Thursday, October 25, 2012


Boasters League round 4~~

Thwock!” There goes number 3. Kung Fu Panda belts his third home run against the Tigers in as many at-bats to lead the Giants charge as they hammer Verlander and his kitty-cat compatriots. I bet many of you wished you weren’t watching that, but instead did make the trip to the DAC to play your boasters league match. I wish I didn’t see it either.

Not too many matches have been played over the past 2 weeks compared to the first two, but when the Tigers are playing on the same night, I can hardly blame any of you. In fact, if a game 6 is required it is scheduled for next Wednesday – Halloween night – and more importantly, boasters league round 5. This is where your personal motivation and scheduling genius comes into play as you all take a lead role in organizing your make up matches… is that wishful thinking?

Round 4 gave a boost to the “Butter Nutz”. A nice 10 point lead on top of the standings, it was helped by playing 7 round 3 matches over the week. They played the “Wardogs” last night who actually took them to town, a bit like Pablo Sandoval did to JV, by winning 5 of the 7 matches they have played so far. The “Wardogs” now find themselves wedged in second place, knocking the stagnant “Winky-Dinks” into third. That may not last long, as “Wardogs” have the round 5 bye.

Andy Petcoff
A few tight results yesterday to be mentioned: David Gardiner (“Destiny”) picked up his first win of the season 2-1 over Renee McDuffee (“Mongoose”); David Devine (“WallEED”) fresh off his trip to Germany and no doubt plenty of Hefeweizen beat James Van Dyke (“Mercedes”) 2-1 who is fresh off his injury and trying to fit into his squash shirt again; and Andy Petcoff (WallEED) continued his 2-1 win streak (his 4th in a row) taking down Tom MacEachern (“Mercedes”) and handing him his first loss of the season. 

So hop to it! Plenty of matches to be played and no excuses not to get them done. The standings may appear to be spread out, but every team has opportunities to catch up. Just like the Tigers – it’s only one game. I’ll be watching Fister as he makes those Giants feel like Lilliputians, and Cabrera pop a couple balls into the bay. How about you also start chasing down those “Butter Nutz”!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012


PST Cleveland Open Oct 19-21

So here I was, excited to play another pro squash event, which at my age are fewer and further between so I cherish them more, secretly hoping that Joe McManus will be friendlier with my draw than he was last year when he threw me to the lions to play David Palmer, only to be nailed to the cross this time when I saw my opponent would be Stephane Galifi.

Don’t get me wrong – I very much enjoyed the butchering I received. Stephane was the perfect Italian gentleman, carving me up with deft volley drops and boasts, (seemingly) physically impossible retrievals with stretches that extended into next week, lengthening the rallies well beyond my fitness levels that at certain points I just couldn’t lift my racquet up enough to take a normally comfortable volley, testing the limits of my lung capacity and the strength of my rib cage keeping my heart inside of my body… In fact, he was so much of a gentleman he allowed me to win the third game just to torture me a little longer in the fourth. I was happy with my 3-1 loss.

Thierry Lincou and David Palmer supporting
World Squash Day in Cleveland

The quality of squash for these major PST events has risen considerably. I am not just talking about Stephane. Even after upsetting the pundits and getting past me in his first match – he still didn’t manage to win the tournament. He came fourth. In fact, if you remember who played in the event at the DAC we had in May, none of those guys won the event either. Newcomer Thierry Lincou did. Lincou beat David Palmer in the semi final 3-1, then Wael El Hindi in the final 3-2. Quality squash at its finest. For the record, Stephane lost the third / fourth play-off to David Palmer in 5 games.

Even the first round ‘qualifying’ matches were top notch. Youngster Alex Grayson from New Zealand had a groaner against Joe Russell from England winning 11-8 in the fifth. Amazing game, very cleanly played. Alex is remarkably quick and Joe is very steady as all Englishman are prone to be. Missing from the draw was Irishman John Rooney, who had to withdraw due to work commitments as he recently just started a coaching job in Buffalo. He should, however, be able to play more events as the season progresses and is of a very high standard with every chance of making the final 8 here at the DAC.

