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Wednesday, 18 April 2018

#PowerRankings W37

#BetweenTheSheets: Celebrations, History, Debates...Oh My?!
The 2017/18 season approaches the final rock with various story lines in play


Rock head and stoners, oh how I have missed you!  I know it is not like either of us took time away from one another or had a messy breakup, we did communicate via social media throughout recent events like the Brier and World Men's Curling Championships but we have not reached out via a blog post in quite some time.  Sorry!  My bad!!

We have A LOT to catch up though don't we?  Since we last connected two Grand Slam of Curling events have spun their final rock this season (Elite X and Players Championship).  We have crowned a women's and men's world champion.  Celebrations have been had.  History has been made.  And debates continue to slide down the curling sheet.  Not to mention we sure have had a gap in time since the last #PowerRankings were released.

Settle in the hack folks, this is going to be fun!  PLUS a little #TwineTime specific announcement 😉

Let us start the blog post with the celebrations...and history being made.  We have a few key championship wins to celebrate and congratulate.  Time for the honoured #GunnerRunback Champions roll call:

Elite X - Well quite the Swan Song tour for Team McEwen right now as the season comes to a stop.  With the announcement of their break-up full news for everyone, Team McEwen stepped on the ice at home in Winnipeg after a disappointing end to the Brier and won their second Elite X title in the event's brief 4-year history (they won the inaugural event in 2015).  Not to mention they defeated newly crowned (ok defending crowned?) Team Canada, Team Gushue, in the championship final.  Not a bad redemption result either.  Props to Kevin Koe and the resurgent Glenn Howard on reaching the SF.

World Women's Curling Championships - The Queen is Here!  Jennifer Jones continued her dominating winning ways in North Bay by claiming her second world championship and, at the time, increasing her winning streak to an impressive 20 games!  The win was even more sweet knowing long-time second and BFF Jill Officer is stepping away from the game at the end of the season.  Jones was the class of the field all week and deserved this title win, perhaps a bit of redemption for the tough ending at the Olympic trials back in December.  Speaking of the Olympics, props to Olympic champ Anna Hasselborg and her #SwedishVikings on reaching the final and collecting a silver medal.  What a tremendous few months of curling she is having!  And a solid round of applause for Russia's Victoria Moiseeva, who put aside the disappointing results in PyeongChang and played lights out curling to claim the bronze medal knocking off a surprising USA Team Sinclair.  As this blog stated in the past, Russia is the only nation, men or women, to land on the podium each of the past 5 years (1 silver, 4 bronze).  Quite an impressive feat!

World Men's Curling Championships - It is #KingNiklas world once again and we are thankful to live in it.  Team Edin erased some of the disappointment from PyeongChang by winning the world title in Las Vegas.  Having been in Vegas for the majority of the event, this was the top team all week and played like they were on a mission where no team would be able to stop them.  Props to Canada's Team Gushue on reaching the final and winning a silver medal.  A world championship is next to impossible to defend and Gushue came one game short, lots to be proud of there.  Also huge props to Scotland's Bruce Mouat on winning the bronze medal, knocking off perhaps his new rival Korea's Team Kim.  Mouat is now 7-0 against Kim this season.  Remember this is also Team Mouat's first season competing together.  Not bad to pick up a slam title and world bronze medal.

Players Championship - The theme of team break-up turned grand slam winner continued in Toronto on the men's side when Team Koe knocked off freshly crowned world champion Team Edin in the championship final.  We all know Marc Kennedy is retiring after this season and second Brent Laing is returning to Ontario so this was another swan song title win for one of the strongest teams in Canada the past few years.  Props to Team McEwen and Team Gushue on SF appearances.  For the women, crown ourselves another first time #gsoc champion and add to the history books.  As Chelsea Carey did at the last women's slam, The Canadian Open, USA's Jamie Sinclair followed suit in upsetting heavily favoured (and looking almost unbeatable) and current world champion Jennifer Jones in the championship final.  What a run for Team Sinclair in not only winning their first slam but the first-ever grand slam victory for a USA team.  Props to Team Tirinzoni and Team Einarson for reaching the SF.

