possibility of another competitor making a push for a top 20 score, the excitement builds around Beierling and Slater who have turned this once boring sideshow of unexpected winners into a spectacle. The only question is which way the story will turn next.
#9 - Young Guns
Crokinole is clearly a game for all ages. In 2008, Brian Cook played an 82-year-old Ab Leitch in the world finals, and a year later played a 16-year-old Nathan Walsh. But the most recent crokinole tournament, the 2014 Ontario Singles Championship in St. Jacobs, gave way to the youngest final in NCA history. A pair of 21-year-olds, Walsh and Justin Slater played for the Ontario title.
The 2 finalists in the world championship have never had a combined age of under 50. Is there a chance a pair of young guns smash that record in Tavistock?
#10 - The First Triple Crown?
Since Jon Conrad became the first to win the doubles and singles competition in the same world championship in 2012, there has been the thought that a player may be able to win the Triple Crown. That of course is the trifecta, doubles, singles, and 20's World Champion.
Looking at the field, it's hard not to believe that it could happen. Premier 20's scorers like Ray Beierling, Justin Slater, Jason Beierling, Louis Gauthier, Nathan Walsh, Ray Haymes, Jon Conrad and Roy Campbell have a decent chance to win both the 20's and singles competitions. What's more is that all of those players have teamed up with some very strong partners to make some dangerous doubles teams.
The feat would be incredible. To win all 3 titles requires elite play from 8am to 10pm, comprising of approximately 1000 shots of competitive action.
No player has ever done it before, and it would sure make for a good story at the 2014 World Crokinole Championship, June 7th in Tavistock, Ontario.
Get excited for the tournament with the 2014 World Crokinole Championship promotional video: