Board 2 Game 1 from the 2019 World Crokinole Championship Top 6 Doubles Playoffs between Connor Reinman and Jon Conrad, and Justin and Fred Slater.
Board 2 Game 1 from the 2019 World Crokinole Championship Top 6 Doubles Playoffs between Connor Reinman and Jon Conrad, and Justin and Fred Slater.
“Words can be like X-rays if you use them properly – they’ll go through anything. You read and you’re pierced.” - Aldous Huxley, Brave New World
Under quarantine my typically long list of hobbies and interests has been reduced significantly to the point that two of my proclivities, reading and griping, have come to dominate my daily conduct. Griping, I’ve learned many times over, is not an endearing trait that makes others want to spend more time in your company, so frequently I try to spare the public and channel pent-up frustrations into silent arguments I play over in my mind as I sit flicking crokinole discs from every conceivable angle on my board.
I became inspired though, partly by the words of Aldous Huxley, to consider voicing some of these gripes. Could something good come from uttering loudly that which I’ve only previously muttered to a finely waxed cut of Canadian Maple? Possibly. Perhaps with the right words.
And so today I introduce a new series of posts Yelling at a Crokinole Board and I’m beginning with a topic that’s been grinding my
gears crokinole discs for a decade: The Damage Stays Rule.
Note to Readers - Many a truth has been said in jest. The following has been written in a manner to elicit some joy, so as to not come across as incessantly annoying. At the core these elements do represent my true feelings, but please remember I am embellishing aspects, and taking some playful jabs, to attempt to border on entertainment.
The damage stays rule.
The Damage Stays Rule - lf a disc touches or crosses the outer boundary line, strikes the backboard and/or out-of-play discs, then re-enters the playing surface this disc is out-of-play, but the altered position of any discs struck shall remain and any 20s made shall count. (except for an out-of-play disc)
Source: NCA Rules - Retrieved May 2020
I have never been a fan of this rule. At every opportunity — years ago when those opportunities existed — I’ve always voted against it, and I would fight all day — especially now considering I literally have all day available — to go back to “Damage Repaired” in a heartbeat if I felt like I could get more than just myself to join the cause.
While it feels like the damage stays rule has been in existence forever, it is still about a decade old (time flies when you’re having fun, and the exact opposite is also true). Unfortunately, countless hours of crokinole footage don’t exist for those damage repair years, so video evidence of the superior rule in action isn’t available. I assure you tournaments at that time were not crokinole’s version of the Wild West with heated debates at every table, like my damage stays opponents would have you believe.
House rules have always been something that applied well to crokinole, and in the days prior to the complete reliance of the internet, it wasn’t unusual to see an April tournament in Kitchener play with one set of rules, and a June tournament in Tavistock play with another. Thankfully for the first 12 years of the World Championships, sanity prevailed as rule 10 (listed below) firmly stated that in the most prestigious crokinole tournament in the world we play with Damage Repaired:
*A disc, that at any time, leaves the board must be placed in the ditch and remain there until the end of the round. Any disc that leaves the playing surface is determined to be officially out of bounds. **If it comes back onto the playing surface and makes contact with other discs in play, it will be removed from play and any discs that were moved after the shooting disc re-entered the playing surface will be put back to their original location, as agreed by both players.***
Source: Web Archive - WCC - August 2007
Ahhhh, breathe that in, the sweet smell of reasonableness (or maybe that’s the smell because I finally showered and did laundry). Oh the glorious logic, how I long to go back to those days.
But even then, some still shunned their eyes from the light and escaped enlightenment. The historic clubs of St. Jacobs and Varna played with unrepaired damage, and unrepaired damage was used in the Joe Fulop Invitational Crokinole Tournaments, first played in Exeter in 2006.
Every year the WCC suggestion box would include at least a few recommendations to leave damage as it were. I know because I was there. I used to attend the WCC meetings as a teenager while my mother served as the WCC Secretary (a role I’d begin to occupy about 10 years later).
The damage rule came up often, and to this day I still remember Barry Raymer, the WCC Chair at the time, ominously saying, “If we were to change the rule, one of these days a 20 is going to be scored in the final that determines the World Champion.”
The horror of the thought should be enough to scare anyone away from the Damage Stays ideas, but those in favour of Damage Stays gleefully ignore this possibility. (This is actually a well known behavioural finance trait called the Ostrich Effect where investors purposely avoid negative information so they can feel good about their decisions. The name comes from the false idea that ostriches avoid dander by burying their heads in sand. Although today you may be inclined to replace Ostrich with the name of whichever government official you can’t stomach who looked at global pandemic data a few months ago and declared publicly that it wouldn’t be a concern.)
Perhaps in hopes of ending the debate once and for all, in 2004 the WCC just came right out and asked the players in question 3 of the following questionnaire.
Source: Web Archive - WCC - March 2005
68.5% to 27.9% voted to repair damage. In 1980 René Lévesque lost the Quebec Referendum by a much closer margin, 60-40, and the sovereigntists didn’t try again until 15 years later. (Yeah I’ve been reading up on Canadian political history.) So now roughly 15 years after a decisive victory for the Repair side, somehow the crokinole world lives in a Damage Stays world.
