From WCCC to WCT – Interview With Matt Galas


WC Curling


Image Credit: WCT

Image Credit: WCT

29015Matt Galas is the Vice President of Windy City Curling and a founding member. He is about to take his curling game to the next level, joining a competitive team that plays on the World Curling TourStarting with the St. Paul Cash Spiel this coming weekend, Matt will be playing lead for Team Bret Jackson. Before he left for St. Paul, I caught up with Matt for an interview.


Image Credit: SPCC

Image Credit: SPCC

Most competitive curlers got into the game in childhood, or their teens at the latest. Your experience has been different. Tell us about your background and what got you into curling in the first place?

I got into curling by watching the Olympics.  My love started in 2002 when it was on at 3am… which was perfect timing for me coming home from the college bars.  My roommates and I were hooked.  But it wasn’t until the 2006 Olympics when I moved back to the Chicago area that they were on again.  Thats when we setup a group outing for 24 people at Waltham Curling Club.  That experience was AWESOME and the feeling of the curling community transformed 3 of us from that group into instant members.

You’ve played in various bonspiels, and twice represented Windy City at Arena Nationals. What made you decide to take it to the next level, competitively?

It’s something I’ve always been interested in but haven’t had the chance until now.  Luckily Bret Jackson reached out to me and in all honesty I couldn’t have said yes any faster (after checking with the wife and schedule of course).

Tell us a bit about your team. How did you come to meet/join them?

Bret Jackson is the mastermind… he played last year and was looking for some new team members for a run this year.  I played against one of his clubs (Lansing Curling Club) on numerous occasions and got to meet Bret at Arena Nationals.  The St Paul Cash Spiel will be the first time we are all playing together so I’m sure there will be some growing pains but I’m definitely excited and can’t wait to get started.

Your first event is coming up this weekend. What else is on your schedule for this year?

We are booked for Curl Mesabi in December and we are looking to add one more event before that.  The challenge round is in January and then hopefully if all goes well we’ll be onto Jacksonville for Nationals.

Do you have any personal goals for this season? Any specific team goals?

Honestly, not really.  I hope that we play well and enjoy curling together and have fun while doing it.  I think past that it’s hard to set goals as a team until we start working and playing together a bit more.

Do you have any pregame rituals/superstitions?

I’m not a superstitious guy at all…so outside of the good curling handshakes I can’t say that I have anything in particular.  Now postgame broomstacking is another story…

Best moment on the ice (besides getting to play Phil)? Worst (besides having to play Phil)?

Any day on the ice (with or without Phil) is a great day.  I can’t say I have a worst day at all…sure, I’ll always remember the shots I missed or over/under swept on to lose the game, but they’re all experiences that help you become a better curler and teammate.

As for the best moment…honestly, this probably sounds a little cheesy…but there have been a couple times at Windy City when I look across at everyone playing that I get a little emotional.  Knowing how our club just started less than two years ago and seeing where it is now having 48 people playing on Sunday nights is just an awesome feeling.  And being on the ice and being a part of that is inspiring.  Now, don’t get me wrong… I hope to have another “better” moment I can point to in February but for now…I’m sticking with that answer.

Do you watch much curling? Any favorite players/rinks?

I watch it every chance I can, but its not nearly often enough juggling work and three kids schedules.  I will say I have about 40 hours of curling DVR’d that my wife continually asks why I keep.

One piece of advice you could give to any curler, what would it be?

Have fun.  Just go out there and have fun…learn as you go.  And ask a lot of questions every time you play.  Fellow curlers love to chat so buy ’em a beer and pick their brains for sure.

Thank you Matt for the interview, and good luck on the season! The St. Paul Cash Spiel runs from October 9 – October 11. Team Jackson’s first game is against Team Workin at 1:30 (Central) on Friday  10/09. Follow along at CurlingZone, and we will post updates via our Twitter and Facebook pages as well.



Phil Darin is Windy City’s resident armchair curler who even plays from time to time. He often loses on the ice, but he always wins at broomstacking. Would you like to hear more about curling, whisky, or gambling? Are you Eve Muirhead?

Want to contact Phil directly? Do you need a restaurant recommendation in Vegas? 

One Year of Memories at Windy City Curling

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An overhead view of the first night at Windy City Curling.

Seems like just yesterday that everyone met at Windy City for the first week of curling. April 3, 2014.

And although everyone has their memorable points from the past year, I just wanted to highlight a few of mine.

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The Opening Night Cake



Despite personally throwing many stones through the house to actually getting stones in play, our team was able to take the first league championship.


