Tuesday, 29 March 2016

#BetweenTheSheets: Canada vs. The World
Are we living with #FirstWorldProblems while the world struggles to #growthesport?

If you have been a loyal #TwineTime friend throughout this curling season, you would be very familiar with my #growthesport hashtag.  As a fan of the sport for almost my entire life, a concern seems to developing in recent years on the future of the sport.  The competitive curling numbers seem to be decreasing across Canada.  Even junior and club curling has seen a decrease, on average.  What is happening with the sport and how can we continue to see curling compete with other sport and social recreation options available to Canadians?

My recent trip to Swift Current to take in the opening weekend action at the Women's World Curling Championships brought an entire new perspective to the #growthesport hashtag.  Maybe the #growthesport issues in Canada are actually more #FirstWorldProblems than the big issue most of us are making it?  Let me explain before any of you get upset with me...

Look at the huge uproar we had entering the Scotties this season.  Many people were so disappointed power teams like Homan, Sweeting and Lawton were not on the ice competing.  What a travesty for the sport.  We have THAT many strong teams in our country where competing for a national championship is never a given.  Now let's compare to some European teams.  For many European nations having 5 or 6 teams competing ANNUALLY for their national title is considered a strong field.  In Canada we are complaining about a relegation/pre-qualification round we all dislike.  In Denmark or Sweden or Switzerland, they would love to have even 8 teams competing at the national championship.  And forget about qualifying through play downs and provincial championships first.

Canada is struggling with the identity of the sport and defining what the sport is....amateur vs. professional.  I'd call this a #FirstWorldProblem in comparison to the competition we see around the globe.  Other nations are competing for relevance, growth, future athletes.  One of the most powerful conversations I had on the topic in Swift Current was with Lene Nielson, skip of Team Denmark.  Nielson has finished fourth at the European Curling Championships five straight years...5!!!  You would think a strong, consistent result might be seen as a positive right?  Here is what Nielson and I discussed:

TwineTime (TT):  Let's talk about growing the sport of curling in Denmark.  From the silver medal at the Olympics (1998) to now, how have you seen the sport grow?  You have had some outstanding results at Europeans the past years as well, have you seen strong growth?

Lene Nielson (LN):  A bit.  We have a couple new junior teams back home.  Curling is not very big in Denmark so the only thing that gets attention is the Olympics.  You know even if I were to become a European Champion, I don't think it would matter as much.  This is why it is so important for Danish curling to get to the Olympics.

TT:  You mention the junior program starting to pick up, especially junior women.  You are obviously a great role model for them.  What can you do to help continue to grow the sport?

LN:  Just show how much fun curling can be and try to beat a couple of the really good teams competing here.  I need to try and get Denmark to the Olympics because I think that is where we are going to pick up more members at home.  Right now it is about showing how much fun curling is, how it is just one great big family and how everyone is enjoying it.

TT:  Excellent.  It looks like you guys have a lot of fun out there.

LN:  We really do!

Amazing!  Even winning a European Championship would not necessarily result in a strong growth for the sport in Denmark according to Nielson.  How crazy is that to think?  In Canada, a province finishes in fourth place or even medals at the Scotties or Brier and the provincial fans celebrate the tremendous result.  Nielson's comparison would be like Chelsea Carey winning the Scotties this year and having nobody in home province Alberta noticing or caring.  Imagine that scenario?  Hard to fathom isn't it?

Nielson isn't the only high profile skip in Europe to feel this way though.  On-ice success is only the starting point.  When I spoke with Eve Muirhead, skip for Team Scotland, she mentioned strong results help but more is needed:

TT:  In talking about growing the sport, with your success in curling, have you seen the sport grow in Scotland, especially with the juniors and for the women, based on your results over the past 7 years?

Eve Muirhead (EM):  Yeah I think it is important that we do keep growing the sport in Scotland.  It is hard.  We do get some publicity and grow the sport once every four years when the Olympics is on.  All we can really do is be successful at these events and try to encourage young people to take up the sport.  I think slowly Scotland is developing young curlers.  We saw Bruce Mouat taking back the gold at the World (Junior) Championship.  I think that does show there is young guys coming through.  It's obviously not as big as Canada just yet...but we are going to catch you.  *laughing*

TT:  *laughing*  Excellent.  I think that is what we can hope for honestly.  Do you think there is a way you can try and encourage more junior curlers, women especially, to compete?

EM:  I think the best way I can help, and my entire team, is to just be successful and showing that the sport is good fun.  As I said, if we can get medals and give the sport more publicity, get it on TV, get it in the papers, then more people will notice it.

To truly #growthesport, a combined effort needs to be made from a variety of different interest groups.  The athletes are a good start and their strong results for their nations helps.  But it is the age old question, if a tree falls in the forest and nobody is around, does it make a sound?  If Nielson or Muirhead were to win the world championship, would anyone back home know if there was no media coverage to support it?  The athletes, the media, the curling federations....everyone plays a pivotal role in the success of the sport and the true growth for the future.

Anna Sidorova, Team Russia skip and now three-time world bronze medal winner, echoed a similar comment:

TT:  On the topic of growing the sport in Russia, are you seeing a growth with the Olympics in Sochi and with your outstanding results the past couple of years?

Anna Sidorova (AS):  It is getting better.  If we compare the years to when I started to play curling and nowadays, there is a really big difference.  But still not a lot of people really know what curling is.  It is kind of a circle.  If we win, lots more people would know about the game.  We need to televise it but we don't do that very much right now.  It is a circle and some tough circumstances.

TT:  Is it similar to Canada in competing against hockey being one of the big sports?

AS:  You know it's not really an honest comparison.  Curling is a great game.  It is not only a tough game but it is also a mental game.  When you show the game on TV, it's almost impossible not to watch.  When you switch on TV, there is curling and you have all those eyes on the game.  Curling is a really good game and we have to show more of it on TV in Russia.

Both Muirhead and Sidorova make valid points on the need for stronger coverage of the sport.  Again, another point supporting Canada's #1stWorldProbs right now.  I would say media coverage has become a positive growth for the sport in Canada.  Sportsnet coverage of the grand slam events combined with the increased TSN coverage during their Season of Champions have certainly helped, as supported by the audience numbers.  Ok sure curling attendance numbers are down but television numbers are up.  This could have to do with economy, household finances, cost of attendance...lots of varying factors could be at play here.  But again, interest is not on a complete decline and the sport is still hovering on relevance in Canada....more than we can say in some of our friendly sport rivals unfortunately.

Newly crowned World Champion Binia Feltscher, Team Switzerland skip, also raised another interesting dynamic European nations have to deal with: competition.

TT:  With Switzerland winning 3 of the past 4 World Championships, have you seen a growth in the sport back home?  Are there more junior curlers?  More female curlers?  Is the sport growing back home?

Binia Feltscher (BF):  Maybe a little with juniors but not really big.  It's been ok though.

TT:  Do you think there is a way to grow the sport back in Switzerland?

BF:  In Switzerland it is about hockey and soccer and the other winter sports are really big.  It is hard to go against these sports.  I think as we continue to go up, maybe in a couple more years we can get a bit more near them.  But we are happy with the sport.

TT:  Excellent.  I guess just keep winning right?  And maybe a good opportunity to win at the Olympics too?

BF:  *laughing*  Oh yes, we would love that.

Canada competes with hockey for the majority of the curling season but really doesn't see too much competition from other sports in regards to coverage.  A bit of football during the overlap of both seasons perhaps.  Basketball generates strong interest but mainly in Eastern Canada.  As Feltscher notes, curling in Switzerland competes with hockey, soccer and many top Winter Olympic sports (ie: skiing, bobsled).  If you look at the Winter Olympic roster of sports, would we really say curling is having the toughest go of it for national media coverage in comparison to say skiing, luge, bobsled, speed skating?  You would be hard pressed to convince me otherwise.

Swedish champion skip Margaretha Sigfridsson provided a great answer on what needs to happen to see growth of curling in Sweden.

TT:  I'd like to ask you about growing the sport in Sweden.  Great female curlers have come from Sweden: Elisabet Gustafson, Anette Norberg, yourself.  Are you seeing junior curling, especially women, has been picking up in Sweden?

Margaretha Sigfridsson (MS):  Yeah it has been in the past few years.  A few of the younger teams are getting really good.  There is still a lot of work to be done to keep on growing, to keep bringing up good teams.

TT:  Do you have any ideas on how to grow the sport in Sweden?

MS:  I think it needs to be easy to access, the curling rinks, curling camps and curling courses.

Easy access!  What a concept!  Would anyone in Canada disagree with this point or say this is something we struggle with?  Again, a Canadian #FirstWorldProblem in growing the sport.  We have some outstanding curling clubs across our fine nation.  Our clubs are accessible to all Canadians.  There are numerous programs and camps and courses throughout the season for young curlers to become more involved.  The grassroots part of the sport continues to be a viable option for people.  As Sigfridsson notes, this is an area of opportunity in Sweden to help grow the sport.

What about outside of Europe you ask?  Look at Japan.  They are fresh off their first even medal finish at the World Championships.  Sure it was a tough loss in the final but Team Japan still won a silver medal and played outstanding all week....they certainly won over a new fan base!  With the success of China in the past and Korea hosting the upcoming 2018 Winter Olympics, Asia seems to be fully invested in growing the sport.  I had the opportunity to talk about this with Canadian born Team Japan coach JD Lind:

TT:  With coaching in Asia for the past couple of years, have you seen a strong growth in the sport, specifically with women's curling?

JD Lind (JD):  I can't speak for all of Asia but definitely for Japan it has been growing.  I know that since I have been there the past three years they have opened three brand new curling rinks, up to 11 or 12 now.  They have really committed to growing the grass roots in Japan.  I know in China they have put a lot of money into the elite.  I am not sure they have the same amount of rinks and depth as Japan.  But I know Japan has put a lot of focus on it, which is great to see.  I know the Pacific-Asia Championship is very difficult now.  You have China, Korea, Japan.  Three teams that could be in the top half of the field at a world's and only two get to go each year.  It is really tough in Asia and that competition is only going to make those teams better.

TT:  Right.  And with this year's competition seeing teams from Kazakhstan compete and other nations growing, is that a trend continuing?  Are you seeing more nations jump into the sport of curling?

JD:  Yeah.  Now Hong Kong is talking about teams.  Chinese Taipai has been talking.  I even heard Qatar is looking at a team for next year.  There is a lot of developing nations trying to get involved.  Obviously it is tough against the more established countries but the more growth in that area, the better.  I know a lot of European countries are trying to play in European B and European C.  In Asia we don't have that kind of system yet but it might be nice to have that kind of tiered system eventually.  There is definitely interest for sure.

TT:  That is awesome.  How do you think we can grow the sport in Asia?  Are Olympic results helping?  World Championship results helping?  Are teams able to give back to junior curlers?  What will help make it happen?

JD:  Definitely in Japan, NHK (similar to TSN) is broadcasting all the games either delayed or live.  In Japan the TV coverage is huge to help grow.  The problem with Japan is a lot of the country doesn't know what curling is.  The way they learn is to watch it first.  If they build the clubs, now with 12, if their interest is peaked from watching hopefully they try it.  Build a grassroots base that knows the game and it can grow organically from there, kind of how it does in Canada.  In a place like China, and I cannot fully speak for them, but if you only have a small, elite group and nobody in the country knows anything about curling, at the end of the day it is really hard to grow any interest in the sport unless people can try it with a lot of TV coverage to grow it mainstream.

TT:  Great points and excellent to hear.  Thank you so much.  Pleasure meeting you.

JD:  Thank you.

Interesting differing perspective coming from Asia right?  The development of a strong grassroots base.  The importance of media coverage.  The strength of a core developing group of nations leading the way for the future of up and coming nations throughout the continent.  As has been the case with many sports in the past few years, the Asian countries are not only starting to catch up...they have arrived!  Perhaps they are developing a strong blueprint on #growthesport?  As Coach Lind points out, there is still lots of work to be done but it appears a solid path has been created.

The growth of a strong continental championship has seen success in Europe to help develop up and coming nations (ie: Finland, Latvia, Netherlands, Austria, Hungary).  We are seeing a similar evolution in Asia now, as Coach Lind described.  What about the America's?  Canada and the United States of America seem to be the only nations competing.  Brazil was once believed to start trying to develop a curling program but have little luck in traction over the past few years.  But the USA is not without their own struggles.  Similar to what Nielson, Feltscher and Sidorova mentioned above, curling has a lot of competition in the US and struggles with relevance and media coverage.  Erika Brown, Team USA skip, discussed the topic with #TwineTime:

TT:  Now talking about growing the sport in the US.  We recently saw Cory Christensen do quite well at the World Junior Championships (silver medal) and yourself being with the US program for a number of years, how have you seen good growth in junior curling and perhaps more specifically with women?

Erika Brown (EB):  The team that just won the silver medal is a great young team.  We have played against them multiple times this year.  I think they are great and hopefully they are encouraging other young people to get more involved in curling when they see their success.

TT:  For sure.  Do you think there is way to start growing the sport in the US so it becomes one of those top sports?

EB:  I think there is more and more young people aware of the sport and hopefully having more opportunities in more regions in the country.  More curling clubs are being built in (non-traditional) places like Arizona, North Carolina.  We just had nationals in Florida (Jacksonville), which was great exposure.  Hopefully more exposure, more interest, will help.

TT:  What was it like curling in Jacksonville?

EB:  *laughing*  It was great!  It was nice to walk outside in a T-shirt and get a bit of sunshine.  They did a great job with the ice actually too, which can always be a bit scary when it is that warm and humid outside.

TT:  Excellent.  Thank you and best of luck this week.

EB:  Thank you.

Both Brown and Coach Lind discussed similar opportunities and successes in growing the sport in both nations: curling clubs.  Brown notes the recent expansion of the sport in non-traditional parts of the US.  In speaking with curling fans from some of these US states, specifically Arizona, the sport is growing at a rapid pace and people seem to be flocking to the rink to play and participate.  Will this result in an increase of competitive, elite curling teams in the US?  Time will tell I suppose but, as Sigfridsson also noted, you need to start somewhere and access is a big step forward.

Perhaps another step towards growth is what we are seeing in Finland, where curling has become a family affair.  Here in Canada the major curling family right now would be Koe with Kevin recently winning the Tim Hortons Brier and brother Jamie and sister Kerry (Galusha) participating at numerous Brier and Scotties over the years.  Finland has seen almost a resurrection of the sport through a family bond.  The Kauste family is dominating the curling landscape right now.  I spoke with Oona Kauste, Team Finland skip, about the growth of the sport through the family connection:

TT:  You have curled with your brother (Aku), who has also represented Finland at the World Championships.  What is it like having both you and your brother be professional curlers, representing Finland and having played together at a World Mixed Championship?

Oona Kauste (OK):  Hard question.  I have been watching Aku when he has been playing so many years.  When I have seen him playing really good, it gives me some motivation to do it also.  Now it is pretty fun that we are both skipping the Finnish national teams.

TT:  Outstanding results at European Championships (Oona finished 3rd, Aku finished 4th) as well this year.  Have you been able to carry that into these World Championships?

OK:  Yeah, yeah.  Euro's was an amazing week, for both of us.  Absolutely.

Family support, family motivation and family success can certainly help #growthesport.  We even see this with the Koe family in Canada.  In the #TwineTime interview with Kerry, she mentioned at first how she was not a big fan of the sport but, because of family influence, she grew to love the sport and look where she is now.  Strong word of mouth and motivation from those around you can also be a stepping stone to success for the sport moving forward in many countries around the world.

Now don't get me wrong here.  I am not saying curling is perfect in Canada or trying to downplay the growth issues the sport is going through on our home soil.  These are also relevant and important area's of concern and growth.  However, I am saying the sport is not as doom and gloom as some people may want us to think or believe.  The interest in the sport is high.  Fans still fill arena's and cheer on great teams and great shots.  Praise for the fans in Swift Current was also a common topic of conversation with some of the athletes I spoke with:

Daniela Driendl (DD) (Team Germany, Skip)

TT:  How's the crowd been treating you?  They seem to be very supportive to all the teams competing.

DD:  Oh for sure.  They understand the game, you can tell.  They cheer if you make good shots.  It's a lot of fun out there.

TT:  Excellent.

Binia Feltscher (Team Switzerland, Skip)

TT:  Welcome back to Swift Current and Canada.  There is a great crowd out there cheering for Switzerland.  Can you hear them when you are out on the ice and does that help motivate you?

BF:  Yes.  It is really cool to hear from the crowd.  Being in Canada, we enjoy having a large crowd.  So many people outside of the rink say "Hello".  It's really cool.

Margaretha Sigfridsson (Sweden)

TT:  How do you feel about the crowd?  They are very close to the ice and close to the players here.  Does the team like that?

MS:  Yeah we do.  We like it.  The crowd is nice.  Not too big of an arena but enough to make it really good.

It is quite the interesting dynamic in comparison between talking with athletes in Canada and athletes in other countries.  Our main issues for the sport in Canada appear to be focused around topics like #BroomGate and "Elite" vs. "B-level" curlers.  The topic of professional vs. amateur sport.  Jump across the pond or head south of the border and the main issues we are faced with are minor in comparison.  We are truly fortunate to live in the country we do.  Where media and sponsors embrace the sport.  Where athletes can compete in front of dedicated fans week in and week out on tour and at large international events.  Where competition is at an all-time high and on any given day the 40th or 50th ranked team in Canada can knock off the 1st or 2nd ranked team.  Yes, we have that many ranked teams.  No other country can say that!

Are we disappointed about the now 9 year gold medal drought at women's worlds?  Sure...we are a competitive nation and we always want to strive to be the best.  That is just best for sport...all sport!  But come on here folks, since the turn of a new century Canada has never missed the playoffs.  The last time Canada did not compete on the final weekend of competition at a Women's World Championship was 1999.  17 straight years of playoffs.  I would strongly believe every other curling nation around the world would kill just to have half of that number of consecutive playoff appearances.  Let's be proud of our athletes, our governing body and the success we have year after year.  Is it perfect?  No!  Will it ever be?  No!  Are we still competing and developing teams and athletes to compete on the big stage?  Yes!  Will #TwineTime continue to comment on the pro's and con's of the sport at home?  Yes!

While I will admit there are still many issues internally we need to work through to continue to #growthesport in Canada, I discovered a new found passion and love for the sport at home after talking with many international players in Swift Current.  Before we start complaining and whining and bitching about how bad things look or are on our own ice, maybe we need to step outside our bubble for a moment and truly appreciate how lucky we have it.  Let's not become the whining, big brother/sister nation complaining about all our successes.  Let's look at what the difference really is between a #FirstWorldProblem and a true #growthesport issue shall we?

Congratulation Team Switzerland on the 4th World Championship in 5 years...a dynasty has been developed.  Congratulations Team Japan on your first podium finish and showing many around the world how much fun you can have on the ice.  Congratulations Team Russia on the back-to-back-to-back podium finish...that kind of consistency is not easy and is well deserved.  Strong competition and growth for the sport around the entire world only helps each nation become more successful.  As curling athletes, fans and media, we should embrace the successes around us (whether our rivals or our friends).  We have seen what growth has done for nations in sports like hockey and tennis, let's encourage similar strong results going forward.  On the ice, compete hard to win.  Off the ice, come together as a community for the sport to win!

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

#BetweenTheSheets: Little Rock Slides Into Speedy Creek
One rock's experience at the 2016 Women's World Curling Championship

What a time to be alive!  The weather outside is beautiful.  Easter is right around the corner.  And the Women's World Curling Championships kicked off in Swift Current, SK this past weekend.  Hopefully you have been able to take in the excitement of the action on the ice, whether in person, on TV or online.  I happened to be lucky enough to go to Swift Current and take in the opening weekend festivities and draws (thanks to Curling Canada of course!).

Being born as one of many in a large rock household named CurlingHats, I never imagined the day where I would be actually be this close to the role model rocks I see on television every week.  Those massive, strong pieces of granite flying down the ice end after end....I watch in amazement (and jealousy perhaps).  I may be known as Little Rock but I certainly had some Big Rock experiences last weekend.  The #TwineTime blog seemed to be the perfect outlet to share my story....

Day 1 - Friday March 18

I have arrived in the City of Swift Current.  Did you know their city motto is "Where Life Makes Sense".  Maybe it is here that I will truly discover how my life, as Little Rock, makes sense in the large realm of #curling.  The drive here was a long one....I sat in a passenger seat watching, from what I could tell, large empty blue sky just travel by the window.  In the "Land of the Living Skies", on this day anyway, they seemed to be having a nap.  I guess it is Friday after all, right?

The excitement built as we pulled into the parking lot of this huge building (again perspective my friends...I am named Little Rock for a reason) named Credit Union iPlex.  I am told this is actually a hockey arena.  I don't get hockey...so much ego.  My friend Puck is always talking about how strong he is and how guys take him home after he flys into a net or pulls a skydiver move over the boards.  He even sometimes brags about hitting people.  I like curling better.  Us rocks don't want to hurt anyone.  And we certainly are afraid of heights...you won't see any of us flying around the arena.

Anyways, I finally found my seat and watched my role models Red and Yellow get their pre-event workout in.  Many of the teams had a practice scheduled tonight.  I was a bit jealous watching Red and Yellow get so much hand to rock time with some of these amazing athletes, like Chelsea Carey, Eve Muirhead and Binia Feltscher.  Of course, I cannot forget about Anna Sidorova.  She looks like she has very soft and delicate hands.  I know she wouldn't be rough or mean to my handle...and I appreciate that in a curler.  We have feelings too you know?!

It was a relatively quiet day though.  I became more familiar with the arena, met some nice volunteers and just prepared myself for the next two and a half days of excitement.  Ah Red and Yellow, you sure have all the fun though.

Day 2 - Saturday March 19

Today is the day!  Day 1.  Opening Ceremonies.  Opening Draws.  My friends Red and Yellow will be in full competition mode.  They looked so professional during the Opening Ceremonies too.  All lined up perfectly.  They look like they were given first class spa treatment too....all shiny and new looking.  Hmmm, I will have to try and find out who does their washing.  This rock could get used to that kind of living one day!

I will be sitting up in this "Media Area" watching.  I have to say I have a great view from up here.  Even though I am small in height, I can actually see lots of the action on the ice from my seat.  Curling Canada even took a seat next to me...I was in awe.  They are so kind...letting me, Little Rock, sit up here with them and feel part of the collective team.  It was a lot of emotion to take in for me.

Before the opening draw, I went into this other huge space known to many as The Patch.  Wow, lots of people in here.  Lots of interesting attire these people wear to curling events too.  I saw a lot of people dressed in red and white, which would make sense being in Canada after all.  But it wasn't just red and white for Canada.  I saw people supporting Switzerland and Denmark too.  Both of those countries are red and white as well.  Surprised a little stone like me has such worldly knowledge?  I met some amazing people too.  One guy had the most amazing beard, which he coloured in red and white to support Team Canada.  He did the same with his hair...but I think that was just a hat.  I will stay away from hat judgement...I might be a bit biased after all.  In speaking with him and his wife, they have travelled all over the world to cheer on my friends Red and Yellow.  They have been to men's and women's world championships, Brier's, Scotties....everywhere.  Red and Yellow have some of the best fans I think!  The big moment came though a few moments later.  Team Sweden was doing autographs with people and I actually had the chance to get on the table and have each member of the team sign me.  How cool is that?  They were also super friendly....giving me compliments on how light I was (I have been losing weight and trying to stay slim before this event of course).  We even took some pictures...unfortunately mine was blurry. :(  The memory still matters though, right?

After hanging out with mighty Sweden, I had to rush back into the arena....almost time for the Opening Draw.  I had an up close seat for Canada vs. Denmark.  Everyone seemed to be fixated on Red and Yellow in this game so I thought I would do the same.  I did make sure to watch all my other friends on the other sheets though...so many great rocks out there helping to make these teams look great.  The Canada - Denmark game was crazy.  Yellow seemed to be the stronger rock all game but Red was just patiently waiting to unleash it's potential late in the game...then all of a sudden #BOOM...Red ends up owning the house for 3 in the 9th end and score again in the extra end for a win.  So much excitement!  When the final rock settled for the opening draw, Red would end up winning 3 of the 4 games.  Poor Yellow!

Before the event I remember Red and Yellow telling me about how excited they were to work with Team Canada because they were the home country and they both knew all the fans would be watching them and cheering for them.  I also remember Red telling me to try and listen for this "Trust It" quote from Team Canada second Jocelyn Peterman.  I don't know much about "Trust It", does she mean Red rock?  Trust Red rock?  Naw she must mean the ice.  We rocks are always trustworthy...but that ice!  Now he is always trying to throw slick spots and dry spots and wet spots and dead spots at us all game.  If you want to know who my rival is...it's Mr. Ice!  Anyway, after the Canada win I actually met Jocelyn and we talked about this "Trust It" comment.  She laughed and then actually wrote on me "#TrustIt".  Hahaha...she is a funny one.  Take that Mr. Ice!!!

In between draws it seems most people go back to this Patch place to talk and drink.  Seemed like a fun idea so I just followed the crowd and slid right in.  And you will never guess who I slid into?  Team Switzerland!!  Skip Binia Feltscher is a former world champion you know?!  I couldn't pass up this opportunity.  I had to get on that table and meet this team.  Similar to Sweden, they offered me many compliments.  Again on my weight...always nice to hear.  Vice Irene Schori even picked me up and pretended to curl with me...and then tried to take me home I think?  She was funny.  I also was able to get my picture taken with the team after.  Guess what happened then?  2014 World Champion Binia Feltscher actually put me on her head!  Yup, that really happened...a world champion let me be her hat for a picture.  What a compliment!  What a moment!  Yeah, I really like this team :)  They were fun.

After eating some Swiss chocolate courtesy of my new best friends, back into the arena I went to watch Draw 2.  Lots of great teams on the ice supporting Red and Yellow tonight.  I watched Team Germany (hopefully I can meet up with them later too), Korea, Scotland, Russia, Finland, Japan, Italy....and of course my friends from Sweden.  I didn't really know who to cheer for...I just wanted Red and Yellow to both have great games and not let Mr. Ice mess them up too bad.  Red and Yellow were on point, for the most part.  Sheet A Red struggled (Italy) and Sheet D Yellow (Finland) had a few issues but overall great job by both of my idols.  This draw would be a split with Red and Yellow both picking up 2 wins.

