Saturday, 22 July 2017

Season Wrap Up Awards

#BetweenTheSheets: The 2017 Golden Granite Awards
Who takes home the gold for the 2016/17 season?

The rocks have officially been put away on the 2016/17 season. The curling ice is rapidly melting away as heat waves take over most curling club locations across North America, Europe and Asia. We didn't forget about you Australia and New Zealand and Brazil....we hope you are enjoying your winter months and getting some quality rock throwing in while the official season is on break.

Last year marked the inaugural #TwineTime blog Golden Granite Awards. The awards were a huge success (among the handful of people who followed along haha) and due to popular demand of 3 or 4 people, the rookie idea has now become a blog tradition! Movies have the Oscars. TV has the Emmy's. Sports has the ESPY's. Curling has....the Golden Granite! Tradition is born rock heads and stoners.

Ok, I can already hear some of you out there asking 'why the delay?' on these awards. The season has been over for months...come on #TwineTime...#BeBetter! Well, first off, simmer down! I have a job too remember...can't be all curling all the time (although that would be fun wouldn't it?!). Second, look at the classic award shows. Are the Emmy's or Oscar's awarded right after the nomination cut off period? No, there is a brief break in between to gather nominees, review the competitors and ensure a thorough and accurate result can be tallied. The Golden Granite Awards are no different folks. We take our time, don't rush things and put together a comprehensive awards show for your reading pleasure.

Now what kind of awards show could we have without some high profile special guest host? B.C. curler John Cullen, lead for Team Joanisse, was a welcome addition to the inaugural celebration for the 2015/16 season. Mr. Cullen was such a huge hit with fans, #TwineTime had to extend the invite to the #ComicCurler again for the sophomore year. Luckily, in between travelling across the country with his comedy show and on the heels of launching his #1 hit comedy album on iTunes, Cullen is back friends!

Welcome to the 2017 Golden Granite Awards. Let's head to the stage for our hosts: #TwineTime and Special Guest John Cullen (...thecurler & thecomic). Take it away gentlemen:

TwineTime (TT): Welcome back Mr. John Cullen to co-hosting the 2nd Annual #GoldenGranite Awards brought to you by the #TwineTime blog. It's great to have the blog be at a point where we start seeing some traditions be formed. Thank you for coming back and joining me for the exciting season ending blog post once again.

John Cullen (JC): Thank you for having me and I am excited to throw some of my friends under the bus this year. You never have me on for a straight interview. It's "No, I want John to come on see if I can get him to talk shit about his friends".

TT: That is EXACTLY how the conversation goes down every time.

JC: I am here for it and I am ready!

TT: Well that is what we like about you. And I appreciate your consistent honest opinion, something we don't always get in the sports world, but you give honest thoughts and opinions and we keep calling you back.

JC: Thank you. I am happy to do it and happy to be honest.

TT: Excellent. Well let's see how many people we can offend or upset and how many people we can maybe put a smile on their face when handing out some awards.

JC: Perfect. I am ready.

TT: Awesome. As tradition has now been set we start our award program with our Hits and Misses of the year. Let's start with our first category of the night....

CATEGORY:  Misses of the Year

TT: Let's begin with our #3 miss of the season. I have to admit finding misses for the year was actually quite difficult. Last year was a bit easier but this year was a bit tough.

JC: I agree. Last year we had all that broom shit so that made it a bit easy. But I think I have 3 solid one's.

TT: Excellent. Well let's give you as our special co-host the honours of unveiling your first selection. You #3 Miss of the Season is....

JC: My number 3 miss is....and I say this now James, people are going to say this is sour grapes number 3 miss is the introduction of this stupid Everest event occurring in Fredericton in August. I cannot for the life of my figure out why we would find an amazing sponsor willing to throw money at our sport and then turn around and do something completely uninteresting with it. I cannot get over it. I think I had a tweet where I said, "Oh great another curling event where all the top teams are playing in it and they are just going to mix all the teams up. Cool!" Happy Birthday....who cares? The Continental Cup already sucks. Who needs another one of those? I just don't get it. Why do we need another event with all the top teams playing in it? The "interesting" wrinkle is they are going to play with guys they don't normally play with. Well we did that with the Skins game and it sucked. I can't understand it. The reason people are going to think it is sour grapes is because "oh John you are just mad because you can't curl in it." Well, frankly, to be honest I don't like curling in August so I am not really that mad about it. Plus I don't know if you checked but the flights from Vancouver to Fredericton are pretty long so I am not mad about not playing in it myself. As a spectator of the game and a lover of the sport I don't think this is an event we really need and I don't think we need the season to start earlier. So that is my Number 3 Miss....whatever they are calling this Everest curling challenge thing. And the fact they were asking for online votes.....go to bed! I just cannot handle it.

TT: *laughing* Love it....go to bed! I agree with your comments on it though and from a #growthesport perspective, starting the season in August with a gimmick TV event and into an Olympic year season, even the top teams you mentioned is it really in their best interest to kick off a season with some gimmick fun event in August? I think there are bigger fish to fry. I also agree if we have a sponsor willing to shell out some bills for the sport, we could have come up with a lot more creative ways and better use for the sport overall than this event and give them more bang for their buck.

JC: Oh good call. I did not have that listed but I am glad you brought that up. I like it!

