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Thursday, 26 November 2015

#BetweenTheSheets With Kirk Muyres
#MrSmiles talks Saskatchewan, Brier, family and growing the sport


Welcome to another edition of #BetweenTheSheets my friends.  This week, I am going to forego my weekly #PowerRankings and predictions.  With the European Championships still going on and many teams taking the week off to prepare for the next two weeks of headline events, this seemed like the perfect time to shift focus.  This season I have not only wanted to up my #curling blog game through slight additions to the weekly post but also provide fans of the sport the opportunity to get to know some of the athletes we cheer for on a weekly basis.  In the past, I have been honoured to have Jamie Koe and Mark Kean join the #TwineTime family.  This week, the small blog welcomes a new member: Kirk Muyres!  This is also post #99 for #TwineTime.  Quite a remarkable feat I think.  Number #99 is tied to the Great One.  I have found my own edition of a curling "Great One" for this post.  As a born and raised Sasky boy, I am a huge supporter of all athletes who come from my home province.  As a curling fan (and as you will know if you read this blog or follow my twitter account), I am a HUGE fan of Team Laycock.  I am an even bigger fan of vice Kirk Muyres.  The opportunity to have a conversation with him during a tour event in Edmonton was an honour....and a total #fanboy moment to be honest.

Let's all go #BetweenTheSheets with #MrSmiles himself, Kirk Muyres!

TwineTime (TT): We are here with Kirk Muyres for a little #BetweenTheSheets action.  A new season is underway and building off the successes of last season, what are the goals and outcomes for @teamlaycock this season? 
Kirk Muyres (KM): We always said we can stay together and keep playing together as long as we get better every year and we have been doing that steadily.  It’s easier to do perhaps if you are 20th or 15th or even 10th (in the world rankings) but we have kind of made that jump to top 5 now.  The gains are a lot smaller.  We may not necessarily get a rise in rankings but we have some indicators on whether we have improved or not.  Ideally we want to be the best team in the world and win the worlds, get a trial spot and go from there. 


TT:  How do you go about defining the goals then if you are not going simply by rankings or points?  Some teams do use those ranking points as a goal setter.  How do you guys determine your team goals?

KM:  It’s more on closing of gaps I guess you could call it.  We identify areas where we are not good enough at to be the best in the world...and we have about 4 or 5 those right now.  At the end of the season, the coach comes with us to every event, and we tally up our indicators and we will know if we have closed those gaps.  But at the end of the day we still need to be highly ranked, we still need to be on TV for sponsors and we need to win a lot of games.  You don’t want to think of the outcome of winning games but it is what we have to do. 
TT:  That makes a lot of sense.  You brought up the fact of whether to stick together or not and we see that happening a lot, especially with the Olympic cycle.  Do you guys have that conversation on a regular basis and, if so, how does that conversation go?

KM:  It’s a yearly conversation.  It comes to whether everyone is willing to put in the work to become better.  Lots of things can happen in a person’s life: family, work, whether they are enjoying it, whether they want to be on the road, whether they want to be in the gym every morning, whether they want to be on the ice every day.  You have to make that decision and if everyone is willing to do it then we can go ahead.  We have that conversation once a year and if so, we go forward.
TT:  Going into this season, was it clear cut in committing to the four-year cycle with a hope of making the Olympics?

KM:  Yup!  It was a decision we were going to step back from work a little bit to the point where we kind of treat it as a professional job.  Every morning we are at the rink.  It is nice we all live in the same city so we can do that.  We said every day we have to find a way to practice more.  Our lives got in the way when we got home from curling.  We had to go to work, we had to wash our clothes, we had to do this and do that...we just weren’t getting good enough from just playing every weekend.  We had to practice more.  To do that, we had to put the jobs aside a little bit.  We still wanted to have time for family.  What we did was say we needed to make enough money curling where we could actually put our jobs aside.  Thanks also to the sponsors in Saskatchewan who are helping us achieve our dream and hopefully we are giving them value back through increased exposure.
TT:  I think you guys are seeing an advantage in being from Saskatchewan.  And perhaps that is something unique.  Is it a different culture maybe in Saskatchewan?  We are not seeing a bunch of teams and players in Saskatchewan jumping ship and making changes to teams as much as we see in Alberta or Ontario or Manitoba.  Is that maybe a culture we have in Saskatchewan?