But as with every event, nothing runs perfectly smoothly, and Joe McManus had his fair share of hiccups over the weekend. None more embarrassing than the live webcast – “Pro Squash TV”. It was a ‘soft’ launch, so not too much advertising was put into it. The first round matches on Friday (including mine) were supposed to be broadcast live but there was an issue with the connection and a solution could not be found in time. All was deciphered by Saturday morning, but that didn’t help my poor mother in Australia who got up especially early to watch me play. Many of you who tried to log on to watch would have been wondering why it wasn’t working and you may have been blaming your device – be assured the glitch lay on the other end.

The referee also gave Joe a major headache. Simply from his absence. On short notice the head referee bailed on the weekend leaving a void to fill. The players came to the rescue, but it was the last resolution Joe was hoping for. He is an advocate that the players should not be refereeing their peers – even though they do sit in as line judges. A position I agree with. And it was a situation that was taken advantage of by a couple of the players. A new rule this season is that players are no allowed to argue any call. They can challenge it, but once the decision is final, that’s it, move on. Any arguing should result in a warning, or penalty point, and so on. However, it is awfully difficult and awkward for a fellow player to start issuing warnings and conduct points against their peers. I am not suggesting that the behavior was out of control – it was not. But there was the very odd ‘discussion’ and ‘pleading’ with the referee that under the rules should have dealt with immediately and harshly. They weren’t, and as soon as that precedent and understanding is set, it can open the flood gates. Luckily it was kept under control, but the new rule was basically ignored.

Which brings me to the interference calls themselves. The ‘no let’ rule is constantly a topic of conversation with Joe and the players and finding ways to improve it. Everybody agrees with the concept. Play must be continuous, ‘lets’ must be kept to a minimum. Eliminate fishing, eliminate playing the man instead of the ball, eliminate blocking, and punish the offenders. But squash is not black and white. Situations arise that – to me – are impossible to discern who is at fault. Feet can get tangled up, both players are making every effort to maneuver around themselves but still end up crashing into each other. Safety is also a concern. Stephane bought up a valid point during dinner on Saturday. He mentioned that sometimes players are forced to play a ball off balance – they would not get a ‘stroke’ if they asked for a one – and playing a ball out of position may cause injury by placing extra pressure, for example, on a knee.

Joe is nothing if not attentive. He listens. The decisions implemented in PST are based on player feedback and safety is definitely an important topic for him. It is also the reason he continues to fine-tune the rules. The problem as I see it is that in order for there to be no wiggle room when making decisions, the verbiage has to be able to define absolutely the situation. If ‘a’ occurs, then ‘b’ is the call. However, I am not sure you can define it – there are infinite amount of interference possibilities out there which are open to interpretation. It seems that in every match, something new and interesting pops up. But maybe Joe can find some way to narrow the discrepancies. He may not be able to cover all the bases, but nearly all of them. Either way, be assured that he knows the rule isn’t perfect and he is constantly trying to develop it.

That being said, I didn’t think many of the calls that were made this weekend were incorrect. A few were overturned by the line judges (as they should have been), and by and large controversies were nominal. Most importantly, I didn’t hear of any complaints from the spectators.
Stephane Galifi (lower right) enjoying his time with
kids from the Cleveland urban squash program

Last topic - eye-guards. Safety. I get it – and frankly, I don’t have much trouble wearing them since I am used to it. Unfortunately, many of the other players are not. Especially newcomers Monsieur’s Lincou and Galifi. Fresh of PSA, they probably don’t even own a pair of goggles. Once they get accustomed this won’t be so bad, but over the weekend a lot of time was spent by the players constantly cleaning and drying the lenses. It turned into a good excuse to get a rest. Understand that they play at a slightly higher pace than club level – the lunging, twisting, turning, in some cases diving – and the sweat flies everywhere. And the longer the matches took, the more often ‘lens-cleaning’ was required. I’m 50/50 on this subject. On one hand, I don’t think pros should have to wear them for the reason explained above and just because they are pros and know how to play. On the other hand, it’s an image and role-model for the club members and kids. As I have stated many times, PST is for the fans. In the USA, most clubs require eye-guards, PST respects and supports that safety rule. My advice to the players – wear a headband, and have a dry one or two spare to change during a match. The rule is here to stay.

