Sunday, 19 February 2017

#BetweenTheSheets: Scotties Preview with Nadine Chyz
Will #TeamUpset show it's face in St. Catharines?

Valentine's Day is over curling friends...time to put down the cinnamon hearts for a different type of heart.  The Scotties Tournament of Hearts I mean of course!

It is that time of the curling season to watch the best women's curling teams from across our great country compete for the coveted title of Team Canada and the right to wear the red maple leaf at the upcoming Women's World Curling Championships in Beijing, China.  We have a very eclectic field hitting the house in St. Catharines, Ontario this week, ranging from past Canadian champions to Olympic representatives to all-out rookie teams.  Will the favourites survive and run the table?  Will #TeamUpset continue to shock the curling world once again?

The Scotties is a very special event and, as such, deserves more special attention than this one blogger can provide on his own.  It is for this special reason it gives me great pleasure and honour to welcome the newest member of the #TwineTime family, Nadine Chyz, to help with the #STOH2017 preview.

Let's not hesitate my curling friends.  Settle into the hack and let's get this preview rolling from my house to yours!

TwineTime (TT):  It's time to talk about the Scotties preview and I have a very special guest, Nadine Chyz.  Welcome!  You are now the newest member of the #TwineTime blog family.

Nadine Chyz (NC):  I am so honoured.  Thank you so much!

TT:  I would like to agree and say it is a special honour but let's stay humble here.  I think more important is we get to sit down, enjoy some wine and talk about curling and that is something I believe both of us can get quite excited about.

NC:  It is two of the best things in the world.

TT:  See, there we go!  Now before we get started talking about the Scotties, let's talk a bit about you and your team this year.  A great season this year.  Obviously provincials did not go the way you would have wanted but still a solid year with a few wins on tour.  As a team, quite happy with the results this year?

NC:  Yeah!  We added Becca (Konschuh) to our team this year so we are really excited with the success that we had.  She was a great addition.  We have a lot of fun on tour and very thankful to have success along the way which we were hopeful to bring along to provincials.  Unfortunately we just did not bring our best week forward and did not get the results that we wanted.

TT:  Fair enough.  Now we were talking earlier before we started recording about the whole #TeamUpset theme.  I have pegged you guys as a #TeamUpset for the year, coming through with a few clutch wins on tour.  From your perspective, what do you think when you hear you are an "upset" team?  Is that something you take with pride?  Offensive?  Enjoy?  How does it resonate with you?

NC:  I don't ever want our team to be discounted as a top team because obviously that is what we are trying to be.  But for people to think we were kind of an underdog and to have success, maybe upset a few of the top teams expected to win, is obviously a great thing to have.  Our ideal goal is to be one of the top teams and hopefully we can move out of that #TeamUpset area and start being a team that is looked at as having more success over the year.

TT:  Excellent.  Now looking forward, obviously you are looking at trying to nail down one of those pre-trials (Olympic) spots.  How are you feeling about that process?

NC:  *laughing*  Yeah there has been a lot of calculations.  Lots of numbers.  Lots of estimates being made.  Obviously a better showing at provincials would have been nice and the rest is a bit out of our control at this point because we don't have any more events left.  We have to hope things align up for us and we get a spot.

TT:  So let the rocks roll where they may?

NC:  Yup, pretty much!

TT:  And let's be honest Alberta is a tough province to get out of, which we will talk about in more detail later on I am sure.  You were competing against two grand slam champion winners from this season with Team Sweeting and Team Scheidegger.  It is never an easy field.

NC:  No, Alberta has always been tough.  I think that is why representing Alberta would be a great honour, to wear the Wild Rose on our backs.  We still have some work to do to get to that level.  We didn't perform how we wanted to.  But we have a lot to take back from that week as well to help us in the long run and get us back to where we want to be next year.

TT:  Well perhaps next year at this time we won't be talking about the preview because you will be preparing yourself to be competing at the Scotties.

NC:  Yeah, who knows!

TT:  Best of luck to you and the team for next year.

NC:  Thank you!

TT:  But, this also means we now have to talk about the tough part perhaps for you...the Scotties!

NC:  Yeah, I was just so honoured to be asked to have this discussion when I will not be there.  It will be interesting and there are always great things to see at every curling event and there are some new faces to see at the Scotties this year so it should be fun to watch.

TT:  Excellent.  Well then let's dive right in.  Let's start with the lovely topic of pre-qualification, the topic everyone loves to discuss.  Luckily this is the final year of it so we can stop talking about it.  Before we talk about the teams playing in it this year, what is your thoughts on the pre-qualification event?

NC:  It's kind of tough.  I see it from both perspectives.  Teams get the honour to represent their province or territory and then not even get to participate in the whole event and show because of a couple games is disappointing.  It's just not right for any athlete to get the right to represent but then not get the whole experience.  But when you look at it sometimes there isn't the competition to qualify and get to the big show.  It is what we are trying to do too, playing our southern playdowns and provincial playdowns to beat the top teams and get to the event.  From that perspective, it's trying to ensure those top teams are there.  But you also want represent all of Canada and it really does only help grow our sport by sending teams from everywhere with the right to represent where they are from.  I think it is going to be a good change.  Look at the juniors coming up.  We try to get them more involved moving up so they also have the future opportunity to represent their territory or province.

TT:  For sure.  I am a big fan of the #growthesport movement, as you may know.  I echo your opinion.  Looking back on it, it probably did not work the way Curling Canada perhaps intended from the beginning.  On the flip side, props to Curling Canada on at least trying something new and trying to be more inclusive to all athletes from across our country to participate on the national stage.  You try something new, see how it goes and then recognize it wasn't working and make the change after a few years.  It is something we see with almost every sport and growth.