We certainly see a common theme here in our Champion Roll Call don't we?  Past champions are ruling the house right now as all the last teams standing named above have stood on top of the podium before.....except for Team Sinclair of course.  Great to see a NEW champion emerge every once in awhile right?  History was made and that alone is a great reason to celebrate.

But what do all these results mean?  Who are the curling teams or curling topics trending in the positive direction and which are trending down?  And I mentioned some debate?  What is the debate now?  It has been awhile since we have discussed this but welcome back to the blog the #IceBreakers and #BambiBumbles of the week!

#IceWarmers


1. #SwedishVikings - Olympic Gold (Hasselborg) and Silver (Edin).  World Championship Gold (Edin) and Silver (Hasselborg).  No nation can claim to be more successful on the international scene than Sweden right now.  Both Hasselborg and Edin have proven to be two of the strongest and consistent, if not THE strongest and consistent, teams on tour over the past two seasons.  Add in the fact Isabella Wrana won the Women's World Junior Championship last season and was a finalist again this season.  Wrana recently reached a tour final in Perth and sits #29 in the world rankings.  Swedish Curling is heating up the ice.....so what's the deal with the funding debate then?  Well more on that below.  Lets focus here on the success and praise for what the Swedish curling athletes have been doing ON the ice!  We can look at recent past history with Margaretha Sigfridsson, winning 4 world silver medals and 2 European titles in addition to the Olympic silver in 2014.  Sigfridsson is still curling as well, currently sitting in the Top 40 of the world rankings.  Up and coming men's skip Patric Mabergs also had a breakout season of his own, winning the Swedish Elite League and qualifying for a SF and F on tour.  Edin and Hasselborg are leading the way among the world elite right now but the future is also bright for Swedish curling.  Add another chapter to the on-going Sweden vs. Canada rivalry saga with this victory going to Sweden.

2. #TeamUSA - First Team Shuster rocks the world in PyeongChang winning Olympic gold.  Now Team Sinclair provides the aftershocks picking up a Players Championship title in Toronto.  USA Curling is on a roll....literally!  From a #growthesport perspective this is exactly what fans have been craving for, and not just fans sporting the Red, White and Blue pride.  Curling athletes, sponsors, media personalities and fans have long been saying a key avenue for growth is success south of the border.  I think we can say the breakthrough is now official.  Remember all the debate and controversy surrounding the US Olympic Trials (memory refresher HERE)?  Back in September USA Curling was dealing with some backlash and negative PR.  Fast forward 6 months and they lay claim to an Olympic gold medal and Grand Slam of Curling championship, both firsts for the good ole US-of-A!  We should also mention props to Nina Roth and her team for reaching the QF, once again putting two USA women's teams into the playoffs at a slam event.  The future is looking bright and the early results on the ice for 2018 should help continue to #growthesport across the US.  Congratulations Team Shuster and Team Sinclair!

3. Hello World - Speaking of #growthesport, USA Curling is not the only national governing body celebrating success as the 2017/18 curling season comes to a close.  The talk around the curling community has long been around waiting for the world to truly catch up and challenge Canada atop the national #PowerRankings.  Well I don't think we have to say the world is coming....they have arrived!  Just look at the two #IceWarmers above as key examples.  Sweden and USA have had stellar success on the international scene as well as on tour this season.  Korea is having a stand out year as well, capturing #PACC titles, Olympic medals, World Championship medals, historic grand slam results and collecting more titles on tour than ever before.  Japan has been knocking on the international door for a few years now and looks to be right in the conversation of medal threat every event now.  Switzerland has always been a force to be reckon with in the women's game for a few years but the men have also stepped up with Team De Cruz winning Olympic bronze and a #gsoc title.  And Russia!  Well the combined results from Team Sidorova and Team Moiseeva over the past few years, both on the world level but also European Championships and #wct level, can not be debated.  Oh and the birth of the sport, Scotland?  Yup they are still a powerhouse with Eve Muirhead and a few strong up and coming younger teams for the women's game BUT also a strong collective of men's teams are ready to take over the world with Team Mouat, Team Smith, Team Drummond and Team Brewster all having strong seasons.  Sure Canada will also be at or near the top...but we also have a VERY large pool of curling athletes to look towards for championship wins.  If we break it down on competitive curling teams per capita, the world has arrived, caught up and, in some aspects, surpassed us.  Bring it on I say!  As the world continues to get stronger with more non-Canadian teams winning international medals and tour events, we all win in the long-run.  The future looks bright folks....and I am already excited for next season (yes I know this season hasn't even wrapped up!)

