#BetweenTheSheets with Chris Plys

Talking High Performance, #BroomGate, Being a Bad Boy, Red Bull and Preview of #wmcc2016

As the curling season comes down to the final month of play, the excitement around the #TwineTime blog stays just as amped up.  I am super stoked to welcome the newest member of the #TwineTime family: Chris Plys!!

Chris Plys is the first International family member and I welcome him with open arms to our very exclusive table.  And while he may be one of the youngest members of the family, his curling resume is anything short of inexperience.  Plys has competed at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, B.C. as an alternate with Team USA.  Plys has collected 5 US Junior Curling Championships, including 1 World Junior Curling Championship.  His fan base has grown steady since his junior years with young females flocking to the arena to catch a glimpse of the low-riding pant, hack sliding curler while young males look to try and join his entourage and his rock star icon status.

But don’t let the good looks and charm deceive you people…Plys has the game and intelligence to back up his swagger.  When I had the opportunity for a skype bro-date, he blew me away with his candid responses to my questions, his knowledge of the sport and his eclectic backgrounds and interests.  I am excited to say I finally had the opportunity to chat with Plys and I am even more stoked to share our conversation with all of you.  Without further adieu my rock heads and stoners, let’s go #BetweenTheSheets with Chris Plys:

TwineTime (TT):  Welcome Chris Plys and thank you for taking some time to chat with me.  I was doing some research on you today and there is quite a lot of info out there I could ask you about.  I will do my best to try and make this a bit more fun and a bit different from all the other interviews you have done.

Chris Plys (CP):  *laughing*  Sounds good man.

TT:  Excellent.  Well let’s start off with this season.  Tough year for you, making two semi-finals at back-to-back events in Minnesota…home state at least so that’s always nice.  But tough results overall.  How do you feel the season went and where do you go from here?

CP:  Man, honestly…being really honest….it was brutal.  It was probably the worst year since I was 16.  It’s been a grind, a mental grind.  We had games where we were playing right with anybody.  But we also had a difficult season and schedule to start the season with luck where certain teams would drop and it just wasn’t helping us and got us in a rut.  I think we had 8 players on the team this year with the way the program was switching players in and out.  I think one of the guys left for a job.  There was a lot of adversity.  We really struggled to get out of it.  At (USA) Nationals, it never really felt like we could get on a groove.  Threw a lot of rocks though this year.  I actually was feeling like I was throwing the rocks really good but just didn’t feel like we could get anything going.  I’ve thrown a lot of rocks after the season was over.  Now, the ice is gone, and I’m just waiting to see who I will be playing with and mentally preparing myself to get back into feeling what is like to win games because this last year was depressing man.

TT:  That’s fair.  Are you able to take some positives out of it though?  Like you said, you felt like you were throwing good this year.  Is that at least a positive in that it was not you personally sloping down at least?

CP:  Yeah.  That was the craziest thing.  The coaches were happy with how I was throwing it.  It’s a few things here and a few things there.  You run into good teams.  I am ready.  I definitely feel like I can play with anybody.  I haven’t lost that excitement for next year.  If anything I’m learning how to lose and the mistakes you make.  It’s just about getting ready for next year.  I don’t think I have ever been as hungry for a curling season to start again this soon, that’s for sure.

TT:  In a way that’s a good thing.  You are still a young guy.  To have the will and power to get back into it already and we are just going into April.  You touch on an even bigger part of it though and one most people don’t talk about and that is understanding how to lose and how to lose with a positive.  It seems that is something you will take out of this year.

CP:  Yeah, we kind of forced ourselves into either pack it up and figure out something else to do or learn from those mistakes because everyone is getting better.  If you aren’t getting better you are going to be left behind.  This past year, actually the past two years, we have been really late on figuring the sweeping out.  When you are out skipping and watching the rocks come in, you know things are happening and you know people are getting different things to happen with the rock.  But we were never able to catch on to it for some reason.  A lot of it had to do with never really having the same guys in the line-up and sweeping together.  That just killed us.  I am really just more excited to get back next season to curling again and not worrying about all the b.s. that happened this year.

