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.


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.


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.


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?


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.


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


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.


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:

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):

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.



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?


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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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.


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.


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.


Neil FENeil EMNeil RH

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


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.


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.



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?


Support Windy City! Get Your Spring Raffle Ticket


Here’s your chance to win $1000. We are selling raffle tickets to help benefit Windy City Curling and our goal of getting a new house.

Tickets cost $20 a piece, with 13 winners being drawn at our Season Ending Banquet (you don’t have to be present to win). Only 250 tickets will be sold!

Buy online! Click this link to purchase a ticket via Paypal. Please note, a $1 handling fee will be added to cover Paypal costs. You can also contact your local neighborhood Windy City Curling member for more info.