Somehow more people voted to be allowed to move their chairs then not replace damage, and that rule hasn’t been debated since. Although that could be because some elite crokinole players have stretched the definition of “one-cheek” to include the three-eighths of an inch of denim fibre around the back of your knee that grip the chair as your entire torso and behind finds itself somewhere West of the Manitoba/Saskatchewan border.
Wait, am I angry about this too? This may come up in a future instalment.
Getting back to the damage rule. In 2004 there was overwhelming support for Damage Repair, but the rules would be changed anyway. What happened?
In 2008 crokinole took a big step, thanks in large part to the work of Greg Matthison and an advisory group of crokinole enthusiasts. In 2009 the World Crokinole League was launched, and you know the rest. Clubs and tournaments were founded, and new players not only found the game, but became parts of the community of dedicated crokinole fans. Cheers to those who played such a big part in the formation of what we now call the National Crokinole Association.
But unfortunately, this new association didn’t have a perfect record. While we were all celebrating and praising the early success of the WCL/NCA, we didn’t realize how much power we were entrusting to a small concentrated group. A group with some nefarious items hidden on its agenda.
August 8th, 2009. The first season of the World Crokinole League is in the books, and the brain trust is holding their Annual General Meeting to determine how to continue the success in the second season. Among the decisions made in the August meeting is to rename the WCL as the National Crokinole Association, and to begin each NCA season with the World Championships and end the season the following May.
Also decided on that day, the NCA makes their first decision to contradict the WCC, and decide once and for all that “Damage Stays”. They also clarify that in the case of a table being bumped accidentally, that moved discs will be replaced upon agreement of both players.
Now you may be wondering, “Hey, if you’re such a strong opponent to the Damage Stays rule, where were you on this day to protect the game of crokinole and warn that such a decision will one day lead to the impending doom forecasted by Barry Raymer?”
Well, I wasn’t there.
I couldn’t make it as I was playing in the Stratford Tennis Club Championship U18 Mixed Doubles Final (we won on the tennis court, but unbeknownst to me, we lost on the crokinole board). Never stay home on election day kids. Decisions are made by those who show up.
At that point an unstoppable machine had been set in motion. The influence of the newly formed NCA persists and infects the WCC. In the Fall of 2010, the WCC placates NCA representatives who had been literally dogging committee meetings with what must have seemed like trivial matters from players who contribute relatively little effort to actually helping to run a massive tournament, and arguably making the job of organizing the event even harder by extending meeting lengths. After the 2010 capitulation the rules are synchronized between the NCA and the WCC, and the Damage Repaired version of crokinole was never seen again.
That’s right folks, something only 28% of people wanted got passed. I don’t know which way you lean politically, but for those Canadians out there, chances are you weren’t happy either when the Conservatives won a majority government with 39% of the vote in 2011, or when the Liberals won a majority with 36% in 2015. Well step aside Plurality and First Past the Post, there’s a new decision making system that gives power to 28% rather than the opposed 69%. (Once again, I have been reading a lot.)
So with the full context of history present, now we can move on and examine the arguments for Damage Stays vs Damage Repaired, and determine if the correct decision was made (it wasn’t) 10 years ago.
Reason #1 for Damage Stays: It’s impossible to replace the damaged discs exactly back to their original location.
This is an example of a argument that uses a logical fact, and applies it in a completely illogical way.
Yes it is true that you can’t replace a moved disc to the atomically original place it rested before the damage occurred. But the Damage Stays side goes a step further over the edge of sanity and into the crevasse of lunacy, by saying that since exact repair isn’t possible that you shouldn’t try at all.
How is taking absolutely zero action to correct an injustice a more appropriate response than at least attempting to apply a remedy?
When someone accidentally bumps the table, nearly 100% of the time we can replace that disc into a location that is agreeable between all players (remember the NCA even stated this as a rule in 2009). We all know it’s not the perfect spot, but we are all much more satisfied with the attempt to repair the situation, then we would be to just shrug our shoulders, and say “oh well.” The same logic should easily apply to damage.
As a detour I should address the suggestion from some Damage Stays proponents who go one step further to say that players should not even be allowed to stop damage from occurring. That is to say they would prefer if players let the discs stop naturally, rather than preventing (by using your hand) a disc that left the playing surface from returning to impact other discs that are currently in play. Here’s an example of such an instance, although these guys were probably just having a laugh.
Come to think of it, this makes a lot of sense. When I’m driving down the 401 on my way to the Belleville Crokinole Challenge and invariably see break-lights up ahead as I hit 6am traffic in Milton, I never do slow down. I always plough into the back of that Honda Civic in front of me like an Al Fuhr steam-hammer, because when I see trouble brewing, I do absolutely nothing to stop it.
By the way, that last paragraph was sarcastic. I usually go to the step of preventing people from having the opportunity of purposely manifesting damage.
Reason #2 for Damage Stays: Okay, but how do you repair damage with regard to a moving disc? There’s a lot of variation based on perception about where a disc was going to end up when it’s still in motion as it is contacted.