What a day...and this was only Day 1?  I hope Red and Yellow get some good sleep tonight...they are in for a long week!!  As for me, I quietly tucked myself into bed at my hotel excited over meeting some great athletes today and anxious to see what tomorrow brings!

Day 3 - Sunday March 20

My first morning draw.  Ewww...I don't like it.  I'm still tired.  My handle hurts a bit and wants to go back under the covers at the hotel and sleep.  But I am here.  I am Little Rock and I am here to maximize my experience and have as much fun as possible.  I actually even got to the arena early just to watch Red and Yellow get prepared on the ice.  They are lined up perfectly as always....seriously, what amazing role models for a small stone such as myself.  I also watched Mr. Ice take a bit of a shower and get cleaned up ahead of the games.  He better be in a good mood this morning....Red and Yellow don't need any hassle from him!

More red and white in the house this morning too with Canada, Switzerland and Denmark all on the ice again.  Canada is playing Switzerland....I am torn on who to cheer for.  Those Swiss girls were so fun and nice to me yesterday...but Canada is friendly too.  Both teams seem to be very kind to Red and Yellow too.  I will just have to cheer for both and hope they have a good game.  Plus I need coffee....

After two great morning games with Canada besting Switzerland and Denmark defeating USA (both wins for Red), you know where I was going right?  I am a full on #wwcc2016 vet now...off to The Patch.  You know, it was only lunch time but this place was packed again.  These people in Swift Current sure enjoy a good party.  This was also another monumental Patch moment for me....inside this afternoon was Team USA.  You know the routine here my friends.  I hopped on that table and said my hello to my American friends.  They were just coming off a tough loss but you couldn't tell with their attitude and personality.  They were very friendly and talkative.  We even talked about #MarchMadness.  My friend, Mr. TwineTime, went to Oregon so he talked with them about cheering for the Ducks.  I was too busy getting my autographs and enjoying the up close and personal meet and greet.  Before Team USA headed away for lunch, I was able to grab a picture with them as well.  These teams are just so friendly and nice to fans.  Taking pictures, signing autographs...all while playing for a world title.  Again, this is what makes my sport of curling so special I think.

The afternoon draw went smooth and Red and Yellow seemed to be sliding down the ice nice across all sheets.  Mr. Ice seems to be in a good mode so far today, so that helps.  He can get moody like I mentioned before but a good shower before each draw does make him a bit more happy.  The afternoon draw saw Russia suffer their first loss, dropping a game to Japan.  Red would continue to dominate though, winning 3 of 4.  Yellow did bring luck to Germany though in their win over Sweden.

The draw tonight was really the excitement.  Any time Canada and USA play off, we rocks know we need to be on our best behaviour.  Unfortunately, even we have bad days you know.  We aren't perfect!  My friend Yellow was not feeling great tonight.  Yellow has a slight moment during warm up's but, after some massaging and relaxing, seemed to be feeling better as the game started.  It wouldn't last long though.  Maybe the stress of the big moment got to Yellow.  All the eyes.  All the TV lights.  Maybe Canada vice Amy Nixon gripped Yellow in a wrong way?  I just don't know...but I know the drama sure hit the ice and Yellow was the centre of the controversy.  As you probably know, once you move up the rock ladder of success and actually make it to the big ice in competitions like this, you need to get upgraded.  Think of it like getting a tattoo of sorts.  We need to have mechanical tops added.  Batteries and flashing lights and wires...it's quite confusing to be honest.  Sometimes I wonder if maybe I don't want to ever be that kind of superstar rock and should be happy to be the softer, lighter, hat kind of rock every day.  Yellow sure went through the negative press in this game.  Nixon yelled at Yellow.  Carey kicked Yellow.  Brown was confused by Yellow.  Everyone had something to say about poor Yellow in this game.  Luckily the officials were able to talk to Yellow, talk Yellow down from the obvious emotional state Yellow was going through and get Yellow back on the ice for the rest of the game.  Yellow was much better the second half of the game and the problems seemed to go away.  Yellow never did recover from the bad start to the game and Red was perfect on this night.  It was a short game and didn't really live up to the hype unfortunately.  I think Yellow was just happy to have the game end by the time all was said and done.  But wow people continued to talk about poor Yellow all night...during and after the game ended.  I felt bad for Yellow.  Overall though, Yellow and Red would split the wins again tonight.

After the games ended, I stuck around a bit to see what Red and Yellow do to relax.  And you know what?  Even after all the games are over for the day...they don't get to relax at all.  Coaches and alternate players come out and practice with them again.  Red and Yellow, on each sheet of ice, just finished 3 draws today and here they are still being thrown down Mr. Ice and being judged and scrutinized.  Can't we just let resting stones lay?  Really starting to re-think wanting to ever be on the ice now!

As I leave the arena ice behind, feeling sad about my friends Red and Yellow not being able to relax and enjoy some quiet time to themselves, I find myself following a crowd of people.  A large crowd of people.  A long line of people actually.  Where does this line go?  Ahhh...of course....where else would this go but straight into The Patch.  It is Sunday night and yet, once again, the crowds are heading into the cozy confines of The Patch to enjoy a few cold ones after sitting next to the cold ice.  These people sure like things that are cold and associated with ice....we must be in Canada!  For a Sunday night, the crowd was actually very lively.  Live music, cold drinks and fun people tend to do that though I am slowly learning.  This could be a late night....

DAY 4 - Monday March 21

Another early morning draw.  Today is a bit bittersweet.  This draw is my last one of the event.  Once the morning draw is over I have to head back in the car for a long drive home.  I woke up a bit sad to be honest.  I have been having so much fun meeting new people and talking about a sport I have so much passion for.  My last draw would be full of teams I have met and enjoyed talking to, namely Switzerland, Canada and USA.  I have also had some brief encounters and conversations with Finland and Japan.  Japan's coach, JD Lind, is really friendly as well by the way.  This morning would bring some drama to the event as well when Russia beat Canada and Denmark beat Japan.  No more undefeated teams now....the plot thickens.  Red seemed to reign supreme this morning, winning 3 of the 4 games.  The only Red to lose oddly was Canada.  As my 6 draws of action come to a close, my Red idol seems to be dominating the head to head with Yellow.  Red has now won 15 of the 22 games, an amazing 68% winning record.  Again....poor Yellow!

As I was packing up and getting ready to prepare for the long drive home....an amazing moment happened.  Team Germany, who I have been trying to meet all weekend, came walking through the empty stands waving at me.  Me?  No lie!  They were excited to meet me, Little Rock.  Can you imagine?  They loved my slim figure or easy to grip handle.  I love compliments from beautiful women!  They even signed me as well and we took a group picture.  What a great moment!  I was so excited to meet them.  They may be making a move up the table in my list of favorite teams.  They didn't even play in the morning draw, needed to prepare for their afternoon draw, yet here they were willing to take time out to say hi and take a picture with me.  I felt so honoured.  I couldn't thank them enough and wished them the best of luck for the rest of the week....also saying how sad I was that I wouldn't be here to watch them.

But friends, you would think the excitement would end there right?  Nope!  As I was getting ready to walk out of the building for the last time guess who was standing by the door?  Team Denmark!  Well, I couldn't pass up this opportunity.  They did just defeat Japan after all.  I quickly met them and talked to the team for a bit, talking about their outstanding game they had just won.  They also signed me...in Denmark red even!  We even took a team picture together.  Again, these ladies just came off the ice with a huge win and were about to head out for a celebratory lunch and here they were stopping to chat with me.  Little Rock strikes again!  I always hear people complain about athletes never giving back to taking time for fans but this is not the case with curlers I found this weekend.  Talking with Team Denmark and getting a picture before I said my goodbye's to the Women's World Curling Championship was a perfect cherry on top of the sundae...a nice bright red cherry too of course!

The volunteers have been awesome.  Curling Canada has been amazing.  The athletes have been very friendly and accommodating to talk to and (in my case) even get some pictures and autographs.  And...most importantly....Red and Yellow continue to show the world how important we rocks are for this sport.  We get gripped too hard by some...too light by others.  We are thrown too fast by a few....and not fast enough by many.  We get kicked.  We get hit with brooms.  We get blamed.  We fight with Mr. Ice.  Seriously, a curling stone's life is not for everyone let me tell you.  But Red and Yellow, at least so far, have been outstanding role models for all the Little Rocks out there.

I commented in my first diary entry how Swift Current is "Where Life Makes Sense" and I think my time here has actually helped me figure out my role.  I will never be a big time stone like Red and Yellow.  I will never be at the front of limelight or have people take pictures of me.  And I am ok with that.  I like being Little Rock.  I like sitting back and watching the show go on in front of me.  I have no pressure on me.  Sure I am not well-known and "famous" but who needs fame?  I met some amazing people this week.  I talked with some great athletes from across the world.  I even had them remember me.  Do you know how cool it is to see Team Sweden or Team Switzerland a day or two later and have them say "it's mister rock" and say "hello" and "how are you?" to me?  If that is the life of Little Rock, not huge fame but still a stone people remember and talk to and have positive things to say about....then I would say my life does make sense and that does make me happy.