Overall, Cleveland Open was a great success. Squash pro Ray Lindsay did a fantastic job, the fans had nothing but superlatives to describe the weekend, the squash was supreme, and Joe can breathe a huge sigh of relief, relax, and be very pleased at the result. Hurdles will come up – and they were met and dealt with quickly – and by the time the DAC tournament comes around hopefully all of those kinks will be in the past and we will be able to enjoy an even bigger and better event than our first.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012


Practice, practice, practice. It’s almost a dirty word. And the thing that makes it even uglier is individual practice. How many of you can honestly say that you practice solo? It would be a very low percentage, even though it is one of the most important and valuable things you can do to develop your game. Pros hit by themselves all the time. Always looking at improving their control, timing, accuracy, and general ‘feel’.

Hashim hammers this point home and cannot recommend it enough. By hitting alone you can work on many different aspects of your technique: footwork, racquet-up, correct distance, wrist cocked, or whatever you need to concentrate on. As you know, I give many lessons at the DAC. In order to get the best value out of the lessons, practicing what I preach is imperative. Your game will advance a lot faster and you will be able to implement what you have learned into your matches sooner.

These are the final pages I have for the “Hashim Files”. I hope they have been as interesting and as informative for you as they have been for me. It’s been a pleasure to be able to share some rare squash history from a (still living) legend of the sport, a person considered to probably be the best striker of a squash ball ever.

To see all the blog articles on Hashim, go to: Hashim Khan

Monday, October 15, 2012


Blitz Tournament – October 12

The Blitz Tournament is an interesting event. With the handicapping system, many of the games come down to a sudden death rally. Typically in such situations, the higher standard player has the advantage, and the results proved that theory 100%.  Of the 7 sudden death points played during the event, the stronger player won all of them. But I will say, none of those points came easy, or without making that player sweat. It is great to see the underdog step up to the plate and raise their game. 

Derek Aguirre and his nemesis Tom MacEachern

There is an element of dumb luck thrown in as well and we had 2 victims fall to that ingredient. In the first group, 3 players ended up with 2 wins each, but since only two of them can advance to the knock-out round, they had to draw straws. The reason I do that is so each player has an equal chance of advancing – or being eliminated. Poor Dane Fossee drew the short straw and hit the keg early. The other casualty was Derek Aguirre. In his group of 5 players, three of them ended up with 3 wins. Derek would have swept the table but had a narrow loss to Tom MacEachern. Tom started off with an 11 handicap and cleaned up Derek in 6 rallies taking the game 15-2. Guess the handicap was wrong, huh Derek? To make matters worse, Derek also drew the short straw and found himself on the outside looking in. That didn’t stop him from jumping on court at every opportunity. But we all thank him for keeping the ball warm between games.

The two winners from the other two groups were more clear cut. Anil Kathuria and Elliot Shafer both went through undefeated in their respective boxes. Anil survived one sudden death rally against Andy Combs; Elliot won both his games 21-19.

In the knock-out stage, we had 2 previous winners of the Blitz Tournament present. Mike Counsman – who won it back in 2007 – was up against Andrew Spohn. Andrew took a 10 point head start into the match and fended off the hard hitting Mike just long enough for a 15-9 victory. The other winner was Josh Slominski (October 2011). Josh had to tackle the improving – but unpredictable – Elliot Shafer. It was probably the more difficult handicap to award, since Elliot can play great squash but is also capable of patches where he completely loses his mojo. Actually, the same can be said for Josh… After considerable thought, where I contemplated no handicap at all, I gave Elliot three. Round of applause for Mick… thank you… the game ended up 15-14 in one of the best matches of the evening. The becoming famous “Slominski Fist Pump” indicated the winner.

Andrew Spohn’s semi final opponent was Tom MacEachern. A newcomer to the DAC squash family, Tom started off with 6 points head start and squeaked out the 15-13 win to earn himself a spot in the final. Meeting him there was Josh. He handled Anil Kathuria in the other semi final, also 15-13 and another fist pump, with Anil having a 6 point handicap.
Josh Slominski and Tom MacEachern

Tom and Josh had already played each other in the group round. In that match, Tom started off with 9 points which turned out to be just right as Josh won that game 15-14. So, I gave Tom 9 points again. However, maybe it was due to fitness, or momentum, or that inspirational and motivational fist pump, but this time around Tom could not keep pace. Josh was on a roll. He only gave up 2 rallies on his way to a 15-11 victory for his second Blitz Tournament title – the first person to do so. In the third / fourth play-off, Andrew beat Anil 15-8.