Anytime you weaken the number one argument of the Damage Stays enthusiasts, they always deflect to the moving disc scenario. They may even have an example of a time when things got controversial or drawn out because two teams couldn’t agree on final placement.
The same scenario applies to the competitive pursuit of curling, where it’s frequently possible that rocks are accidentally altered. While major federations have extensive rulebooks that are not entirely straightforward, the sport of curling allows for the option of replacing stones to where they would have reasonably ended up.
R8. b) iii) If a moving stone is touched, or is caused to be touched, by an external force, all stones are allowed to come to rest, and then placed where they would have come to rest if the incident had not occurred. . . .
R8. d) If a moving stone is touched by a stone deflecting off the sheet dividers, the non-delivering team shall place the stone where it reasonably considers the stone would have come to rest had the moving stone not been touched.
It’s worth noting that they accomplish this feat of reason despite often playing for sums of money that greatly surpass those that can be found in a lifetime of crokinole tournaments. How can crokinole, frequently touted for the civility it encourages, not rise to the same level of practicality?
Reason #3 for Damage Stays: I don’t know kid, it’s just so much easier to eliminate any chance of confusion and discussion by just saying damage stays.
Yeah, so much easier, like there’s never a case of when the damage stays rule doesn’t cause confusion that wouldn’t occur under the ruling of repaired damage. Note that in this case the italicized font means I’m rolling my eyes. Take a look at this case:
In a Damage Repaired world we all 100% agree the black disc is off the board. In a Damage Stays world we are left in the grey area. Ask 10 players how to handle this even with the benefit of slow motion replay and you won’t get a clear consensus, as exhibited by the debates that broke out in the youtube comments of that video, and also here and here.
It’s a fallacy that Damage Stays removes all confusion and discussion.
You are probably tired of hearing my voice, so at this point I’ll pass things over to 3-time World Crokinole Champion Joe Fulop:
The clubs (St. Jacobs vs Varna) have allowed any damage done to stand while the persons running Tavistock try to reestablish the board as it was before the shot was made. I now favour the Tavistock version of the rule. It is fair, even if the players do argue a bit to reestablish their buttons. Crokinole players are usually fair minded individuals and do work things out.
Excerpt from It’s Only Crokinole But I Like It, 2007, page 81, by Joe Fulop
If you’ve read this far, you might be thinking, “If it’s this easy, how come we haven’t found enlightenment and switched back?”
That’s a good question. To me, it feels like switching back to damage replaced would be a burden too hard for us to overcome. Would we be able to transform our mindsets back 10 years and remember to think before accepting the results of the damage? It’s almost like if you removed GPS from my phone; suddenly I wouldn’t be able to navigate myself to the First United Church in Owen Sound on a November Saturday morning.
Or perhaps it’s an issue of momentum. I can attest to the fact that the issue of damage never does show up anymore in the WCC suggestion box. No one seems to be fighting for the Damage Repaired side. We were worn down by the incessant annual call of the Damage Stays side to yield to their will. When they finally prevailed they snuffed the torch, and the flame of logic. But the coals are still warm, and there still exists a hope that the fire of sanity will burn bright in the future.
And if I’m the one to lose the WCC final on a damaged 20, as God as my witness, I will use that flame to burn the arena to the ground.
Upon looking for quotes regarding an over analysis of the past, the following came up from the novel The Truth We Never Told, by Stacy A. Padula:
Seems like a wise quote, but uh . . . one might reckon there’s been a lot of worrying about the present these days, so the timing seems adequate and even enticing to once more reflect on Crokinole in the 2010s.
Dwelling on the past and worrying about the future will only rob you of the present’s joy.
This will be the last instalment of the series of reviews of the decade as CrokinoleCentre presents the Top 10 Players of the 2010s.
Top 10 lists on the internet have a tried and true characteristic of stirring up controversy among the readership. It doesn’t matter if months of careful preparation went into such a venture, it’s quite easy for readers to argue both rationally and irrationally for hours regarding the criteria, arbitrary or not, and judgement used to make a such a ranked list. While a hobbyist author may find this behaviour to be a disincentive, a desire for a brief distraction from more consequential present matters makes this idea all the more inviting.
Fair criticism. Unfair criticism. It’s all welcome.
“Will this list be biased?” you ask!
Well, scroll down to #5 and answer for yourself. But seriously, this list will be as dependent on objective analysis as the work of any professional statistician (which is to say entirely, right up until the moment it becomes inconvenient).
“Will this list be comprehensive?”
As much as it can be realistically. Crokinole went at least 130 years with no organized competition of significant magnitude to speak of. There will never be a definitive answer to the greatest player of all time question. Even this list covering 10 years of crokinole, written by arguably the person who’s watched the most of it, clearly suffers from geographic and informational restrictions.
“Will I enjoy reading this list?”
Uh . . . probably not. Look, I thought this was a great idea at first, then I thought it was a good idea, THEN I thought it was a pretty bad idea that shouldn’t see the light of day. But at that point I had already written 30% of it, and didn’t feel like putting that much work onto the shelf. So I figured I’d post this, but then cover both bases by telling you not to read it.