TT:  Being up here in Canada, the entire #BroomGate fiasco has really taken over up here and blown up to be a big thing, good or bad.  From your perspective down in the US, what was the feeling or comments going on down there?  You talked about directional sweeping and maybe not using it as well as others but what are your thoughts about it all?

CP:  I mean, everyone was doing it.  You can’t get super pissed.  I don’t know.  You have a lot of good friends in the sport and everyone is using different equipment…I’ll just leave it at that.  You don’t want to take anything away from anybody because these are still really good teams.  I still rib them and will rip on them for it saying “come on guys, you know it is doing stuff we can’t do.”  So it’s a little bit frustrating and we are all talking about it.  Then when the whole hair stuff came around, everyone was doing it, some were just doing it better than others.  Some teams shot up the world rankings and won tournaments.  Once it went to hair, people can complain all they want, but everyone was doing it.  If you aren’t as good at it as somebody else well then tough.  Some of these teams got really good at it and good for them.  They won a lot of money and won a lot of points.  We were all talking about it.  It will be nice to just have it over to have less distractions.  Let’s get back to curling.

TT:  Exactly.  Let’s get back to the basics about what the sport of curling is all about.  I think that is what the fans want to see too.

CP:  Yeah, I think the game is a lot more exciting when people miss.  *laughing*  I mean watching some of the tournaments this year, it was like “come on guys you are all over that guard…this is just stupid”.  At one point you are almost wanting to just walk off the ice and be like alright.  But like I said, we are doing it too.  This is just stupid.  Our guy would throw the rock so bad or I would throw the rock so bad and then we would be doing stuff to it and it would be ridiculous.  It’s almost a clown show out there.

TT:  For sure.  I would agree misses add to the game as well.  The misses add to the mental aspect of the game and the mental side and strategy side are a huge part of the sport.

CP:  For sure, for sure.

TT:  Now you touched on how curling works down in the US with the high performance and how teams are formed.  Totally different from what we see in Canada and most of the World.  Can you shed some light on how the system works and do you like it?

CP:  *laughing*  You are going to get me in trouble.

TT:  *laughing*  Maybe just a little bit.

CP:  *laughing*  No, no.  It’s a point driven system now.  So you can qualify for World’s basically throughout the season.  The tough part about that and I suppose my complaint about it is certain teams are getting into tournaments not everyone else can get in, which are max point events.  I mean cool for you and great for curling but if it’s the system that qualifies you for world’s it puts you at a disadvantage.  I think they fixed the points where some of the B-level events were having huge amount of points and they pulled back a bit.  I honestly cannot keep track of all the little rule changes.  But it sucks kind of.  I believe there should be points that reward you for playing throughout the year.  You need to qualify for the Olympics.  It is the biggest area of growth in the States for the sport.  We need to be there in order to #growthesport.  But obviously you can’t just have someone just get hot at Nationals and go because you need to make the (qualification) points for the Olympics.  It’s almost a double-edged sword.  It just means we need to get ourselves in a bunch of slams next year and not worry about it.  Other than that, the High Performance Program is run by Derek Brown.  He ran Great Britain’s program before he came here.  He and the coaching staff pick out the players and then they put certain players on teams.  We can kind of set out the schedule but they look at it and ok everything.  They have strength and conditioning coaches.  A sports psychologist, who is honestly the highlight of the program.  She is also the sports psychologist at the University of Minnesota for their athletics department.  She is incredible to work with.  I was never really into that but after a couple of years with her, my demeanor on the ice has changed.  Even if I’m not a better curler, I am definitely a better teammate.  I have always been someone who wears my emotions on my sleeve and I still do to an extent.  But I have learned not being a good teammate isn’t going to get you anywhere.  She has been awesome!  That’s basically how our program works.  It is confusing.  I couldn’t honestly tell you how they make their decisions.  They have a combine but I couldn’t really tell you how they make their decisions.  I have told them though it is hard sometimes when curling is such a small team sport.  I don’t think they always take personalities and game styles into consideration, which is frustrating for the players.  It is what it is but it is a step in the right direction.  If we want the US Olympic Committee to take us seriously we need to act more like other Olympic sports.  In Canada you have the luxury of having so many great teams who help make one another be better.  We have some similarities to Canada but it is more forced on us to help make us better.

