For many people—cottagers included—the game of crokinole is a great way to pass time, socialize, and master the art of the finger flick. Invented in Ontario by Eckhardt Wettlaufer in 1876, this game is a time-honoured classic at many Canadian cottages.
The National Crokinole Association hosted the Frosty Flick tournament last February in Chatham, Ontario. We chatted with tournament organizer Terry Johnson and winner 46-year-old Ray Beierling of Dorchester, Ontario to learn a little about their love of the game.
Q: How did you discover Crokinole?
Terry: I’ve lived in Canada for about 20 years now, but I only discovered crokinole and took it up last year. It’s easy to learn the rules, but harder to master technique and strategy, and can be played by everyone. It’ll be a while, if ever, before I get good enough to take the game really seriously, so I play for fun, and participating in tournaments as a recreational player is also an opportunity to meet interesting people from all walks of life.
Q: Congratulations on your tournament win, Ray. How long have you been playing crokinole?
Ray: I’ve been playing for over 40 years. Our neighbour watched us (my sister and I) before and after school sometimes and she taught us how to play. I just never quit playing.
Q: What types of games did you get involved in when you were younger?
Ray: We played at the babysitter’s and then at home a little bit with family. When we were kids there was a tournament at the Goderich Museum every year during March Break. We entered that and did quite well in our age group and from there, we just kept on flicking.
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Q: What’s your favourite element of the game?
Ray: The game requires dexterity, skill, strategy, vision and finesse. All of these elements make the game great. I’m not a fan of games of chance. I really enjoy that the game can be played at any level and the people in the crokinole community are all amazing individuals.
Q: How long did it take perfect or become competitively good at it?
Ray: If I told you I’ve “perfected” the game, I would be lying. It literally takes minutes to learn and a lifetime to master. Every now and then, I can hold my own.
Q: Do you play with a strategy in mind?
Ray: Generally there are two strategies deployed in crokinole: offensive (aggressive) or defensive (passive). I feel to be a top player, you need to work on both and know when to utilize each one. It’s not flashy or exciting to play a defensive style, but I think it’s equally important to develop this strategy. On a side note, scoring open 20s consistently is very important and limiting your own mistakes will help you immensely.
Q: Is there a proper technique to do to avoid getting a bruised finger?
Ray: Since tournament boards are very smooth and fast, it takes very little force to strike the disc. Also, for more control and accuracy, it’s more of a pushing motion than a striking motion. If you are hurting your finger shooting, you’re shooting way too hard.
Q: Terry, why did you want to host a national tournament?
Terry: We were first asked to host a local event at Turns and Tales during “Crowfest” in October, which is Chatham’s fall festival. Everyone who came to that event had a lot of fun, so we reached out to the National Crokinole Association about hosting an event on their official tour, and we’re delighted that they agreed.
Q: Do you think the game will continue to grow in your community?
Terry: We were approached by several people at the tournament asking if we would consider staring a regular crokinole group in Chatham, and that’s exactly the kind of thing that Turns and Tales is for, we’re giving it go.
Q: Ray, how many people did you compete against in the recent tournament?
Ray: In this tournament there were 21 players registered in the Competitive Division.
Q: How long does an average game last?
Ray: In tournament play, singles games are played within eight minutes. Finals games are not timed and require more points to win, so they take longer.
Q: Do you practice?
Ray: When I was younger, I practiced regularly before events—maybe half an hour at a time, usually two or three times a week. Most of my practice these days is club play and the odd informal night with friends. Usually the qualifying rounds in tournaments act as a warm up or practice for me. However, the competition is much deeper than it used to be, so the margin for error, even in qualifying sessions, is less all the time. The best practice I get now is once or twice a year sitting down with my brother and playing the evening away.
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Q: What was the winning score of your final game?
Ray: The final score was 10-6 however, the play was closer than the score would suggest.
Q: Thoughts on winning the tournament?
Ray: I feel very fortunate to have won this tournament. The competition is stronger and deeper than ever. I was able to sneak into the playoff round and limit my mistakes in the finals. I had just enough to edge out the win… this time.
Q: How can people start playing, or get more involved?
Terry: If you’re interested in playing crokinole, check out www.nationalcrokinoleassociation.com. There are several clubs throughout Southwestern Ontario and other parts of the world that welcome players all the time. The London Club, which I play in, is very inclusive and casual. There is about a 50/50 split of male/female players and ages ranging from 12 to 80 and up. As mentioned previously, you can learn to play in minutes.
Q: Any additional comments to share?
Ray: Just a thanks to Turns and Tales Board Game Cafe in Chatham for hosting a great crokinole event. It was amazing to see so many cameras and media coverage there. Traditional and social media is really helping the game rise in popularity again. Thanks to all those involved in these efforts.
The next event on the National Crokinole Association Tour is in London Ontario on Saturday, March 25, 2023. Check out their site for the full tour dates.
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