TT: My number 3 miss is....well you started off our award show saying we are going to throw some people under the bus so let's turn the key and start driving. My number 3 miss is John Cullen Curling Woes Continue.

JC: Oh are throwing me under the bus?

TT: Well last year I was going to list you as my number 3 miss and didn't and then you made the joke saying I should be honest so this year let's be honest.

JC: My curling woes do continue. And yes you should take advantage of the fact I am one of the few curlers out there that won't get offended by you saying you don't like something I did.

TT: I agree. You do have a very positive outlook and you know it's all in good fun so it makes it a bit easier to poke a little fun at you. Your team had a great season last year and I thought You had good momentum heading into this year. It was a bit of an up and down season with a QF finish in Surrey to missing the playoffs in Edmonton to winning the Hub International in Kamloops. A nice SF result at the #gsoc Tour Challenge Tier II as well as a SF finish in Abbotsford. Team Joanisse did return to the BC provincial final only to come up short once again and lose, respectfully of course, to Team Morris. #TwineTime loves you John Cullen and Team Joanisse....we also just feel the heartbreak a bit for the curling close to the Brier again this year! Plus there was perhaps hope for the pre-trials qualification spot which was going to be tough but you never know. I am still waiting for the day to see John Cullen throw on the B.C. jacket and throw an opening stone in a Brier game.

JC: You and me both man. I just want to quit and retire. I just want to get to a Brier so I can quit and retire already.

TT: Well let's hope this will finally be the season you make it happen man.

JC: Yeah I think we just didn't play enough events this year to get to the Olympic trials. It wasn't going to be realistic perhaps. We were up against Balsdon, Gunnlaugson and Dunstone who were playing 12 or 13 events and we just don't have the capability. We also don't get those free Ontario points that other teams get so that hurts. It is just one of those things. We had a pretty good year. Cash wise we only made $2,000 less than last year so we had a good year, as you said. We played well at the Tour Challenge Tier II. Provincials we played well too, Morris is just an extremely good team. What can you do? Going into provincials we prepared the right way and they were just good. Sometimes that just happens.

TT: Yup for sure. And you bring up a good point as well. I do put a bit of an astrick next to you with regards to the Olympic trials because of the Ontario points and how the system is set up. You have the teams like Bice and Balsdon and nothing against them. They are great teams as well and it is not a knock against them but rather a critique of a system allowing an unbalance across the country. The rankings and points system are set up they way they are and it just happens to have a slight bias towards Ontario....but perhaps that is just common perspective for us out West?! *laughing*

JC: Exactly. Bice won $9,000 this year. We won $16,000. But they had more points than we did. We beat them in the Tour Challenge. It was only one game, I get that, but still. What can you do though? It's Ok and I'm over it.

TT: True enough but a bigger story does resonate from it. Removing the personal connection of you from the equation, a ranking system change may need to be re-evaluated heading into the next 4 year Olympic cycle to balance it out and not have it be so skewed towards one part of the country.

JC: Totally. I agree!

TT: Awesome. Ok, let's continue here. Your number 2 miss of the season is....

JC: Ok let's throw some teams and some people under the bus here. My number 2 miss of the year is Pat Simmons playing with Brendan Bottcher. That did not work! Also nobody thought that would work. ALSO...they told a guy he was going to be on their team and then told the same guy at the last minute he was not going to be on the team because they now had Pat Simmons join the team. They screwed over a guy. They had a terrible season with Pat. They redeemed themselves at the end of the year with Darren Moulding. You can see it from a mentorship perspective. But at the same time they seem to have things running a certain way between the three of them. They have a coach they have had for a long time. They have a system they have run for a long time. It just didn't seem like a scenario where mentorship would work. It was more like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.

TT: Yup I completely agree with you there. When the announcement was made the previous year at the Tour Challenge nobody saw it lasting. I even took bets saying the relationship would be over by Thanksgiving and not come close to making it to Christmas and that is what kind of happened. You called it with a big miss. It will be interesting to see what happens with Simmons next year going over to Manitoba and curling with Dunstone's former junior champion team. What do you think about that?

JC: That makes more sense. That is three guys who can learn from a strong mentor. There can be a strong benefit there. I don't mean to be critical of anyone. I'm not saying the way Bottcher approches things is wrong. And I have nothing but positive things to say about Pat, as does everyone. He is a great guy and great for the sport and a great curler and a great man. He is going to be a great fit for this new team of his. The other move just was never going to be a great fit.

TT: I agree. And I think it fits more into the mentorship idea and a role Pat seems to be leaning towards as he weens off into the next few years of his career here. I hope it is a success for all involved.

JC: Yup, I agree.

TT: My number 2 miss is Men's Parity. It really has been a season of #KingNiklas vs. The Canadian Brad’s. Niklas Edin picks up 3 #gsoc wins, Jacobs picks up 2 and Gushue picks up 1. Gushue beats Edin at the World Championships, a field that really saw a tiered system of Canada/Sweden and the rest of the teams. Edin, Jacobs and Gushue dominate the Top 3 of the money list, same as last season. All 3 finished well ahead of the competition in the YTD OOM. It really was a year of the Big 3 vs everyone else. I like the upsets we have seen on the women's side, which we will get to later I am sure. We don’t want to start a dangerous slippery slope here. We already have a divide between “Elite” and the rest....could we be seeing a new division line of “Elite” and “Super Elite” now? We have seen this happen in men’s tennis, I just wonder if the same happens in men’s curling, is it good for the game or detrimental? I love all three of these teams, don't get me wrong. I enjoy watching them compete on TV and on the ice live in person. Is it great for the game to have a Top 3 pull away for two consecutive years? I'm not so sure.