TT:  Ok, which I can understand.  But do you find, if you make it into the program, there is added stress?  There have been rumors where if you aren’t performing you can get dropped from the program.  If you do get dropped, you are basically starting all over again with what you do with your curling career.

CP:  That’s the tough part.  Regardless of what people say, everyone in the back of their mind thinks if this is a terrible year, do they still think I can do it?  I still think I can.  Our peers know who can play and who can’t.  Back in the day, if you get in a rut with a player you just work through it.  Here, you go through a slump and what does this mean for me?  Does this mean I’m going to get cut because I was playing bad for a month?  It is definitely in the back of your mind.  But there is no way of getting around that either.  I guess that is just the mental part of it.  Whether or not it is healthy but it is a fact of how it is right now.  *laughing*  It’s just how it is.

TT:  That’s fair.  It’s always interesting to look at this point of the season or even back in January and February and start to think who will represent the US at women’s and men’s worlds.  This year is again another example of where your national winner is not going to worlds.  Brady Clark won in Jacksonville and is not going to worlds.  It has happened a few times on the women’s side as well.  As a curling fan, many fans get confused by that.  On your side, does that get a little frustrating?  Brady did win so maybe he should be going.  Maybe he is the best rep right now but who knows?

CP:  I mean, yeah you definitely think about that.  This year we would have been in the same spot.  If we would have won nationals we were not going to worlds.  Maybe there needs to be a threshold on who can go.  Maybe you need to qualify at so many events.  But it really is frustrating for sure.  If we are going to see change it is going to have to come from us players.  Whether or not the coaches see it that way, they probably like the way it is going right now.  Colin Hufman on Brady’s team is one of my best buds and it was a weird year.  He struggled through the first part of the year.  He has had some heartbreaking tough losses at nationals.  I honestly couldn’t be happier for him though.  If anyone actually deserved, and I guess none of us really deserve anything in curling, but if anyone did it was him.  It was frustrating for all of us but maybe they are the best team right now, who knows?  We will see how Johnny (Shuster) does.  They have had the best season ever by a US team.  This year might be hard to make that argument.

TT:  It’s interesting you brought up actually my next question.  It’s almost like you read my notes beforehand.  You talk about #growthesport and if I was able to give you the power to do whatever you wanted with the sport to #growthesport, whatever you wanted to do, what would be the one change or adjustment you would bring to the sport?

CP:  Overall curling or US curling?

TT:  I’ll let you decide on that one.  It is a bit different talking with you.  You are my first international interview and come from a very different program background.  Whichever avenue you want to take.

CP:  I think to #growthesport…right now it is probably good for TV to have the see the same teams.  I mean once you get into a slam it’s pretty hard to get out of them.  Everyone is seeing the same teams all the time.  Maybe they like that and want to see those household names.  But there are a lot of really good teams just outside of those slam teams that are really good and it’s tough.  I mean Shuster broke in.  We get a lot points from nationals and worlds where teams from Canada and other countries are not qualifying for those points and qualifying for those events.  We get a lot of points from the playdowns process if you win it all.  But if you don’t have that, it is tough.  Charley Thomas probably is one that has broken into it this year.  (Jim) Cotter with winning the Tier II (Tour Challenge).  That’s where I would go with it.  I think there needs to be more of these play-in tournaments.  Look at Cotter.  Who is going to say he shouldn’t be there?  He is one of the top shooters in the country, which means one of the best in the world.  There is a lot of talent out there.  If I could change one thing I think it would be the qualifying process.  It needs to be more year to date.  Let those slam teams be there every week, that’s fine.  But then let there be one or two other teams who win a tournament and get to play in it so you can win at a slam and get those big points and stay in there.  Maybe these teams that are in the slams…make them have to actually win some games at the slams to stay there.  I think that would be my change about curling.