NC:  And you cannot control how many teams are playing in your provincial or territorial playdowns.  For the juniors, the message of you win and then you don't even get to play at the show may discourage young curlers to continue in the sport.  You need to give everyone the chance.  The biggest honour is to represent your province and maybe your country.  Everyone deserves that opportunity.  There is so much to be excited about to be part of the Scotties or the Brier, to get the jacket is just one component.  You actually want to play more games than just relegation round.

TT:  Excellent.  Well let's talk about those four teams that will be there this year.  All three territory teams will be there but all three are strong teams as well.  New Brunswick will be there as well.  Melissa Adams is a former Canadian and World Junior Curling Champion.  It is going to be a tough field.  When you look at the four teams, who are your two teams you think will be challenging for that final Scotties berth?  Weird to say Scotties berth when they are already playing at the Scotties. *laughing*

NC:  *laughing*  Yeah, I know.  I think (Kerry) Galusha (Team NWT) will be in that final.  They are a strong team with lots of experience.  They are such a fun team.  We had a few opportunities to play them and they are wonderful ladies.  I think they are going to have a great showing.

TT:  Kerry is also a member of the #TwineTime family!  *laughing*

NC:  *laughing*  See there ya go.  We have to add her to the club and cheer for her then.

TT:  *laughing*  I think it is more you getting added to her club.

NC:  *laughing*  Oh right, I am the new addition.  Right!  Ok well a shout-out to a fellow #TwineTime member.  I also think (Sarah) Koltun (Team Yukon) is going to do well.  They were very successful in junior and started at a very young age.  That opportunity itself allowed her to grow and allowed her to become the great curler that she is.  Again, showing the importance of junior curling and having everyone compete at the Scotties because that has helped grow her game I think.  If she was relegated in juniors, she would never have the experience of playing those top teams then and having the opportunity to grow.  I think they have stuck together for so long and that can only help them.

TT:  And props to them on taking the year off last year to focus on their education.  We saw the same with Mary (Fay, 2016 Canadian/World Junior Champion).  But taking the year off and now coming back with just as much fire to compete, here they are again.

NC:  Sometimes that helps.  You  can go so hard and sometimes that year off can give the refresher you need.  We saw them when we were in B.C. and because they have all been there and practicing together, I think they will do well.

TT:  Yeah, I think so as well.  What about Nunavut?  (Geneva) Chislett is back once again this year after making her inaugural berth last year.  Last year many people had no expectations for them and they came out of the gate and won their very first game ever against a strong B.C. team that ended up advancing and playing in the full Scotties event.  Maybe a bit of the #TeamUpset bug right there from last year.  Can they do the same once again?

NC:  Maybe.  Anything is possible!  I'm not sure.  Kind of like any event, whoever comes out to play has a chance.

TT:  I was reading a great article by Bob Weeks talking about the qualification teams and Chislett had a great comment along the lines of what you were saying earlier in that they could make the decision not to come every year but that would not be sending the best message to the junior teams behind her.  If they decided not to come and play, what message does that send and how does that motivate those junior teams to keep pushing forward themselves?  I think she and the team are realistic on their opportunities and will have fun being there once again.  Who knows, rocks fall where they may and maybe she picks up another win too.

NC:  Exactly.  You have to go out there and enjoy that experience.  Not many people get the opportunity to go out and represent your province or territory so enjoy it.  You have to be honoured to have that opportunity and take in every minute you have.  At least for them, hopefully next year will be longer now right?

TT:  Exactly.  Now talking about the #TeamUpset theme.  I was mentioning to you earlier I had a theory on how this whole thing started and I think it began with Team Nunavut at last year's Scotties.  I really feel like the movement started with her opening win at the Scotties.  Her win almost started a domino effect of #TeamUpset results.  Chelsea Carey winning it all last year.  Ok, sure enough at the start of last season I did call them as a dark horse team to watch out for over the season and to challenge at the Scotties but I don't think many people thought they would win it all.  Heading into this season, the domino's continue to fall with more #TeamUpset victories on tour and at the grand slams.  In a way their win last year kind of gave motivation and momentum to all teams in saying that any team can beat any other team on any given day.  They were kind of the kicker of it all.

NC:  Yeah, I think that is huge.  I think it is great for the game.  I've seen a lot of comments on the Scotties field this year and saying so and so is going to easily win the event and stuff like that but they don't realize how hard these teams have been playing and working to get here and knocking on the door to do so.  Just because they may not know the names or aren't as familiar as other names who aren't competing this week doesn't mean they should discredit them or not give them a chance.  They earned the right to be there.  They won the games and beat those so-called teams everyone expected to be there.  They deserve it and hopefully everyone puts on a good show.

TT:  Now talking about another #TeamUpset team in Melissa Adams from New Brunswick.  I think most people expected to see Sylvie (Robichaud) to return again this year after dominating New Brunswick for many years.  Melissa is a former Canadian and World junior champ, how do you think they will do?

NC:  Yeah, I think they are going to do well.  They have a great chance.  It's such a toss-up with that pre-qualification event.

TT:  Yeah they are one of only two rookie skips competing in the field.  We will see how she and the team handle the added pressure and stress.  Kerry is obviously going to be the hungriest and most experienced.  She wants to get back.  Sarah was there a few years ago and went 0-3 so she will want a better result.  NWT and Yukon could be the early favourites.

NC:  New Brunswick could be the #TeamUpset in that field though.  Those are the two who I think will be in that final pre-qualification game but you just never know.