Thank you to all who competed. The couple hours of your time was excellently spent. Stay tuned for the next event which will be the Holiday Tournament on December 7. In the meantime, keep hitting, and to Dane and Derek, practice your straw drawing.
(Most of) The Blitz Gang!

Thursday, October 11, 2012


Boasters League round 2 ~~

To say the least – I’m pleased. When the courts are full, the keg is getting pillaged, bonus p(o)ints are being collected and matches are being done, there isn’t much else to say. Even a quick impromptu free-style rap from beloved Britt-Marie as she’s waving her glass of wine around in my office - trying to make me blush - was another cherry on the successful week two of boasters league.

Just like in week one, it was “Winky-Dinks” and “Butter Nutz” leading the way. “Winky-Dinks” picked an impressive 12 of 13 bonus points, giving them 22 for the season so far, 5 better than the next best team which is… you guessed it – “Butter Nutz”. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again – funny how that always seems to work out.

Ben Stone, Chris Moyer,
and Brittany Paquette

Almost keeping pace are the “Wardogs” and “Foss-ters” as they completed 9 of 13 matches but still somehow managed to fall just a little further back from the front runners. (Less bonus points maybe?) And in completely foreign territory, Patrick Petz’ team “Mercedes” (named after the fine German automobile - right, Pat?) are bringing up the rear in last place. But let’s be fair, they did have the bye in round one and are forced to play catch-up. In fact, I believe Rich Stimson’s team “Vivio’s” are on shaky ground as they are only 4 points ahead of “Mercedes” and have the bye in round 3. They better start making up matches – after only playing 5 yesterday.

Plenty of close results yesterday, none closer than Ted Morris’ (“Wardogs”) 15-14 in the 3rd over Bert Donovan (“Foss-ters”). Incredibly it was Ted’s second week in a row he has snatched victory 15-14 in the final game. Andrew Tignanelli (“Butter Nutz”) clinched a 2-1 win over Jim Kelly (“WallEED”), and Greg Baker (“Winky-Dinks”) was left scratching his head wondering how he managed to get past Jerry Rock (“Mongoose”) 2-1 and his stratosphere-reaching lobs and precariously random crosscourt flick drop shots.

The momentum is charging ahead. The past two Wednesdays have been very well attended. Let’s keep it up. Keep me smiling. And maybe I’ll here another poetic outburst from BMO!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012


Fall Down Classic – Nov 2-4
Did you hear? After the DAC successfully defended the Cross Border Trophy, it is apparently not impossible to win on their courts. An encouraging sign and an opportunity for everyone to take advantage of! I think we have them rattled, kind of like the movie “Predator”, where the legendary line was muttered from that famous actor… or governor… or cyborg… or adulterer… or whatever he is: “if it bleeds, we can kill it”. Are the Windsor players bleeding from our recent success against them? Or was it tears…?

The first tournament of the season is just around the corner. November 2-4. Windsor Squash Club is well known for their superb hospitality. Much like the DAC Classic, you will rarely see the bottom of your beer glass and there is always a friendly face to converse with. The squash is guaranteed to be competitive, and now that we have had had a taste of victory in Canada, it’s time to run with it.

There are many singles divisions to choose from. The D level is if you are a 2.9 level player or lower, the C is for 3.0 to 3.9, the B would be 4.0 – 4.9 and the A draw is 5.0 and up. You can enter 2 events if you wish, but be prepared for a lot of squash if you do. For the women, there’s an A and B draw, and for the older crew, there’s a 40+ and a 50+. Add on a junior division, and the place should be humming all weekend long. Oh – and the doubles. A, B and mixed. Fair warning though – the doubles is tough. The B level would be our A league level and more. Entry deadline is October 22. Don’t hesitate, just play!

Click on the above poster for all the details on how to enter – you can also let me know and I can pass it along. I plan to be there, so I hope many of you can join me. Get the experience, enjoy the weekend, meet new people, watch and play some great squash, drink some beer! 