JC: Yeah for sure. I completely agree.

TT: Wow we are agreeing really well right now. It is almost scary?!

JC: I do agree though curling has had the mentality in the past that on any given day any team can beat any other team. That is going by the wayside a little bit with the increased professionalism. At the same time you want to still believe any team within the Top 50 can still beat any other team any week on tour.

TT: We have three teams who have owned the top of the podium for ranking points and money for the past two seasons and will unquestionably enter this upcoming season as the Top 3 to beat. I am not sure anyone can really bypass them next year either. Prove me wrong I guess?!

JC: Exactly!

TT: Ok good sir, what is your Number 1 Miss of the Year?

JC: My number 1 miss of the year is the guy who posted on the CurlingZone forum saying we should not let international teams play in the slams.

TT: I love it! That is a complete miss. I agree with you there.

JC: People actually agreed with him, which was hilarious. It's the CurlingZone forum page so who really cares but at the same time it was giving him a platform. Curlers started tweeting about it. People actually were agreeing with him comments. Holy shit! It's so funny. I remember getting into curling in the last 1990's and early 2000's and the biggest thing was trying to grow the game elsewhere. Who could we send over to China and Japan and Finland and anywhere to #growthesport. Now that we have done that and these teams are coming over here to compete we are mad? It is so funny to me. These events aren't governed by the CCA. They are open invites run by a media corporation. It's not like the slams were started for Canadian curlers to get better at curling. The idea to police international teams from coming over here to curl. I cannot believe there was even some support out there for that ridiculous line of thinking.

TT: Yup I completely agree, that whole thing was completely out of line and disgusting to even look at. I think I looked at half the post and just stopped. I didn't even want to give that post validation in reading something so completely out to lunch. The one thing I did find interesting is though is where was the mentality years ago when Canadian teams used to dominate the curling scene. I sure didn't see anyone complain last year when Rachel Homan ran roughshot over the competition at the slams. Everyone seemed happy with those results, from a Canadian perspective. Pretty confident curling fans in other countries did not feel the same way and have probably been making the complaint for equality and fairness across the global community for years and years. It's an ethnocentric attitude that I cannot stand for or endorse.

JC: 100% good point.

TT: I like that one. That is a great miss actually. Now I wish I had said that one.

JC: *laughing* Thanks man.

TT: And I will not be hyperlinking or providing people an opportunity to go check out what we are talking about. If anyone is actually interested in this topic, go search it out on your own.

JC: Exactly.

TT: My number 1 Miss of the Year is a topic I have raged on about for a few seasons now and it was just accelerated once again this year. My top miss is the Elite 10 Select Team. #TwineTime already is not a fan of this more gimmick, made for TV slam event and this year was almost the cherry on top of the icing on top of the cake. Bringing together a legend’s team, led by Jeff Stoughton, to complete as the Selects Team was perhaps great for TV but not great for the sport and the #gsoc. This is not a comment against the team members as they are all tremendous legends in the sport and all players I admire. Nolan is a #TwineTime family member even! However, we already see an issue with this event handing out #gsoc money and an auto Champions Cup berth but not #gsoc points plus having only 10 teams compete. If we want a Made for TV event, great no problem. I enjoy the TSN All-Star Skins Game...because it is what it is. In the case of the Elite 10, we all know it is a made for TV event but we are decorating it as a slam-style event when it really shouldn’t be. Is the Elite 10 on the same level as the Tour Challenge? I wouldn’t say so. But on paper it is sold as such. TV event, great...sell it as what it is. At the end of the day though, let’s not dress up a pig as a duck and then tell people it is a duck! Don't insult curling fans. We know what this really is so stop thinking we are unintelligent fans. Have a bit more respect for us and those who love the sport. And don’t even get me started on this being a #gsoc event open only to men’s teams. This is 2017....come on! #BeBetter Just go away already. I am done with you. I don't want to see you on my television.

JC: Just call it the Everest Challenge *laughing*

TT: *laughing* Right? Let's just add another piece of cake to the already full plate.

JC: Yup I agree. And I feel bad because my buddies on Team Morris won that event this year. They really are good friends of mine and I have a ton of respect for them. For three of those guys it was their first grand slam win. But like you said, they won the Elite X and some people, like yourself, don't really treat it as a grand slam event. I feel bad for them. They had a tough Brier with games that slipped away and cost them a playoff spot and then they leave that event and go play this grand slam event. Jim makes a great shot and they win but it kind of goes overlooked. To have a slam with pomp and circumstance but not to be on the full equal of other slams, I feel bad for those who win it.

TT: That is a fair point. But also this comment is nothing against the teams that compete and do well and win nor against the Select Team who competed this year. The gripe is with the system, similar to our comments earlier on the rankings points with Ontario vs. other parts of the country. Teams go out and compete with the parameters set up in front of them to no fault of their own. In the greater good of the sport and the overall outlook of curling in general, was this is a smart move and is this event truly worthy of the prestige it receives? I would question the thought process there. In other sports, if you retire or step away from the game, you don't just receive a wild card spot into a grand slam or major event because of the name on the back of your jacket. If you want to come back and play, qualify and put in the results like everyone else. If you want this to be a fun TV event, awesome package it as such. If you want it to have similar weight to the other grand slams, re-package and re-evaluate what we are trying to accomplish. And maybe start thinking about adding the women to the event.....come on! Again....#BeBetter!!!