This works pretty well to align with both the NCA and the existence of CrokinoleCentre. Unfortunately I can’t contribute much to a discussion of the best players of the 1990s or the 2000s, but that would entail a fun bit of crokinole history. (The 2000s debate between 3-time World Champions Cook and Fulop would be interesting. Perhaps someone else can weigh in on that.)
This list won’t factor in any results of club play or lesser known events, as the results of these are inconsistent and too hard to come by. Since it’s best to stick to what one knows best, this list won’t factor in the performance on the Cues side of the game either. The statistics quoted later on include the results of 113 tournaments (86 singles, 27 doubles) that took place over the decade. Much thanks to Ray Beierling for providing a comprehensive file that did most of the work that led to these detailed achievements.
Keep in mind this is a list of the best players of the decade, not a ranking of the current crokinole world. Which means performance is to be considered equally throughout the 2010s. That being said, a player’s standing does not lose points for being mediocre at times throughout the decade. Certainly improvement to an extremely high level is a good thing. Additionally, a player does not benefit from being elite during a short period of competitive action under the assumption that if they had played throughout the entire decade that they would have accumulated numerous other accolades at the same pace. Perhaps it’s best to say this list should attempt to capture the 10 players who made the biggest imprint on crokinole at the highest level in the 2010s.
Who’s Not on this list?
In short, some very good players. 10 spots is not that many, even for a niche competitive endeavour the spots go by fast. That means top players with tournament victories and multiple finals appearances in the decade (like Clare Kuepfer, Tony Snyder, Jeremy Tracey, Louis Gauthier and Ray Haymes) didn’t quite make the cut for this list. Neither did World Champions in the decade, such as Richard and Bob Mader or Robert Bonnett.
Additionally there is not an inclusion of players from other crokinole hotspots such as Belgium, Hungary, British Columbia or PEI. Attempting to compare players who rarely, or perhaps never, competed against each other would stretch the rankings into uncomfortable subjectivity. Although a moment can be taken to recognize some of the best from those regions.
From Belgium, Bert Costermans and Dennis Vrints were undoubtedly the best. Over the 4 year run of the Belgian Crokinole Championships (2013-2017) the team of Costermans/Vrints won all 4 doubles titles. They also each recorded a singles national title in those years, and then went on to defeat the best doubles teams in Hungary with a win at the European Open in 2018.
In Hungary the decade was defined by dominant stretches from two different players. Attila Berzlánovich debuted competitively late 2016, and over the course of the next 3 years would win 10 singles events (among them the 2018 European Open and the 2019 Hungarian Nationals) along with two Hungarian doubles titles with his brother Krisztián. Berzlánovich’s introduction into crokinole coincided with Hungary’s first dominant player stepping away from the game. Áron Deme was the victor in 10 out of 15 singles events played in Budapest, including the first 4 Hungarian National Championships from 2013 to 2016. The 2016 Hungarian title was his last competition on home soil, although he did travel to Belgium to win the 2017 Belgian Championships in a showdown with Bert Costermans. Unfortunately for Hungarian crokinole fans, there never was a tournament with both Deme and Berzlánovich in competition.
Out of PEI there was a great deal of parity on the singles side, but the team of Wilfred Smith and Lawson Lea was the cream of the crop on the doubles side. Not only did they come away as provincial champions on multiple occasions, they also had success on the world stage with 3 finishes in the Top 6 of the World Doubles event, with a best finish of 3rd.
Finally, the decade’s best performances in BC came from Quin Erzinger and Linda Irvine. Erzinger was the most successful on the singles side with 3 provincial titles and 2 runner-up finishes. Meanwhile Irvine won the singles title twice in 2016 and 2019, but was the more successful one on the doubles side with 2 doubles victories and 2 runner-up finishes (one of each coming alongside Erzinger).
Why this spot?: Roy Campbell debuted in competitive crokinole in the Spring of 2011, but wasn’t a regular until the Fall of 2012. He quickly found himself finishing among the top 10 at such regularity that he was labelled by many fellow players as a darkhorse candidate for tournament victories. He cemented himself as one of the game’s top players with a break-through 3rd place finish in the 2015 WCC singles event, followed a couple months later with his maiden NCA victory at the 2015 Scenic City Classic.
Why not higher? Why not lower?: The one knock against Campbell is the lack of multiple tournament victories, so it could be argued others who’ve recorded 2 wins (such as his current doubles partner) deserve the higher ranking. But it cannot be overlooked that Campbell has been one of the game’s top contenders for the majority of the decade, only failing once in the last 7 calendar years to record at least one top 4 singles finish.
Decade Lowlight: To dissuade excessive bragging due to the results of these rankings, a lowlight from each player will also be included to keep respective egos in check.
In 2018 Roy Campbell and Jeremy Tracey had advanced to the final 6 playoffs for the Doubles World Championship, and very early on it was clear they would be battling with the Beierling brothers for the title. When they met the Beierlings mid-way through the playoffs a win or a tie would have kept the championship dreams alive, but they were thoroughly beaten 8-0 in the game, smashing their title aspirations.
