Tuesday, April 28, 2015


London, ON, April 23-26

 For an event as historic and prestigious as the Lapham-Grant, even though I knew of it, I knew very little about it. Apparently, it is one of the oldest running sports competitions between the USA and Canada, dating back to 1922. The countries are actually vying for 4 separate trophies: one for men’s singles (the Lapham Cup), one for men’s doubles (the Grant Trophy), one for the women’s singles and doubles (the Crawford Trophy), and one for the men’s veteran’s doubles for players over 65 (the Lawrence-Wilkins Trophy). Teams are hand selected from across each country by the respective captains and I was honored to be asked to play in the 94th running of the event which was being hosted by the London Squash and Racquet Club.

The trophies are works of art and the Lapham Cup rivals the Stanley Cup in size – if not even larger. The names of the winning team are etched into each and as the years pass, it grows. Shipping the things between countries year after year is a task in itself (and expense), and if you happen to take the time to read who has played and managed to get their name marked in history, you would be ‘oohing’, aaahing’ and ‘wow-ing’ for a while. The Lapham Cup (the biggest of the four) is valued at over $50,000.

In the spirit of the competition, none of the matches are refereed, players are left to their own devices – much like the DAC Classic – and honesty and sportsmanship is a requirement. (I did not see one solitary dispute all weekend.) Understandably, the home country has the advantage. It is easier to pool many of your players locally, and in this case since we were playing in London – from the Toronto area as well. The US team was a little short staffed since I believe London was a little harder to get to than any major city. It would be an almost impossible task to arrange the match-ups equally, not knowing the exact standard of many of the players. On paper, the Canadian team looked stronger anyway – and they were.

I had my first match on the doubles court, my partner was a fine gentleman from Cincinnati who did have more experience than I. We were definitely up against it, our opponents knew the angles very well. I am not sure we could have won the match, but we certainly could have won the second game (14-15), we simply we not steady enough and found the tin all too often.

More at home on the singles court, I played 2 matches here. I had a tough first outing taking the match 3-1, two of those games went to extra innings. I won my second match 3-0, but it was a lot closer than it looks. My squash was complete by lunch time on Saturday and now I had the luxury of relaxing and resting my already sore body. (The doubles really, really, makes the shoulder ache!)

The DAC had 2 other representatives. Peter Logan played 2 doubles matches and 1 singles match. His singles was an arduous assignment against a young whipper-snapper ready to keep running. Peter lost 3-0, but 2 of the games were tie-break and he was unlucky not to pull at least one of them out. His first doubles was not overly pretty, and it was over 3-0 rather quickly, but the second doubles match was a 15-13 in the 5th mauling… and again unlucky to be on the wrong side of the result.

Bob Burton was our other flag bearer. Bob played 2 doubles matches and was probably the only American who could claim to have a 100% record for the weekend. (Or one of very few!) He won both of his doubles matches in 5 games and enjoyed his beer a little more than the rest of us.

With all such competitions, the sports component is just half of the formula. Socializing isn’t just recommend, it is a requisite. The simple joy of having a drink, meeting new people, reminiscing with old friends, is what brings these things together and encourages the people to return. I had a blast. The black tie dinner on Saturday was held at the London museum, a beautiful setting. Of course, my rent-a-tux was not working properly and I stood out as the only (male) person there without a bow-tie. (The hook for the bow-tie was broken). Men’s Warehouse received a nasty visit from me on Sunday. We mingled, drank, mingled some more, drank some more, and kept going until being vertical was too hard to maintain.

The following morning was a breakfast buffet at the squash club with some feature doubles matches to entertain our weary heads, and then the obligatory speeches and presentations. For the record, Canada won all four trophies in convincing fashion. There was also a 5th trophy presented that morning. This one is called the Eric Finkelman Award which goes to the one individual “that dares to contribute more than the bare minimum”. Many candidates were created over the course of the weekend, the winner was a very happy chappy that not even falling off his stool in a bar and lying flat on his back could dampen his spirits – or laughter. He was still laughing that morning.

The Eric Finkleman Award.
A couple (or more) of must mentions: Firstly, the London Squash Racquet Club, their manager Tom Panabaker and one of their biggest supporters, Jay Nash. It must be a monumental undertaking to arrange and run an event of this magnitude. Together with the extensive team of volunteers, I cannot be praiseworthy enough. (See you in September for the Nash Cup!)