JC: For sure.

TT: Ok let's shift over to out next category.

CATEGORY:  Hits of the Year

TT: I think we could see some similarities in our responses to this category. Let's kick it off with our Number 3 Hit of the Year.

JC: Number 3 hit of the year was Canada going twice undefeated at the World Championships. I have this as my number three because the other two will speak for themselves. It's the first time we had a women's team go undefeated period. To have both the men's and women's go undefeated at world's is impressive. And the way in which they did so was also very impressive. So I am going with the double undefeated run for Canada as my number 3 hit.

TT: Ok good call. I will refrain from comments at this time on this topic. My number 3 hit of the year is #TeamUpset. I jumped all over it this year and was excited to watch it happen. I really thought it would happen last season but I guess my prediction was a year off. What a season on the women’s tour. We saw first time #gsoc champions at The Masters with Allison Flaxey, The Tour Challenge Tier II with Jacqueline Harrison, The National with Kerri Einarson and The Canadian Open with Casey Scheidegger. It is what I love to see and it counters my number 2 miss of the year. Ok sure Jennifer Jones took a slam at The Players and Rachel Homan claimed the season-ending Champions Cup to secure the final two slams to veteran teams but this was a year of #TeamUpset. What about Victoria Moiseeva knocking off defending Russian and European champ Anna Sidorova to represent Russia at the 2016 Europeans....and then winning the entire event? But then Sidorova turns around and represents Russia at the 2017 World Championship and wins a silver medal, a best performance ever for Russia. And we can't forget Sweden's Anna Hasselborg winning events during the season and cementing her place among curling elite this year in only their second year together. How many would have called them an Olympic medal threat heading into the season? about Michelle Englot rolling her way towards a Scotties finals appearance, clinching an Olympic Trials spot and still having a shot at being Team Canada next year...if not at the Olympics herself. There are so many feel good stories on the women's tour this season and the unpredictability made the season fun to watch.

JC: I completely agree. You covered it all. I don't have it on my list but I do agree it is nice to see, especially for Scheidegger. Their success is great to see. It was sweet.

TT: Ok so what is your number 2 hit of the season?

JC: My number 2 hit is Niklas Edin's grand slam performances.

TT: Wow...that is my number 2 as well.

JC: crazy. What are the odds? Obviously the first European team to win a grand slam on the men's side and then to win back to back. Plus pick up a 3rd slam later in the year. They are a fun team to watch. Niklas can make every shot. His team played amazing and can make everything. They have the best jersey's on tour...

TT: Hmmmmm......debatable!

JC: Oh....who has better?

TT: I'm not convinced they have the best jersey's on tour at all.

JC: Ok but who is better?

TT: *laughing* I don't know. I haven't really done a close analysis of all curling teams clothing on tour but apparently I need to next year.

JC: Their's is the best for sure with the Viking....

TT: Yeah...ok.....#Yikes!

JC: Ok....well it doesn't matter. The results really help make the sport a more global game. Sure Sweden has always been really good in the sport but this helped elevate it to the next level. It's crazy to think no European team had won a slam before and then they go out and win back to's awesome!

TT: I agree. My number 2 is the #SwedishVikings. Nik Edin and company become the first non-Canadian men’s team to win a grand slam when they won the Masters to start the season...and they just continued to win all year. They go on to win 2 additional slams at The Tour Challenge and The Players Championship. Team Edin also reached another slam final at The Canadian Open and two additional slam SF finishes at The National and Champions Cup. Oh and don't forget the #3peat at Euro’s and the silver medal at World’s. What a season?!? Also remember this season they did not take up a side residency in Ottawa during events, they were travelling back and forth all over the place all season long and still put together the winning results all year! They put in the Aeroplan miles to accompany those tournament wins.

JC: Yeah good call. Very impressive!

TT: Ok so we agree on number 2. What about number 1? What is your Number 1 Hit of the Year?

JC: My number 1 is the St. John's Brier. A lot has been made about the decline of the Brier in the last decade. Certainly there have been some great years but also some sketchy years, Kamloops as an example. The origin story is amazing with Brad starting it with a tweet and following through. It was also the first Brier in a long time where I was watching on TV and saying how bad I really wanted to be there. I think that was the sentiment across the country with curling fans. This is what the Brier used to be. A friend of mine had her dad go to every Brier for 25 years with friends. It is still like that somewhat. But with the rise of the slams and the Continental Cup in Las Vegas....if you live in Saskatchewan and you can decide between flying to Vegas and flying to Kamloops, I know what choice I am making! Plus the slams are all over the place all year. You can usually drive to one or two slam events during the season so the Brier attendance has gone down a bit. The mystique of the Brier has gone down. It was pretty cool to see that come around again this year. And the crowd was amazing and cool! Ok Glenn Howard was a bit of a baby about it all but overall it was great and I am excited it became a TV product where people watching said this is something they want to do. I also have friends in Newfoundland who are not curling fans at all and they were even going. The event took over the town and it is something the event has been needing for a few years now. It was great to finally see the Brier get its mojo back.