Decade Highlight: Campbell’s win at the 2015 Scenic City Classic came in his first ever tournament final, and it also featured a terrific comeback. Trailing Jason Beierling 8-4 in a first to 11 match, Campbell scored 8 consecutive points to runaway with the title.
Their defining Shot of the decade: If you ask Roy Campbell to "drive it straight through to here" the here you are referencing might as well be the 20 hole.
Why this spot?: Connor Reinman entered the competitive crokinole scene through the broadcasting booth of CrokinoleCentre well before registering for an NCA tournament. When he first competed at the 2017 Ontario and World Championships no one knew what to expect from the man whose face was not yet familiar, but whose voice had become well known. More so than any other player in the decade, expectations for his play shot through the roof when he finished 9th and 3rd in his first 2 events, and in large part those expectations were met through the remaining years of the decade.
Why not higher? Why not lower?: Despite only playing parts of 3 years competitive, Reinman still racked up 3 victories and 11 top 4 finishes in only 15 events played. Reinman would certainly rank much higher if this top 10 only covered the years 2017-2019, or even just the back half of the decade. Seeing as this list covers 10 years though, the higher spots are reserved for those who benefitted from more time in being able to plant a larger stamp on the decade.
Decade Lowlight: Even with the success of the 2019 World Championships (3rd in doubles, 4th in singles) the sting of what could have been stands out as the lowlight. Reinman’s tantalizing loss in the 3rd-game-5th-round-tiebreaker of singles semifinals to Darren Carr caused his first world championship finals appearance to elude him.
Decade Highlight: Reinman was one of only 3 people to win an Ontario Singles Championship in the decade, and the style in which he did so was pretty special with sudden death wins in both the semifinals and finals. The most impressive part was the perfect round he scored against Ray Beierling to cap off their semifinal match.
Their defining Shot of the decade: This is one of the most ambitious shots of the decade that was somehow actually executed perfectly.
Why this spot?: Andrew Hutchinson began pursuit of finger-flicking achievement when he crossed crokinole’s House of Commons floor after winning the 2016 Cues Crokinole World title (perhaps even Bautista bat-flipping his cue into the Grand River following the victory). Impressively, there was little discontinuity before Hutchinson proved as successful in the new domain, recording 2 finals appearances in his first 3 events. Even after a run of periodic 5th-place finishes, he managed to finish in the Top 4 in 17 over 34 events in the decade, and won 5 of the final 9 tournaments he played in the decade.
Why not higher? Why not lower?: Similarly to Reinman, Hutchinson’s case is limited by time span. He immediately established himself as a contender when he joined the fingers tour, but it was only in the final year of the decade where he definitively earned a regard as one of the top 3 players in the game.
Decade Lowlight: Sandwiched among Hutchinson’s successes to close the decade was a devastating loss to Jon Conrad in the 2019 Ontario Singles semifinal, when Hutchinson had chances to close it out, but they slipped away as Conrad came back to win the match.
Decade Highlight: Perhaps Hutchinson’s most thrilling victory came against Robert Bonnett in the 2019 London final, when he trailed in a sudden death round but found a way to overcome the deficit and win the tournament.
Their defining Shot of the decade: Hutchinson would tell you his game is open-20s and defensive-placements, so here's a great example of the latter:
Why this spot?: Fred Slater was established in competitive crokinole coming into the decade following a couple of top 4 finishes in 2009. He recorded his first victory in September of 2010 after beating out Brian Cook in Kawartha, and then a second victory a month later when he teamed up with Cook to win the first Ontario Doubles Championship. From then on he was never out of contention, recording at least one top 4 finish each year of the decade.
Why not higher? Why not lower?: The only knock against Slater’s ranking would be that the majority of his success in the decade came through doubles. But it cannot be overlooked that his doubles record was the best of anybody’s in the decade with 8 doubles titles, in addition to being one of the few to record multiple singles tournament wins.
Decade Lowlight: Slater suffered two crushing losses back-to-back in the BC interior, first losing a 3rd-game-5th-round-tiebreaker to Quin Erzinger in the 2011 provincial final, followed by another 3rd-game-5th-round-tiebreaker loss to Brian Cook in the 2012 final.
Decade Highlight: CrokinoleCentre is lacking video recordings for a number of Slater wins early in the decade, but it was able to capture a gem of a match from Slater in 2013 when he played brilliantly in the London final to defeat Jon Conrad in 2-straight games.
Their defining Shot of the decade: Recently Fred Slater began shooting with his index finger, but he spent most of the decade shooting with the middle, so it's best to remember the decade with one of the few shots that a middle-finger shooter has an advantage: the long distance follow-through-20
Why this spot?: Jason Beierling made a big statement when he defeated Ray Beierling in the 2012 London final, ending Ray’s hopes of capturing 4-straight London titles, while scoring his first singles victory of the decade. While his doubles results are the most remarkable feature of his decade of accomplishments, he was consistently in the running on the singles side, and by the end of the decade he had appeared in the finals of every tournament on the NCA Tour with the exception of the singles World Championships.