4. #TwineTime Fam Mention: Ryan Sherrard - This week I want to just highlight one of the nicest guys in the sport of curling.  Sure Team Germany struggled in Vegas at the World Championships, finishing in last place with a 1-12 record, but German lead, former Canadian Junior champ and fam member Sherrard continued to remain positive.  I had the pleasure of sitting Patch Poolside with Sherrard once the RR wrapped up at the Orleans Arena and had some great discussions on growing the sport in Germany and around the world, talks on pro's and con's of various format ideas (thanks for reading the #FormatFrustrations blog post btw Ryan!) and just general shoot the shit type of conversation.  It was quite funny we were sitting poolside exactly one year to the date we first met and did the blog interview in Edmonton.  Sherrard is a great example of what sets curling apart from other sports, athlete's with no ego who have a passion for the sport and an appreciation for the fans.  No one athlete is bigger than the sport itself and Sherrard brings that humble approach and love for the game on and off the ice.  I look forward to seeing what the future holds for Sherrard....and congratulations once again on the new job!


#BambiBumbles


1. Format Hypocrisy? - Ok we are all familiar with the on-going nagging format debate controversy rollings its ugly head during the Scotties and Brier and World Championships.  Too many teams in the competition.  Too many teams making the playoffs.  A .500 record making the playoffs with a shot at winning a major event.  The link above offers suggestions and a #TwineTime blog perspective but the Players Championship did add another element to the discussion.  Are we only concerned about format frustrations at world championship events or events where non-"elite" are competing?  In Toronto we saw 2-3 teams advance to the playoffs with a chance to compete for a #gsoc title.  In fact, on the men's side, we ended up with FOUR 2-3 teams competing for 3 playoff positions.  The women's field saw THREE 2-3 teams compete for 2 playoff spots (tiebreakers were used for both to determine the final playoff spots).  Why was nobody up in arms over a possible sub-.500 team claiming a Grand Slam of Curling title?  I did not see any of the top teams/athletes nor many of the fans who were vocal protesting a similar argument at the recent world championships.  Are we creating a minor hypocrisy here?  Now I get it.  In a field of 12 teams the odds of having sub-.500 records is pretty high.  The parity among these top teams is at an all-time high as well.  This is great for the sport for sure.  However, the core argument is still the same, no?  I think winning a #gsoc title is a pretty big deal.  It is the next tier below the national/international tournament level.  If you don't agree with a sub-.500 team being playoff eligible at a world championship or Brier/Scotties, how is it ok at a #gsoc major?  Simple solution perhaps is a 12-team field should only have a Top 6 playoff bracket.  Heck maybe even a Top 4 page playoff format would be fun at the Players Championship?  The Players is unique in most slam events have the Top 15 teams so an 8-team playoff bracket makes sense and rarely does a sub-.500 team qualify in a 15-team field.  This blog has been clear on supporting new formats, including increases in playoff qualifiers, to help #growthesport.  Where my disappointment and confusion lies is why is it good for the goose but not for the gander?  Team Sinclair finished 3-2 and won.  But what if Team Tirinzoni, who finished 2-3, won?  They did make the SF remember.  What would be the response and reaction?  There were certainly concerns at the women's worlds when this same Sinclair team played in the SF with a 6-6 record.  The theme of this blog rings true in this argument: consistency, consistency, consistency!  If you are of the opinion .500 or sub-.500 record teams should not have a shot at winning a major event, you have to continue having the same argument for ALL major events.  You cannot pick and choose your arguments here folks.  I think my suggestion makes sense.  A field of 12 or under should yield a different playoff format than the standard field of 15.  If so, this argument perhaps is mute.  I was just surprised more people were not sounding off, like they did during the women's world SF game, about the strong possibility of a sub-.500 grand slam champion.  I am all for opinions and ideas but lets stay consistent with them!