TT: Yup I completely agree with you. The Return of the Brier Mojo....I love it! The entire event was stunning to watch. Even if you were not there you still felt a connection to the event regardless of where you were watching. It brought the curling world together in a way we have been looking for and it is exactly the reset the Brier event needed. St. John's was a great host and they brought the party and fun to the event and across the country.

JC: Exactly. I agree.

TT: My number 1 Hit of the Season is #TeamCanada. I just cannot deny the history making feat by Team Canada. Rachel Homan and Brad Gushue dominated the world championships this season and cemented Canada back to the top of the world rankings. Both teams go undefeated at the world championships, a feat never before accomplished by one nation in the past. Homan ended the Canada drought, having last seen a women’s world champion with a Maple Leaf back in 2008 with Jennifer Jones. Gushue’s victory gave Canadian men their second consecutive title, after Koe last year, and Canada's 7th win in the past 11 years. I was lucky enough to be in Edmonton for the World Championships and it was great to be there and experience the history. And let's not forget the world mixed doubles result with Joanne Courtney and Reid Carruthers bring home a world silver medal, another best performance for Canada, and, more important, clinching an Olympic berth for the Red & White at the 2018 Winter Olympics in the discipline. Heading into the event we were on the bubble for qualification and the result cemented our claim as the best curling nation in the world while also putting the world on notice Canada intends to go into Pyeongchang looking for a complete top of the podium curling sweep!

JC: Absolutely, I completely agree.

TT: Well not bad at the half-way point. Few disagreements and overall on the same page.

JC: Yeah we are rolling along nicely and agreeing.

TT: Ok well let's now turn our attention to actually handing out some Golden Granite Awards to teams/players. Let's start with perhaps a category nobody really wants to take home the W for....

CATEGORY:  Underachiever Team of the Year – Female

TT: For you, the award goes to....

JC: Chelsea Carey (Alberta)!

TT: Oh that was my runner-up.

JC: Chelsea didn't do too bad at the Scotties but really struggled on tour. It felt like a team that, had they not won the Scotties last year, would not have been a team this year. We have seen it in the past where a big win keeps a team together for another season when they may not have been planning to do so and that carries over into the next season cash circuit results. Amy Nixon retired this year and perhaps was ready to be done before the season started. They seemed out of sorts when I saw them play. They won some cash and had some ok finishes but watching them they just looked like they were not gelling and they had the type of year you would not expect out of the defending Canadian champions.

TT: Yup I completely agree. I almost gave them this award but I think their Scotties performance kind of saved them against the team I did select. Half way through the year it looked more like a team wanting to just fast forward four months, get to the off-season and hit the reset in a way. It was a mess and it was hard to watch at times being a fan of the sport. You never want to see a team struggle especially your defending national champs.

JC: Totally. Good call! So who was your selection?

TT: My #GoldenGranite goes to Satsuki Fujisawa (Japan). Team Fujisawa were the 2016 world silver medal and 2015 Pacific-Asia Champions, a 1st gold medal showing for Japan at the event in 10 years. They were crowned 2016 Japan Champions but then the wheels fell off the train. The team finished the 2016 Pacific-Asia Champions with a bronze medal costing Japan a World championship spot. At the 2017 Japan Championships, they finished runner-up to Team Matsumura. The result was a double-edged sword as they now have to play an Olympic qualifier best-of-7 event vs. Matsumura for 2018 Olympic berth. In fact, they should even consider themselves lucky Japan was able to hold onto an Olympic auto berth because they missed playing at this year's world championship. They JUST squeezed in as the last auto berth nation. The team of smiles had HUGE momentum from the 2015/16 season and turned it into a downward slide by end of 2016/17 season. They have no momentum heading into a pivotal 2017/18 season with their Olympic spot in jeopardy now!

JC: Totally. I will agree.

TT: Ok....let's go to our next category.

CATEGORY:  Underachiever Team of the Year – Male 

TT: And John Cullen's #GoldenGranite goes to....

JC: This was hard actually because every team kind of underachieved at certain parts of the year. My pick is a team that actually won their national championship but were horrible the rest of the year: John Shuster (USA). I know it is a tale of two seasons and most teams would take winning their national championship over anything else, at least for teams that actually have a playoff *laughing* As we know, some do not. The US has a national championship with more than two teams.

TT: Although a national championship that really means nothing for a world championship spot or for anything else really other than title.

JC: Exactly. They already had their world championship spot locked down before the event too. But they did play well in winning the national title and had a great result at the world championship. The second half of the year they were great. The first half of the year they were horrible. They only made $24,000 and for a team that is playing in every single slam that is awful. It was too the point where people were asking how they were even still qualifying and playing at the slams.

TT: And didn't they go 0 for at one or two slams as well without winning a single game?

JC: They didn't qualify until the slam in January and went 0 for at the opening slam. I think they won one game at the Tour Challenge. They had a horrible start to the year so I am choosing them. But there were other teams. (Kevin) Koe was a team that had some bad results but obviously played great at the end of the year and almost won the Brier. You follow more of the other teams than I do so maybe you have a more poingtant answer but, for me, I remember Shuster being a team that stuck out as playing bad but then made the playoffs at world's, won their national championship and had a great end of the year.