Windy City’s 1st League Champions: Jacob Widlowski, Dan Mulka, Simon Ganet, Elvis Presley (alternate) and Jeff Galas (skip)



Although I personally spent most of the summer at work and had to miss a few months of curling, Halloween at Windy City was definitely one to remember. Well, when you see this Jack O Lantern … you know you are at home.

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Halloween Genius

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More Halloween

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Even more Halloween



I truly wish I had a photo of this, but I’m going to do my best to describe it.  And, maybe some Photoshop.


Fun with Photoshop

I was the Vice for Team Wolanik – and Andy was shooting the “Skips stones.” I was in the house, calling the line.

Our second, Nick Solka, is amazing on the broom – really putting his heart and soul into sweeping.

On this night … he slipped. Ended up on his back, in front of the stone. Now, from my angle, this all happened in super-slow motion …

He slipped in front of the stone – with him brook going flying sideways down the ice.

In a “hurting my back just thinking about it” moment – he went into a back bridge to have the stone go under him.

The stone makes it under Nick, bounces off an opponents rock and barely squeaks closer to the button for the point.

Now, if I remember right, we probably only took 2 points that game … but sometimes a shot like that can turn a severe butt-kicking into a memorable-in-a-funny-way enjoyable game.

Nick Solka was uninjured on the play.


For those really new to the curling world, bonspiels are curling tournaments.  I participated in a few different bonspiels.   The Prairie State Challenge, the ICA 5 & Under, the Big Spiel in Minnesota and the Dar Curtis.

My teams had some good luck, and had some bad luck (including one of my mens teams getting destroyed by a group of high school girls).  As arena curlers not used to dedicated ice, it took a while at each tournament to get used to our shots.  It made all of us realize how much we want our own dedicated ice.

Speaking of fundraising – have you bought a raffle ticket to benefit Windy City Curling?  Each ticket is $20, but gives you a 1-in-250 chance to win $1000!  We actually have 9 other cash prizes you can win.  For more information, click here.

Like how I worked that in?

But some of the best parts about bonspiels are hanging out with all of the other curlers, including both other Windy City members and members from other clubs.  You get to meet a lot of new people and hear a lot of great stories.


As I mentioned earlier, a few of us made our trip up to Minnesota to take part in their “Big Spiel.”  You know you are up for an interesting trip when the ride includes listening to a mix of French-Canadian country music and 90’s hip hop.

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The Pilot on the Trip to Minnesota


Curling-wise: our team was one game away from the finals of the 8th event.  This would be the equivalent of finishing roughly in 84th place of 96 teams.


At Frogtown Curling Club – Pictured: Dan Mulka, Phil Darin, Greg Torkelson (skip) and Nate Bock (sub from St. Paul Curling Club)


Non-curling wise:  lots of food, lots of beer, lots of fun.  We all got to take in a Minnesota Wild / Chicago Blackhawks hockey game with the unbelievably cool, two-time Olympian Jessica Schultz (who I had interviewed earlier in the year for the blog)

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Pictured left to right: Lysa (Jess’ friend), Jessica, Dan, Phil, Greg, Greg’s friend

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Greg, Charlie Brown, Phil

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Linus and Dan


Food-wise:  This is just an excuse to put in a picture of Poutine (from Four Seasons Curling Club).

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Yummy ….



It’s funny how a season can turn.  Especially in the first week.

Curling in the club championship with Team Richardson (Josh Richardson, Chuck Justis and Dan Burrows) – we were down early in week one.  This includes a 5 point deficit at one point, and a 3 point deficit with two ends to play.  Thought the championship was out of reach.

We forced the extra end, took the game and never looked back.  We ran the table to go undefeated.


2014/2015 Inaugural Club Champions – Pictured left-to-right: Chuck Justis (vice), Josh Richardson (skip), Dan Mulka (second) and Dan Burrows (lead)


A lot of hours, a lot of miles, and a lot of fun  From that first week a year ago until now, I’ve been hooked on the sport of curling.  For those who I’ve met on this journey so far – THANK YOU!  To Windy City Curling – THANK YOU!

For those looking for new stories and new friends – it’s time to join Windy City Curling.  Whether its a Learn to Curl or our Rookie Leagues … you will be the envy of your friends.  Stay tuned to for more events where you can get involved.

Trust me, it’s well worth it.