And to the US Captains in Liam Culman and Randy Goodleaf from New York. I do not know the amount of work that was required, but it must have been immense. Thank you both so very much. I hope to be invited back for the 2016 edition – in New York.

Monday, April 13, 2015


Cross Border Challenge - April 11, 2015

Talk about waving the flag. In the absence of our shameless fashion guru Karl Lagerfeld - a.k.a. Sante Fratarcangeli - John Mann stepped up to the plate and supplied the patriotic robes to many of our players. At least the shirt this time had some sleeves, but the golden nugget of apparel had to be the knee-high socks adorned with the American flag. The cape was also a magic extra, but pretty much impossible to play in. Made for a great photo-op though.

Inspired by the prolific amount of red, white and blue, the 17th Cross Border Challenge produced a wealth of closely contested matches and our DAC members were well up to the task. Tom Fabbri got the ball rolling for us, his sock flags waving in the wind as he controlled the middle of the court with solid length. He was consistent enough to hold off the charge from Trevor Charles for a 3-1 win, which included a 3-10 comeback in game 2.

Tom Fabbri
Jon Dengel had a chance at revenge. A year ago he lost to Grace Kim in four games during the Cross Border Challenge, and he was determined not to lose to the same woman twice. But, as Jon pointed out after the match, it’s rather difficult to tire out a player who is clearly in better physical condition than himself (?!?). Testosterone, however, can be a powerful motivator and Jon almost pulled it off. Going down 10-12 in the 5th was a gallant effort. Kim was made to work hard for her win, she was seen later on rehydrating hard, a wine in one hand, and something mixed in the other which wasn’t a Gatorade…

After Julie Vande Vusse made the fashionably late entrance, she took care of business against Michaela Birley 3-1, which was then off set by Ian Edwards’ 1-3 loss to James Konrad. At this stage, the two countries had 2 wins apiece, but then we started to pull away.

The igniter was the first doubles result - Bruce Shaw and Ken Katz tackled Peter Wares and Derek Roth for the best doubles match of the day. Back and forth they went, trading games with scores lines of 15-14 and 15-13 all the way through a nail-biting 5th. Our home boys kept it together and absorbed the pressure well, breathing a huge sigh of relief taking that last game 15-13. They couldn’t get to the keg fast enough.

Josh Gershonowicz then produced another down-to-the-wire victory. He had to hustle continuously against the experience of Dave Hornby, a doubles specialist that loves to use weird angles on the singles court. It can be troublesome to find any rhythm against such players, so Josh did well to claim the 11-9 in the 5th and put another notch in the DAC’s win column.

A lot of interest was on our new member Vikram Chopra. It was a good chance to see him under pressure as he tackled the flamboyant Dan Van Moorsel. Dan is a big guy, but covers the court well and can also put the ball away. Vikram has a wristy swing that produces a lot of power and can be relatively deceptive, making his opponents stretch out into the corners. A little consistency cost Vikram game one, as too much over hitting set Dan up a bit too easily. But Vikram improved that tightness in the next three games to take the 3-1 win.

Special mention must be made to Alan Howard who we can excuse for being late to his match. He was on a good-will mission. To make sure that all the Windsor players were indeed able to leave their club safely and get to the DAC, Alan decided to drive to the Windsor Club first, confirm there weren’t any stragglers, and then return. A true gentleman. I doubt Andrew Della Bona thinks so though, Alan’s good-will only went so far as he took all 3 games.

Andy Adamo will be kicking himself slightly as this one got away. He was looking rather good heading into the 3rd game against Doug Fields as he held a 2-0 game lead. Doug is a feisty adversary, and would always be thinking he had 3 games to go, Andy appeared to take the foot off the gas ever so slightly. And that is all it takes. Doug took the next 2 games and the fifth was a battle - Andy stepped it up again as he had to in order to stop Doug’s momentum. It could have gone either way - but it was Doug who got to the finish line first with a 12-10 in the 5th win.

Another 5th set tie break result fell to the Windsorites. Derek Roth made amends for the doubles loss earlier by somehow staying on his feet long enough to beat John Mann 13-11 in the last game. That result almost turned it around for the Canadians - with three results to come in, we still needed one more win to secure the trophy.

But this is what these competitions are about. I would not have been upset in the slightest if we didn’t win the day. The closeness of the matches and the camaraderie is why we run these things. That being said, we still wanted the victory! And finally securing that win was the third doubles match of the day - Patrick Petz and Dane Fossee survived to take their match in 5!