Enjoy the rest of the week everyone...and please be kind to Red and Yellow.  They are doing their best after all!  Always be mean to Mr. Ice though, ok?  Just Kidding Mr. Ice...I love you too...sometimes...barely :)

Saturday, 19 March 2016

#BetweenTheSheets with Kerry Galusha
Talking "Growing Up Koe," Northern Pride, Justin Beiber & Preview #wwcc2016

Well loyal #TwineTime fans, can you believe we are adding another member to the family today?  When this blog started I never dreamed of the day when I would get to interview curlers I cheer for week in and week out on tour yet here we are welcoming our 7th family member: Northwest Territories Champion skip Kerry Galusha!

This was also a special interview because not only did we do a player profile interview but Kerry was also very generous with her personal time and agreed to do a preview of the upcoming Women's World Curling Championships.  Who does Kerry think are the teams to beat in Swift Current?  Who will end up on the podium at the end of the week according to her?  And how do her picks differ, if at all, to #TwineTime?  Find out now....as well as a host of other things as we go #BetweenTheSheets with Kerry Galusha:

TwineTime (TT):  Welcome Kerry Galusha.  Thank you for taking time to join the #TwineTime family.  It's a growing family and I really appreciate you taking the time to sit down and talk.

Kerry Galusha (KG):  Oh it's awesome, anytime.  No problem.

TT:  Excellent, that is what I like to hear.  Let's start talking about the season.  We should start by saying "Congratulations" by the way. A 13th Scotties appearance this year, an outstanding feat.  How do you keep competing?

KG:  Ummm, I don't know. *laughing*  I am pretty sure my family and friends are sick of me saying every year it is time for me to have some time off and just focus on family...maybe do some travelling.  Somehow I end up curling again.  I think last year was the first year in four years where I knew I was going to be curling this year.  I don't know.  I love it.  I just keep going.  Sometimes I don't know why but I just keep doing it.

TT:  I'm assuming the passion is still there, the love for the sport.  And of course the competitive edge as well?

KG:  I think so.  I lost it a little bit over the last few years but this year definitely.  The last two years, with my team, I have just had so much fun with them.  I have learned so much.  I probably have had the best years of curling, at least in ladies.  Our new coach this year, John Epping, just kind of brought the passion back for me.  I've had some good chats with him and, honestly, I just love it.  There is something about this game that keeps me going.

TT:  That's excellent and great to hear.  I know the fans love seeing you and they don't ever get tired of cheering for you.

KG:  I don't know.  I guess with our family everyone seems to love us.  With Kevin (Koe), he is a champion.  Then Jamie (Koe) and I are kind of the underdogs.  It is a bit of everything when it comes to our family.

TT:  Well I think it's great you keep going and keep coming back.  Don't ever leave because I think we all love seeing you.  Now let's talk about the Scotties.  I am sure it is your favorite topic to talk about so forgive me for being one of many who bring it up in talking with you.  Pre-qualification again this year.  Again making the pre-qualification final.  Maybe, rather than discuss the game itself, what about talking about what it feels like playing in that game versus a Territorial final.  There seems to be a lot on the line for both.  Does one have a different feel than the other?  Do you prepare different?  Are the emotions the same or are they different?

KG:  It's funny because our team actually treats the relegation final as a provincial or territorial final.  We still have to win here (Northwest Territories).  And we actually had competition here where normally we don't.  We always have to play off but last year we only had 1 team to play off against.  This year we went to Hay River and actually had 3 ladies teams play against us.  We played 7 games, which is similar to a few other provinces in Canada.  We had a sudden-death final in Hay River.  We were nervous.  It has the same kind of feelings in the relegation final.  I think we were the only team out of the 4 relegation teams that actually go in thinking we are not in the Scotties yet.  I've seen and heard other interviews from the other skips from B.C., Yukon and Nunavut.  To them, they were going to the Scotties  To us, we had already been there, we knew we weren't in the Scotties.  You are totally segregated from everything.  We went into it with the mindset that it was another provincial/territorial final.  It's just probably better competition we are playing down there.  If we get through to the Scotties main draw, we use those games as practice and to our advantage.  There are nerves there.  It is a really big game and we treat them the same.

TT:  And we can see the emotion in the game as well, watching you play in it the past two years.  It is high pressure and high stakes but a lot of risk and reward.  You wear your emotions on your sleeve it seems, which we (the fans) love.

KG:  I'm not going to lie it is a very tough game.  And now seeing my brother Jamie go through it.  You know  no matter which teams goes through relegation and makes it, I feel like they are already at a disadvantage.  I mean playing Yukon, B.C., Nunavut, you have to get to the relegation final first.  I was emotionally and mentally exhausted after our first game against Yukon.  I was so tired and it was only 1 game.  It is different emotions because you are fighting to get into the Scotties.  It is high stress for sure.

TT:  For sure.  So I guess we don't have to bother asking how you feel about it going away after next year?

KG:  *laughing*  Yeah.  You know this year was actually the first time I have actually spoken about the pre-qualifying round.  I actually put a big rant on my facebook page when Jamie got through.  I was just really angry.  Me playing in it is one thing.  It didn't really affect me.  I mean I didn't really like it but we were dealing with it.  But watching a family member go through it is another thing.  Watching my brother's team, and I am so close with every member of that team, it was just so hard.  When Nova Scotia (Jamie Murphy) missed that last shot against Jamie, it was just awful.  I think I cried for almost an hour.  I was happy for Jamie but it just felt awful watching Nova Scotia lose that way.  There are good things and bad things about the pre-qualification round and I can see why they did it.  We will see what happens after a year and how they do the format because I really don't know what they are going to do.

TT:  It will be hopefully one of those things we learn from.  Sometimes change is good and sometimes we have to learn the low's to get to the high's.

KG:  Yes, definitely.

TT:  Now you raise another important point about the family and social media.  You were very active tweeting while Jamie was playing in the pre-qualifier.  And Jamie was vice versa doing the same for you.  What was it like growing up in the Koe household?  Big brother Kevin, twin brother Jamie, yourself...were you all competitive right from childhood?

KG:  Kevin was really the first to start.  We lived up north in Inuvik, which is really up north, more than Yellowknife where Jamie and I live now.  My dad was very active in the club.  It was natural ice.  Kevin started curling a bit earlier.  Jamie started curling as well.  Then we moved to Yellowknife and my parents ran the junior program so Kevin and Jamie curled but I didn't start until grade 6.  I was the last to start.  I was kind of forced into it.  Dad made me curl because he ran the junior program and I had to go after school.  Obviously I ended up loving it but I wasn't that into it.  I found it a bit boring at first.  My mom and dad have been to nationals in seniors.  Our whole family are very active curlers.  It is kind of neat to have that type of support.

TT:  It is very unique and it is great to see you guys be so vocal about it.  I think the fans really appreciate it and seeing you guys support one another internally but also externally.  The human side of the athlete is always nice.

KG:  Yeah for sure.  I'm not as big of a tweeter as Jamie *laughing* but I was tweeting a lot during the Brier.  There was just a lot to tweet about that week.

TT:  Yes, there definitely was a lot to tweet about that week.  What was it like growing up with two brothers?  Obviously having Jamie as a twin is a totally different dynamic that, unless you are a twin, you probably don't completely understand.  You are the only girl in the family with an older brother and a twin brother.  How do you withstand that?

KG:  *laughing*  I don't know.  I think I annoyed Kevin and Jamie a lot growing up actually to be honest.

TT:  *laughing*

KG:  My friends always say that I am very loud.  I always have to speak loud when I am in groups.  I always say I think I had to do that growing up.  I had to speak loud to be heard growing up.  Jamie and I are pretty close.  Kevin and his family come here all the time in the summer and we have great family reunions.  We go visit them as well.  We all keep in touch.  I see and talk to Jamie on a weekly basis for sure.

TT:  That's great to see.  I cannot imagine how it would be growing up.  I used to beat up on my little brother growing up so I cannot imagine having two older brothers. *laughing*

KG:  *laughing*  Yeah, it was interesting.

TT:  Now if we talk about #growthesport and I had the power to give you control of the sport for one day and you could make any change or adaptation or do anything to help grow the sport.  What would you do?  What would be the one thing you would want to see done?

KG:  Holy cow, that is a pretty loaded question.

TT:  It is a very loaded question, yes I will admit.

KG:  Hmmm....honestly....

TT:  It is not easy I know.

KG:  No, it isn't.  I don't know.  I like where curling is going.  I like the changes that have happened, other than obviously relegation.  *laughing*  But again, I don't really know how to fix relegation.  Hmm, I don't know.  I really have to think about that one.

