CanAm weekend has a reputation for excellent rackets and a busy off-court calendar, with this year being no exception. Festivities began Wednesday night at the home of Nick and Veronica Kaulbach who generously provided weary travellers and locals alike a place to congregate and share stories.
The Thursday night stag highlighted the best of what the rackets community has to offer. Camaraderie was on full display, with 95 friends old and new congregating in the storied dining room to enjoy delicious lamb chops and stories aplenty. Giving James Coyne a break after his many years of service to the cause, David Dundas spoke for the Mjolnirs and acquitted himself particularly well. In keeping with tradition, Boston’s Lucas Walsh and Philadelphia’s Lou “The Fork” Habina provided some of the heartiest laughs of the evening. The well lubricated crowd then turned to games of chance, where Ron Kaulbach’s Cheshire Cat grin at the poker table told the entire story. There is an old saying in poker: “If you’re sitting at the table with Ronnie, get out, because you’re the sucker!”
Friday night’s dinner dance was a raucous affair, with Steven Chamandy leading the efforts to ensure that the fairer sex was well represented. As the crowd was treated to some great food, music and rackets, one moment in particular stood out. Several of the boys taught some intrigued damsels how to swing a racket, leading to quite the exhibition match. Tommy Shields in particular seemed more concentrated on his playing partners than the game, as remarked by several observers from the marker’s box. Courageous (crazy?) MRC member Deep Khosla hosted the after-hours revelry at his beautiful condominium in Old Montreal, and was unofficially declared Hero of the Weekend.
Despite the efforts expended on and off the court, energy was amazing at an all-time high on Saturday for the Steak & Magnum Stag, no doubt thanks to the excellent semifinal matches played just before dinner. This year, the Saturday stag was renamed the Fellows Roast Bryce Night in honour of MRC legend Bryce Maher’s retirement after 27 years of service. With close to 120 in attendance to fete his contributions to the club and to the game, including 13 Past Presidents and 7 fellows, the evening’s MC Andrew Pepper introduced the head table where Bryce was proudly seated at the head. The ol’ Barkeep was all smiles throughout the evening, trading barbs with the fellows and doing his best to keep emotions in check as he received tributes and gifts from all corners of the rackets world. Standing ovations and chants of “FOUR MORE YEARS!” were a constant throughout the evening. Many thanks to the MRC Past Presidents and fellows for their contributions to a truly special night that will be remembered by all.
The Roast was not the only occasion for the past fellows to shine. Original MRC fellow Nick “The Mole” James and Toni Morales in particular stood out throughout the tournament, with Mole making it to both the singles and doubles finals for the weekend, and Toni showing off his effortless style, even when carrying partner Rory Sutton (no small feat!) to the semifinals. It was good to see so many of these young lads back in the club, reaffirming the roaring success of the NARA fellowship program.
Bleary-eyed onlookers were rewarded for getting out of bed on Sunday morning with the singles final being played between Mole and James Coyne. With great rackets on display and Coyne holding a 2-1 game lead in the best of 5 match, Mole unfortunately had to withdraw due to injury, and Coynie lifted the vaunted trophy once again, solidifying his legacy as one of the great CanAm competitors. Scores were 5-15, 15-5, 15-7 in favour of Coyne.
No doubt thanks to the restorative powers of Chef Phil Chang’s eggs benedict, Mole impressively mustered the ability to return to play, supporting his partner Paddy Sutton against the two-time reigning CanAm doubles champions Jonathan Larken and Mike McLernon. Mole’s valiant effort and Paddy’s timely winners tested the champs, but as has been the case all too often in this tournament the pair was simply unbeatable. Mike hit some great volleys and Jonathan was… well… Jonathan, as the duo completed their three-peat 15-11, 15-12, 7-15, 15-7.
Special thanks go out to tireless Tournament Director Andrew de Courcy Ireland, MRC professional Dan Fisher, and MRC fellow Ollie “George” Car-Hill for their outstanding work in putting together a great draw and running a fantastic tournament. MRC food and wine gurus JF Sauve and Ben Hamel kept us well fed and hydrated throughout and are also deserving of commendation. Finally, Robert, Gabby, and the rest of the MRC staff merit hearty congratulations as they ensured no cup was left empty and provided their trademark hospitality.
Tournament videos and complete draws including results can be found by clicking here.
— Written by Charles Vennat