Posts

From WCCC to WCT – Interview With Matt Galas

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.

“The Shot” from The Big Spiel

TCCA-TheBigSpiel.LogoWeb

Bottom of the 9th, 2 outs, bases loaded, full count, down by 1 run…and, here’s the pitch…  Oh wait, wrong sport.  But, same feeling.  Intense, nervous, excited.

Yeah, that’s why I love sports.

frogtown

Screen Shot 2015-02-08 at 4.59.10 PMSo, our merry band of misfits were in a close draw at Frogtown Curling Club against a similar type Cedar Rapids team.  Good group of guys.  We had a big end early and took an early 5 point lead.  However, our “experience” started to show and they came within 1 point after the 7th.  Keep in mind, that the 3 of us from Windy City Curling have a COMBINED experience of less than a year and a half.  We go into the 8th and final end with the hammer.  After the first 12 stones, there is a pile of guards just above the house, there are several stones in the house and they are sitting two with stones in the four foot.  Their skip throws his first stone trying to put a third point in play.  He misses and runs it through the house.  It is now up to me.

Screen Shot 2015-02-08 at 5.08.45 PMSome quick back story.  Earlier that day, we played another similar type team from Texas.  Yes, apparently, there’s curling in Texas.  Also, a good group of guys.  We had an early lead and then blew it near the end.  They had the draw at Frogtown right before ours and lost to exit the tourney.  But, they hung around having a beer and watching their new friends from Windy City.  They are in the lounge area behind glass.  Important to note that Frogtown used to be a hockey rink.  Still looks like one, but is a converted to full time curling.  There are still boards up, without the surround glass.  This hockey reference will tie in soon.

 

There is a draw to the button from right to left.  The hole is big enough to get it in.  Nate, our borrowed local vice, sets the broom head down for me to aim at.  I know what I need to do.  I slide out of the hack aiming at the broom.  Honestly, I’m not sure if I hit the broom and we just weren’t out far enough or if I missed the broom and through in too far.  Either way, the result was the same.  Phil and Dan tried the best they could to keep it on line and get it past the guard wall, but, to no avail.  I put it right into the mess at the top of the circle.  As there may be sensitive ears that read this, I shall not elaborate on how I felt about my shot.  Their skip hops into the hack, now knowing exactly what I am trying to do.  He’s planning on plugging the hole I want to go through.  Luckily, he’s not perfect either.  As he slides out and releases, I watch the path.  I can tell he wanted to go wider that I just went to avoid the wall.  However, he went out too far and dropped left to right off of a ledge that had formed on the outside edges.  He missed plugging the hole!  At this point, there’s no need for a lengthy strategy discussion.  Outdraw them for the win or miss…again…and get knocked out of the bonspiel.  No pressure, right?  As I start sliding down to the end to throw, Nate profoundly states “Hey, it’s for the win!”  Really???  I didn’t notice.

 

Last rock of the 8th, up by 1, other team is sitting 2 for the win…and, here’s the slide…

 

Deep breath.  I push out from the hack.  I know I need to go out farther than my first stone but not as far as their last.  Nate had moved the broom accordingly.  As I release, the line looks good.  But, what about the weight?  I get up and start sliding behind the stone.  Phil and Dan with their brooms at the ready.  Then, BOOM!  Dan goes down!  I say something to him.  I’d like to think I said “Are you OK?” but, there’s a chance I yelled “Don’t burn the stone!”  (Dan was OK, by the way.)  Anyway,  I hop over the fallen teammate to take up the left broom spot.  The stone is started to curl right to left.  That’s good.  It didn’t hit the ledge.  Watching the line, we are also going to miss the wall at the top of the house.  Weight looks good.  Or, is it light?  Maybe, too heavy?  I don’t know.  I’ve only been doing this for 5 months.  Their vice takes his spot at the T line ready to sweep my stone out and past theirs.  As it enters the house, it starts to slow.  It just might stop!  As it passes the button, their vice sweeps feverishly trying to get it far enough out.  But, it stops.  In the four foot.  A couple inches at best closer than their closest.  I’m still not convinced.  I keep taking the bird’s eye view over mine and theirs.  And, mine and theirs.  We are closer!  We win!  The Texas boys start pounding on the glass to cheer like a bunch of crazy hockey fans! (See, hockey reference.)

 

It was an awesome feeling.  A true team effort.  And, a really fun couple of draws that day.  Can’t wait for the next chance to win it on the last throw!

IMG_0448

Pictured (from left to right):  Dan Mulka, Phil Darin, Greg Torkelson, Nate Bock

Greg Torkelson skips curling, stops pucks, and makes homemade crokinole boards.  Surprisingly, he isn’t Canadian.  

MORE FROM THE BIG SPIEL
Phil Darin’s “Curling Next to Royalty”
Dan Mulka’s “Bonspiels are More Than Just Curling”