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“Hot by Pride”: How Curling is Improving My Life On and Off the Ice

I was talking to a user on Reddit on life goals for fitness and healthy living, and what keeps us motivated. This is a bit of a read, and it is incredibly personal, but what started out as me typing out a comment to motivate a friend turned into a realization – halfway through typing it – that a lot of my own motivation comes from the time I spend on and off the ice with my club mates. You all make me want to be a better Me, and by sharing this, I wanted you to know exactly how. Thank you.

* * *
(The following is comment I sent him – with a few edits here and there for clarification.)

There’s so many avenues to get active. If you’re having a hard time eating healthy and running, there’s nothing wrong with starting the one before layering on the other.

I personally like to think of it in phases that are building up toward my main goal: “Hot by Pride,” which started as a New Year’s Resolution. (My friends and I continue to motivate each other with the hash tag #Resolute, because that’s what we are in our goals to self-improvement.)

I told myself that for this Gay Pride Parade in Chicago, I want to feel confident enough with myself that, if we get a hot day, I’d be comfortable taking my shirt off (and maybe even turn a head or two).

Because… y’know… vanity.

But I knew that unless I did something, that was never going to happen. Also, since I knew trying to do too much at once often leads to failure because that drastic of a lifestyle change can be emotionally stressful, I broke my goals down into Phases. (Note: the following is just an example of what I did. Feel free to make your own and rock it out!)

Phase 1: Quit Smoking

This was the Big One. The Primary Goal, as it were. If nothing else, I wanted to quit smoking and quit for good. So I switched to vaping electronic cigarettes (eCigs). But since I know my brain all too well, not only did I start vaping at a low nicotine level, I only vaped tobacco flavors. Yes, part of the fun of vaping is the whole new world of flavor options available to you, but vaping nicotine was something I wanted to eventually stop, so I made a point to never associate nicotine with a fun flavor. I wanted the “fun” flavors to be my reward for good behavior, so I made sure that I only bought them in “nic-free” varieties. That way, if I never needed a nicotine fix to curb a craving, it would HAVE to be in tobacco flavor. I mean, honestly, who wants to associate Apple Brown Betty with regret?

Eventually, after a month of vaping, on February 1, I weened myself down to nothing but nic-free eCigs. I stuck with that for a few weeks because oral fixation is a real thing, and in the absence of cigarettes or a boyfriend, food is next best option. That, and I didn’t want to replace one oral vice with another.

Once I got the nicotine out of my system, I slowly but surely stopped vaping. As of March 1, I’ve been vape free. (STILL SMOKE-FREE SINCE JANUARY FIRST! WHOO-HOO!!!)

Phase 2: Get Active

After years of watching the Olympic sport of r/Curling, especially after the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, I finally told myself, “I’m going to try that sport.” And you know what? I fell in love with it. I’ve been an avid curler for over one year now. I blog and podcast about the sport for my club’s website and am even forming a team to make a run for Arena Nationals this summer (which is rather precarious timing to hold a winter sporting event, but I digress…)

And to be honest, a part of what prompted this whole over-arcing goal wasn’t completely just to get “Hot by Pride.” A lot of it has to do with being a better athlete for my team.

Why? Because a big part of this sport is the sweeping. Sweeping stones in this ridiculously awesome sport of ours requires a lot of core strength (to balance as you walk on the ice), stamina (vigorously sweeping one stone can last for 20-25 seconds straight, up to nearly fifty or so times in two-hour game), and arm strength (you don’t gently dust the ice with your broom, you polish with a solid SCRUB – like you’re cleaning a boat deck).

A lot of people want to work out, but they have nothing to work out for. And really, why would you? Why would anyone put in so much effort if they’re not going to get anything tangible out of it? I mean, let’s be real: No one needs big, rippling muscles if their day-to-day life doesn’t require heavy lifting. So find some sort of “heavy lifting” that you’re passionate about that requires you to put in the effort of working out and see where it takes you!

Whether it’s running a marathon, joining a marching band, picking up a sport – it doesn’t matter. What got me moving and motivated was finding something that made “working out” a means to a specific end, not a means unto itself. As I’ve been telling my curling club mates: “I don’t want to get Jersey Shore Swole, I want to get Canadian Curler Cut.” Yeah, admittedly there is some vanity in there, but the main motivator is being better at the game I love playing.

“Uh… dude? You admitted you had already been active in curling for a year. How is that Phase 2?”

You’re right. Perhaps, if I’m being clear, I should have labelled Phase 2 as “Get Even More Active.” So here’s where that motivation turned into a fitness goal: I downloaded a simple app called “Just 6 Weeks” that’s designed to use body-resistance exercises to build strength (push-ups, sit-ups, dips, and squats).