2. Sweden Sadness - It was announced by #KingNiklas during the World Championships funding for, at minimum, the next season would be cut for ALL athletes.  According to Edin athletes competing in Summer Olympic sports received notification after the Rio 2016 games.  Edin was notified after winning the European Championship back in November.  This is not a cut or slight against just curling in Sweden folks.  This is a setback against ALL athletes.  If you like the conspiracy theory ideas, does anyone else find it a bit coincidental Stockholm has thrown their name into the hat to bid for the 2026 Winter Olympics while making it known amateur sport funding has been pulled?  Hmmm....it would seem the athlete funding has not been pulled based on performance and results (see Edin and Hasselborg and the overall results for Sweden in PyeongChang) but rather a reallocation of funds from the athletes themselves towards the Olympic bid costs.  The number of bid cities has fluctuated over the past few months but there are rumours up to 9 cities are now considering a bid, including Calgary, AB, Canada (host of the 1988 Winter Olympics).  City of Calgary council just voted this week to continue pursuing the bid.  One would guess, should Calgary continue the full path, Stockholm may be in trouble?!  But lets say they are successful and win the 2026 bid.  Sure your athletes will earn auto berths into all the sport disciplines but how strong with their results be on home ice when you have little to no investment in their growth and development in the years leading up to the games?  Even erasing funding for one or two years can be detrimental to the growth of these athletes and those sports in the long-run.  Similar argument can be made if Stockholm does not win the bid or even drops out prior to the official IOC vote.  What good did pulling the athlete funding do then?  Maybe the funds, if any are still available and around, are re-allocated to the athletes and sport governing bodies in time but did this decision create a negative ripple effect in the long-run?  The story of financial funding for amateur sport is not a new debate but it will be interesting to see how Sweden and it's athletes cope with this decision over the next few years and whether we see a dip in Swedish sport success as a result.  As Edin has stated, they are already using their Bonus Cup money from last season to help cover costs for their Players Championship and Champions Cup appearances.  We know they are already roughly planning to cut down their travel next season by 50 or more days, which could impact their results, points and ranking.  There are rationals and reasonings behind every decision and obviously not everything is known to those outside the boardroom walls where decisions are made but, at this point in time from a pure distance on-looking perspective, this is both sad and disappointing not only for Edin, Hasselborg, Wrana and other Swedish curlers but for Swedish athletes in general!

3. Team Homan - Olympic hangover curse?  Long season emotionally and physically draining?  Or simply opposition have caught up and found a way to dethrone the Queens of the Ice?  Whatever the reason, Team Homan has certainly been struggling for much of 2018.  The disappointing results in PyeongChang were followed up with an eye-opening 0-5 record at the Players Championship last week.  When was the last time Homan went winless at an event, let alone a grand slam.  Remember when she used to dominate the slams?  Oh how soon we all forget when we see a team struggle.  Are you only as good as your recent results?  Well of course not!  This is Team Homan after all and they are still one of the strongest teams in the world even if they are suffering through a slight hiccup on Results Road right now.  The important part of the week in Toronto was the formal announcement of the team sticking together for the next Olympic cycle.  There has been MUCH speculation for weeks on "What will Team Homan do?" and they finally answered the critics and the fans.  One has to believe there is a positive spin here though when at a large event like a slam where you are struggling to perform as a team you can still make an announcement declaring you are sticking together.  Or maybe it is just smart PR to cover up the dismal results with a more positive story to spin for people to talk about your future rather than your present.  Either way, we have to believe these results will not carry over into next season.  The pressure will be off and, for the most part, the Olympic results will be a distant memory come September.  But it is still hard to watch such a strong team go 0-5!

Two grand slam events have passed.  Two world championships have concluded.  You better believe we are going to see some shake ups on the Rankings Mountain!  Here are the NEW #PowerRankings:


MEN

1.  Team Edin (LR: 1) - Olympic silver medal.  World Championship number 3 for #KingNiklas.  Another #gsoc final at the Players Championship for the #SwedishVikings.  Could anyone really debate this team as being the top team in the world right now?  Unless they fail to pick up a W in Calgary, hard to imagine any team mounting an argument to supplant them at the top of the mountain this season.  Special congratulations to #TwineTime fam member Niklas Edin for collecting his 3rd World Championship in the past 6 years.  Hard to find a curler, from any country, show more consistency than that?!  Also can we give special props to Edin for the...ummmm....interesting....autograph signings he did at the Orleans Arena after winning the world title?!  If you missed it, scope out my twitter pics to see what I am talking about. 🙈

