At times, Jean-Michel Menard feels like moose meat.
At the start of last year's curling season, Gatineau's Menard skipped a team. This season, he skips the defending Brier championship team.
So, what's the difference?
The target is on his back.
"It's something I was advised of and we're living it right now. Every time we play against anybody, they're playing like gods.If they win, we are like a moose on top of a car when hunting season starts."
In his professional life, he moved from the private to the public sector at Services Canada. This gives him more time for curling.
Federal government policy allows Sport Canada-approved athletes extra paid time to concentrate on their sport.
"Once my vacation bank is empty I can get up to 60 days extra to practise my sport." said Menard, who had heard about the policy but wasn't sure if it was true. "I wasn't really sure if it was an urban legend."
Unlike last season, the rink now has sponsorship money.
"When you start from zero it's not too hard to climb the ladder," said Menard. "It's not really as high as we would have expected to get in terms of sponsorship. It's really tough."
The rink's post-Brier curling schedule made it hard to court sponsors.
"We weren't able to beat the metal while it's hot, as they say, but it's something we really couldn't do because of our commitment to the (world championships)."
Menard does have Canadian Curling Association funding now.
"Team funding is some sort of expense account we can use when we (go to) bonspiels. Basically, we can claim everything but food and it's good for two years."
The lucrative Sports Canada monthly tax-free stipend of $1,500 per player eluded Menard's team, however.
The previous Brier winner, Randy Ferbey, gets it. But Sports Canada decided to spend its dough on Brad Gushue, who won Olympic gold in Turin, not Menard.
"We looked forward to getting that by winning the Brier. So we got nothing. We get zero."
The defending champions still maintain an aggressive schedule made more brutal because of their win. The Grand Slams, Canada Cup and the Continental Cup now beckon.
"Besides that I still continue living the same way I did before. I get invited to a couple of social activities to be the honorary chairman of an event or stuff like that. It's something I appreciate doing trying to give back to the community to get more visibility for the sport of curling."
What's in Menard's future?
"My next goal is to play in the Olympic Trials."
OTTAWA VALLEY CURLING TOUR: Jeff McCrady, with Gilles Allaire, Jeff Norman and Mike Stachon, beat Rachel Homan 6-3 in the Dairy Queen Arnprior Cashspiel on Sunday. The winner got $3,000 while the runner-up received $2,200. Other qualifiers were Greg Richardson, Doug Johnston ($1,500 each), Marika Bakewell, Jennifer Day, Mark Homan and Greg Bell ($1,000 each).
OUT OF TOWN GLORY: Bryan Cochrane lost the Coupe Quebec final Sunday 6-1 to Robert Desjardins (with Gatineau's Jean-Sebastien Roy playing vice). Cochrane left with $3,000.
UNSTOPPABLE?: His streak continues. Kerry Burtnyk posted his fifth consecutive bonspiel victory Monday, sailing through the A-side undefeated in the Strauss Crown of Curling in Kelowna, B.C., to win $12,000. On the women's side, China lost in an extra end to Pat Sanders. The Chinese men qualified in Kelowna.