TT:  So who is your pick to win it and advance out of pre-qualification?

NC:  I think Galusha.

TT:  It is tough to go against #PolarPower!

NC:  *laughing* Exactly.  Yeah, I think they are going to do it.

TT:  I think playing the Tier II Tour Challenge this year will be a huge plus for them too.  Remember none of the territory teams had to go through playdowns to qualify here, unfortunately.  I think the added experience overall but for this season of playing in Alberta and B.C., playing at a grand slam, that's going to be the little bit extra to help the team move forward.

NC:  The Tier II challenge is a huge event.  I mean look at where Scheidegger went.  It's a great opportunity for teams to really break through and gain experience.  Galusha having that experience and over the years, they will have the hunger to get back there.

TT:  And they will have the fan support.  I don't know many teams across the country who could play anywhere in Canada and always have fans cheering her on for her entire career.  Kerry is great with fans as well and that's why they love her.

NC:  It's also because she is a sweetheart.  *laughing*  She is just so nice!

TT:  *laughing*  Agreed.  You can never say anything bad about her because she is also super nice to people.

NC:  Always.  She is a pleasure to play against too!

TT:  Ok so we both agree with the #PolarPower moving forward.

NC:  Yup!

TT:  Excellent!  We are off to a good start here.

NC:  This is good!

TT:  And quickly speaking of the Tier II, will we hopefully see you playing there next year?

NC:  Yup, I hope so.

TT:  Ok, let's pencil it in now that we expect to see Team Chyz at the Tour Challenge Tier II event!

NC:  Alright.

TT:  Now let's talk about our favourites.  Who is your Favourite going into the event?  Perhaps not the team you will predict to win it all but the team who is looking like the #1 right now?

NC:  I will say Homan (Team Ontario).

TT:  Yeah me too.

NC:  *laughing*  Yeah I know.  Big shocker right?

TT:  *laughing*  Huge shocker!

NC:  They are obviously a favourite.  The success they have had.  We know they are going to do well.  They are going to have the hunger from not being there last year so we know they are going to come  back ready to win.  I don't think it will be a walk in the park but they will have a great chance.

TT:  I agree.  I think you hit the nail on the head as well.  Rachel is going to have the disappointment of last year ring in her hear to start.  She has the added pressure of winning the Scotties in the past but never winning a world championship.  It is missing from her resume and you can tell that is something this team wants to accomplish this year.  The motivation to go to worlds and win that world title only helps propel them and make them stronger this week.

NC:  Yeah for sure.

TT:  So yes I agree with you Rachel is my favourite.  On paper though she is having, arguably, one of her worst seasons on tour.  Only 1 title.  No grand slam wins.  And missed the playoffs at the last grand slam to end the long success streak.  From you perspective as a player, do results and stats like that ring in your head at all or no?

NC:  I think it is a fresh slate.  She had an incredible season last year.  It is hard to keep that up again this year.  She has done so much though in her career already.  She has done so much with the game that I don't think this season would effect them as much.  If anything it makes them work more and want to have a good showing.  They have a lot to fight for.  I think they will be working hard to get back to the world stage.

TT:  For sure.  The other side of it is they didn't have a cake walk at Ontario provincials either.  They didn't finish first.  Jacqueline Harrison beat them to finish first.  They had to take the SF route to win the title, something they are not used to.  It could be a blessing in disguise for them though in taking on a very tough Ontario field, including Masters champ Allison Flaxey in the SF.

NC:  Exactly.  They have been very dominate but many teams are coming up to that level.  It won't be completely easy.  Going through Ontario and having strong competition.  The province is very strong and has been building up over the past few years.  My team has learned that.  You want the hard games to push you, play better and make the shots you need to.  All the top teams are doing that.  You can't just be always blowing teams out of the water.  You need those close games.  They will be ready for it and will be prepared.

TT:  Yeah, I think many teams are perhaps starting to catch on to a strategy when playing against them that they didn't catch on to in the past.  They have had some tough end of game losses many of us are just not used to seeing from them based on past results.  But not being so dominant may be the blessing in disguise they need going into this year.

NC:  It changes your mindset.  Obviously I don't know their mentality of going into provincials, but the result of last year kind of gets you realizing that you need to play hard and play well every game.  It's what you need to do to be successful.

TT:  There are no free bingo squares in sport anymore.  Anyone can beat anyone at anytime.

NC:  Exactly!

TT:  Ok so we both agree Homan and Ontario are the favourites.  What about your teams to Watch Out For?  I have a list of about three teams that I think could really challenge Homan for the title.  I'm not sure how many you have listed because we didn't share notes beforehand but who is one of your teams on the list?

NC:  Obviously I would have to say (Krista) McCarville (Team Northern Ontario).

TT:  Wow, that's the first team I had listed as well. *laughing*

NC:  *laughing*  Stop it!

TT:  We didn't even share notes yet I have Northern Ontario down first as well.

NC:  Exactly.  They had a very good showing last year.  They have a very good season this year.  They are going to want it and have a great shot at getting back to the final.  The extra year of experience now will only help them.

TT:  I agree.  I think last year was huge after taking 6 years off before last year.  To come back, win 4 events and reach the Scotties final. I think they will have that much more confidence and experience to help them this year.  Again, another Tier II team.

NC:  Yes!

TT:  And another example of why we need more Tier II events during the season perhaps?

NC:  I agree.  Can we talk about that after?  *laughing*

TT:  For sure...we will certainly have a great conversation you and I about that after.  *laughing*  McCarville was at the Tier II and should be expected to push Homan and perhaps be the team to win it all if Homan falters.