2.  Team Koe (4) - As the current edition of Team Koe heads into the sunset they sure continue to play as one of the top teams in the world.  They put on a clinic in Toronto, going undefeated in claiming the Players Championship title.  The win was Brent Laing's 15th #gsoc title, tying him for 3rd all-time with Wayne Middaugh and only one behind Glenn Howard for second (Kevin Martin leads the way with 18).  Meanwhile the soon to be retired Marc Kennedy picked up his 12th #gsoc title, tied for 5th with teammate Ben Hebert and Craig Saville while moving one ahead of former teammate John Morris.  The only thing dogging Kennedy's resume is being one Masters title away from the Grand Slam collection (Masters, National, Canadian Open, Players Championship).

3.  Team Gushue (HM) - The 2017 world champions sure made a valiant effort in Las Vegas trying to #defendtheice.  Sure they had a few minor slips along the way in the RR, losing to Edin and Mouat, but they accomplished goal one of reaching the playoffs and goal two of reaching another championship final.  Frankly they just ran into a red hot Team Edin in the championship.  But they left the Orleans Arena with a silver medal and the future is certainly bright for the NL-based team as they will be staying together for another Olympic cycle they have announced.  Don't forget they also had a finalist appearance at the Elite 10 and a SF appearance at the recent Players Championship.  Consistency, consistency, consistency!

4.  Team Mouat (NR) - 6 #wct titles this season. World bronze medal from their rookie appearance in Vegas. And approaching the century mark for games played (game 100 will be in Calgary vs. Team Flasch).  This team is the real deal....and this is their first year playing together folks.  Scottish Curling has to love what they are seeing from this young team.  The question for them will be how they maintain the momentum heading into next season.  Sophomore slumps are a real deal....just ask fellow Scottish up and comers Team Smith this season.

5.  Team McEwen (HM) - The announcement was finally made on the worst kept secret in curling when Team McEwen announced their break up and for skipper Mike McEwen to join #TeamBFF with Reid Carruthers.  Everyone saw this coming since December, if not sooner.  What people maybe didn't see coming was the Elite 10 #gsoc title they won last month in Winnipeg.  The win upped the collective slam win total to 7 for all for members and only a Players Championship title away from the Grand Slam honour.  It will be a bit sad to see the McEwen dynasty come to an end after Champions Cup but I love the continued drive from the team to end the season on a positive....and with a few extra bucks in each new team account for next year.

Honourable Mention:  Team Kim, Team Bottcher, Team Jacobs, Team Epping, Team Smith


WOMEN

1.  Team Jones (HM) - Ok so the 27-match winning streak came to an end at, arguably, the worst time possible in a #gsoc final. BUT I am sure the current world champions are not holding their heads too low right now.  They have been the top team on tour all season, regardless of the disappointment at the Roar of the Rings.  Remember, up until their first loss in Ottawa mid-way through the RR draw they were riding a 19-match winning streak.  A winning streak of 19 AND 27....in the same season?  Yikes!  Jones will look to send long-time second and BFF Jill Officer off on a winning note in Calgary at the Champions Cup as the duo (along with Dawn McEwen) look to pad their #gsoc titles won count to 16.  Oh and vice Kaitlyn Lawes...she happens to be in 4th of total championships behind her three teammates with 10.  Can anyone knock them off the top?  Well.....

2.  Team Hasselborg (1) - Enter the female #SwedishVikings!  The Olympic champs certainly could claim they are having one of the best seasons...and an Olympic gold medal will generally support that claim.  Plus she did reach the world final coming up short to Jones.  The one big missing piece of the puzzle for Hasselborg is the 0 next to #gsoc titles.  She lost the Champions Cup final a year ago and will look to end one of the best sophomore seasons in history by claiming her first slam title in Calgary next week.