Friday, October 5, 2012


~~Annapolis 2012~~

This was my fourth trip to the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. This is actually the one weekend of the year that I do not have to plead for a ‘hall pass’ from my wife. Why she encourages me to head off to paradise for 4 days on a bachelors trip with some of the hardest partiers on the planet is a total enigma and another reason I will never understand women. But, I shouldn’t question it, I should just be grateful. And I am. Since 2009, I have been joining at least 8 others from the Great Lakes area to be part of the squad that attempts to cross racquets with the Navy Squash Team. Our on-court success has been minimal to say the least.

My Favorite Part of my Favorite Weekend
Truly the highlight of the journey is the area itself. Incredible, breathtaking scenery throughout the bay where Jon Uffelman’s mother lives, Sherwood Forest is a delightful community 20 minutes by boat from downtown Annapolis. Why she allows most of us to crash at her house adds to my above puzzlement of the female species, however we are extremely appreciative of the opportunity to enjoy nature at its finest. On early Friday morning I spent at least an hour on the glass-flat bay zooming around in Jon’s boat watching him and Eric Green water-ski. I didn’t jump in myself not being an accomplished skier, but having the fresh morning breeze through my thinning hair was good enough for me. I am sure I lost an inch off my receding hairline.

Another Favorite Part of my Favorite Weekend
Beating up on the squids. (I think they call them that?) I’m talking about their squash team. A group of very disciplined, fit, strong young men headed by Coach Dawson and assisted by Casey Garwood who used to be a DAC member and was our club champion in 2003. The main reason I love beating up on them is age. They look at us – the Great Lakes Squash Team – and the first word that comes into their mind (apart from “Ugh!”) is “old”. I am not the youngest player on the team – that honor goes to 26 year old Mark Porter (now living in Toronto) – but I am waaaay off being the oldest. The dubious credit goes to Rob Graves from Franklin who tips the chronological scale at 76… ummm, I mean 58.

I don’t know how old my very quick and jumpy opponent was on Friday, but he had to be close to half my age. Almost like every year, the first half of the first game comes at me in a messy onslaught of watching my opponent zip, lunge, smash, leap, scramble, and crack that ball like his life depended on it. My task is to simply fend off the blows, and let him calm down into a more normal rhythm of a squash game where I then can take control. I won my match 3-0, pleased I could outlast the cadet - at least for another year.

Mark Porter flew the flag for our geriatric team as well, taking his squid 3-1. However, that was all the flag flying we had the energy for. Apparently, there wasn’t much energy to swing a squash racquet. Of the other 7 matches that counted towards the overall result, Team Great Lakes lost them all. It was our worst defeat in the four years I have been a part of this adventure and a surprising one as well since on paper we had a stronger group that should have been more competitive.

Saturday morning was the reverse scrimmage – more a mix ‘n’ match than an official competition and we faired a lot better. Fair to say their team was not as strong, but at least we took advantage of it!

Don’t Forget this Favorite Part of my Favorite Weekend
Believe it or not, squash wasn’t the sole reason for our trip. Yes, the expectation of being part of the team is to do plenty of male bonding. Group activities are essential for high moral. We play hard together, so we naturally socialize hard together too! Because of the location, seafood restaurants dominate the agenda. Unfortunately for me, I don’t like seafood. The rather common “you don’t know what you’re missing out on” echoes regularly towards me, but actually I know exactly what I’m missing out on: Seafood. It’s disgusting. But it’s no problem, I’ll enjoy my hamburger thank you very much. Of course nothing washes down a hearty meal better than a few drinks, and indulge we did. Annapolis has a vast selection of bars and we frequented many of them.

Left to right: Mark Porter (Toronto),
Brad Hanebury (London, ON), Nick Dimitrijevic (Windsor)
Mark Eugeni (Windsor), me!, and Jon Uffelman
in the front. The oyster shooters.... yugh!
Thursday night – our first night – started off with oyster shooters. I only mention this because of my revulsion towards this invention. Jon told us a story that a couple of buddies of his drank (chewed?) 100 of these vile concoctions each one evening and it took them a week to get it out of their systems. I am sure they were thankful for triple-ply. I avoid all shots of all kind at all times – unlike the rest of my teammates. The precedent was set early in the evening and ‘male bonding’ went hard and deep into the wee hours of the morning. We played games such as: bar-stool-buddy-catch; shirt-lift-window-pose; hide-and-seek; late-night-pizza-munch; and boat-and-cab-ride-stomach-churn just to name a few. Ahhh, they were good times. I’m not sure if this affected our performance on the squash court the next day, what do you think?