NC:  Yup for sure.

TT:  Excellent.  Ok what is another team you have listed as a potential threat?

NC:  I had (Michelle) Englot, your Saskatchewan import with Manitoba. *laughing*

TT:  *laughing*  Well look at that.  I had them down next as well.  Weird!?  We certainly agree they are a team to watch.  What are your thoughts on them?

NC:  They are good!  *laughing*  With Englot coming over, they have had great success.  I didn't find it too surprising with them coming out (of Manitoba).  I know it was a bit of a shocker for some to not have the two favourites in (Jennifer) Jones and (Kerri) Einarson play in the final.  They have a good opportunity to do well at the Scotties.

TT:  They also did reach a grand slam final this year too.  Now of course Einarson won a grand slam.  Out of the three Englot has been right up there with success this year.  Their team is a rookie year but she has 9 appearances back when she represented Saskatchewan.  They have the potential to go very far this week.

NC:  Going from Saskatchewan to Manitoba, two of the top provinces in Canada, she certainly deserves to be there.  I think they are going to have a good showing.

TT:  I hope so.  Michelle's Scotties record is not the strongest.  I know this especially being from Saskatchewan.  I think her best result was in 1988 when she finished 9-2 and lost the SF game.  It's been awhile since she has made the playoffs.  I think she is ready to show she is still as strong as ever and can hang with and beat some of these top teams.

NC:  I think that she is one of those players who can always make shots.  She has a great team in front of her.  They are going to do well.  Having some first time Scotties players on the team, she is going to bring that extra bit of experience to the table that will help the team during the week.

TT:  I agree.  I think her guidance is going to really help the team, especially as they get into some tough games.  This is a tough field to call, as we know.  Coming into the final day and last few draws, where they may need a big win or two to punch a playoff ticket, the pressure is going to mount, especially on the rookies.  Her expertise is going to step in big time to help the team out.

NC:  Exactly.

TT:  Excellent.  Ok, any other teams on your list?

NC:  I think you should watch out for (Shannon) Kleibrink (Team Alberta).

TT:  Oh, they were not on my list here but I will talk about them as well

NC:  Oh, ok...we will talk!  Obviously they have Shannon who has a ton of experience.  Adding in Heather Nedohin as well brings in that much more experience.  Those combined experiences are going to help the Scotties rookies on the team and help the team to well.  They are a team I have seen on tour that never give up, very persistent and will do Alberta proud.

TT:  And similar to Manitoba in many ways right?  A young front end supported by a very experienced skip.  Obviously Shannon has been to the Olympics so you can't get much better than that.

NC:  She has a ton of experience.

TT:  You also know her very well.  You played against her at provincials as well.

NC:  I have played her lots over the years.  She is very calm and cool under pressure.

TT:  What do you think about the two skipping role?  Is that a benefit?  A distraction?  Could it be tough for the other players on the team?

NC:  I was very curious to how it was going to work at provincials when we found out.  But it worked.

TT:  They didn't lose a game at provincials and dominated all of you *laughing*  Just kidding!

NC:  *laughing*  Oh so nice!  But yes.  Obviously whatever they did then worked.  This will be a longer week and with rookie players.  It will be a lot of take in.  I think Heather and Shannon will provide a sense of direction to the team.  I think they will have everything under control and be able to focus on the shots they need to make and not the many distractions of being in the event itself.

TT:  I agree.  I have them listed as my top Dark Horse team just because of the lack of experience among the entire team and the skipping situation could be interesting to see how it plays out.  It could be tough at the beginning depending how it goes down.  One thing I don't think many people will talk about heading into the event is the Scotties are notorious for players getting sick every year.

NC:  Always!

TT:  I don't know why it happens but you can always count on it happening.  It doesn't seem to happen at the Brier.

NC:  I know.  It's the time of year though.  To be honest it's the time of year where everyone gets sick and there are weather changes.

TT:  Very true and I agree.  And I think it will happen again this year, it always does it seems.  But they are a team that if it does happen, I don't think it effects them the same way.  If they have to move Shannon/Heather around, they are already used to it.  If one of the other three gets sick, you are adding Heather into the mix with Shannon.

NC:  Yeah.  They all have flexibility too.

TT:  They have a consistent plan B should anyone get sick.  It could be a determining factor.  Unfortunately, in year's past, we have seen teams get sick and it has costed them a few games and potential playoff spots.

NC:  *laughing*  Obviously I counted for the whole sickness aspect when I was developing my Watch Out For teams.

TT:  *laughing*  You even gave them more credit than I did.  You moved them up a level from me.  Speaking of Heather though, my other Watch Out For is Chelsea Carey and Team Canada, Heather's former team.  You can never underestimate a Team Canada team heading into the Scotties and give them the props for being defending champions.  I can't wait to see them play one another.  I hope Heather is on the ice for that match up.  I think it will make a great story for the Scotties.  It will be fun to see them play against one another.  Carey has had a rough year though, let's be honest.  They have not curled up to the standards many people expect for a Team Canada.  Ever since the bronze medal game loss disappointment of last year that denied them their trials spot, it almost looks like it has weighed on them hard.  It's the Scotties though.  Chelsea seems to come and play when at the Scotties and has always ended up on the podium when she plays there.  It's an experienced team and hard to not see them there fighting for a playoff spot at the end of the week.

NC:  I think they will.  To be honest I actually had them as one of my favourites.  *laughing*  I mean they are Team Canada!

TT:  *laughing*  Oh really?  You had them way up there?  You should have told me you had another favourite.  You had co-favourites?

