I have some sad news to pass on to the crokinole community. On Tuesday of last week George Cook, a founder and member of the executive of the Toronto Crokinole Club, as well as one of the keenest supporters of the game coming from a crokinole clan of note, passed away in Toronto from complications following a stroke. George had recently turned 75.
A link to the obituary which appeared in the Toronto Star last Friday can be found here.
In recounting George's contribution to our Toronto Crokinole Club and the National Crokinole Association Tour events I can hardly do better than to begin by quoting his nephew Brian Cook's words:
<Most of you probably played against him at one time at a tournament (or for sure you definitely heard him at a tournament!). He was a big part of our young but mighty Toronto Crokinole Club as well. He'll be missed.>
George was a crackshot capable of pulling off incredible doubles and devious hides. He had a terrific knack for seeing the direction any game was heading and a strategy for dealing with any eventuality. He was great as a partner, supportive with advice, quick to praise a well-made shot or ready with some gentle humour to take the edge off a less-successful muffed one. He was equally generous to opponents, never failing to give credit for skilled play or express sympathy when the discs proved cruel. And you knew that sympathy was honestly come by because sometimes, maybe thinking too far ahead, George would let his concentration slip, and a shot would go up in smoke. Then, especially in tournaments, keen competitor that George was, he would berate himself and the muses of crokinole mercilessly.
I came across this trait the first time I met George at Tavistock a few years back. I saw the name 'Cook' and I thought 'I'm probably in for it now'. However once in play I was able to get an edge when George failed to capitalize on a few shots. Soon comments like "You did well to cash in on that leave", "Oh, I can't buy a twenty" and "Oh, why did I even come here today?" followed. Before I knew it I was two games up and George was getting louder and more than a bit agitated, and it went on and on for the next two rounds. But for George I think that self-criticism worked as a kind of therapy. In any case, although he never relented on critiquing his play, we ended up splitting 4-4 in the end. An even better example is maybe one at the Golden Horseshoe Tournament this year. I didn't play George, but I sure could hear him behind me in a different preliminary pool on the last game lambasting his own efforts. Later I asked someone who had observed the game how the score had gone. They said "8-nothing". "Euh" I said,"George got skunked?" "Nope" they replied, "He got the eight!". ... maybe George was even more canny, subconsciously, in his strategy than I thought.
The thing I'll best remember about George is when he'd chuckle at a shot you'd make, raise his finger, and start calling out "Tournament director, I call for the tournament director." Then you knew you'd made what he thought was a superlative shot (or maybe a supremely lucky one, if you hadn't called it).
George made me a more confident player. He will indeed be missed.