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Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Chris Sobkowicz takes time to reflect - NOT playing at Nationals

Story by Chris Daw
Edited by George Karrys - The Curling News

Chris Sobkowicz
In a time when the growth of our sport is at the forefront, we have confirmed news that defending national champion skip, Chris Sobkowicz of Manitoba will be taking the rest of this year off to reflect on his curling future. This certainly sounds ominious.

Since Chris’s release from the national program as alternate for Team Canada it was speculated as to how this may or may not affect his other curling endeavors. It was confirmed this morning, from Chris’s long time third Dennis Thiessen, that Chris will be taking some time to reflect and re-energize.

Dennis stated that “Chris will not be joining us at nationals this year… Chris and I are good friends and this has nothing to do with us. We are not fighting or anything like that. He just needs some time to reflect…”

As we look at the future of wheelchair curling in Canada, we have to expect that individuals will, on occasion, need time to evaluate and reflect on what has been their passion for so many years. We can only wonder if – much like Russ Howard did when he provoked issues surrounding logo cresting on his Brier uniform jacket – this is a type of silent protest that may or may not erupt into something more public, such as when Ed “The Wrench” Werenich aired his views on CCA decision-making.

Wheelchair curling is developing in a near-perfect matching parallel to AB curling, including the outcomes which often occur to players as they come and go from the Team Canada process. As we’ve noted, we see a current pattern where wheelchair curlers have grouped themselves into cliques of friends, and often don’t change it up to keep things fresh. We have seen this across the country, and it’s often driven by the lack of wheelchair curlers in a town or province.

However small the amount of Chris’ time off might actually become, this may be just what Team Manitoba needs to develop their other players to a higher level. Mixing up the who and what with regard to position can make a world of difference. We’ve seen this in the AB game, so why not in the wheelchair game? We’ve seen Wayne Middaugh reinvent himself a number of times over the last few years and in several different roles along the away. A natural skip, Middaugh has played everything from lead to third in his reinvention – even alternate (for Glenn Howard at Olympic trials).

As stated in other articles on this blog, some of Canada’s best wheelchair curling talents are sitting idle at present, based on either this clique factor or a wariness (perhaps fear?) mentality that change is “bad.”  We MUST adjust our thinking for the betterment of development in our sport. Look past the past, and into the future of what we are fighting – and curling – for. We often hear that most wheelchair curlers want the winner of nationals to be the Canadian representative at worlds or Paralympics, but folks seem unwilling to tap the experience that is available to them to grow to that level. Why are players like Jim Armstrong and others sitting idle? Why are Neighbour and Gaudet, even Austgarden, all playing together when their individual talents and experience could be utilized to grow several teams, and increase the level of play in the overall talent pool?

Grow your area, and grow change in your way of thinking. National and even provincial championships are something every team is looking to compete in but how do you get there if you do the same thing with the same people every time you try? The old adage “If you want something you have never had before, you have to be willing to do something you have never done before in order to get it” should be at the heart of every wheelchair curler in Canada. These events are not merely some nice token of your hard work; they are the outcome of the pride you have in that work.

The CCA has begun to recognize the need for talent development in new players and this can only be done though access to assets. The experiences of players who have been there and done that; the fact that Chris Sobkowicz is taking time to reflect on his dedication to the national program can only assist in his future development as one of Canada’s top players.

Look for Chris to return, and possibly like Wayne Middaugh – stronger than ever.


Anonymous said...

Chris taking re-evaluating in the middle of the season?

Sounds odd.....virtually every player that looks at reassessment does so AFTER the season...or at least AFTER playoffs.

And regarding Team Canada...I agree....they, as part of their obligation to the program, should all pick up a team at the provincial level to develop.

You would not see a province like B.C. with a two team final.

Eric Eales said...

It must be for Chris to comment (or not) on why he chose to quit the season ahead of Nationals.

What we do do is that he showed a lot of enterprise this year, getting a sponsor and coach to work with a squad that traveled as far as any team in Canada this year, competing across the country.

The Manitoba team was expected to be chosen from the sponsored squad, so it struck me as odd that Curl Manitoba issued a general appeal for team entries to a Manitoba Provincial Championship. Curl Manitoba had reportedly not been thrilled in 2011 that Chris' team qualified for the Nationals by default.

Manitoba's team under Chris have not been known as a happy unit, or pleasant to play against. As I have mentioned before, if ever there was a team that wanted to win too badly, it was Manitoba.

Chris has dedicated himself to achieving a place on Team Canada, made the team at the 2009 Worlds before being displaced by Sonja Gaudet midway. He then lost his 5th place to Bruno Yizek, and now looks likely, after June, to lose his carding to Jack Smart.

It's slipping away, and the decision Chris has to make, considering he does not have the paths open to him that a Maiddaugh does in terms of playing at the highest level and competing once again for his country, is whether plugging along and skipping a Provincial team is enough reward for the effort and energy he put into it this year.

S. Matwichuk said...

Would have to agree with Eric. Poor sportsmanship at the 2010 Nationals against Saskatchewan and personal issues with Team Canada members seem to be the order of the day with Chris.

It also looks, if I recall the articles on Eric's site last year, that both Chris and Dennis did everything in their power to make sure there weren't any challengers against them for a provincial play down. Seems like they've been successful again this year. Also, how can there be an objective selection in that province, if that is the direction Manitoba is going to, if someone has to join Dennis' private program in order to be chosen on to a selection team. A bit of a conflict of interest I would say. So much for helping to develop the sport.

I guess the question is what is the Manitoba Curling Association going to do to correct the problem in their province if anything. The same can probably be said about some of the other curling associations but Manitoba seems to be the most glaring these days.

Too many old boys clubs in this sport controlling things right now from my viewpoint.