NC:  I had a couple of favourites.  I mean Homan is everyone's favourite but they are Team Canada.  They are not happy at all with that 4th place finish from last year.  Yes they may not have had the best season but this week I think they will turn it up a notch.  I know Amy (Nixon) quite well, I love that lady!  I think with her fire, she is going to be a huge component to their success.  They are going to be fighting with a tough field but they want it, like the other teams.  But they are fighting for that trials spot too and have a lot of work for.

TT:  I agree.  From my perspective it could be all about how they start this event.  They start with Homan.  It is a tough opener.  If they win, it sets them up for the rest of the week with confidence.  Obviously the tough season means a hit to the confidence, whether they admit it or not.  Anyone who has played any sport knows that but that's how life is.  If they win, it sets them up well.  Even if they lose by 1 in the 10th and play a very close game, I think they get confidence.  The worst thing for them would be to be completely blown out early.  The team has had a few very tough lopsided losses already this season.

NC:  Yes I agree.  I think confidence helps anyone and a good start helps any team.  But sometimes when your back is against the wall, in that need a win situation, is when teams come out and play their best.  It will be interesting to see how they do throughout the week.

TT:  I would have to say if I was playing at this event, I would want Homan in the opening draw too.  Nobody knows the ice.  Nobody knows the rocks.  Everything is a bit more unpredictable.  If I am going to have to play the big favourite and the top team, I want them right at the beginning where the field of play is more even.

NC: Yeah instead of at the end of the week when they are on a roll.

TT:  Exactly because you know she is going to get on a roll during the event and I would rather catch her before it happens.  I'd rather play her at the start then at the end of her roll because that loss probably means you are eliminated.

NC:  *laughing*  What a good way to look at it.

TT:  *laughing*  Exactly, right?  Now do you have any other favourites or can we go to our Dark Horse teams?

NC:  We can go to our Dark Horse teams.  As in plural?

TT:  Oh I have a few.

NC:  Oh well then you better go first on this one.

TT:  Well my first was Alberta and Kleibrink as we discussed.  Great season.  Maybe a bit unexpected to see them here.  But, then again, another Tour Challenge Tier II team here competing for a Scotties title.

NC:'s that opportunity and look where it can get you.

TT:  I know.  We have been talking about it a few times now.  We need more Tier II events!

NC:  You know, can I just say something here?

TT:  Of course, you can say anything you like.

NC:  My team has been talking about this and what we think is they should have a few Tier II events.  Perhaps one at the beginning of the year and another mid-year to acknowledge the teams that have had a great season so far.

TT:  Genius Nadine!  Why are you not helping to run the grand slam of curling?

NC:  You know what, I just don't have time in my busy schedule *laughing*  Just kidding.

TT:  *laughing*  I do agree with what you are saying though.  At least two a year minimum would be amazing and really help to accelerate those teams that are currently sitting middle of the pack and cannot break through into that "elite" status of reaching every grand slam event.  Here we are already in this year's Scotties preview talking about 3 teams now that have participated in the Tier II and have a legit shot at making a Scotties run.

NC:  Yes!  And being in that Tier II grand slam gives you experience.  You are playing teams you may not get to play very often.  You get the experience of playing on arena ice, which most teams don't get at curling club all season.  For the teams that want to get to the next level, if you want to #growthesport and have new faces at that "elite" level that's the way to do it!

TT:  Wow Nadine, it's almost as if you have been reading all my blog posts...which I am sure you have!

NC:  Oh of course.  I've been reading them forever.

TT:  Or just over two years...but same thing.

NC:  An honourary #TwineTime member.

TT:  Well now you are an official member of the family.  It's even more special.  *laughing*  Ok so Alberta at the top of my list.  Who is the top Dark Horse team for you?

NC:  Marla Mallett (Team B.C.).

TT:  Really?  And yet another Tier II team.  What are the odds?

NC:  *laughing*  What are the odds?  Honestly they are a team with experience and Marla is going to make shots.

TT:  A former Scotties finalist as well.  That's a good choice.  My next team I picked is PEI and Robyn MacPhee.  I think the big thing with her is this will be her first time skipping at the Scotties. This is her 8th experience, been there with Suzanne (Gaudet) and her sister.  They have had a great season on tour too.  A great example of a team that stays close to home on tour during the season but has played well.  They have won an event on tour and I think have qualified in over 50% of their events entered.

NC:  Yeah that is a pretty good record!

TT:  A strong record.  I don't think they will be surprised by any of the teams they compete against nor be timid against the big stage.  A playoff spot may be a reach but realistically finishing with 5 or 6 wins is certainly not out of the question for this team.

NC:  That is a good dark horse pick.

TT:  Give a little Islander love as well.

NC:  Yes, need to throw some their way as well.

TT:  Any other dark horse teams you have?  I have two more.

NC:  Wow you have so many dark horse teams.

TT:  Do you have any others though?

NC:  Not really.

TT:  Wow you narrowed this field down hard and put it all together.

NC:  I guess so.  Actually, I would say, if or when Galusha qualifies, they could be in the running as a dark horse too.

TT:  Oh I agree.  I think Kerry could make a good showing too.  Playoffs may be a stretch but picking up a good 4 to 5 wins seems very probably too.  That 6th or 7th win could be tough but if they can get a quick judge of the ice, the luxury of playing the first few games too, it could help them.

NC:  They don't have as much experience in playing all the big events because of all the travel they need to do but if they can get a good handle of the ice I think they could do well.

TT:  For sure.  Now another dark horse team I have...and not necessarily a team I think will make the playoffs but could push a few of the top teams and surprise some as well is Saskatchewan's Penny Barker.  Total rookie team, the other rookie team with Melissa Adams and New Brunswick.  We don't know what to expect from them.  Nobody expected them to get here.