TT:  Well if that was the case then I would 100% support you on taking over the curling federation man.  I have strongly argued this same point the entire year.  You look at other sports, tennis is a perfect example.  They have their grand slams and they have their tiered tournaments.  You know what each tournament point level is going into it and you adjust your season accordingly.  If you do well, you take the risk playing a higher tiered event, you can get a higher reward for the higher risk.  I totally agree with you that the point system needs to be re-evaluated and maybe having more qualifying events or developing a tiered system could help all the teams have better odds of making the grand slams.

CP:  Absolutely.  Honestly the States has a lot of people interested in the sport right now.  The Curling Night in America thing was huge.  Our Olympic coverage is insane.  The ratings are insane and people love it but they can’t get enough of it.  *laughing*  Curling is like a drug down here and people can’t get enough.  I think it would be cool to have a slam in the US too.  Throw it in Vegas or throw it somewhere where we can get people to come watch it.  I would love to see the US Curling Association be more proactive and bring the competition down here.

TT:  I totally agree with you.  Oddly enough, again, I 100% agree and I would love to see the US Open of Curling be added as a grand slam.  It happens the beginning of January.  It fits the time frame perfectly.  It should be a grand slam.

CP:  Heck ya!  There is an arena right in that building man.  Throw it right in there.  People will come.  Curling clubs are popping up everywhere down here.  They have to build another curling club in the Twin Cities (MN).  Put your nuts out there a little bit.  Maybe the first year it isn’t a huge success but you have a lot of people who love curling down here and really want to see curling grow.  I think it would legitimize the program  down here.  I think it would be good to see.

TT:  So no rumors you have heard since the grand slam of curling has announced a January grand slam curling event will be added for 2017?  No rumors on whether or not it would be the US Open?

CP:  I have not but that would be dope!  *laughing*

TT:  *laughing*  Interesting that you raise the point of curling clubs opening up and I was talking to (US Skip) Erika Brown in Swift Current and she said the same thing with clubs opening in North Carolina and Arizona as two big examples.  And now in Florida, a non-traditional hot spot where it is growing.  It seems to be a success and a positive check mark for US Curling to make the argument.

CP:  For sure.  And I have heard from a lot of people that will say they wanted to start a curling club and looked into it and it was too expensive to start but there is still interest.  Just seeing the growth in these, as you said, non-traditional hot spots is cool to see.  It’s nice too because maybe we can start seeing our schedule grow a bit more and we can pack some shorts maybe once or twice.  *laughing*

TT:  *laughing*  Very true.  You can’t complain there.  Now you talked about the sports psychology side and the role it has played both on and a little bit off the ice for you.  I assume that means we won’t see you breaking brooms anytime soon either.  But off the ice you have quite the reputation I have discovered.  You have been dubbed the “bad boy of curling”.  You have been on a game show before.  You have been asked out by a Pussycat Doll.  You have quite the reputation my friend.  How do you explain that and how do you live up to it?

CP:  *laughing*  Yeah, honestly….I don’t really know how I got that nickname.  When I was younger I guess I was a bit more rough around the edges.  I guess having a bunch of tattoos and listening to rap music and wearing your pants a little low in curling makes you a bad boy.  None of that is going to change.  It’s funny.  I have changed a lot since I was younger.  Curling is full of a lot of…I don’t know what you want to call them…country clubbers I guess.  I like being a little bit edgier and add a bit of flavor.  I’d get bored if I didn’t.

TT:  That is very fair.  And going back to the #growthesport thing, isn’t that what we need?  Don’t we need, and not to put a label on you by any means, but don’t we need more people who are more like you?  People who are saying this is who I am and I can also be an elite athlete.  I can have 60 tattoos or I can have a bunch of piercings and I can still be me on and off the ice.

CP:  Oh for sure.  I think in curling there is some people with some personalities.  But then you watch some guy at a country club get on a golf course and he might be a bit of a rough and tumble kind of guy but then he gets on the golf course and acts a certain way.  In the states for some reason everyone checks their personality at the door.  It’s fine if that’s how you want to do it.  But I get bored with it.  I get bored with all the interviews that are just cliche after cliche.  Yeah you are going to piss a few people off along the way but at least have some fun while you do it.  If you aren’t having any fun, why are you doing it?  Especially down here where we aren’t making any money.  *laughing*  I mean, come on!