TT: Yes I agree. They were certainly included in my small handful of nominees for this award. Their season was bad and I will say their berth to world's and win at US Nationals was arguably less about their outstanding play and more about Team McCormick coughing up a great first part of the year at the end of the season. They played great for most of the year and just chocked when it mattered the most. Shuster was able to swing in and steal their world championship spot at the end but they did not have a great season overall. But, end of the day, you finish 4th in the world that is still a pretty impressive win.

JC: *laughing* Yeah exactly!

TT: My #GoldenGranite Award goes to an international team as well.....Rasmus Stjerne (Denmark) See above perhaps for my thoughts process on Team Fujisawa? I see a trend here. I originally thought the Fujisawa decline was bad but then I looked at Stjerne's results and....#Yikes....this is beyond bad. The 2016 world silver medal winners as well as a QF at 2015 European Championship went from 23.638 OOM to 116.908 OOM in one season. This past season started with a few SF appearances at Baden Masters, Stu Sells Toronto and Edinburgh...then the wheels fell off. They finished 10th at the 2016 European Championships, failing to qualify for the 2017 World Championship and, as a result, relegated Denmark to Group B for next season. The team also went from a comfortable spot towards 2018 Olympic qualification to missing an auto berth by 1 point and now forced to play the last-chance qualifier in December. The opportunity was there to really see Denmark make a name for themselves on the men's side of the curling world but the fall has been a quick and steep decline. Perhaps the #BroomGate issues helped them last year and the adjustment to the updated rules hurt them....but all the other teams caught on so it cannot be that big of an excuse either.

JC: For sure. See I told you you would have a better answer than me. *laughing*

TT: *laughing* I don't know if it is better.

JC: Oh I think it is a more comprehensive answer.

TT: Fair enough. Ok, let's shift gears into a more positive award. Let's jump into our next category.

CATEGORY:  Surprise Team of the Year – Female 

TT: Who do you have taking home this award?

JC: Before I get to my surprise female team I have a second place winner here. Now the reason is last year when we did this, I remember, we kind of were hard on this person and did not think she had what it takes but she did have a pretty solid year this year so we have to give props where they are due. I am going to give it up to Jamie Sinclair.

TT: You are correct. I think she was even my Underachiever of the Year - Female winner last year too.

JC: Exactly. We talked about her underachieving and agreeing with you. Everyone thought she was going to do great last year and didn't but this year she really put it all together. She qualified for her first slam, made her first slam playoff appearance and was 20th on the OOM. She won the US title and went to the Continental Cup. She is not my award winner here this year but we were tough on her last year so it is important to give out some props this year where they belong.

TT: Yup 100% and I completely agree. Good call.

Photo Credit:
JC: My winner this year though goes to Casey Scheidegger (Alberta).

TT: Mine as well.

JC: Yeah of course. It has to be right?

TT: Exactly. No doubt about it here. And looking at some stats for you because I know you love them....

JC: Heck yeah....add 'em up. I don't know anything *laughing*

TT: Scheidegger started this season ranked #35, ended the season ranked #17 and became a first-time grand slam champion when they took home the Canadian Open title. Overall, Scheidegger won 4 events on tour. They saw an increase of OOM points from 87.259 last year to 303.570 this year. The team moved from Olympic pre-trials hopeful to Olympic Trials auto berth in one season. And how can we not mention the team started the season playing the Tour Challenge Tier II. Look how far they came in one season!

JC: And how about the money list? They finished 7th?!?!

TT: Yeah good call.

JC: It is crazy and impressive! It's insane to see how far they have come this year. They don't even win the Tour Challenge Tier II but then go ahead and qualify themselves for the Canadian Open, which was the auto berth given to the Tier II winner anyways. Then they go on to actually win the whole event and pick up their first slam. How crazy is that? You could say a Tier II team ended up winning a Tier I slam within a two month time frame.

TT: Exactly. Just an incredible feel good story all around! We talked about underachievers completely falling off the side of the mountain. Well this team not only scaled Mt. Everest this season but they went up one side and down the other like it was climbing a little hill at your local park. They conquered Mt. Everest only to go climb Mt. Rushmore and then continued to scale and conquer every mountain in front of them all season long. If they continue the momentum from this season, they are the perfect Dark Horse to keep your eyes on in Ottawa come the Olympic trials.

JC: Absolutely!

TT: And let's not forget they are all great people. Super friendly. Great with fans. From the beginning of the season to the end I had numerous people comment how they knew nothing about this team to start the year and by the end of the year they found themselves cheering them on and wanting to see them keep winning. They won over the curling world with a combination of great playing and being outstanding people. Everyone seems to be jumping on the Scheidegger Train right now!

JC: I agree and it's great to see. Very deserving. Hmmm it's almost as if we should be introducing new curling teams into the slams every year James?

TT: Hmmmm really John? What an interesting yet foreign concept!

JC: It's almost like that's what the people want too. They want to see some new teams in there competing.

TT: *laughing* Who would have thought people might actually want to see that? And who would have known these "unknown" teams would actually win over curling fans and draw some crowds?

JC: I's almost unthinkable right?

TT: And an "unknown" actually can compete against and defeat the big boys and girls teams at the top of the ladder? The regular grand slam teams are actually prone to defeat to these surprise "unknown" teams?

JC: Now now....let's not get over the top in our thinking here.

TT: Who would ever think such a thing? Oh except anyone who is a fan of the sport and actually pays attention and knows there are many, many, many great teams playing this sport across our country and the world on a regular basis.