NC:  Yeah, that's true.

TT:  They took the hard road to get here too.  They needed to win a TB and in all their playoff games they had to steal late in the game to win.  They are battle tested which could come in handy for them at the Scotties.

NC:  And going the long way shows they have it in them.  Going the long way is never easy so being able to do so is a huge plus for them and hopefully something they can take with them into a long week.

TT:  You look at the teams playing in the Scotties, nobody played more games than they did to get here through the full qualification in Saskatchewan.  They are mentally strong to continue to battle and fight and win.  Again, 4 or 5 wins would be a nice result but that 6th win might be tough.  I have one more team I would like to pick your brain on too, what about Quebec?

NC:  We actually saw them when we were in Minnesota (Curl Mesabi Classic).  They are a good team.  We had a really good game against them in the QF.  I think they have it in them to do well and have a good event.  I agree with them as a dark horse.

TT:  The interesting thing with Eve (Belisle) is this is only her 3rd Scotties and first since 2010.  It's been a few years since we have seen her but she has a strong team.  The team collectively has Scotties experience.  If you look at her Scotties history, she made the playoffs her first run and finished 5-6 last time.  Quebec is always tough because they don't really travel outside the province.  The system works though.  Look at Marie-France (Larouche).  When she reaches the Scotties, she is always a contender to push for the playoffs and has reached the podium a few times.  On the Brier side, Jean-Michel Menard has won the Brier.

NC:  Yeah, they just hide!  They hide in their province and they come out at nationals and surprise everyone.  They are the French Fighters!

TT:  Oh can we make that a hashtag now?

NC:  Yes please.  It's going to happen.  #FrenchFighters

TT:  They are the perfect underdog team to cheer for as well.  Not many teams know them or played them or seen them.  It could be hard for teams to scout.  And we know with Quebec teams they want rocks in play.

NC:  And that could be very beneficial for them.  When you know other team's strategies, that helps how you play.  They could be a bit of an unknown.

TT:  Exactly.  Dark Horse team!

NC:  Yeah, good call.  I really like that one.

TT:  #FrenchFighters

NC:  *laughing*  Exactly.

TT:  Ok lets talk about our playoff teams.  Who are your 4 playoff teams?

NC:  I think Homan

TT:  Shock!

NC:  I original.

TT:  Yeah, me too though.

NC:  McCarville.

TT:  Me too.

NC: Englot.

TT:  Me as well.

NC:  *laughing*

TT:  *laughing*  I can't wait to see who you pick.  Is four a little tough to pick?

NC:  Yeah it is.

TT:  Do you think there will be tiebreakers?

NC:  I think there will be.

TT:  Oh, I don't.  I think it will sort itself out.  A pretty little bow at the end of the week.

NC:  *laughing*  You are so funny!

TT:  So who is your last team?  We agree on the first three!  I feel like the fourth one we will disagree though.

NC:  I feel like that too.  We probably will.

TT:  So who is it?  Ladies first....

NC:  I am going to say.....................Carey.

TT:  Really?

NC:  Yeah I think so.

TT:  I don't.

NC:  I think they are going to come out and play well.

TT:  So Team Canada is your final pick?  Final answer Millionaire?  No phone a friend on this one.

NC:  I don't know.

TT:  You can only pick one.  Are you wavering between two teams for the final spot?

NC:  Yeah.  Carey and Kleibrink.

TT:  Interesting.  But you are taking Carey as the final playoff team?

NC:  I don't know.

TT:  Well you have to pick one my friend.  Only four teams can make the playoffs.

NC:  This is so hard.

TT:  Oh I know.  Welcome to my world.  But final answer....

NC:  Carey.

TT:  I disagree.  I think it will be Kleibrink *laughing*

NC:  *laughing*  Of course.

TT:  I legitimately have Alberta making the playoffs.

NC:  Without a question?

TT:  Yup, 100% without question.  I do think it happens.  Some probably aren't going to expect them to make playoffs but I think they will.  Many thought the same in Alberta.  Look what they did there.  You know, you were there and saw.

NC:  Yeah I was.  You may not have noticed but I was actually there *laughing*

TT:  *laughing*  You were there for a few days at least weren't you?

NC:  *laughing*

TT:  But all kidding aside.  Many did not predict them to do as well in Alberta and they went undefeated.

NC:  Yeah.  Many people were looking at Sweeting and Scheidegger as the top teams to come out of Alberta.

TT:  Some people were also picking Team Chyz to make a surprise deep run.  Some of those people are right here.

NC:  Awww how sweet.

TT:  No, no...not at that table.  I mean at this table.

NC:  *laughing*  Oh this table.  Oh wow!

TT:  So you did say there would be a TB though.  Is that your TB?  An all-Alberta TB?

NC:  Yes.  Sure.  I know both those teams and I have faith in both.  I am really torn.  The team Kleibrink is right now, especially after the success of their provincials, they have a good chance.  And I think Carey has a good shot.  I think you probably didn't put them up there because of the season they are having but this is their time to shine and they are going to fight.  They are not going to let the week pass them by.

TT:  I agree.  Very good point as well.  In my predictions I do have them finishing in 5th and one win out of a playoff spot.  I don't have any TB predicted.  But in a perfect world, I hope you are right.  I would love to see Kleibrink - Carey for the final playoff spot.  Let's throw Heather into the game and have a battle on the ice.  TSN would love it.  Curling fans would love it.  Everyone will watch.  So let's hope you are right.

NC:  Yes let's....