TT:  *laughing*  Very fair.  Now, in speaking about money, the rumor is..and I believe it is true because you tweeted it out earlier this season…you landed a pretty big sponsorship this yeah with Red Bull.  I don’t think they have ever sponsored a curler before.  I was shocked to learn Red Bull even knew about the sport of curling to begin with.  How did that come about?  And congratulations by the way…that’s a huge deal for you.

CP:  Thank you!  I was so stoked.  Ever since Red Bull has been around, I grew up skateboarding and snowboarding.  I enjoy it more than anything when I am not curling.  I was completely shocked.  I actually thought it was a joke at first when they started contacting me.  I don’t know what to say.  I couldn’t be more excited to work with them.  I couldn’t be more stoked and they have been awesome to work with so far.  They are an awesome company to work with so far and they have treated me really good.  I’m looking forward to bring in their world into curling and hopefully in those big events we play in can help draw in maybe some non-traditional curling viewers.  They have a really big social media following and I would bet most of them have no idea about curling.  If we can #growthesport a bit that way as well then I am down.

TT:  I agree.  So they went after you?  You didn’t have to do anything?

CP:  Yeah, yeah.  A buddy of mine does some work with them and they have been looking to go down a couple of different avenues now.  They have done a lot of extreme sports but today you also see them sponsoring soccer, the towels at NBA games and a few different avenues now.  The way they do things makes me super excited to work with them.  Hopefully I will get the chance to try out a few different things that nobody else in the community has tried out yet.

TT:  Excellent!  Is there anything you are allowed to say that you are working on with them right now?  Anything we can expect for 2016 or is this more coming up in the next curling season?

CP:  No, no it will all be coming up in the next curling season.  I’m just going with the flow with those guys.  They just came up here a few weeks ago to do a photo shoot and I don’t think that is even up on the website yet.  But it is all really cool.  I honestly could not be more stoked.  It’s going to be fun.

TT:  It’s very cool and congratulations again on landing that.  I think in looking at the #growthesport idea, in looking even above you, what this sponsorship can bring to the overall sport could be a huge win for overall growth.

CP: Oh yes, for sure for sure.

TT:  Now, again, you bring up a topic I was going to ask you about.  It’s literally becoming quite freaky now on how you are seeing what I have written on my notes.

CP:  *laughing*

TT:  My next question for you, in talking about Red Bull coming up and doing a photo shoot with you, you also have this knack for photography.  If anyone follows you on twitter or instagram they would see you tweet out and instagram some amazing pictures all the time.  Is this your other side passion you have?  Did you take some photography classes?  Where does all this come from?

CP:   It is definitely a passion of mine.  My fiance is sponsored on instagram by a few companies so we go out and test their stuff.  I also have two dogs and I just love going out with them.  We just love being outside and the photography side just came from that.  Being in places that are so gorgeous, a lot of times we just take it in for ourselves.  It’s one of those things where, especially where we live, capturing how beautiful it is and letting people see it is always fun.

TT:  So why isn’t Tourism Minnesota a sponsor of yours yet?

CP:  *laughing*  They actually work with my fiance.

TT:  *laughing*  Ah fair enough…I was wondering how that worked.  There was no way those great pictures could not be picked up somehow.

CP:  *laughing*  Yeah she works with Explore Minnesota, which is like tourism.  It’s fun!

TT:  I knew it!  *laughing*  Well that’s great though.  The pictures you take are amazing and people love them.  Great job!

CP:  Thanks, I appreciate it.

TT:  Now talking back about curling, your curling resume is quite impressive.  The 5 US Junior Titles.  The World Junior Championship.  You have been at the Olympics (2010).  I actually saw you at the Olympics sitting on the bench tweeting….which you are not supposed to be doing I hear so good job there.  *laughing*

CP:  *laughing*

TT:  *laughing*  That may be where your bad boy image also came from so you probably didn’t help yourself there.  But when you look at your massive resume, even at a still young age, what is the career highlight so far?

