Tuesday 1 January 2019

A New Board Maker: Tracey Boards make a mark in Competitive Crokinole

Contributed by Andrew Hutchinson

In June 2018 at the 20th edition of the World Crokinole Championships, renowned crokinole board craftsman Willard Martin officially announced that he was retiring from making boards. However, he also shared that he had been training Jeremy Tracey to whom he was passing on the torch of creating high quality crokinole boards. Fast forward 6 months later, and Jeremy Tracey officially launched his company Crokinole Game Boards with a grand opening celebration hosted at The Crossroads Family Restaurant in Elmira. 

In the past 6 months, Tracey has been busy making (and selling) boards. A lot of boards. In fact in November alone Tracey sold 32 boards across Canada and the United States. And in December he almost doubled that figure, reaching 56 boards sold. So how has he grown his business so quickly? Well, if you've ever sat down across a board to play against Tracey, you know he never just goes halfway, he goes all in. When playing, if he has a chance for a triple takeout, he goes for it. If he has the choice between a safe takeout or a near impossible combo shot, you know he is going to try for the combo. Likewise, when he got into the board building business, he didn't hedge his bets, he went all in. He trained under the most respected board maker in the world. He turned his house into a de facto workshop. He started making boards by the dozens. And he began promoting both his business and the game of crokinole by travelling to different clubs, creating a website, starting a YouTube channel with crokinole playing tips, and utilizing other social media accounts.

The Crokinole Game Board open house saw approximately 45 descend on The Crossroads Family Restaurant in Elmira. Some came with little or no knowledge of the game, and simply wanted to learn more about Crokinole and to try out a few flicks. Others came with more experience, and wanted to try out the new Tracey boards that they had been hearing about. And still others came with the hope of winning some prizes! 

But whatever brought them in the door, everybody had the chance to sit down and play at one or more Tracey boards, whether at the “Learn to Play” table, the “Challenge a Pro” table, the “Fingers vs. Cues” table, the “50/50” table, or any of the other half dozen or so boards that filled the room. Yet as people flicked away, there were a few points of consensus that emerged. First, for those who had played crokinole, but never seriously and never on a high quality board, they mentioned how fast and smooth the boards were; they also mentioned that they quickly got used to the speed of the boards and how the consistency of the boards allowed them to make 20s at a higher rate than on the old boards they had learned the game on. Second, among players with more experience who have played competitively before, they mentioned that when they were playing on the boards that it felt comparable to playing on a Willard board. By the end of the evening, there had been a lot of 20s made, laughter, door prizes distributed, and even some money won, when Howard Martin took home the 50/50 draw.

Despite being a grand opening celebration, Tracey already is in full swing with his business. Tracey's boards first debuted at a competitive tournament at the Turtle Island Crokinole Tournament in August of this year. There they were used in both a semi-final match-up and the finals. This honour was repeated at the Belleville Crokinole Challenge in September and the Scenic City Crokinole Tournament in November. Tracey boards have quickly become a fixture on the competitive crokinole tournament circuit. And this trend is set to continue for the foreseeable future, with Tracey becoming the new official supplier of crokinole boards for the World Crokinole Championships. 

Tracey cites the honour of supplying the biggest crokinole tournament in the world with their boards as one of the most exciting aspects of his business. Another part of his business that excites him is seeing the growth in the game of crokinole. There have been people who have ordered his boards and then started their own local club or tournament. Many of these, who are from the United States, are helping the game grow in areas where it is not as well known as it is in southwestern Ontario. Being a part of growing the game helps motivate Tracey to continue to build high quality boards. 

Finally, Tracey is excited to help grow the game and his business in new ways. Recently he ran a little promotion on Facebook where he had people comment on what 2 colours of discs they thought were the best combination, with the winner receiving 2 sets of discs and some wax. What began as a little promotion quickly blew up and ended up with over 350 comments and over 500 shares. Tracey has more promotions in the works, so stay tuned to the Crokinole Game Board Facebook page. Six months before the next instalment of the World Crokinole Championship, Tracey is continuing to carry the torch he received last June, and the torch is burning as bright as ever!

Andrew Hutchinson is both a competitive cues and fingers crokinole player who won the 2016 Cues World Championship and finished 5th of the 2018 Fingers World Championship. He can be followed on Twitter @FavouriteHutch

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