TT:  But then I would be picking Kleibrink.

NC:  Ok, let's go with that.  I will pick Carey.

TT:  Ok so our Top 4 is a little different.

NC:  Very close though.

TT:  Fair enough, only one team off.  So who is your bronze medal winner?

NC:  Englot.

TT:  I do as well.

NC:  McCarville is going to get back to the final.

TT:  You have Homan winning the 1vs2 and McCarville then taking out Englot in the SF and getting back to the final?

NC:  Yup.

TT:  I have the exact same prediction.

NC:  Stop!  That's crazy.

TT:  That's very crazy.

NC:  We didn't talk about this at all either.

TT:  So we both agree Englot loses the SF but rebounds and wins the bronze medal game, regardless of who she plays?

NC:  Yes!

TT:  So in your world you have another bronze medal loss for Team Carey?

NC:  *laughing*  Oh wow!

TT:  Wow!  Send them a bottle of wine I guess after if you end up being right.

NC:  I'll be buying.  I'll have to.

TT:  I think so.  But I do agree with you.  I think Michelle comes through and gets on the podium, much deserved with the season they are having and for the career she has had.  So we also both have an all-Ontario final.  Northern vs Southern.  Homan vs. McCarville.  Who comes out on top?

NC:  Homan.

TT:  Really?  I am going with the upset.

NC:  Going with McCarville?

TT:  Of course.  I have to ride out the #TeamUpset theme.  Everyone is going to pick Homan to win.  This is an unpredictable year, why stop now?  Homan will be the class of the field, probably with a 10-1 record.

NC:  Who is the loss to? *laughing*

TT:  *laughing*  We can talk about that off the record.  But I do think McCarville will be right behind her with 2 or 3 losses max and then pull it out in the final.  The loss from last year is going to be the hunger she needs to win it all this year.  Plus I think it would be a great story and great for Northern Ontario curling.  I'm going with McCarville.

NC:  Ok well I will go with the rest of Canada and pick Homan.

TT:  I usually try to buck the trend and pick different teams anyways so might as well continue here.

NC:  I like your #TeamUpsets.

TT:  Thank you!

NC:  It's what we need in this sport.  New faces and to have new people not everyone expects to win all the time.  I appreciate that and I appreciate the predictions you make.  But...

TT:  *laughing*  But you are wrong is basically what you want to say....

NC:  *laughing*  Not that you are wrong.  They have a good chance.  I picked them to reach the final.

TT:  So now we have different teams winning as well.  We have different teams in the Top 4 too.

NC:  Yes!  It was too good to be true that we are on the same page.

TT:  Well coming into it I kind of thought you might pick Rachel and I figured we can't pick the same team, that would be boring *laughing*

NC:  *laughing*  Well it is Rachel!

TT:  Ok I'll take McCarville.  You take Homan.  Englot for bronze.

NC:  Done!

TT:  And we both agreed an Alberta team finishes fourth.

NC:  Yes!

TT:  And the big plus is we don't have to talk about which team is going to be relegated because that will be gone now.

NC:  Yeah, we don't have to worry about that.  And nobody wants to talk about that anyways.

TT:  True, nobody does want to talk about that!  Anything else you want to talk about with respect to the Scotties?

NC:  Well one thing I would like to talk about is why aren't the Sociables at the Scotties?

TT:  Oh that is a good thing to talk about.  Why aren't they?

NC:  Where are the women's Scotties Sociables?  Shout out to the Sociables though!

TT:  Why aren't we supporting and endorsing equal opportunities in sports?

NC:  Exactly!

TT:  That is an excellent question.

NC:  They are so great.

TT:  Maybe it doesn't necessarily have to be the Sociables but at least some similar group to be at the Scotties each year?

NC:  Yes.  I mean I would do it.  It needs to happen.

TT:  Good call.  I agree.  I think you should put that challenge out there for a group to establish themselves and attend the Scotties.  Or have the Sociables attend the Scotties as well.

NC:  Yes!!!  Any of those options.  I think we need a group that supports the Scotties like the Sociables support the Brier.

TT:  There you have it #TwineTime fans.  Nadine Chyz throwing down a mini rock challenge of her own here.  I agree...great call!

NC:  Thanks!

TT:  Any other last topics to discuss before I dive into my last mystery question for you?

NC:  There is one more question?  Oh gosh...

TT:  Yeah but it is a good one.  I think you will enjoy it.

NC:  Oh ok.  No, I don't think so.  I think we covered everything.

TT:  Yup, I agree.  Let's see some good curling this week.

NC:  And may all the rocks land....

TT:  In the house?

NC:  Or as a guard.  Guards are good too.

TT:  Good call.  Ok then not unintentionally through the house.

NC:  Or short of the hog line.

TT:  That's right.  No violations.

NC:  Exactly.  That is all we ask.  Good shots!

TT:  There we go.  All of you playing this week, we only ask for no rocks through the house, no 0 shots and no violations!

NC:  Good shots and good curling.

TT:  Because Nadine Chyz will be watching....

NC:  I'll be watching!

TT:  Ok last question.  You have a very interesting job that I don't think enough people talk about.  I thought we could talk about it though.  Why don't you share a bit with what you do for a living?

NC:  I work at Special Olympics Calgary.  Many people don't actually know but Special Olympics is a nonprofit program that provides sport programs for people with intellectual disabilities.  It is not like the Olympics.  We are not a one-time event.  What we do is provide weekly programs in the community every day of the week giving individuals with intellectual disabilities the chance to participate in sport and learn and grow and stay active and stay fit.  We have programs for two-years old and up.  It really gives everyone a chance to learn different skills, not just through sport, but skills they can transfer to their every day life.  A lot of our athletes grow a lot of confidence from being able to participate in our sport programs.  I personally see so much growth in the opportunity that Special Olympics provides for them.  It's amazing.  I love what I do!  We do a lot more behind the scenes work like planning the programs.  I do a lot more special events and communications.  With all the events we do and with being a coach in the program, it has been great to see how much it effects their lives.