3.  Team Sinclair (NR) - The newest member of the #gsoc champions family makes quite a rumble up the side of the rankings mountain this week.  USA's Jamie Sinclair not only claimed her first slam title BUT also the first title for the US, men or women.  Sinclair played lights out curling in Toronto and I think many, especially those with USA Curling, breathed a huge sigh of relief.  The question around Sinclair has always been "When?"  When will she live up to the potential USA Curling and American curling fans have been waiting for.  She arrived and erased the question with her win at the Players Championship.  Next question is how will she follow-up the W in Calgary and next season?  Does her team stay together?

4.  Team Muirhead (4) - Hey Eve, we haven't forgotten about you!  It was weird not seeing Muirhead compete at the world championships nor to see her medal in PyeongChang where she finished the dreaded 4th place.  But Toronto certainly showed she is still capable of pulling off nice W's and competing as one of the best skips in the world.  Remember she is the current European Champion after all and did reach the SF last weekend.  She has a ton of momentum heading into Champions Cup and is already a 6-time #gsoc champion.

5.  Team Einarson (NR) - What a crazy season for Team Einarson?!  They open the season making the final of their first three events and winning two titles (including the Tour Challenge Tier II....again!).  They suffer the disappointing SF loss at the Manitoba Scotties.  Book their spot into the Wildcard play-in game at the Scotties.  Win the pressure cooker game and then go on a roll to reach the Scotties final (including FINALLY defeating rival Jones in the RR).  They lose the Scotties final and then announce their break-up.  But then play a great Players Championship in reaching the SF before again succumbing to rival Jones.  You cannot help but feel a bit sad knowing the Champions Cup is their last event together given how this season has gone for them.  Without question this team has been one of the feel good stories of the season though.

Honourable Mention:  Team Fujisawa, Team Kim, Team Moiseeva, Team Tirinzoni, Team Roth


We are down to out final event of the season folks.  The #ChampionsCup hits the ice next week in Calgary as we crown our final #gsoc champion for the 2017/18 season.  The #TwineTime blog will be in attendance at beautiful WinSport Arena at Canada Olympic Park to watch the final rock spin.  Keep your eyes peeled on twitter for day by day, draw by draw and shot by shot coverage!  Rachel Homan and Brad Jacobs come to Calgary as the defending champions looking to #defendtheice but you can believe there are 14 other men's and women's teams looking to end their season (and for some their current team partnership) on a winning note.  A preview will be forthcoming early next week.

We also have the World Mixed Doubles Curling Championships hitting the ice in Sweden this upcoming weekend.  Canada will be represented by #TwineTime fam member #MrSmiles Kirk Muyres and his partner Laura Crocker.  A record 40 nations will be competing in the event.  A #TwineTime preview will be sliding your way this week.

Also #StayTuned for a few upcoming surprises along the way for the blog......and maybe some new members being welcomed into the fam?!?

And we end with the BIG ANNOUNCEMENT!  As was revealed on social media already, yours truly has been cast to participate in #StrandedWaterValley 2018 from August 10-12!!!  Stranded:Water Valley is a Kids Up Front Calgary Survivor-esque competition.  I will be one of 16 contestants competing to Outwit, Outplay and Outlast.  Camera crews will be following our every move.  There will be immunity challenges.  Reward challenges.  Team competitions.  Individual competitions.  Tribal Councils.  Votes.  Blindsides.  Backstabs.  And more!!


NOW I need YOUR help!!  This event is a fundraiser for Kids Up Front Calgary.  Did you know Kids Up Front delivers over 30,000 experiences to deserving kids in Calgary and the surrounding area?  As a contestant I am looking to raise funds....and ensure my survival!  The Top 5 contestants to raise the most funds will be immune at the beginning of the competition.  Every $5 raised helps send a kid to an event.  Any donation of $20 or more will receive a tax receipt.  And ALL donations will be matched up to 50% by Shaw Charity Classic's Birdies for Kids program!

I am also participating in this event to not only raise funds for a great cause but also raise awareness towards mental health.  Initiatives like #SickNotWeak, #ProjectSemicolon and #BellLetsTalk have helped increase awareness and I want to continue the conversation.

For more information on my personal pledge to participate AND to provide a donation (of any amount!) please visit my Contestant Page.  Please share this page with your family, friends and network.  I need all the help and support I can get to Survive!

In advance, I thank you for any support you can provide towards my quest for survival but, more importantly, towards an outstanding organization providing exception service to kids, teens, adults and families in need.