JC: Who would think such a thing?

TT: Team Scheidegger is the poster child and flag bearer of the #TeamUpset movement this year. A team that works hard and is rewarded for their outstanding work with amazing results.

JC: I completely agree.

TT: And our next award of the show is....

CATEGORY:  Surprise Team of the Year – Male 

TT: Who do you have taking home this #GoldenGranite trophy?

JC: Kyle Smith (Scotland).

TT: Wow that was my winner as well.

JC: It has to be. We might have the same women's team too. A great player. Back to back world junior podiums. Those teams usually have a few years of transition from junior to men's play and they really exploded this year. To be honest I really didn't even know who they were going into this season. They were making slams and I kind of knew of them from winning the world juniors but then they make a slam final at the Tour Challenge and they had a great year. They have a great coach with Viktor Kjall and Mike Harris helps out a lot with Scotland curling. They are a great group of guys. Holy shit though...they came out of nowhere. I am sure you will be more on top of the stats but crazy good stuff from them this season!

TT: *laughing* Yup, I completely agree with you here and also handed them this award. And speaking of stats and results, you know how I love them...

JC: *laughing* Yeah, reel them off....

TT: The 2013 World Junior Champion & 2014 World Junior silver medal winner started this season with 128.499 OOM points, ranked #28. This year Team Smith added 317.192 and finished #8. This team went from a Tour Challenge Tier II SF appearance in 2015 to Tour Challenge Tier I finalist in 2016. Not to mention a Players Championships SF appearance this season as well for the team. By the way, Smith also found the winner's circle in Oakville and at the European Masters. There is no team on tour this year more deserving of this award. The 20 ranking spot jump is almost don't think a team can do it given the horrible and crappy ranking points system our sport has right now but this was great to see. If I was the Tom Brewster's and David Murdoch's of the curling world in Scotland I would be quite concerned about my future because these boys seem to be the present and future of the sport in Scotland and Great Britain. This should be the Olympic team in South Korea and a strong medal threat.

JC: 100% and I completely agree.

*Ed. Note: Since this interview took place Team Smith was named the official Team Great Britain for the upcoming 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang....apparently Cullen and I know a little something about the sport afterall folks!*

TT: Awesome. We agree on another award winner.

JC: *laughing* Great. We may just agree on everything left too.

TT: Hmmmm, perhaps. Let's go to our final category of the night and find out.

CATEGORY:  Team of the Year – Female

TT: And the award goes to.....

Photo Credit: TSN
JC: Rachel Homan (Ontario) 

TT: Shocker! Our winner from last year repeats the feat this year.

JC: It's funny because last year was a bit of a controversial selection because she didn't win the Ontario Scotties but had a historic run on the cash circuit. I talked about it on twitter and had people disagree with me on twitter saying if the team does not go to the Scotties you cannot say they have had one of the best season's ever because they didn't make the nationals and blah blah blah. And people actually agreed and believed this....which I just ignored and thought "Ok you're stupid!" But this year they just proved everyone wrong by winning the first women's title in 9 years, going undefeated and didn't even look threatened in China. They are probably the hardest working team on either tour perhaps. They are a hard working team and deserve the results. It is an easy choice for them to be the repeat winner....and it is hard to argue against them when they have a 100 point lead on the OOM heading into the upcoming season while also leading the money list....and being world champions!

TT: It's crazy, like you said, in the paradox of last year to this year with this team. Last year they almost pulled the historic calendar grand slam but they don't even qualify for the Scotties. Was it the greatest year then? Well yeah it was because look at the historic run they made on tour. it was almost a flip this year though. Homan took home her third Scotties title win. The winning just continued with going undefeated in claiming her first World title and finished the season off claiming the Champions Cup, the team's only #gsoc win this season though. By their standards the slam season was underachieving with only taking home one title. Unlike last year with strong slam results and disappointing Scotties miss, this season it was a bit of a sour slam season but ending with history once again. Overall the team took home $132,500 on tour, the clear cut number 1. They ended last season with a blistering 583.708 points and still collected 494.594 OOM this year. In the end they will be a strong favourite for the Olympic medal in South Korea. They would be the best representative for Canada and would deserve the Olympic gold. They are my pick to represent the Maple Leaf.

JC: Again....100% I agree.

TT: The time has come. Let's hand out our final #GoldenGranite Award of the season.....

CATEGORY:  Team of the Year – Male 

TT: For the final time this season, the award goes to.....

JC: Brad Gushue (Newfoundland & Labrador).

TT: Interesting.

JC: Yeah, you might be going with Edin perhaps? He is the only other choice you could really make.

TT: *laughing* I am.

JC: I am going with Gushue because if you go undefeated at the world's I just don't know how you could not be the best team? They had all the pressure in St. John's to win, all the pressure of playing at home. They put it on themselves when they said they really wanted to win it. Gushue has underperformed at the Brier in the past where he looked like he would win it, made a few finals, and just could not close it out. He had the same results in juniors where he looked ready to take home a Canadian title and faltered at the finish line. Sure he eventually did but he also famously almost hogged a rock when he had an open draw for a win in 2000. For him to win with all that pressure is impressive. The result at the world's was equally amazing. When you take a team like Edin who dominated the OOM and was on top of the money list all season, they are a great team. They just didn't look like they were going to beat Gushue at world's though. It is that dominance that deserves the number one spot....and that doesn't even take into consideration Gushue missed half the season. The team still put up incredible numbers and results with a host of spares throughout the start of the season. They didn't even have a regular spare. They had Charley Thomas. They had Adam Spencer. They had Tom Sallows. For me, Gushue is #1!

