Players’ Championship Semi-Finals

Today was the last day of the Players’ Championship. The morning draw featured the men’s and women’s semi-final matches: Team Jacobs vs Team Bottcher/Middaugh, Team McEwen vs Team Epping, Team Sidorova vs Team Sweeting, and Team Muirhead vs Team Homan.

We got to the arena area early, in case there wasn’t much parking. Luckily the lot was empty and we grabbed breakfast nearby. I was beyond nervous, as I was so close to getting to see my two favorite curling rinks face off in the women’s final. I couldn’t wait to get inside and for the matches to get underway.

As usual, I had my flags with me to show my support for Muirhead and Sidorova.

Flags

Sweeting and Homan are two of the top Canadian rinks, and fan favorites. So we were definitely in the minority.

Soon all the teams were out on the ice, and it was obvious they were anxious to get play started.

Teams Waiting

Of course, they had to wait for introductions, courtesy of the always entertaining MC Peter Steski.

Pete

Being a big TV event for Sportsnet, the broadcast at times will dictate the pace. Such was the case as the teams had to wait for the go-ahead to start playing.

Teams On IceSkips

McEwen-Epping was the featured match on the middle sheet, so they had to wait a bit longer to get going while the other matches started. Pretty soon though things were underway. We had a great view of all four matches, and we were treated to four great ones.

ActionHoman

JacobsJacobs 2

At this point it’s win or go home for all the rinks, with money and prestige on the line. Lots of great shots were being made, and nobody had it easy.

Sid Plan

Sidorova fell behind 0-3 after a few ends, and for awhile things were looking bleak. They managed to battle back and make it a game though.

Jacobs Plan

Jacobs and Bottcher were having quite the battle as well. It came down to the last stone for Brad Jacobs.

In the end, Muirhead, Sidorova, McEwen and Jacobs all won! These were the four teams I wanted to see, so needless to say I was excited. We weren’t going to be able to make the men’s final, as it started to late and we had an eight-hour drive home.

We would get to see the women’s final though, and I was getting exactly the matchup I wanted…I couldn’t wait for it to start.

While leaving the arena, we saw some folks from Hollywood Curling hanging out with Team Tirinzoni. We stopped by to talk with them for a bit, since they’re an arena club with less-than-desirable ice time as well. It was really cool meeting them, and hopefully our paths will cross again in the future sooner rather than later.

philCPhil 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?

WINDY CITY ON SOCIAL MEDIA

Day 6: Tiebreaker, Quarterfinals, & Horse Racing!

Once again we were up early to get over to the arena. Team Sidorova had to play Team Middaugh in a tiebreaker for the 6th and final playoff spot. The draw was free, and almost completely empty. We decided to sit right behind their sheet and cheer them on from up close.

Ice View

I took a lot of pics, being that close to the action with little blocking our view.

SVIIPWatchingDiscussion

Team Sweeting and Team Homan showed up, taking in a little bit of the action. Kevin Martin was hanging around again as well.

SweetingHoman

Like any good rink, Team Sidorova are excellent at communication. In this video you can hear their distinctive sweep calls. If you’ve ever watched them play, you’ll know what I’m talking about when I say SVIIIP!!!

Team Sidorova won! This meant that I was going to get to see my two favorite rinks compete to make it to the semi-final round the next day. The next draw was at noon, so we grabbed a quick lunch and headed back to the arena.

FlagsPete

Team Muirhead was once again taking on Team Nedohin, while Team Sidorova was taking on the reigning World Champions Team Paetz from Switzerland. Again, we got to see two great games.

Eve PlanningSid Planning

The highlight of this draw though was this incredible shot by Anna Sidorova. A triple raise to score 2! So glad I got to see a shot like this live, it was seriously incredible. There’s a video in this link:

http://www.thegrandslamofcurling.com/curling/playerschampionship/gotta-see-it-sidorovas-triple-raise-to-score-2/

Muirhead and Sidorova won! So now Team Muirhead was set to take on Team Homan while Team Sidorova was set to take on Team Sweeting in the semi-finals on Sunday.

We had a little more time before the men’s quarterfinal, and we felt like celebrating. Innis & Gunn (Scottish Beer) and a dram of Glenmorangie (Scotch Whisky) for Team Muirhead:

Drinks 1

And a shot of vodka for Team Sidorova…they didn’t have any Russian Vodka, so I made do with Absolut:

Drinks 2

Team Jacobs and Team McEwen had byes to the semi-finals, so we got to see Team Gushue take on Team Bottcher (with Wayne Middaugh subbing in as skip, Brendan Bottcher had to get back to school) and Team Kevin Koe take on Team Epping.