KM:  Yeah, that’s a good question.  I don’t know.  I’ve never thought about it actually.  I don’t know if I have an answer for that.  We always talk about how there is not necessarily those big top guys, the Koe’s, the Stoughton’s, the Howard’s, but there is so many good teams.  These teams will play 5 or 6 weekends a year, do well, be happy with how they have done and move it forward to next year.  The depth in Saskatchewan is unbelievable.  Guys you may not know of but for two years in a row to get to the Brier we for sure had to play our best and better than we had in any other event throughout the year.  Bar none!  It’s a provincial championship and that shows you the depth involved in Saskatchewan.


TT:  Do you guys also think the success you guys are having on tour is helping to elevate the level of play in Saskatchewan?  Other teams are starting to say “Look how well Laycock is doing”.  We haven’t had a Saskatchewan champion since 1980.  It has been a struggle to be competitive at the Brier, up until your bronze medal finish last year.  Are you guys hoping to be the team to help push that success up?

KM:  I hope so!  There are a lot of young guys in the province who are very good curlers and starting to come on.  We are very strong believers in the fact that we need other teams pushing us.  I have told a lot of young guys I hang around with in the province, should they want any information or knowledge on how we do things, we are more than happy to share.  Even Martin and Ferby over the years, they just pushed each other.  Look at Burtnyk and Stoughton.  Or Stoughton and McEwen.  They were constantly pushing each other.  Now look at Carruthers and McEwen.  I think you need that.  We are certainly starting to get that out of the guys in Saskatchewan.  We will encourage that until the day we die.  Maybe we are encouraging it in a bit of a selfish means because we want other teams pushing us. 
TT:  Exactly and you guys only get better in the long run as well. 

KM:  Absolutely!
TT:  Another thing you guys do very successfully is live stream all your games.  I believe you are the only team on tour to do this, or at least the first.  What brought that decision around?  Why did you guys decide to do that?

KM:  For one, we wanted a way in which we could watch film and objectively talk about things.  Everyone sees things a little bit different out on the ice and then you have the conversation after and someone says “no, that’s not what happened!”  But now we know.  We said what we need to do is just record it.  Dallan (Muyres) said, “Why don’t we just stream it online and our family can watch it?”  Then we took it another level and said we can let everyone watch.  We now have a few sponsors on board who are supporting it.  I think we got over 25,000 hits last year.  It’s been really good for us.  Plus we still have the video.  People can now watch us.  We have our quality up this year again thanks to some sponsors helping us out.  I think it’s a winner and we will see more teams start to do it.  It might be the way of the future with some of the events.
TT:  Especially for the events that are not grand slams or televised, it really is the only way to watch and an opportunity to interact with the fans.  I know many fans on twitter and social media talk about it and love that you do it.  Props to you guys!

KM:  It really is good for everyone.
TT:  And I am assuming sponsors love it!

KM:  Oh absolutely.  *laughing* That is what it’s all about.
TT:  That’s right!  Let’s shift a bit and talk about what it’s like to come from a curling family.  Both your dad and your uncle went to the Brier.  What is it like having them in your ear, there to help.  Is it sometimes too much?  Not enough?  How do you balance the support?

KM:  I don’t know any different I suppose.  It is what it is.  I think it is good.  It’s always nice to talk about your passion.  This is all I do.  This is all we do.  It is nice to have that common interest with your family.  It is pretty neat I get to travel around with my dad and my brother all winter and we get to spend just about every day together.  That is pretty cool!  You go home for Christmas and the uncle’s are talking the same thing.  You learn lots.  Growing up, I used to play with my dad and my two uncles.  You just learn so much.  We have been progressing together.
TT:  That is very cool.  Now one question I have been asking everyone who sits down with me is what is your one favourite curling moment of your career so far?

KM:  Hmmm, it has to be winning that first provincials.  We never knew if it was going to happen.  I remember when I was 19 saying how I would try to get on a good team, play the Sask tour and see if I can get up to a Brier.  That is kind of the progression.  I was lucky enough to go at 23.  And now twice at 24.  It is pretty cool.  The one thing about curling, in the curling circles, there is a lot of people who care.  But outside it, nobody really knows a whole bunch about it unless it is the Brier.  Everyone knows the Brier.  Now when you talk about curling and say “I’m a curler” people ask “Did you go to the Brier?”  Now I can say I have.  That is probably the proudest moment.  Winning the bronze medal last year as well.  You know lots of people have a sour taste about that bronze medal but a 24 year old kid wins a bronze medal at the Brier, it helped elevate our team and when you get to say you won a bronze medal at the Brier it holds a bit of weight.  Those are probably the two proudest moments.


