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Andre Rochefort: primo bowler

Modest to a fault, champion bowler Andre Rochefort is knocking them over in the five-pin world.


A primo bowl

Modest to a fault, champion bowler Andre Rochefort is knocking them over in the five-pin world.

There are about 600 five-pin bowlers in Nova Scotia right now.

And Andre Rochefort is the best.

He's got top high average (which is the highest score for a full year; in bowling that means 90 games over 30 weeks). And he's top for singles scores (which is the highest score for one game).

But Rochefort---so good and yet so easy-going about his sport---didn't even know his stats.

"I don't check that," he says, all modesty. Tiger Woods and Kobe Bryant could learn from this guy, who's a fit-looking 60, wearing a loose polo shirt and khaki shorts and black bowling shoes that cost $300.

Rochefort manages the bowling alley at Stadacona, the set of six 60-year-old hardwood lanes inside Stadplex.

Stadplex is a well set-up gym. Civilians can join with a reference from a military friend. And even without anyone vouching, civilians can bowl there. And should. Stadacona is downtown's closest alley. It's beautifully maintained. And you can't beat the atmosphere.

Rochefort has bowled every five-pin alley in Nova Scotia and he loves Stad. "When people come here, they say this is the place to bowl."

All it takes is pre-booking a party and $75 an hour. (Call 721-8420 if you're interested.)

Rochefort will be your host. For 15 years he has taken the bookings, run the canteen---chocolate bars, chips, pop---and tended the bar, which stocks Keith's, Keith's Light and Blue. He plays the music you bring, or his own if you prefer, and he Lysols the shoes when you hand them back.

During parties, he usually doesn't bowl.

"I hate to show off."

He's joking. But, like I said, he's also not joking. When it comes to five-pin bowling, Rochefort can kick practically anybody's ass.

He took gold in the Canadian Open 5 Pin Bowling Championships singles competition in 1998 and he was on the men's team that took gold in 2006.

Not only that, Rochefort has just been named one of the top players in the history of his sport.

This year, see, is the hundredth anniversary of the invention of five-pin bowling. To celebrate, the Canadian 5 Pin Bowlers Association named the top 100 male and female bowlers of the last century.

"I was one of them," Rochefort says with a sheepish smile. "The only one in Nova Scotia."

OK, yeah, it helps that five-pin bowling is a Canadian-born sport (it was invented in 1909 in Toronto by bowling hall owner Thomas Ryan) that is only played here. But still, Rochefort is awesome.

And Rochefort came to five-pin relatively late in life to boot.

He bowled as a kid in Quebec. The town is Pohénégamook; it's split in half by the Canadian/American border. You see the name on signs right as you hit Rivière-du-Loup.

But Rochefort didn't try five-pin until 1987 when he was posted in Toronto with the navy. He was, he admits, a natural. "Uh...yes...I was."

Another thing about five-pin: It's the hardest kind of bowling.

(Some bowling ins and outs as a preface: candlepin bowling is small balls with tall skinny pins. American 10-pin is Homer Simpson's sport---tall pins and big balls. Duckpin is small balls and small pins. They are all 10-pin sports where each pin is worth one point.)

With five-pin bowling---small balls, small pins that have a rubber band around the bulge---each pin has its own value, totaling 15.

Phew. And most people are just lucky not to lob it.

"Five-pin is more difficult because you have to be very accurate," says Rochefort. "You don't hit the headpin, you will not get a strike. Candlepin? You hit sideways and you may get lucky and get a strike."

So why does Rochefort like it so much? Besides that he's a naturally accurate bowler?

"I like the socializing."

So, it hits me. Rochefort, at Stadacona, has his dream job---hosting private bowling parties and full leagues two nights a week, plus 80 Special Olympics bowlers on Sundays. He gets to chat, serve beer and chips and watch bowlers make use of his immaculately kept lanes.

Rochefort lines up on lane one to show me his technique. He doesn't like bowling in hot weather because the approaches get sticky, even though he powders them. He lines up, swings. Not on the first go, but in two balls (his own, candy apple red, $140 a pair and from Belgium) all the pins are down.

"Anyone," he says smiling, "can do that."

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