Why not higher? Why not lower?: Beierling’s record ended up being a touch better than Fred Slater’s, and he did amass more impressive singles results to earn the #6 placement.
Decade Lowlight: In the 2018 Ontario Singles semifinal Jason Beierling led the first-to-9 match by a score of 6-0 over Justin Slater, but he was unable to close it out, ultimately losing the match 10-6.
Decade Highlight: Jason Beierling’s best performance of the decade came at the 2018 Belleville Crokinole Challenge where he, after dominating Nathan Walsh 10-2 in the semifinal, doubled up Ray Beierling 11-5 in the finals to claim the Belleville title.
Their defining Shot of the decade: Thanks to a co-worker Jason Beierling got the nickname protractor and there was no better protraction that this maximum distance ricochet he pulled off for a 20.
Why this spot?: Nathan Walsh came into the decade full of expectations after a breakthrough performance when he finished 2nd at the 2009 World Championship, but suffered through peregrination for a few years before being able to challenge at the top level. In two particular hot stretches from 2013-2014 and 2016-2017 he was right among the very best in the game and earned the majority of his victories and top finishes.
Why not higher? Why not lower?: There’s a chance this selection may lead to some eye rolls, but over the course of the decade Nathan Walsh put together very similar records to both Fred Slater and Jason Beierling, with the added edge that Walsh does possess the superior singles statistics. With regard to the question of being ranked any higher, you’ll see when you get to the next rank that there’s a rather large gap from those within the top 4 to the rest of the pack.
Decade Lowlight: Justin Slater won a lot of matches in the decade, but it was against Nathan Walsh where he won the most. Walsh recorded an 0-8 record in singles elimination matches against Slater, with the low point likely being the 2014 Belleville Challenge final where he led 6-0, 4-0 and even had a shot to win, before succumbing in defeat.
Decade Highlight: Walsh’s best win of the decade came in 2013 in Belleville where he recorded his first victory over Brian Cook, after playing nearly flawless to win the championship match in 2-straight games.
Their defining Shot of the decade: Like his writing style, sometimes his crokinole shots had an unnecessary amount of flare.
Why this spot?: While Jon Conrad has been around the game of crokinole for many years, he had little results in the late 2000s that would have suggested there would be great things to come, and he seemed to be a step away from the elite echelon at the start of the decade. He proved to be a threat with a 2nd place finish in Exeter in 2010, followed by a 3rd at the Worlds a month later, but he firmly asserted himself into that top stratosphere when he became the first to win both of the doubles and singles world titles at the 2012 World Championships. From then on he continued to perform with stellar results, his style of play became both well-studied and well-branded, and he was persistently in the conversation of the top players of the day
Why not higher? Why not lower?: Jon Conrad didn’t rack up a huge number of tournament victories, which is why he slots in at #4 here. But there was undoubtedly a period of time, particularly between his back-to-back World and NCA titles, that he was known as the best player in the game, and his key statistics easily bear that out.
Decade Lowlight: In 2016 Jon Conrad was chasing Ray Beierling and had a chance to win his 3rd NCA title heading into the finale event. He could have claimed the NCA title with a win, or possibly a 2nd place finish, but he was stymied in the morning round and failed to make Group A.
Decade Highlight: It is well-trodden ground to point to this match as a classic, as it has already been immortalized in youtube parody, but the stoicism and precision that define Jon Conrad’s game were amazingly on full display when the World Championship title was on the line in his thrilling 2012 World Championship victory over Justin Slater.
Their defining Shot of the decade: Of course it has to be one of the numerous examples of the very shot that's named after him. It may not be flashy, but it's effective.
Why this spot?: It cannot be overstated how lethal Brian Cook was on the crokinole board, and his consistency rivalled Swiss clockwork. He came into the decade as the best player in the world and still racked up victory after victory even though he was met with a barrage of contenders fighting to obtain just once piece of glory. Amazingly, he returned to the game after nearly 4 years away and swept the World Cup titles against the best in Hungary.
Why not higher? Why not lower?: It is astonishing Cook amassed so many victories and top finishes despite being inactive for 4 years. Had he participated in NCA events over the entire decade it is certainly plausible he could lay strong claim to being the #2 or #1 player of the decade. One can hope (me especially) the game of crokinole sees more of him through the 2020s.
Decade Lowlight: In 2010 Brian Cook had a chance to win his record-extending 4th-straight world title against a rising Justin Slater who was coming into the event in top form. Cook earned the early advantage and had an edge to win the match, but could not complete the victory.
Decade Highlight: Brian Cook entered the 2014 World Championships with the lowest expectations the crokinole world had for him in 10 years, as he had not won an event in the previous 18 months. As many as four others, Jon Conrad, Nathan Walsh, Justin Slater and Ray Beierling, could have been regarded as greater favourites to win the title, but Brian Cook came through with an exceptional performance, capped off by a 2-straight-game championship win over Justin Slater.
Their defining Shot of the decade: Cook was known at times for stifling defence, but he could show that shot-making ability was just another trick up his sleeve, as he did when he practically clinched the World Cup semifinal over Jeremy Tracey.