TT:  Very true and great moments.  One thing you mentioned was expanding the sport outside of the Brier and getting an increase in fans or even having regular Canadians recognize curling as a big sport.  It is lacking against some of the other sports.  If you could change one thing about the sport right now, what would it be?

KM:  Hmmm.  I always joke around with things in terms of fan engagement and player engagement.  There is a fine balance between maybe golf etiquette and hockey.  What is the right way for curling to go?  Golf has a different appeal, being on the course, a nice summer day in America with lots of people watching.  I often wonder if maybe is it the right thing to do to get the crowds booing and into it.  Some heckling of the curlers.  Maybe even a bit of the curlers heckling back.  Curlers yelling at each other on the ice.  I don’t know for sure.  Look at the Jays season.  That was awesome...it was cool.  Look at Ben (Hebert) and Rich Hart at the 2009 trials.  You never forget those things.  Those are what fans want to see.  They want to see that experience.  A little more fan engagement, really encourage that and that kind of atmosphere.  When you go to any other professional sport, you want to make noise and you want to do things.  You want to act like you played a part in the outcome.  Curling doesn’t have that and I wonder if it should.  I honestly just don’t know.  But that is what I would lean towards.


TT:  We have had a few conversations with curling fans who have said the very same thing.  The comparison is always the rivalries aren’t as strong as other sports, like the Jays-Yankees.  We don’t see that in curling.  On the plus side though, and perhaps the benefit of the sport, is the camaraderie of all of you guys as athletes and your interaction with the fans on a friendly level.  How do you get that balance?

KM:  I know, I know.  It is a tough one.  There is a bit of that.  Everyone can hear what you say on the ice when you are on TV.  You always have to play the TV crowd which will then pull them into the arena.  People like that.  Maybe Kirk Muyres and Braeden Moskowy will give a little back and forth and a little chat.  People will maybe think that is pretty cool because you don’t see that as often.  I don’t know what the right way is but I think there has to be some way to get the players and the atmosphere in the building to be a little more electric.
TT: Yeah, I agree.  It would be awesome to see and hopefully we can get there. 

KM:  It’s a work in progress.  But look at the TV ratings curling is starting to get and we are starting to fill those arena’s at slam events.  Rogers has done an amazing job!  For them, the TV numbers are good.  I think we are going in the right direction.
TT:  Yeah, it does seem that way.  Now in bringing up your reference on golf, you obviously golf?

KM:  Not well!
TT: Ok, not well. *laughing*

KM: *laughing* On occasion though.
TT:  You hit the green on occasion at least.  What if we gave you a curling mulligan?  Either a shot or a specific game where you just want a re-do.

KM:  The 3vs4 game at the (2015) Brier.  Bar none! 
TT:  Yeah I kind of thought that might be your answer.

KM:  It is one of those games where you just wish you could re-do it.  At the same time, you hope you get back.  You may never get back but you hope you do.  That is why you really want a re-do, you might never be back.  The big one is I learned so much over the summer from that one game.  I have implemented things I need to change so it doesn’t happen again.  It’s a learning experience.  Everyone goes through it.  As long as you learn something from it, next time you are going to be better off.  But I want that 3vs4 game back!
TT:  For sure.  But a strong point as well, always a learning experience.

KM:  Exactly!
TT:  Ok let’s play a little rapid fire with you.

KM:  Ok!
TT:  Stanley Cup prediction?

KM:  I don’t have a clue. 
TT:  Do you have a favourite hockey team?

KM:  Naw.  When I was little I loved the Avalanche but I haven’t watched a hockey game in 10 years.
TT:  Wow!  Good to know.  Super Bowl prediction?

KM:   Yeah, I don’t have a clue. 
TT:  Ok, not a sports guy at all?

KM:  Nope not at all.


TT:  Ok, also good to know.  It’s good to get a glimpse into who you are here.  What about hidden talent?