TT:  That's fair.  Maybe I'd say rather than changing the sport could there be an opportunity to help grow the sport perhaps for a younger generation or help fix how to get more kids to be involved in the sport.  Do you have any thoughts on that?

KG:  You know, everyone knows this but curling is kind of declining in term of competitive teams.  Our junior program here in the north has suffered hugely.  There are no growing teams.  There would be one strong team and always a team underneath them going after them.  Now we really don't have that.  We have really, really young kids going.  We worked with the Hay River junior team that went to nationals this year.  They were really young.  They didn't really know a lot so our team tried to work with them when we went to Hay River for a spiel.  I know we always get these letters in the mail from Curling Canada asking for us to donate and help the curlers.  But I also know, for myself, I get kind of mad when I get those because I think who is going to help me succeed in curling.  Jolene Campbell had a rant on her facebook about the same thing.  I think it might be a good idea if Curling Canada takes a look at our clubs and our junior program and maybe develop a junior program to get more people involved.  I know Rocks and Rings got more kids involved a few years ago.  Maybe there is another program that can also get more kids involved.  I know in my club, my 6 year old daughter started curling this year and with her came 3 or 4 other kids and they just love it.  I always joke around and say that I am forming an Olympic team right now with my 6 year old daughter.  I never curled when I was 6 years old.  It would be nice to see junior programs looked at again and how we get more kids curling again for sure.

TT:  Yeah, excellent.  I agree it is definitely an avenue of opportunity for the sport to grow in the future.  Now, speaking of another side of grow the sport, Nunavut participated in the Scotties and Brier for the first time this year, as well as the playing at the junior.  They picked up wins at 3 of the 4 events this year.  That's got to be good to see for the territories combined with hopefully seeing all 3 compete together at the Scotties or Brier in the future.  Do you guys play off that with one another, with that commradary with wanting to see all 3 territories compete and succeed?

KG:  Yeah for sure.  I mean it is kind of funny because I grew up playing off against the Yukon.  They have always been our rivals  *laughing*  I was never friends with them.  They were always my competitors.  It is different now that we have direct entry.  We definitely cheer for each other.  This year, if we wouldn't have been in that final against B.C., I would have loved to see Yukon be there.  When the Nunavut ladies beat B.C. we were right there with them at the end cheering them on.  It was just so great to see.  Last year, with no Nunavut teams going, I was a little bit choked with that.  It was totally understandable.  But this year it was really, really, really good to see them at the Scotties and at the Brier.

TT:  We always hear about the Atlantic provinces and how, when they play one another they want always beat one another of course, but when they aren't, they always want to see each other be successful and win.  Do you guys have the same feel now?

KG:  Definitely, for sure.  No doubt about it.  I would have loved to see us and the Yukon in the Scotties this year.  I've known Nicole Baldwin (Skip - Team Yukon) forever.  I used to compete against her.  She was even our fifth player one year at the Scotties.  If we weren't going to be in it, I would have wanted to see her in it definitely.  The northern teams at the Scotties are basically extinct.  It would have been great to see at least one of us get back in it.

TT:  For sure.  Well hopefully that will be the route we see if not next year at the earliest in 2018 because that is the best route to go and I also think that is what the fans want to see happen.  Now talking about Nunavut, their biggest success could be deemed the victories they have picked up this year.  In looking at your curling resume, what is your favorite curling moment?

KG:  I've had a lot of up's and down's throughout the years but I would have to say last year winning an actual medal at a national event with my mixed team.  That by far stands out to me.  I have my little medal and my little plaque sitting in my house.  It was a tough event, there were a lot of really good teams.  A lot of the teams there didn't really know us so we kind of put ourselves under the radar.  To win a silver medal, especially with my brother (Jamie) and I'm really good friends with Megan and Robert (Borden), it was really special and something I'll always remember no matter what.

TT:  Yup, for sure.  What was the reaction like when you got home?  It was one of the first medals the Northwest Territories has picked up at a national event.

KG:  It was huge.  It was crazy.  My phone didn't stop ringing for about a week.  It was very surreal.  It was such a crazy week and all we did was curl.  *laughing*  Megan (Cormier) and I were saying we didn't even have time to go shopping.  Winning and making it to the next stage, because at mixed it is in pools and you advance through the stages.  But when we got home, people were just so happy and excited for us.  It was very cool.

TT:  Yeah I remember when I interviewed Jamie he said the same thing as it being one of his favorite moments of his curling career as well.

KG:  You know we wanted to play mixed again this year and go back for gold but it didn't work out.  Maybe you will see us back competing again though.  We will see how it works out.

TT:  Of course, that would be awesome.  Now on the flip side, of course, I have to ask what is the one mulligan you would like to redo, whether a shot or game, that keep you up at night?

KG:  Hands down, right now...*laughing*...it was a pre-qualifier game against B.C. in the 5th end when I ended up knocking their rock in and onto our rock totally buried.  I was better off to just not throw that rock that game.  It was just bad luck.  We felt like I threw it decent and it was the worst possible outcome.  B.C. got 3 and had I not had that shot maybe it would have been a completely different outcome.

TT:  Now when you look back on that, and in us talking about junior curlers, what would you say to them if they said a similar shot was bothering them.  How do you get over shots like that?

KG:  Yeah, it was awful.  *laughing*  We just kind of stood there.  I stood on my own for a few minutes.  "Ok, they just got 3...worst possible outcome."  Then I just walked to the backboards, talked to our coach John and he said to just calm down.  It's not like you can just get over it instantly, you have to process it.  "Ok, that was just bad luck.  What do we need to focus on next?"  We talk to our coach, we talk as a team and just focus on getting a deuce here and claw our way back into the game and see what happens.  It's tough.  But if you are going to compete at this level you just need to take shots like that and get over it pretty quick.

TT:  For sure.  That's great advice.  Now I thought we could do a little rapid fire questions.  I have come up with a few, most I have already asked others so you may already know some of them.  Let's start with your curling walk-up song...for just you personally, not the team?

KG:  I would say "On Top of the World" by Imagine Dragons.

TT:  Oh nice, why would you pick that one?

KG:  It's a good one.  It's about getting back up.  Life shoots you down and you get back up.  I can relate to that and I think a lot of people can actually.

TT:  I think it is a great choice.  In speaking on the team side of it, if you had to give your team it's own hashtag, what would be your team hashtag?

KG:  *laughing*  We actually have one.  It's actually #BelieberBubble.  We fell in love with Justin Bieber this season.

TT:  *laughing*  Well this must be a Koe thing.  I overhead a rumour this year that Kevin also fell in love with Justin this season.  Does this run in the family?

KG:  *laughing*  I didn't know that.  I've never liked Justin Bieber ever...like, ever!  And this year our team has taken a huge liking to him.  And John, our coach, has told us to really focus on us and be in our bubble.  So we get in our bubble and now we have invited Justin Bieber into our bubble.

TT:  *laughing*  Ah, that's nice.  Is there a favorite song?

KG:  Oh, we like "Sorry" of course.  Megan (Cormier) and I start dancing.  Shona (Barbour) goes bright red and laughs at us.  And Dani (Danielle Derry) just kind of sits there staring at us.  It's fun.

TT:  Awesome.  Good choice.  Now back to you for a bit.  Do you have a nickname or does the team have a nickname for you?

KG:  My nickname is Double K, which has changed to Double KG since I am not Double K anymore.  My teammates call me "skipper" sometimes too.  But most of my friends call me Double KG.

TT:  Ok, that works.  What about your biggest rival on tour?

KG:  Well, we don't get out on tour very much.  *laughing*  That question is kind of hard for us.  We don't really have very many rivals here in the north because we are the only team that really takes the time to fully compete.  Umm....when we used to go on tour a lot it was Kelly Scott.  We played her a lot.  I could never beat her.  I just have this mental block when it comes to beating her for some reason.  I've had shots to beat her *laughing* but I don't make them.  But back in the day it was probably Kelly Scott.

TT:  *laughing* Ok, that's fair.  I would say teams that become Team Canada might list you as their biggest rival when you play them at the Scotties.  You seem to do really well against Team Canada.

KG:  *laughing*  Yes, we tend to have a pretty good track record against them for sure.

TT:  So maybe you are someone else's biggest rival and you just don't know it *laughing*

KG:  *laughing*  Maybe...

TT:  Now who is the loudest female on tour you have ever played against?

KG:  Oh my gosh...those girls from Korea are insane.  There are 3 teams from Korea and they are loud.  The last few years we have gone to an Edmonton spiel and there have been a couple teams there.  I can't even hear myself think when they are next to me because they are screaming so loud.  I would definitely say them.

TT:  Well I will be in Swift Current for the Women's World Championship this weekend and they will be there so I will see what it sounds like.  *laughing*

KG:  *laughing*  Excellent, they are loud.

TT:  *laughing*  I'll take notice then for sure.  Now if you were to assemble an All-Star curling team, athletes or non-athletes, who would you want on the team?  And you can choose to put yourself on the team or not.