Friday and Saturday night were rather tame in comparison, but no less fun. We departed after four days, our bodies screaming at us for all the punishment we put it through, but our minds thankful for the stress-free escapade we all think we deserved! I cannot leave without passing on another sincere ‘Thank You’ to Jon Uffelman for his hospitality and non-stop entertainment value. And to the members of the Great Lakes Squash Team – it is a unique gathering of squash players that seems the mesh together perfectly as someone pointed out this weekend, especially when you consider the generation difference in the make-up of our posse.

Thursday, October 4, 2012


Boasters League round 1 ~~

If this is any indication of the season to come, “Winky-Dinks” will be the team everyone will be looking up to. With 9 matches completed and a week best 10 bonus points, picking up 27 first round points is no sneezing matter. With the expansion of the league this season from 108 to 117, I do expect scores to be a little higher. Add on the more than 30 new faces, many of whom are intermediates (a fantastic trend), it all adds up to a more social league. Could this be the best season yet?

Butter Nutz” headed by new captain Sante Fratarcangeli (taking over from our long-lost departed friend Ken MacDonald – who by the way e-mailed me yesterday to wish us luck for the new season) also had a great start picking up 26 points. Yes, it is early, but these 2 teams have already taken the league by the scruff of the neck and it is always harder to play catch-up.

Speaking of which, “Vivio’s” and “Destiny” did themselves a great disservice by playing only 3 of 13 matches yesterday. I cannot stress it enough that letting un-played pile up early is a recipe for disaster. The last thing any team wants to do is put themselves in a position of desperation as the playing deadline approaches. That deadline is still a little far off, but it will be staring at you sooner than you realize.

One of the best matches of the evening was the new look Josh Slominski (“Butter Nutz”) against Brendan Fossee (“Foss-ters”). Josh shaved his locks off which must have made him lose at least 5 pounds and it clearly helped him with his speed around the court. Splitting the first games, Brendan jumped to a very healthy lead in the 3rd before Josh reeled him in - winning by a whisker. It was a close shave for Josh. (Do I hear the groans?)

Other close results had Dave Devine and Jordan Ellis (both from “WallEED”) taking 2-1 wins over their opponents, Andy Combs (“Wardogs”) overcoming the experienced Renee McDuffe (“Mongoose”) 2-1, and Drew VanTongeren (“Destiny”) fighting through his 2-1 victory over Brian Schrage (“Vivio’s”).

A pleasing start to the league and hopefully we can keep up the enthusiasm. For those of you who postponed your round 1 match – get it done as soon as you can!!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012


Over the years since Hashim has written these pages, squash has changed in significant ways. Racquets are no longer made of wood, the tin is lower (for a large percentage of professional tournaments), the ball has been made slower, and the scoring system has changed. This makes for a faster and more exciting sport. However, tactful shot selection for most part seems to have remained constant despite these modifications. Basically, keep the ball tight and hold the ‘T’ position. What has changed is the amount of angles players use and their level of deception. Lighter racquets allows players to flick the wrist easier and open up more choices for almost every shot.

Hashim emphasizes the use of the straight drop shot keeping it close to the wall, and the importance of volleying. Combining the two is a difficult skill but a very valuable one. The one shot that he isn’t so keen on is the reverse corner – that is, when you hit a forehand so that the ball hits the backhand side wall before the front wall (or vise-versa). I often tell people to avoid this shot most of the time, but if you are inclined to use it – as I am - do it very sparingly so it is a ‘surprise’ variation and maybe you can catch your opponent off guard. The reverse corner is commonly played as a regular shot in the lower categories. It can be an effective weapon against lesser opponents, but it rapidly loses its success rate when you start moving up the ranks.

To see all the blog articles on Hashim, go to: Hashim Khan  

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