TT:  How long have you worked there?

NC:  Oh, it's been five years now.  I just celebrated five years in August.

TT:  Wow...congrats!

NC:  I started out as a volunteer.  I was doing a practicum through school.  They needed a summer student and I needed a job so then I did that.  They offered a full-time position and I was able to stick with them and I have been with them ever since.  I love what I do.  We have a small office of three and a half, having a part-time worker with us.  I love the ladies I work with and they are very supporting of my curling schedule.  I'm very thankful for that!  I love what I do!!

TT:  As you should.  Special Olympics is a great organization and props to you for the hard work you put into it.  I think, like you were saying, Special Olympics does not get enough credit or mention for the outstanding work they do, not only on your side but also for the many athletes in their lives.  I think it is an avenue I wish more people would donate more of their time to.  I think we can challenge more people to get more involved, whether through donation of time or however they can.

NC:  Awww thanks.  I am glad that you brought it up.  We are always looking for volunteers.  It is kind of sad because we are always short on curling volunteers.  And our program runs on Sunday so of course many curlers are gone and competing so it is always tough.  But we are always looking for volunteers, especially curling coaches, to help develop the sport as best we can.  We want to provide curling opportunities for everyone.  Our curling program is actually pretty big.  We have about 50 athletes registered in it.  It has been great to see that grow within the program.  I'm actually coaching a walk and run club that is brand new to Calgary this year that starts in April.  We are always looking for volunteers so I might have to get you out there.

TT:  Anytime!  If you need a volunteer, let me know.

NC:  Ok we are going to sign you up!

TT:  Deal!  You just tell me when and where and I will do my best to make sure I am there with you.

NC:  We actually meet at the Calgary Curling Club.

TT:  Perfect!  I will be there.  Now is there similar offices in all provinces?

NC: Alberta is unique in that Calgary and Edmonton have local offices.  But for other provinces they have a local chapter that organizes all events.  We are kind of unique to have two offices.

TT:  At the same time, anyone who does live outside of Alberta and wants to get involved, there are ample opportunities?

NC:  Oh yeah.  We are international.  There are programs all across Canada.  There are national events.  There are world events.  We have athletes who are training right now to go to the world games in Austria next month.  We have provincial summer games coming up in July in Medicine Hat.   What people don't always realize is our athletes train and they train on a regular basis.   We are not just about the competitive opportunity though but also about the athlete development on a weekly basis.  There is always volunteers needed all across Canada and the world.

TT:  Excellent!  That is what we like to hear.  It is great work that you do.  Congratulations and thank you for continuing to do so.  You are changing lives on a daily basis, whether is it known or not, we both know you are.  And of course keep up the good curling and let's see what you do towards nailing down one of those pre-trials spots.

NC:  Thank you!  We really hope to.  We wish there was more we could do at this point but not much.  *laughing*

TT:  *laughing*  It is what it is I suppose with the schedule.  I think people are excited to see what you and the team do next.  And hopefully in no amount of time we will be talking about you as a Dark Horse or one to watch or even a Favourite in the future.  Thank you for sitting down and joining the #TwineTime blog family.  We will see who will be more accurate with their predictions.  I have a pretty good track record, almost perfect at the Brier and Scotties last year I think.  So bring it on....

NC:  Wow!  Ok then!

TT:  I think I will beat you but you never know.

NC:  Well I am a rookie at this so we will have to see how it goes.

TT:  You know the teams better than I do though so you might have a little bit of an advantage over me.

NC:  But you follow along well.  I am impressed with all of your stats.

TT:  Now you are just being polite *laughing*

NC:  *laughing*  No not at all, I am being honest!

TT:  *laughing*  Well thank you, I appreciate the compliment.  We will see how this goes and then maybe invite you back for another one.

NC:   I would love that!

TT:  Excellent.  Thank you Nadine!

NC:  Thanks James!

There you have it rock heads and stoners.  The 2017 Scotties Tournament of Hearts prediction blog post with special guest Nadine Chyz.  Agree or disagree with mine and/or Nadine's picks?  Share your thoughts in the comment section below or hit either myself or Nadine up on twitter.  Also, for more information on Special Olympics, please visit their website HERE.

Don't forget, the World Junior Curling Championships are still taking place in South Korea.  Follow along with all the scores online and cheer on your favourite junior teams and nations as they fight to become world champions at the same venue being used at the upcoming 2018 Winter Olympics.  Also, remember the winners of the men's and women's event book a ticket to the season ending Champions Cup in Calgary.  Compare the live results to the #TwineTime preview and see how my predictions stack up against the competition.

On a final note, Sunday February 19 is Sandra Schmirler Day at the Scotties.  This is an annual event on the opening Sunday of the Scotties.  The #TwineTime blog donates to the Sandra Schmirler Foundation every year and I would like to challenge every single person who reads this blog post to do the same.  It doesn't matter how much you give, just give!  Created back in 2001, the Sandra Schmirler Foundation has now raised over millions of dollars to over 40 Canadian hospitals' newborn and intensive care units (NICUs) in every province and the Northwest Territories.  You can donate via the Sandra Schmirler Foundation website or through the telethon (1-866-210-6011) live on TSN all day on Sunday.

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