KG:  Ok well I will definitely put myself on the team.

TT:  *laughing* I would assume so.

KG:  *laughing*  If it was all female curlers, I would say Jolene Campbell, me, Jill Officer and Amanda Gates.  It would be an awesome team.  They are all really good friends of mine so that would be wicked.  And then, non-curlers, definitely Justin Bieber, Ellen...which I bet a lot of people would say...and Rihanna.  I love her.

TT:  Oh nice, I have seen Rihanna in concert twice.  A very good concert.

KG:  Oh nice, there you go.

TT:  Those are both very good choices.  Now I am stealing a question Julie Hastings came up with for Nolan Thiessen.  I loved it so I am going to use it all the time now.  She asked him to go through the team and pick which member would be which dwarf, including yourself.  So there are 4 of you and 7 dwarfs so which one would you be and which one would the rest of your team be?

KG:  *laughing*  I actually read that.  I remember seeing that.  Let's see.  For me, I would say Sleepy.  I am forever tired.  I am always tired and I am always complaining how tired I am.  I never seem to get enough sleep.  Meaghan could probably be Sleepy as well.  Her and I are roomies and we love to sleep.  We sleep late and we just love to sleep in.  But she could also be Happy.  She is usually on even ground, she is never Grumpy.  Shona definitely would be Doc.  She is Miss Smarty Pants.  She wins every argument on the team and is the smartest girl I know.  If there is something we don't know, we ask her and she knows.  And Dani would be Dopey.  She is a bit forgetful and our fun loving player.  We have a lot of laughs on her account.  *laughing*  Just things she does...but she is probably Happy too so it could go both ways.

TT:  Nice.  And Dopey of course we mean in a loving, happy way. *laughing*

KG:  *laughing* Yeah, exactly.

TT:  And now for the #AskTheCurler question from Nolan to you.  You may have read it and we lightly talked about it.  He wanted me to ask you, you are in a world mixed final and you have one of your brothers standing in the hack as your skip, which of the brothers do you want as your skip: Jamie or Kevin?

KG:  *laughing*  Oh my god that's just as bad as asking who I am cheering for when they play against one another at the Brier.  That is an awful question.

TT:  *laughing*  It is an awful question.  So you can blame Nolan for that one.

KG:  *laughing*  Of course Nolan would ask that.  Umm...you know what, I'll be honest.  Kevin!  He just won the flippin' Brier.  Of course it will be Kevin.  And then Jamie can be our second.

TT:  Ah nice, there you go.  Way to get out of a tough situation by putting them both on the team.  Nicely done.  Smart answer right there.  *laughing*

KG:  *laughing*  Exactly.

TT:  That's also a safe way to answer, I like it.

KG:  It's perfect!  *laughing*

TT:  Now I turn over the #AskACurler to you.  My next interview is going to be with Chris Plys from the US.  Similar to you and I here, he and I are going to do a little player interview and then preview the men's world's.  So what question would you like to me to ask Chris?

KG:  Well, if we are going to go with the Justin Bieber-theme, is he pro-Bieber?  Anti-Bieber?  Does he listen to Bieber before he plays?

TT:  Ah, very nice.  That is actually going to be a very interesting question for him.

KG:  Yeah, I would like to know if Chris Plys listens to Bieber.

TT:  I would like to know too.  He kind of has that harder image to him, he is sponsored by RedBull, he has that whole X-Games look to him.

KG:  See, it will be perfect for him.

TT:  It will be perfect for him.  We will see if he has a little inner-Belieber in him too.

KG:  *laughing*

TT:  Excellent, I love that question.  Ok, now let's talk about the Women's World's coming up this weekend in Swift Current.  It's an interesting field.  Lots of experience.  I thought we could do a similar take to what Mark Kean and I did for the Brier.  We can talk about our favorites, a few teams that could make a deep run and a few teams that could surprise before we go into our playoff picks.  Does that work for you?

KG:  Sure.

TT:  Excellent.  Ok, let's start with our Favorites.  As the guest of course you get to go first.  When you look at the slate of teams who is your overall favorite?

KG:  I was actually just checking out the teams online today.  And I really have to go with Canada.  What has it been?  A 7-year gap now?  I just feel like it is their time.  Chelsea Carey played awesome in Grande Prairie.  I didn't think anyone would beat them the way they were playing.  If they can play the same way in Swift Current, I think they are going to be tough to beat.  There are a lot of good teams there I could pick but I am definitely going with Chelsea Carey for sure.

TT:  That's fair.  I didn't go with the homer pick that you did *laughing*  Hopefully when I write this she doesn't read it while I am in Swift Current because I am kind of scared of Chelsea Carey and I think she could take me in a fight.  I'm going to go with Eve Muirhead and Team Scotland.  They haven't won anything on tour yet this season but Swift Current was also her first World's back in 2010 and she won a silver medal that year.  I feel like she has this great connection with Swift Current.  In 2010 she hadn't won anything all year either and then played really well.  There is something about the experience factor, I think this is her 7th World's appearance.

KG:  Definitely I think she is an awesome curler.  I think she carries her team a little bit, not taking anything away from her team because her team is really good.  I had Muirhead as my second pick.

TT:  Ok, that's fair.  That's good.  At least we agree Scotland is a co-favorite then?

KG:  Yeah, definitely.

TT:  On the other side, my co-favorite wasn't Team Canada again to be honest.  I actually went with Anna Sidorova and Team Russia.  Fresh off her European Championship, also played in Swift Current in 2010, also in her 7th appearance, also the same age as Eve Muirhead both being 25 years old.  They seem to have a great rivalry going on tour over the past few years and I personally just think seeing them play off in the final would be great.  Sidorova has really been playing hard this year.

KG:  Oh wow, look at you go *laughing*

TT:  *laughing*  I know, right?

KG:  I actually didn't have Russia in my Top 4.

TT:  Really?

KG:  Yeah, I am not going with them.  I don't really know why.  I think they are a great team and they are the reigning European champs.  But I don't know.  They are fighters.  They are kind of like the Territories, always fighting.  But I don't know, I just don't have them in my Top 4.

TT:  Wow. Ok.  That's fair.  We can always agree to disagree.  That's what makes this so much more fun and exciting actually.  Now who are your teams to Watch Out For?  Outside the two favorites, who are the next tier of two teams that probably have a good shot at making a run for the title?

KG:  Umm...you know I think the United States is going to be up there.  I think with Erika Brown taking over the team it makes them stronger.  They may not be looked at going in but I think they are going to finish Top 4 or just outside the playoffs.  But I think they are going to be fighting.  And you know the Swiss girls, they could be considered a favorite but I don't know if I would put them up there.  Kind of like Russia.  I know they won 3 of the past 4 years so I feel like they need to be in my Top 4 but they aren't, they are just under.

TT:  Wow.  Well my Watch Out For teams were Team Canada.  I think Canada is still going to be strong and make some noise.  Like you said, Chelsea Carey played outstanding in front of a "home" province crowd and feeding off the crowd should give her 6 to 7 wins alone.

KG:  Definitely.  I agree.

TT:  And my other team to Watch Out For was actually Switzerland.  Binia Feltscher has had a horrible season in compared to her other years but 3 out of the 4 years, 3 different skips have won it.  Whatever is in the chocolate over there, they are doing a great job.

KG:  Yeah, the Swiss are always up there and in it.  They always pull through.  This team I would have them in the Top 4 other years but this year, they really haven't made much noise.  I cannot see them being in the Top 4.

TT:  Really?  Interesting.  That's fair.  Now what about the Dark Horse teams.  Teams that maybe are not getting as much media attention or teams people maybe aren't necessarily talking about but who could, maybe not win the tournament, but could make a playoff run?

KG:  The Korean team (Kim Ji-sun).  They always do ok.  They come out firing every now and then.  Lene Neilson's team (Team Denmark), they might surprise you.  There are always teams that come out and beat some of the top teams when they are not expected to.  I don't know though.  Those two teams might finish middle of the pack or fight for that last playoff spot.

TT:  I agree with you.  I also had Lene Nielson's team in there.  The fact that they have finished 4th at Europeans for 5 years in a row now...I don't know how she is doing it.  4th has to be considered the worst finish in an event and to do it 5 years in a row.  That is crazy!

KG:  For sure.  They are a good little team.  She, herself, is a great thrower.  You never know.  They could surprise us.

TT:  Exactly.  And I also agree with you and went with the US as a dark horse team.  Erika Brown is probably being overlooked by a few of the other teams and I think it will be a big mistake if teams overlook her.

KG:  I am going to agree.  Many people are not even considering them but, like I said, adding Erika to that team has just made them that much stronger.

TT:  I agree.  And Erika also competed in 2010 in Swift Current.  I think she lost a tiebreaker that year.  And last time she was at World's was in 2013 and she finished 4th.  So last two World's appearances, both made playoffs.

KG:  So there ya go *laughing* good pick!