Koe 1Koe 2

Epping and Bottcher won. Super-spare (his unofficial nickname for the weekend) made an incredible shot to win it. Check out the video here (link should work in US):

http://www.sportsnet.ca/curling/gotta-see-it-middaugh-makes-double-to-beat-gushue/

As soon as the draw ended we hopped in the car to head out to Mohawk (horse track) to catch some harness racing. Traffic in Toronto can be awful, and this was no exception. It didn’t open up until we were well onto the highway. We ate dinner there and bet on some races. It was fun, but we weren’t winning anything…the favorites were winning every race and if you know anything about betting on horses you’ll know that that isn’t usually a good thing. And if you didn’t know that now you do, ha ha.

11133846_10104910591711660_1352197503750513072_n11037460_10104910591796490_616988870021515210_n

 

After that we stopped off at a grocery store to stock up on some Canadian candy and stuff to bring back with us. We would be up early to pack, check out, and get over to the arena for the semifinal draw!

 

philCPhil 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?


WINDY CITY ON SOCIAL MEDIA



Day 5: What Else? Curling!

Another early day to make it to an early morning draw.

 

It was really empty, so once again we sat right by the ice.

View

Today was the final day of round-robin play, so most of these games were really important.

Early on in the first end, we noticed the great Kevin Martin standing and watching the action, so we took the opportunity to get a picture with him.

KmartmeKmart Neil

It was fairly quiet in the arena, so we could hear things really well.

HackHack 2

Of course we were primarily watching my favorite rink, Team Muirhead, take on Team Feltscher but we were also keeping eyes on Team Sweeting vs Team McDonald and Team Sidorova vs Team Jennifer Jones.

Muirhead defeated Feltscher somewhat early, so we moved to get a better view of the Sidorova-Jones match.

10435788_10104898094511150_1038465904108131466_nS Throw

We moved from the side of the ice to watch the end of the match, as we wanted to try and catch them to get some pictures afterwards. While sitting near our usual seats, we noticed Team Muirhead was hanging out and watching the matches.

Hanging Out

We also saw Team Feltscher in the stands, watching the remaining games.

Team Sidorova ended up winning in an extra end! They were down 1 with hammer in the eighth end, and while drawing for two Sidorova came up short. In the extra end, she was lying 2 and left Jones with a difficult draw to score 1 and win. Jones opted to try and take out their 2 to sit 1, but she jammed and gave up a steal of 1 to Sidorova. We managed to catch them as they were heading off the ice and got some pics.

Me SidNeil Sid

I congratulated Anna about her win, and made a crack to her about the game which caused her to burst out laughing, which was pretty cool. Their coach recognized us as “the guys with the Russian flag” and thanked us for our support, so that was really cool.

We had previously decided to skip the noon draw, as we would be going to both the late afternoon and evening draws. We went back to the hotel, grabbed some lunch, then relaxed before walking back over to the arena.

The afternoon draw was the last one for the women, and was important to say the least. Teams were facing elimination, while others were fighting to avoid tiebreakers. Two of my favorite rinks, and definitely my two favorite women’s rinks (Muirhead and Sidorova) were facing off. If Sidorova won, they had a shot at the playoffs…lose, and they would probably be eliminated. Muirhead was looking at a possible bye past the first round of the playoffs if she won, and might have to face a tiebreaker if she lost. I was torn…my head knew Sidorova needed to win, but my heart was cheering for Muirhead.

SM SM2

Ultimately Sidorova won, and the way the other games played out Muirhead avoided a tiebreaker. Sidorova would play a tiebreaker on Saturday morning. After the draw, we got some pictures with Team Homan, who won and earned a bye to the semifinals on Sunday morning.

EMTH

Neil FENeil EMNeil RH

As we were leaving, we saw Team Edin heading out, and we gave them some Windy City Curling T-Shirts.

Edin

We ran across the street for some quick food, then headed back to the arena for the night draw.

This draw was a lot more crowded than the others. It wasn’t packed, but definitely much more crowded. There wasn’t as much on the line as with the final women’s draw, but the games were still important.

Skips

Our best views were of Jacobs vs Epping, and McEwen vs Gushue. Jeff Stoughton was also playing in his final game of his career, taking on Steve Laycock’s rink. Carruthers was playing Howard, which was on the sheet closest to us.

JHJT

MHMT

They were some great matches. I managed to get a video of Brad Jacobs’ game-winning shot.

Afterwards, we managed to grab some pics with them.

