Like the Robinson Screwdriver, it appears the board game of crokinole is something that is uniquely Canadian. If you are not familiar with the game, it is scored a lot like shuffleboard or curling except that it is played on a table top board using wooden discs that are shot using a flick of the thumb and forefinger. The game appears to have emerged in the German-Canadian community in Perth County in the 1880’s. And so it is in the Perth County Village of Tavistock that the 15th Annual World Crokinole Championships have just concluded.
It was truly an international tournament this year with registration of up to 296 participants. Players travelled by land and air to play with the best. Hamilton was well represented. Nine-year-old Abijah Jong walked away with the junior singles honours and a $100 prize. His dad Reuben told the Bay Observer from his Ancaster home that he came from a large family of home-schooled siblings who didn’t have the distraction of cable TV so they played a lot of board games — one of which was crokinole. “I got pretty good at it he said, at one time there was nobody who could beat me.” Reuben’s wife is from Stratford, just a few miles from Tavistock, so she knew the board game as well.
Rueben says young Abijah saw the grown-ups playing and now all 5 of the Jong kids have taken up the game. Also from Hamilton, Darryl MacDonald, formerly of Vernon River, P.E.I., but now running an internet company in Hamilton, placed 39th overall. Eight people attended from Columbiana, Ohio; others from Lewiston, New York; Stamford, Connecticut; Utica, Michigan; a father and son from Regina, Saskatchewan; and a dozen enthusiasts from Prince Edward Island. David Younker of Kingston, P.E.I. said he has bringing fellow island players to the tournament since 2002. “I enjoy the camradarie,” he said. “People here treat us so well,” he added. “It’s a chance to play with the best in the world.” Back in P.E.I. the group meets every other Thursday evening in the community hall for crokinole and socializing. Out of 86 players in the singles category this year, P.E.I. player Ewen McPhail ranked 20th and Lawson Lea, 25th. Demian Johnston and his son, Kieran, 10, from Stamford, Connecticut were first time attendees and were really excited to be playing in the world championship.
Demian said it was a “challenge” trying to explain the game of crokinole to his co-workers who have never ever heard of anything like crokinole. The overall champ was John Conrad who successfully defended his 2012 World Crokinole Championship title Saturday. “Because of the humidity it was tough all day,” he said of the playing conditions at the competition held in the Tavistock and District Recreation Centre. “You had to learn to adapt, but the boards were all good,” he admitted. He walked away with the 2013 adult singles championship and $1,000 cash. Chemical engineer Wilf Olson drove from 2300 km.Regina to attend the tournament. Wilf placed 10th in the preliminary round of singles play.
He and his two sons play regularly on boards that have been in the family for years. “My grandfather played, and my dad makes really nice boards,” he said. They had been planning on coming to the Tavistock championship for the past few years. They also made up their own t-shirts (they had to get 25 made and sold them to friends and co-workers) with the label “crokin-olsons”. Denis Grignon, a freelance reporter, played with his two boys, Yannick and Noah. He said he really wants to understand more about the culture of the game, as he is researching for a story on the most popular parlour game in Canada. It will be aired on CBC radio during Canada Day weekend. He recently published a story about the game in the Toronto Star. For more information go to: www.worldcrokinole.com.