TT:  *laughing*  Yup Erika Brown could be a great upset pick to go far this week.  Plus you have to think she might have some Canadian fans cheering for her, she does live in Ontario after all.

KG:  Exactly, she does.  *laughing*

TT:  *laughing*  So your Top 4 and my Top 4 sound like they are going to be completely different, which is exciting.  Who do you have finishing in 4th place?

KG:  I have Sweden, which we haven't talked about.

TT:  You are right, we haven't talked about Sweden.  Interesting.

KG:  I am going to put them up there.  They haven't done well since the Olympics.  They are a great team.  I think they were a bit burnt out after the Olympics but I think they are going to do well and finish 4th.

TT:  Sweden is a good choice.  I actually don't have them making the playoffs.  It's hard to imagine not picking them but I agree with you, they have just had a rough past couple of seasons.  This field could be too rough for them.  My 4th place team...ummm....is the unfavorable result of picking Chelsea Carey to finish in 4th and have Canada not finishing on the podium this year.

KG:  *laughing*  Oh really?  Awful!

TT:  *laughing*  I know.  I'm going to get there and we will see how this works for me.

KG:  Awkward!  *laughing*

TT:  *laughing*  I know.  I just can't be known to always go with a homer pick though too I suppose.

KG:  Ok, that's true I suppose.

TT:  So now who do you have as your Bronze Medal winner?

KG:  I have the United States.

TT:  Nice, that is a good pick.  I went with Switzerland and Feltscher.  I expect her to have a good showing as well.

KG:  Interesting.  Ok.

TT:  Who is in your Silver Medal position?

KG:  Scotland!  *laughing*

TT:  Whoa...Really?  *laughing* You know I am going to try and tell Eve Muirhead you picked her to finish with a silver and maybe motivate her to do something different.  I actually picked Russia to finish second.  I think Sidorova, after back-to-back bronze medals, this will be the year she finally makes that final.

KG:  Ok yeah, good pick.  Good pick.

TT:  So then I think I know how you are going to say but who is your Gold Medal winner?

KG:  Team Canada!  I have to go with them.  They are going to end our drought.  They have to.  They are a great team and I think they are going to do it.

TT:  It is kind of amazing to think we have gone 7 years without a gold medal.

KG:  It is.  It is crazy!  I don't know.  Chelsea Carey.  I don't know, she has just impressed me.  It actually takes a lot for me to actually like a lot of curling females *laughing*  I have a lot of respect for a lot of curlers but this new team...they just really impressed me at the Scotties.  They are going to for sure end our drought.

TT:  Well I will say I think her and Amy (Nixon) playing together is a good combination.  I think they balance each other out and they feed off one another's strengths and weaknesses really well.

KG:  Totally and that little Amy Nixon is a good curler.  Laine (Peters) and Jocelyn (Peterman)...that front end just jive.  I saw them a lot in Grande Prairie and those two are always together.  They just jive and work well together.  I have faith in them this year.

TT:  I agree, good point.  Now, to be fair, I actually have all 4 of my teams finishing tied for first after the round robin.

KG:  Oh, ok.

TT:  I think it is going to be very close between the four of them.  I think all 4 of those teams are going to come away with 2 or 3 losses only and it's going to be a mess to decide where they end up.  It's anybody's guess.  I like Chelsea Carey, I just don't know about the experience factor against some of these more experienced teams, especially when she gets into the playoffs.  The Scotties playoffs were different in a way.  The experience wasn't necessarily there compared to what she is going to get in Swift Current.

KG:  That's true.  Fair enough.  She is a rookie world skip.

TT:  *laughing*  Which is weird to think of in a way.

KG:  It is a bit strange to even say.  But you are right.  All these other skips and teams have been to World's, numerous times.  They have been to the Olympics.  This will be different for Chelsea.  But her team has experience at World's, all of them except Chelsea.

TT:  Yeah I agree.  I just think it will be the Mike McEwen factor from the Brier, which is why I picked him to finish 4th...which was weird because I am such a huge fan of his and he has been so good over the last couple of years.  But it will be the same thing.  Once you get into the playoffs, those other teams just know how to crank it up a notch.

KG:  Yeah, you are right.  Fair enough.  That is a very good point.

TT:  We will see though, who knows?

KG:  *laughing*  If you look at it that way I guess.....

TT:  *laughing*  See if we look at it my way then we have Scotland winning the whole thing, which was my pick for the gold.

KG:  We will see.  We will see.  We definitely have very different picks.

TT:  We have VERY different picks.  I think Eve Muirhead is due for another World Championship.  It's weird to think she hasn't been on the podium the last couple of years.  It's weird to think the podium for the last two years has been exactly the same with Switzerland, Canada, Russia.

KG:  Oh yeah, that is interesting.  I didn't realize that.

TT:  See, that is why I try and do the interviews.  *laughing*

KG:  *laughing*  Well, yeah, Ok.

TT:  Well at least we both seem to agree a change is going to happen this year.

KG:  I agree, definitely.  I will agree to that. *laughing*

TT:  *laughing*  Ok excellent.  Well we will see who comes out on top at the end of the week.

KG:  For sure.  Your picks are usually pretty good aren't they?

TT:  I do ok I think.  I had a really good Brier.  I entered two Brier pools this year and won both of them.  It was the first time I entered two winning Brier pools.  I can't complain.  *laughing*

KG:  *laughing*  Oh wow that is impressive.  And this was a tough Brier to pick out of.

TT:  It was a very tough Brier to pick out of.  I even won both pool after picking Kevin to lose the final...sorry!

KG:  *laughing*  That's ok.

TT:  *laughing*  I just bought into the Gushue magic the same way I am buying into the Muirhead magic once again this year.  We will see.  I will be sure to let Chelsea know that you 100% have her back.

KG:  *laughing*  Ok, good good!

TT:  And I will also let Eve Muirhead know you 100% do not have her back and hopefully that will work in my favor.  *laughing*

KG:  *laughing*  Yeah, hopefully.

TT:  Well I appreciate you taking the time to sit down with me and talk Kerry.  It has been a great talk.  You are just as fun and loving as everyone has told me you would be in meeting me.

KG:  Oh it was not a problem.  It was fun to finally sit down and chat with you as well.  Our whole team reads your blog and it's great.  It's great to see someone take the passion like you do and take the time like you do to do this.

TT:  Thank you, I really appreciate that.  And please tell your team I really appreciate them and say hi to all of them as well.

KG:  I will.

TT:  And tell Jamie I say hello once again too.

KG:  I will tell him.

TT:  Excellent.  Well thank you Kerry and enjoy the upcoming Women's World's watching.

KG:  Yeah, this makes it a bit more interesting to watch now with our picks saved.  It will be more interesting now.

TT:  Excellent.  We will see how it goes.  I am going head to head with a pretty experienced skip here, it could be tough.

KG:  Yeah, we will see.  *laughing*

TT:  *laughing*  Well we will connect after and see which one of us has to say "I told you so!"

KG:  Deal.  I'll be tweeting you, don't worry.

TT:  And I'll be tweeting you the same.  Don't worry!  Excellent, thank you Kerry!

KG:  Thanks.

There you have it stoners and rock heads alike.  I hope you enjoyed going #BetweenTheSheets with Kerry Galusha.  Personally, I had a great time chatting with her.  Lots of laughs and some great honest insight from her perspective.  As a fan of the sport, not only do I appreciate athletes taking the time to talk with a blogger like myself but also for their openness and honest candor in conversation.

Now, to quickly recap the #wwcc2016 predictions:

#DoubleKG                                                                     #TwineTime

Gold - Canada (Carey)                                                    Gold - Scotland (Muirhead)
Silver - Scotland (Muirhead)                                           Silver - Russia (Sidorova)
Bronze - USA (Brown)                                                    Bronze - Switzerland (Feltscher)
4th Place - Sweden (Sigfridsson)                                     4th Place - Canada (Carey)

Last time I went toe to toe with a champion skip, I lost out on the final with #Keaner predicting Kevin Koe and his Alberta team to win #Brier2016 while I predicted Brad Gushue to emerge victorious.  From my perspective, hopefully I can turn around this losing streak right now and start beating my guests at their own game.

Do you agree or disagree with either (or both) of Kerry and I's predictions?  If so, drop us a line in the comment section below or hit us up on twitter.  I am sure I speak for Kerry (as well as myself) in saying the more fans engaging in conversation about the sport, the better the sport can become.

As mentioned above, I will be in Swift Current for the opening weekend of the Women's World Curling Championships.  Stay tuned on twitter and this blog for some additional coverage, perhaps a few player post-game interviews or pictures or even behind the scenes random information you may not see on TV.  #StayTuned

As always, be glued to TSN for live TV coverage (in Canada).  If you cannot watch the action on TV, check out live linescores on CurlingZone or rock-by-rock coverage for select games on CurlingGeek.  Above all else, enjoy the action on the ice and cheer on your favorites all week.  #TrustIt

Welcome to the #TwineTime family Kerry Galusha!!