By: Erik Hjorleifson
Greetings and Happy New Year from Markus Noé and I at Cue Sport Nation. 2017 eventful year on the Canadian pool scene lets take a look back at some of the highlights from 2017.
From east to west:
2017 marked the second year of the Atlantic 9 ball tour. The ten event tour takes place throughout the Maritimes and features non handicapped play staggered entry 9 ball. These tournaments drew an average of over 100 players! the brainchild of promoter TJ Martin who I will unofficially deem the savior of pool in the Maritimes. This tour has been a huge success and has filled a void in competitive pool out east. The most consistent winner on this tour was Chris Dempsey who also won the finale event. Tom Theriault was competitive winning a few events and names like Jeff Kennedy, Rick Leon and Gilles Leblanc were often seen at the high end of the placings. This year marked the first installment of the East Coast Canadian 9 ball championships promoter TJ Martin managed to pull off the biggest event possibly in Canadian history drawing 240 players. The $10 000 first prize was the highest first prize payout in Canada in over ten years. Mika Immonen ended up being the winner and John Morra runner up, the tournament drew names like Alex Pagulayan and Imran Majid. Rail birds pool room opened in Halifax this year and looks like it will be the center of competitive pool in the Maritimes.
Pool in Quebec is still alive and well, the Falcon Pro tour continued in its third year of operation and once again as has been the case for the past several years Dany Hewitt was the most consistent winner. Alain Martel, Francis Crevier, Martin Daigle, Joey Cicero and Dany Nguyen also had many strong finishes throughout the year. Quebec continues to operate their A, AA, AAA, Semi Pro and Pro divisions in which players are able to play in their own class or higher. Handicap tournaments are a rarity in Quebec and the overall system is something that any pool community should strive for. Notably Alain Martel has continued his junior program that has been integrated into the school system. He now has over 200 juniors enrolled in his programs, the sky seems to be the limit now for Martel as he has built the foundation to something monumental. Huge kudos goes out to him for exposing youth to our game. Youth is the future and it would be great to see more programs like this pop up nationwide. Marco Sanschagrin owner of Doolys in Quebec city continues to promote major tournaments including hosting the Canadian Championships and Archer Cup, his efforts do not go unnoticed.
The scene in Ontario continues to be plagued with handicap tournaments. There are plenty of tournaments and lots of people playing but the odd thing is that the lower handicap players are playing for more money than the open players. The one upside as I said is that there are a lot of people playing, there were probably 75 tournaments in Ontario that were $1000 first prize or more. Only about 15 of those tournaments were open to pros and I think the problem with that is self explanatory especially considering almost all of the tournaments are handicapped. On the bright side The Corner Bank continues to try and turn the tide hosting several good events throughout the year most notably the Vince McIntyre memorial won by Jason Klatt. John White and Jim Wych have been putting in a lot of hard work at the Corner Bank including building a 3000 square foot patio that will be open next summer. Every weekend there is a waiting list for tables and it is not uncommon to walk in the afternoon and see 15 tables going, the weekly tournaments draw over 30 players regularly. Don Broos fulfilled his dream of owning a pool room this year. Don and his team renovated Formac billiards in Burlington Ontario re naming it Shooterville , it has quickly become the place to be west of Toronto. Someone to watch out for in the future will be Waleed Hashem who has improved from a AAA player to a strong semi pro player this past year.
Saskatchewan and Manitoba
Manitoba is in a bit of a downswing from a time when I grew up there and there was 20 pool rooms in the city to now only four or five. Cornell McClean jr. is active in promoting tournaments at Sonix billiards running a few weekly tournaments and recently had a 64 player field out for a bigger event that Johhny Baptiste won. The best players in Manitoba are Shannon Ducharme, Felix Beardy, Berry McClean, Cornell McClean, Ryan Solleveld, Jeff Clare, Randy Bagot among many others. These players play a lot in Minnesota and North Dakota and do well.
Saskatchewan has been a little quiet believe it or not there is not one pool room in Regina. A city that has a CFL team but no pool room, seems like an opportunity to me.Jane Gordon and Roy Munns however have two tournament quality tables in one of their storage facilities. They have three tournaments a year that draw all the best players from Saskatchewan and a few from Alberta and Manitoba. These are the results from the 2017 tournaments
Alberta and B.C.
The Hidden Spot in Calgary continues to run many good size tournaments including the Ashton classic which is scheduled again this year in June. Stephen Holem from B.C. has been the most consistent winner out west including a third place finish in a tournament in Oregon that had many U.S. pros. He will definitely be someone to watch for in the future. There has been a push to promote Chinese 8 ball in B.C. and players such as Kevin Beskal, Paul Potier, Simon Pickering, Mike Vidas and Stephen Holem have gone to China to take a shot at the big prize money on offer.
On the international front John Morra took a five month hiatus. After a little break in which he gained some experience as a DJ, he is now back playing full time. He remains without a doubt Canada's strongest hope on the international stage and we will all be watching and cheering him on. Jason Klatt had a quarter final finish at the world pool series and continues to play in most major events. Martin Daigle traveled actively beating many big names such as Early Strickland, Tommy Kennedy and John Morra. Brittany Bryant had a third place finish at one of only two W.P.B.A events in 2017. Naomi Williams had 3 third place finishes on the N.A.P.T tour which looks to possibly one day replace the W.P.B.A tour. It is really unfortunate for these girls as women's professional pool is at a historic low point in North America.
That's all for this year, hopefully next year will bring bigger and better things!