TT: Very fair and all great points. This was a very tough call to make. Edin and Gushue were the top ranked teams all season long. Anyone who follows the #TwineTime blog would know I have had these two teams going back and forth at the top of the #PowerRankings all season. Heading into world's I even had them tied I think. This is tough. It is a similar argument to Homan last year. Do you reward outstanding play throughout the entire season or do the world championship results have added weight to the consideration? Gushue did go 3-0 against Edin at the world's. On the flip side, #KingNiklas dominated during the season on tour and at the slams. It was tough but at the end of the day the #GoldenGranite Award goes to.....Niklas Edin (Sweden) . #King Niklas finished the season with seven wins on tour, including grand slam wins at The Masters, The Tour Challenge and The Players Championship. Perhaps just as impressive, or more impressive even, Edin took home a third straight and fifth overall European championship this year. Team Edin are the 2017 World Championship silver medal winners and the team added an impressive 538.755 OOM points to their rankings and $191,469 to the bank account, both #1 for the season. They will start the season #1 and have already punched their 2018 Olympic ticket as Team Sweden! They should be a strong gold medal threat in South Korea, regardless of who the other qualifying nations send as their representative and they would be my early gold medal pick heading into the season.

JC: Fair enough!

TT: Tough call. Let's just have them fight it out on the ice for another season and see the results next year.

JC: Very tough call. Absolutely. And next year will be tougher because we will have the Olympics and the World's and slams....lots of things to consider.

TT: Next year will be tough. And you raise a good point because the teams who compete at the Olympics may not necessarily be competing at the World's.

JC: Yeah totally.

TT: It will be tricky but, at the same time, hopefully that also opens the door for more of these upset teams to find their way, hopefully on the men's side too and we see some parity once again. After Olympic trials are completed, the winning teams will focus on Olympic prep but the season will go on for all the rest of the teams so this could be a season where if you aren't in the Olympic hunt, you can still make a strong name for yourself on tour and make a good run at a national championship and even a world run.

JC: And again we agree.

TT: Well that brings to a close the 2nd Annual Golden Granite Awards. We had a few more agreements this year compared to last year.

JC: Didn't we agree more last year?

TT: I didn't think so.

JC: I think for the Hits and Misses we agreed more last year but this year for the most part they were completely different. That is good.

TT: It is good. It is a different perspective. I think that is why I enjoy inviting you back to co-host the season closing blog post. You are in the sport and competing on a regular basis so your perspective will be a bit different than mine. Neither of us is perhaps ever right or wrong but the different perspectives is great to discuss and compare on the sport.

JC: For sure man.

TT: Well Mr. Cullen, are there any final thoughts or adds you have as we officially bring down the red curtain on the 2016/2017 curling season?

JC: I think that's it man. I will just say I think next year I hope the Cullen woes are over. I will try my best to get into your Hits section next year.

TT: *laughing* Well right now we will keep you as the Number 3 miss on an on-going basis until it improves.

JC: *laughing* Sounds good. I can accept that.

TT: And I final little bit of props to you as well. You have had a busy year with your comedy album going out on iTunes and landing at the #1 spot. You have had a great tour across the country and been having great success. The podcast is going well and successful too. Congrats and keep up the good work. I hope more and more people are becoming a John Cullen fan because if they weren't before they damn well should be now!

JC: Oh well thank you sir. I try my best and I appreciate it. I always appreciate you having me on the old program as well.

TT: Well with how busy you are I think I should be thanking you more *laughing*

JC: *laughing* Fine, thank me more. I acccept!

TT: Awesome. Thank you once again for joining me John. Enjoy the summer and we will be in touch I'm sure.

JC: Sounds good buddy. Take care!

And with that final note, thank you rock heads and stoners for sticking with the #TwineTime blog for another curling season. Congratulations to all the #GoldenGranite Award winners as well as all the teams competing on both the men's and women's tours this season. You continue to keep us curling fans engaged and excited during the season and we cannot wait to see what all of you have in store for us (and yourselves) next season.

It continues to be truly humbling and exciting to connect with all of you throughout the season. I look forward to more adventures, coverage, disagreements and conversation throughout an action packed 2017/2018 season. 

I also want to have a special shout out to Curling Canada and Sportsnet for their continued support of this blog and allowing #TwineTime to have a seat at the media table for curling events throughout the season. I continue to feel honoured to be welcomed into a curling media family, even as a non-traditional sports blogger. The continued acceptance of various media, whether it be blogs or podcasts or traditional media, can only help continue to #growthesport into the future. I hope I can continue to be a part of this evolution for the unforeseeable future. Many thanks to all those involved behind the scenes, those who I have met throughout the year at various events and those who continue to see value is a little blog with a big passion for the sport of curling.  

Any suggestions on what you would like to see next season #BetweenTheSheets? Perhaps an athlete you think would be a great addition to the #TwineTime family? Add a comment below or message me on twitter. And remember #StayTuned...the rocks may be put away during the summer but the conversations, passions and thoughts on the sport remain alive 24/7.

Enjoy the summer months everyone!

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