KM:  Ummm....hidden talent?  Do I have a hidden talent?  Hidden talent...hmmm.  No, nothing.
TT:  Ok you cannot be 0 for on every question here.

KM:  Oh man I am 0 for.  Ok hidden talent.  I don’t do much of anything.
TT:  Ok you are not selling us Saskatchewan boys very well here either.

KM:  I have a real knack for business.  A strong knack for business.  We will call that my hidden talent.
TT:  Ok that is fair...and a good thing to have.  That works.  Tattoos or piercings?

KM:  Oh tattoos.
TT:  Nice.  You have a tattoo?

KM:  No.  I am talking tattoo’s on women.
TT:  Ok, also a good call.  Tattoo’s are hotter than piercings.

KM:  Oh for sure.
TT:  Walk up song, if you could have any song to play for curling.  What would it be?  And I mean just you...not Team Laycock.

KM:  I’m going to go with Colby Rasmus and “Boys Round Here” (Blake Shelton).  We watched a Jays game and he walked out to that, it was pretty sick! 
TT:  Oh nice, very good call there.  Biggest rival in curling?

KM:  Braeden Moskowy


TT:  Fair enough.  Smelliest guy on tour?

KM:  (Colton) Flasch might be getting up there when he starts sweating and hasn’t showered...I mean...washed his stuff.
TT:  *laughing* Ok.  Loudest guy on tour?

KM:  Flasch!  *laughing*
TT:  *laughing* Whoa the double dip response.  Curling mentor or idol?

KM:  My dad for sure.  100%.
TT:  Very good answer.  If you could assemble an All-Star team, past or present, any sport, who would be your perfect curling team?

KM:  I’d go with: Skip – Kevin Martin; 3rd – I got to be on the team?
TT:  You can or cannot.  Up to you?

KM:  Ok, then I have to go with myself of course.  I have to play.
TT:  Gotta go with the ego a bit right?

KM:  Exactly.  Marc Kennedy would be 2nd.  And...hmmm....I’m thinking Steve Gould lead.
TT:  Nice.  That is a good team.  So the last thing we do is an #AskTheCurler section where we have our previous interviewee become the interviewer.  The last person I interviewed was Mark Kean and he was able to ask you any question.  He wanted to know:  “What is it really like curling with your brother?  And you cannot just say it’s a lot of fun because we are brothers.  We want the truth!”


KM:  It’s challenging!  It is easy to not care.  I find you are continually watching what you say to other teammates and wanting to say things to make them better but when you are playing with a brother you don’t necessarily consider that the same way.  You feel like you can just say what you need.  To censor what you say sometimes is the toughest part.  It can be challenging. 

TT:  For sure, that makes sense.  But you wouldn’t change it?  You love it?
KM:  Nope.  I would change it if he wasn’t good!  *laughing*  But as long as he is the best lead out there, we will be ok. 

TT:  Well then that would bring back your hidden talent and your business side taking over.
KM:  *laughing*  There ya go!

TT:  Now this also means it is your turn to ask a question.  My next interview will be with Matthew Blandford.  What question would you like to ask him?
KM:  Why did he move to Alberta from The Rock (Newfoundland and Labrador)?  Isn’t he from The Rock?

TT:  *laughing*  He is originally from The Rock.
KM:  We were out there in Paradise, NL (for the Tour Challenge) and it was beautiful.  And then he blew it and moved out here.  He must work in the patch.

TT:  He is also the last man to beat Brad Gushue at a provincial championship.
KM:  Ohhhh yeah?  Ok...wow!  He could have went to the Brier with Newfoundland year’s and year’s over.

TT:  Who knows?  But that will be my question I will ask him.
KM:  Right on man. 

TT:  Thank you so much for taking time and doing this Kirk.  All the best on the rest of the season.
KM:  You bet, anytime.  Thank you!  You are doing a helluva job.

TT:  Well thank you.  I appreciate that.

There you have it rock heads and stoners.  I hope you enjoyed getting to know the man behind the smile, Kirk Muyres, as much as I did.  Toss him and Team Laycock a follow on twitter as well if you are not following them already.  Be sure to check #TeamOranje out on tour next week at the Home Hardware Canada Cup of Curling in Camrose, AB.  

Special thank you goes out once again to Kirk Muyres for taking the time to chat with me, mid-event.  Best of luck to him and Team Laycock for the remainder of this season and in the future.