The final two matches had Derek Aguirre battling the hard hitting Paul Gebrael. Paul loves his power - and he has plenty of it - and it can be awkward to counter such a tactic. I instructed Derek to slow the pace and not try to smack the ball with him. The strategy worked for one game, but consistently controlling the ball when it’s coming at you with an uncomfortably quick pace is something we all know is easier said than done. Paul took the match 3-1.

The final match of the day was also a 5-setter. Dave Porter got off to an excellent start and won the first 2 games over Dane Fossee who had jumped immediately from the doubles court to the singles. Maybe Dane couldn’t find his ‘singles’ touch initially, but as the match wore on, Dane was looking stronger as Dave was beginning to fade. Dane made the comeback complete, taking the 5th game and ending the day well for the DAC.

Overall, we won the day 12 matches to 9. It was one of the best Cross Border events we have had. Thank you to all who participated, the 21 match total is the second most we’ve achieved as well - so I’m very pleased with that too. (The record is 28 matches in April 2014). The next event is scheduled for September in Windsor - let’s see if we can find something even more outrageous for our costume... Meanwhile the Cross Border Trophy sits in my office where it belongs!

Thursday, April 2, 2015


Assistant Squash Pro Required. Apply Within…

This is proving to be a difficult task. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy to find an assistant pro, but I did expect some success last year. So, on top of posting the job on the websites, I’m going to write a short personal recommendation of why the DAC Assistant Squash Pro job is an attractive position for the correct candidate.

There are 2 major hurdles that we need to overcome: 1. The US work permit. 2. Getting someone to move to Detroit. I did receive a handful of resumes last year when we initially posted the job, but 90% of them were from outside of the country and unable to legally work. The DAC is not in the position to arrange the work permit; it is something that is required when applying. From the other 10% of applicants, all but one were simply not a fit for our club. We were very interested in the one that was, but eventually – and unfortunately for us - that person took a job elsewhere.

Detroit has a pretty awful reputation around North America. When I moved here from Montreal over 10 years ago now, the members from that club thought I was certifiably insane. And 10 years ago, the city was a mess. But Detroit has undergone an enormous amount of change over this time, helped a great deal by hosting the Superbowl in 2006 and the World Series in 2006 and 2012. Bankruptcy hit the city hard a couple of years ago, but it was the best thing that could have happened, and now it is bouncing back with vast amounts of investment, people moving back downtown, a resurgence of construction and business’ opening, and when Mr. Illitch get’s his new Red Wings stadium up and running, the downtown entertainment district will be virtually unmatched in the country.

Now that’s not to say Detroit has eliminated its issues (which city has?): crime, blight, infrastructure, road conditions… but we are on an upswing, we are improving, and Detroit is ripe for investment and it’s an exciting place to be. Especially for the sports nut – we have all 4 major sports represented here.

And the DAC? We are smack in the middle of it. Located across the road from the Detroit Tiger’s Stadium (Comerica Park) and Ford Field were the Lions play, the new Red Wings arena will also be walking distance away; we are in the heart of the action. The city’s renewed energy has boosted membership greatly, we are scheduled to open a roof top restaurant on level 7 where you would be able to watch the baseball game, and the DAC is one of the highest ranked and most beautiful Athletic Clubs in the country.

The squash portion has 4 singles squash courts and 1 doubles. And we are jammed. Demand for more courts is a terrific problem to have and that issue will in time be addressed. Court usage is at an all time high, the number of players is at an all time high, the demand for lessons is – you guessed it – at an all time high. Currently there is only one squash pro – me. The program is a monster and is getting too big for one person to handle. In short, I need help.

I have worked in many countries and places around the world, and nothing comes close to matching the DAC. Quality, cleanliness, professionalism. The right candidate has the potential to do very well here. Weekend lessons are available and in demand, building a junior program that we currently do not have, doubles lessons if you are qualified, camps, and any programs that you may wish to employ and fit into the schedule. It’s a full time gig. We run a lot of leagues, ladders, tournaments, and help will be required as well with these activities. Wage will be based on experience, and you can also earn money through lessons and camps.

You will also have the pleasure of living in one of the most under-estimated cities in America. Detroit is a wonderful place to live. Cheaper than most, passionate people, and like me, you will grow to love the place.

If you think you have what we are looking for (and you have a valid US work permit!) please forward your resume to mickj@thedac.com .

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