Good riddance I say.

Anonymous said...

While issues within Team Manitoba are virtually legend, I have not heard of any issues with team Canada.

Anonymous said...

Team Canada with no issues....what a joke!

They just hide them way better now then before. Wedny Morgan and Joe Rea are tigh lipped on all issues and run the media like an iron fist. They have to in order to protect Jim.

There are way more issues on Team Canada then anyone knows. Ask Chris S., or Sonja, or Jim or....

Get the picture yet!

There have always been issues, people our just in other peoples back pockets now. Ask your self this...

With Gerry Austgarden coming out of the wood work, how long do you honestly think the Joe Rea buddy will be before he is back on team CANADA

Well, ask yourself? Make note, I said it first!

Anonymous said...


The game has passed Austgarden's ability now....he was simply a filler for Darryl.....

If everyone is in everyone else's back pocket, other teams should get the formula, since it certainly is working...

Anonymous said...

Please...I guess the next thing you are going to say is the game has passed Chris Daw's abaility. That is why he is coaching and playing competive with men's teams.

I saw Chris play against the Korea team when they were here and he never looked better! Gerry may be a filler but this "Team Canada " full of "friend of the program"

Look at the link between long time friend Armstrong, Rea and Peckham.

Open your eyes, hwo doe you think those guys even got involved?

Chris you have the answer and I know you do, come clean once and for all, you have nothing to lose and now you have this media outlet USE IT!

Anonymous said...

I think this thread is getting a little off topic.

Chris, can you start a thread on "Why I hate CCA"? That should crash the servers. LOL

Anonymous said...

Well, I would suggest that Chris Daw is NOT completely competitive right now....how can he be? He is not "game ready" at all.

Now, as has been discussed, give him a season under Jim, and then what do we have? And, these two seem to get along, having voluntarily played together last season, albeit, not successfully.

Cannot see it happen, though with he present coaching....too many skeletons.

Anonymous said...

Are you kidding me. Like I said, saw him play Korea, Won! Plays AB Men's competive WINS! All the time.

Let's ask him if he is game ready!

Oh yay, no one gives him a chance to show them.

You take about skeletons, ask Jim the meaning of that. Give me a break Chris nenver did anything like that. Like stated before, other countries have ask him to coach, he has. the only people who have problems with Chris is JOE Rea! Ask Jim what Chris is like?

People need to give him a chance again to see what he can or can not do but NO one one will.

Like more and more players in theis country, piss off the CCA, piss off Joe Rea and you get shoed out of the program, labelled and never allowed to play again.

You see it with all the top FORMER palyers, Chris Daw, Gary Cormack, Gerry Austrgarden. even Whitney Warren former Joe Rea buddy, spoke out against him and BOOM! He was cast to the way side.

He maybe Chris is not the problem, he has just got labelled to protect the real problem. And Yes, there is a big problem when someone like Jim is allowed to play with NO suspendion or anything after what he did.

Ask your self this....What exactly did Chris do? Does anyone know?

Chris tell us if you have the guts to even publish this comment!

Anonymous said...

The point made by the last commentor is a valid one. Why does no one give you a chance Chris?

And even more so, why does everyone who has ever spoken out against Joe or Wendy or the CCA in wheelchair curling get shown the door. It is a long list taht now includes Chris Sob.

How did Joe get his job in the first place? CCA friend of who?

Also, interested in knowing, were the ever present voice of Bruce Cameron is these days? Did he get a warning or his he now a friend of the program?

Doug Morris said...

Bruce, like myself, has probably decided not to get involved in the back and forth dualing between people who hide behind the name "Anonymous."

One of the best things Eric Eales ever did was to no longer allow anonymous posts. It instantly got rid of this kind of garbage. I hope Chris decides to follow suit someday.

If you don't have the intestinal fortitude to sign your name to your post, then it means nothing and doesn't deserve any consideration.

My two cents,

Doug Morris

Wheelchair Blog 2 said...


I agree that I would like to see person whom make comments which are suggestive or attacking in nature. One of the things which should be allowed is person to express them selves. It is the nature of this type of media outlet, so although I agree that it would be nice to see people be braver and sign names. At this point in time it is the opportuntiy for an express of point I will support.

BE taht said; I remind people to be aware that foul lanaguage in comments will no longer be published and the attacks need to be toned down or I will need to need to change policy as Doug as suggested.

Bruce Cameron said...

I received no warning and I am certainly NOT a friend of the program. It just got a little tiresome getting personally insulted by all the "left coasters" because I did not support the fact that a convicted criminal should be allowed to participate in the program. There is a somewhat similar situation going on in another country and I was informed that person would not be allowed to participate in their program so why ours? I had a nice chat with Chris at the 2011 Cathy Kerr and it is easy to understand his current situation. In the lead up to 2010, Team Canada took some of their pool player to a spiel in Utica. We played them and won. Joe did not even so much as say ....good game, well done or anything. Team Canada had made a verbal agreement to attend the Cathy Kerr and then we see on the blog that they were going to Prague on those date.....never the decency to let us know we had to go to them for confirmation. They have the right to attend any spiel they want but wouldn't you think that the professional way to handle that would have been to let us know before we find out via a public forum. There are two examples of the people who are making the decisions for the program. We at the Capital Wheelchair Curling Club are working our butts off to expand our base of curlers. We currently have 35 members. Tomorrow (Saturday 11 Feb) we will be freezing our butts off as we spend the day on the Rideau Canal during Winterlude showcasing the sport of wheelchair curling to the public. This morning I was on the local CTV2 channel promoting wheelchair curling and Saturdays event. All that said I am sure there is some anonymous "left coaster" who will choose to hurl crap at me but I have news for them ...I have a pointed head and sloped shoulders and the crap just rolls off....