I’ve only been doing this app for three weeks now, but I am already seeing – and, more importantly, FEELING – a subtle difference. For the first time in my life, I’m starting to see the beginnings of – dare I say it? – bicep muscles on my arms. They may be baby biceps, but dammit, they are all mine. Not only do I see progress, but I’ve noticed that I feel progress in my game on the ice. It might sound crazy, but noticing this is giving me even further motivation to keep going.

However – for me and my brain – what really helps is knowing that needing to quit smoking is already completely behind me. Instead of focusing on both how badly I want a cigarette AND having to go work out on TOP of that, I now only spend the mental energy on ONE of these thoughts because I already took care of the other. There’s no longer this big mental mountain to climb. Instead, it seems more just like a road to journey down. That brings me to what eventually lies ahead on the horizon…

Phase 3: Lose Some Weight

The problem with quitting smoking is that your metabolism changes. That, combined with an oral fixation that manifests itself in eating more of… anything (as much as I tried to avoid it), often causes weight gain. And gain some weight I did.

I haven’t started in on Phase 3 just yet.

My goal is that if I’ve finished the “Just 6 Weeks” app on time, I’ll be set and ready to go with more aerobic exercise come May. That gives me roughly two months to do more cardiovascular exercises (like ridding my bike!) in the nice weather months ahead to shed those extra pounds. Hopefully, doing so will reveal a toned physique hiding underneath the fluff just in time for – you guessed it – Chicago’s Gay Pride! 😀

Okay, okay…

So it’s not the most perfect plan on the planet. I’m sure there are better ones out there. But this plan is mine, and so far it seems to be working for me.

And that’s my point: It has to be personal to you or it probably won’t work. You have to treat your efforts of a healthier lifestyle as the means to an end and, as such, you have to know what your end is. If you really want great motivation, make sure it’s something you are passionate about. Once you have that, it’s easy to break things down into smaller goals to achieve on a longer journey. Three months in, I’m still going strong.

And if I can do this after thirty years of sedentary lifestyle, I know you can. You don’t have to become a model, just become a better You. You got this, yo. 😀

-Eric 🙂

(Eric Reithel is a resident blogger and plogger for Windy City Curling. He’s never going to grace a magazine cover as an underwear model, but that’s okay. And probably for the best. If you want to make plans to go to Chicago’s Gay Pride with him, hit him up on Twitter @TheCraftyCurler.)

The Club Champions of our Inaugural 2014-2015 Season: Team Richardson!

Congratulations to Windy City Curling’s inaugural Club Championship League winners, Team Richardson!  The Richardson rink swept the Championship League, 6-0, to take the title for our 2014-2015 season. Well played, gentlemen!


Pictured (left to right):
Chuck Justis (Vice), Josh Richardson (Skip), Dan Mulka (Second), Dan Burrows (Lead)

Final Team Rankings
– 2nd) Team Torkelson (4-2)
Greg Torkelson
Anthony Steinmiller
Kevin Runge
Mitch Gerdisch

— 3rd) Team Stewart (4-2)
Greg Stewart
Anthony Intini
Doug Morrissey
Joe Placek

— 4th) Team Dooley (3-3)
Mike Dooley
Kurt Vogt
Noel Luchinski
Kelly Hemmingway

— 5th) Team Orisek (2-4)
Tim Orisek
Matt Moore
Kevin Vogt
Steve Bell

— 6th) Team Reithel (1-5)
Eric Reithel
Phil Darin
Jim Sakelakos
Donna Sakelakos

— 7th) Team Sweeney (1-5)
Paul Sweeney
Simon Ganet
Kent Steele
Brian Jenner

Congrats to all of the teams who played, and thank you for an incredible 2014-2015 season!

Just one more league left until we break for the summer… So sign up today!

Plog #4: “Words, Words, Words”

In this week’s drive home, I talk about communication. Which, as a sentence, just seems redundant to type out.

But yes, there’s been a lot of miscommunication happening around the ice in my life lately, and – with trepidation and a touch of humor – I do my best to hash it out. From needing to make sure everyone on my team is on the same page, to not being afraid to step up to the plate and just saying what you mean, to even the simple need to communication anything at all, this plog deals with how curlers can talk to each other more effectively – on the ice and off.  Enjoy!

-Eric 🙂

(Eric Reithel is a resident blogger and plogger for Windy City Curling. As both a student of theater and someone who makes his living in radio – he knows how to talk. If nothing else, that is something he knows that he can do. If you’d like to engage in a conversation with him, you can find him on Twitter @TheCraftyCurler.)