Jacobs RinkMe RF

Neil JR

All in all another great day. Now, I should probably get to bed as we have to get up early and get to the arena for the tiebreaker game to cheer on Team Sidorova!

 

philCPhil 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?

WINDY CITY ON SOCIAL MEDIA

Day 4: Even More Curling!

The morning draw was light with only three teams, so we decided to sleep in. We needed it. On average we’re probably walking over 5 kilometers a day, and we’ve been getting up early. We hung out around the room and then headed out to get some lunch before the afternoon draw.

Sheet View

When we got there the arena was pretty empty, and we managed to grab seats in the lounge area next to the ice. Team Muirhead was set to play Team Nedohin, and this match was going to be televised on Sportsnet. Right next to them Team Edin was playing Team Gushue, so we had a great view for both games.

There were several cameras, some static, some mobile.

TV GuysCameras

Things are a bit different when the games are televised though. For one thing, they have to wait to start. Also, there is a longer break between ends to allow for commercials.

Break

They also show the broadcast feed on the jumbotron, which helps to see what’s going on in the far house. I also could see when we were on TV…look close, I was wearing orange so I was hard to miss, ha ha.

Me On TV

We had our flags again, and I made sure to get them on TV a few times.

One downside was that at times the camera crews blocked our view to varying extents.

TV In WayMore TV In Way

Besides the great view, one of the really cool things was that you could hear the players really well when they were discussing strategy or shots.

TalkingMore TalkingTalking Again

Strategy

Besides all that, we had a great view for shots coming our way.

Team Edin lost, but Team Muirhead won big. After the match, I managed to get pictures with Anna Sloan, Vicki Adams, and Sarah Reid.

SloanFront End

Neil snapped a pic with the front end as well.

Neil Front End

There wasn’t too much time for the next draw, so we walked around outside a bit and went to Tim Horton’s for some coffee and donuts. When we got back, the lounge was pretty full, so we opted to sit back where we had been before. The TV match for this draw was Team Homan vs Team Sweeting, and we were also watching Team Sidorova vs Team Paetz and Team Feltscher vs Team Jones. The great Kevin Martin is now a commentator for Sportsnet, and before the match he was interviewing Val Sweeting, which was cool to see.

Interview

This draw ultimately went on somewhat long, with a few games going to extra ends. What really sucked was that all the teams we wanted to win (Sidorova, Feltscher, Homan) lost. In fact, the Sweeting-Homan match became so lopsided that Sportsnet switched over to the Jones-Feltscher match.

After the draw, we headed out to The Keg for dinner. The Keg is a steakhouse chain in Canada, but a nice one…think along the line of Gibson’s or Ruth’s Chris. We wanted to go there because for one thing we know it’s good, and for another we know a lot of the players go there after games…no, we didn’t want to bother any of them if we saw them there, we just figured it would be kind of cool if we saw anybody. Well, sure enough, as we were finishing eating we saw Team Sigfridsson come walking in. By the time we left about ten minutes later they were already seated, but it was cool nonetheless to see them come in.

At this point we were pretty tired, and it was almost 8:00, so we decided to skip the night draw and head back to the hotel. For one thing, it started earlier than usual (7:00 instead of 7:30), and for another there weren’t any teams or match-ups that we were really dying to see or anything. This ended up being the 3rd draw that we’ve skipped, but with up to four draws a day going to all of them would be a bit much. We did watch the last few ends on TV back at the hotel, which was kinda cool. I mean, other than webstreams live curling is almost never on TV in the US. Even the Olympic matches are usually tape-delayed.

As I write this we’re about to go to bed. We have an early draw to catch tomorrow, we’ll probably skip the noon one, and then we’ll be there for the late afternoon and night draws. With the way the standings re going only a few teams have been eliminated, so at this point it’s still very much wide open.

 

philCPhil 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?

WINDY CITY ON SOCIAL MEDIA

Day 3: Curling and Rain and More Curling

This is pretty much what I was like leaving the arena Tuesday night:

Thankfully I did manage to get some sleep pretty easily. We’ve been doing a lot of walking, and the beer didn’t hurt either. Nevertheless, we were up early and wolfed down a quick breakfast before heading off to the arena.

We got there just as the teams were warming up. Team Muirhead was playing Team Paetz, and Team Sidorova was playing Team Feltscher…those were the two games we were focusing on. Team Edin was playing Team Bottcher, and Team Jennifer Jones was playing Team Nedohin as well. I took a lot of pictures.