Why this spot?: Joe Fulop had pegged Ray Beierling as a world champion long before he earned the title, and even as he won tournaments and gained acclaim in the late 2000s he was constantly in the shadow of Brian Cook. He stepped firmly out of that shadow and into the spot-light in 2010 by winning the NCA Tour, and then by finally claiming the singles world title in 2011. He formed one-half of the most successful doubles team in the decade, and added in nearly unsurpassed singles results for a record of longevity that leads to an incredible decade-stat-line.
Why not higher? Why not lower?: Ray Beierling was first in many key metrics, and contributes greatly to the picture of competitive crokinole in the 2010s. As will be detailed below, he falls short of the top spot, but was clearly only rivalled by one other player in the decade.
Decade Lowlight: Ray Beierling reached the final 4 of the 2018 World Championship singles event. Following the doubles victory and 20s title he had already claimed that day, he stood two steps away from winning the first-ever Triple Crown by winning the singles event. He was looking for a good start in that final 4 round robin, but was demolished in game one by Jon Conrad by a score of 8-0.
Decade Highlight: In March of 2017 Justin Slater was threatening to wrap up the NCA Title in London, while Ray Beierling had to win to extend the battle for one more tournament. Slater was on fire, but Beierling was the better on the day as he won in tremendous fashion.
Their defining Shot of the decade: Angle ricochet 20 to capture the 2011 World Championship.
And that’s just the short list.
Why this spot?: It has been the decade of Justin Slater from start to finish. The first event of the decade, January 30th, 2010 in Hamilton, Slater wins his first NCA title, taking down World Champion Brian Cook in the finals, while also setting a 20s World record along the way. Nine and a half years later he won a record-breaking 5 singles World Championships.
Why not higher? Why not lower?: Geez if this dude can go any higher then we are in for a dominant decade.
As mentioned, there’s been a couple of players who would have earned the “best crokinole player” designation throughout the decade, but none would have held that longer than Slater. Given his long list of accomplishments, it’s most likely readers easily saw this #1 ranking coming.
Decade Lowlight: Justin Slater had an incredible streak of 7-straight Ontario Singles titles won from 2012 to 2018. With each passing year the streak became harder to comprehend, but it was expected that a day would come that a winner would play flawless in the finals to finally take away the crown. The day did come in 2019, but it produced little drama when Justin Slater failed to advance to the playoffs and had his streak end with a disappointing 6th place finish.
Decade Highlight: Slater’s greatest period of dominance stretched from January 2018 to January 2019 when he won 7-consecutive singles events. Sandwiched dead in the middle was Slater’s miraculous comeback against Jon Conrad, when he fought off numerous moments of near defeat, and capped off the 2018 world title with a perfect round.
Their defining Shot of the decade: With the match on the line in the 2017 London final, Justin Slater needed a double takeout and a 20 on his last shot. Ultimately he lost the match, but Justin Slater coming up with something incredible with his back-against-the-wall is how crokinole will remember the 2010s.
As you likely know, the big crokinole domino fell earlier this week when the World Crokinole Championsip Committee announced the cancellation of the 2020 event. Most would likely look at the decision as appropriate considering the circumstances, but it can still be hard to handle.
To cope with the announcement, two crokinole players discuss:
For reference, below you can find the official statement released by the World Crokinole Championship Committee:
Since Roy Campbell first teamed up with Jeremy Tracey in 2017, it was clear that they had the makings of a championship doubles partnership. And although they often came close (including 2nd place at the 2018 World Crokinole Championship doubles, and 3 consecutive top four finishes at the Ontario Doubles Crokinole Championships), they never were able to quite get over the top. That all changed on Sunday at the 4th annual Paddyfest Crokinole Tournament, when Roy and Jeremy were both playing near flawless crokinole on their way to their first doubles championship, including a dominating 11-3 victory over Ray Beierling and Andrew Hutchinson.
The theme of the Paddyfest tournament is always a mix of casual and serious competitors, folks dressed in green in honour of the Emerald Isle, loud music, louder celebrations, and plenty of beer. And despite the smaller turnout this year, all of the above elements remained. Originally, 29 teams had signed up for the 2020 edition but due to the rapidly spreading impact of Covid-19 (more on that topic later), a number of teams chose to withdraw beforehand, leaving a field of 18. The Paddyfest organizers should always be commended for their work in organizing this festival, but especially this year. Like event organizers across the globe, they were faced with the tough decision of whether to run or cancel not just the crokinole tournament, but a slew of events that are popular with the community. In the end they decided to run the smaller events while cancelling the larger events, including the end-of-festival concert. In challenging times, the Paddyfest organizers made the best of the situation and ran a first-rate event.