11133934_10104890077362580_6292568456582183420_n20122_10104890077711880_3173252710348266831_n11138541_10104890077871560_7312334245853700122_n

10451907_10104890078650000_6610193030628116869_n11133717_10104890078869560_3049311939559722794_n11070972_10104890078250800_1781581556344989998_n

11146289_10104890082442400_6085932000752029202_n11116526_10104890082612060_8210330957882739903_n

19481_10104890082831620_2113153765608062667_n11081234_10104890079178940_1236342821134929166_n

Muirhead played well, but Paetz made some great shots and won. We tried to see if we could get some pictures or autographs after the match, but they got out of there pretty quickly.

We had decided beforehand to skip on the draw at noon, so we walked back towards our hotel. It started raining pretty steadily and we got slightly soaked. We had also decided to pick up some flags to help us cheer for our favorite non-Canadian teams, and the two (yes, there are two) flag stores near our hotel were closed, so we were checking out some stores nearby to see what we could find. No luck. After some lunch we went back to our room to dry off and catch a quick nap.
Luckily the rain had mostly let up in the afternoon, so we set out for the late afternoon draw. On the way we saw that the flag store was open! We picked up two Scotland flags, as well as a Russian and a Swedish flag.

Flags

Team Sidorova was playing Team Nedohin, Team McEwen was playing Team Bottcher, Team Homan was playing Team Tirinzoni, Team Edin was playing Team Koe, and Team Michel was playing Team Gushue. The Sidorova-Nedohin game was closest to us, followed by McEwen, so those were the two we saw best. We were used to all the action by this point though, so we had a much easier time paying attention to other matches.

SidorovaSVIIIP!

ConferenceStrategy

HackMeasure

EdinMcEwen

As the matches were winding down, we made our way closer to the ice to get some autographs and photos. The Sidorova-Nedohin game was still going on on the close sheet, so as the players were leaving the ice there wasn’t time for any pictures really. Neil got autographs from Mike McEwen, and all of Team Gushue. We wanted to try and get an autograph from or a picture with Team Homan, but they were clearly in a bit of a hurry and we didn’t want to be bothersome. Sidorova won, and I did manage to get a quick picture with her afterwards.

Me Sidorova

We also managed to meet all of Team Edin, which was really cool.

Edin LeadEdin 2ndEdin ViceEdin Skip

We left the arena to grab some dinner. We ate quickly, as there wasn’t too much time before the next draw. Funny thing though, as we were walking back I saw these four women wearing matching jackets, and I noticed they all had Team GB backpacks on. I quickly realized that Team Muirhead was walking right in front of us! It was still drizzling and windy, so while we were all waiting at a stoplight I leaned forward and said “Why’d you guys bring this weather with you?” Vicki Adams turned around and laughed. Anna Sloan turned around, smiled, and just said “It’s sunny in Scotland.” After that we walked inside and went our separate ways. I contemplated asking them for a picture once we got inside, but they had a big game coming up and I didn’t want to screw with their routine.

Team Muirhead was playing Team Jennifer Jones on the close sheet to us tonight. There aren’t necessarily rivalries in curling, but I think it’s safe to say that this pairing comes close. Of course, the majority of the crowd was going to be cheering for Jones, so we had to make sure our allegiance was known beyond just cheering.

Flags

Honestly, I was so focused on this match I wasn’t paying much attention as to what was going on on the other sheets. The match started out close, Muirhead had hammer but gave up a steal of 1 in the first end. The second end you could clearly see that it was weighing on her mind a bit.

Thinking

Calling line.

 

Shot 1Shot 2

Plotting

Ultimately Muirhead had to make an angle raise to score one, which she executed beautifully.

So, it was tied up 1-1 after two ends. In the third end though, Jones made several mistakes and has some misses, so Muirhead was able to steal 3. Jones had some more mistakes and misses in the fourth end, ultimately allowing Muirhead to steal 2. Here’s Anna Sloan making a great double takeout shot in that end.

Muirhead held Jones to 1 in the fifth end, and scored 3 in the sixth end to make it 9-2. At that point it was handshakes and game over. Neil and I quickly made our way down to the ice, and grabbed a spot in the corner. Eve and Anna were signing autographs and taking pictures, and I managed to get a picture with Eve.

Me Eve

As any of you who know me, or who read my blog posts on here know, Eve Muirhead is my favorite curler. To say that getting to meet her (even if only for a minute) was a big deal for me is an understatement.  Neil got a picture with Anna Sloan too.

Neil Sloan

All in all it was a great day…to say the least.

 

philCPhil 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?

WINDY CITY ON SOCIAL MEDIA