The 18 teams started the day in a WCC-style rotation where half the teams rotated clockwise and the other half rotated counterclockwise for 7 total games. After the games, the results were tabulated and teams were broken into 3 groups of 6 teams each: A group, B1 and B2 groups. These three groups would play a full round robin, with the top 2 teams in A advancing to the A finals, and the B1 and B2 group winners playing off in the B finals. The preliminary round saw the 4 teams with regular NCA competitors (Ron Langill and Peter Carter, 50 pts; Thunderstruck - Ray Beierling and Andrew Hutchinson, 49pts; High and Tight - Reid and Nolan Tracey, 47pts; and Hot Shots - Roy Campbell and Jeremy Tracey, 43 pts) advancing to the A group, along with a couple of the local contingent: (Doug’s Boys, 37 pts and Phickin Pucks, 36 pts). The B1 and B2 groups would be equally divided between the remaining 12 competitors, which included some impressive preliminary scores from: Bumper Bruisers, 30 pts; Jeff and Robert, 29 pts; and Kaila and Mike Martin and the Finger Puppet Mafia, each of which ended with 25 pts.
After a quick lunch, the teams reconvened in 3 groups. At the end of the 5 game round robin, B1 saw Bumper Bruisers (29 pts) narrowly edge out the Finger Puppet Mafia (27 pts) and handily surpass Net Flicks, who were chilling in 3rd with 18pts. In B2, Jeff and Robert retained their strong form with 33 pts, easily surpassing the closest rivals Kaila and Mike Martin (27 pts) and Just for Laughs (19 pts). In the end, Jeff McKeen (who recently made his NCA debut with a strong finish at the Golden Horseshoe Crokinole Championship) and Robert Nicol (who was participating in his first tournament ever) comfortably bumped off the Bumper Bruisers to claim the B Championship.
The A group saw 2 teams jump to early leads after the first 3 of 5 games. Campbell/Tracey scored 22 out of a possible 24 points. Not to be outdone, Beierling/Hutchinson earned all possible 24 points. At this point, it was clear that the 2 spots in the finals would come down to a 2-team race, the question would be who would earn first seed. The 2 favourites faced each other in the fourth game with Campbell/Tracey earning a 5-3 victory (and avenging a 6-2 loss in the preliminary round). When the round robin was complete, Campbell and Tracey earned the first seed with 35 points, Beierling and Hutchinson had 31 points to easily secure second place. Third and Fourth place belonged to the Tracey boys with 22 points and Peter and Ron with 18 points. Rounding out the A group were Doug’s Boys with 9 points and Phickin Pucks with 5 points.
Thus, after the preliminary round and the A group round robin, two teams were left standing. Roy Campbell and Jeremy Tracey, who were in their first Paddyfest finals (they had finished 2nd in 2017 to Jon Conrad and Andrew Hutchinson, when the champion was decided by a round robin, and had missed out on the finals in 2018 and 2019). Facing the perennial partners, were the interesting pairing of Ray Beierling and Andrew Hutchinson. Ray, of course, is well known as one half of the most successful doubles team, as he has always partnered with his brother Jason for the last 20+ years. However, due to a curling tournament, Jason was not able to make it. Ray was interested in playing in his first Paddyfest tournament, so was looking for a partner for the day. Andrew Hutchinson, on the other hand, has never had a consistent doubles partner; he has mostly played with Jon Conrad (with whom he partnered to win the 2017 and 2018 editions of Paddyfest, as well as the most recent ODCC tournament) but has also played with a couple of other top players in tournaments, namely Connor Reinmann (2018 ODCC) and Jeremy Tracey (2019 US Open Doubles). So Ray and Andrew joined forces in what appeared to be a promising partnership. And they lived up to that promise until they ran into the wrecking ball that was Campbell/Tracey in the finals.
The finals was set up as a first to 11 affair, and with top seed Campbell/Tracey had earned the right to first hammer which they used to gain a 2-0 lead. Three more wins saw them jump to a quick 8-0 lead. All of these rounds followed a similar pattern: Beierling/Hutchinson struggled with their open 20s, giving Campbell/Tracey an early lead to work with, which they defended with precise defensive leaves. Beierling/Hutchinson, in turn, were forced to take chances which either set their opponents up, or when successful, their adversaries simply answered back with an open 20 which Campbell/Tracey were strong on all game. Beierling/Hutchinson were starting to enter desperation territory as they began the 5th round without the hammer, and again they were first to miss an open 20 and were forced to fight back from behind. This time, however, they were able to crawl back into the round, and put the pressure on the leaders. Yet, Campbell and Tracey continued to hit open 20s, including Tracey’s hammer shot that clinched a tied round after each team hit 9 20s. Beierling/Hutchinson were down 9-1 but had finally managed a point. However, they were not able to build on the momentum of their strong 20 shooting the previous round, quickly finding themselves behind in the next round. It looked like Campbell/Tracey were going to win the round and the championship, until Campbell scored a 20 for the opponents on his last shot to turn the round in Beierling/Hutchinson’s favour, allowing them to pull to within a score of 9-3. And while Beierling/Hutchinson were hoping that would be the break they needed to surge to an epic comeback win, it ended up to be a mere hiccup for Campbell/Tracey, who proved to be like a cat playing with a mouse for sport before going in for the kill. Campbell/Tracey didn’t allow the previous round’s error to get to them, and continued their near flawless play, winning the deciding round handily to cement the championship game by an impressive 11-3 score.