CP:  Ummm….that’s a good one.  Good question.  The world junior championship is a good one.  We had played together for a couple years.  My dad was sick at the time too.  He wasn’t able to be there because he was going through treatments and stuff but he was watching back home.  I would have to say that is up there.  The Olympics of course is very special.  The university games I guess too for sentimental reasons back in 2007.  My dad was healthy and was in Africa then.  I was about to play in the semi-finals against Canada and he just showed up.  *smiling*  It kind of surprised me that he flew in to Italy to watch.  So I would say that would be a favorite for the sentimental reason.  The juniors and the Olympics are pretty cool.  The Olympics Opening Ceremonies was….I just wish I had a GoPro or something to remember it.  You remember the feelings but it just went so fast.  You just remember it and it’s something I’ll never forget.

TT:  I agree.  I was at those Opening Ceremonies and I will still randomly look through those pictures and you get goose bumps.  I get goose bumps just looking at pictures.  I cannot even imagine what it would have been like to walk in like you had.

CP:  It was pretty special.  Now I just need to do it one time as a full on player.  *laughing*

TT:  *laughing*  Well you did get the US the first win at those Olympics.  Come on now…

CP:  I did play a few games.  It was more than enough to be there.  But I want to win one myself.

TT:  That’s fair.  And in talking about winning your world junior, I would say you are probably the first to ever live stream games back in the day when people were not really thinking about it.  You guys set up a camera and streamed your games for your dad correct?

CP:  Yeah.  Yup.  My third and his dad set up a camera and live streamed it back for my dad.  Even running to each side of the arena to get both sides of the game.  Kent was the man for that!  It was pretty cool back in the day.  We would always check how many viewers we would get.  It’s funny looking back at it now because it’s just there now.  But back then it was just like “wow we had 150 people watching our game” and it would crash all the time because it couldn’t handle it.  But it was cool.

TT:  That’s very cool.  Technically you trendsetted that before anyone else did.

CP:  We started it man!

TT:  That’s right.  I haven’t heard of anyone doing it before you in that year.  As of right now, you are the first.

CP:  Alright, well we will give the props to Kent Brorson on that one.

TT:  Now on the flip side I have to ask what your curling mulligan would be.  Whether it is a shot or a game…whatever you wish you could just redo.

CP:  Ummmm…the world juniors in 2009, the year after we won it.  We were playing the semi-final game.  My team played awesome and I just could not throw it in the ocean.  I think we were the best team there that year too.  If I would have came to play like my team did, who knows.  You get to the final and who knows I guess.  But we should have at least had a game to get the repeat.  It would have been pretty special.  That would be the one game I wish I could take back.

TT:  It’s interesting that everyone I interview and ask the favorite moment and mulligan moment, everyone says junior moments.

CP:  Yup, yup.

TT:  It doesn’t matter how old anyone is, how many curling experiences they have….what is it about juniors? What makes it stick in your brain so much?

CP:  A lot of good people quit playing after juniors whether it be because of a career or college or other sports or whatever it is.  That is the time where you made the decision this is something you really want to do.  Once you get to those junior worlds, it is kind of your dream.  It’s the biggest stage you can play on.  I think that is why those memories stick around the most.  It’s like being a kid and you look back and remember being a kid.  Even today, you have those things in your mind that stick in your mind and bring you back.  Juniors kind of bring you back to that.

TT:  That’s very fair.  Now I thought we would do a bit of rapid fire.  Some of the questions I have used before and some of them I had to make just for you just because there is a lot of research to do on you…it really took up a lot of my afternoon.  Thanks by the way!  What is your walk up song?  Just for you…

 

CP:  In life or curling?

TT:  Hmmm…let’s go both then?  *laughing*  I didn’t think if they would be different….

CP:  *laughing*  Hmmm…I don’t know.  Seven’s Travels, it’s an album by Atmosphere.  I can’t pick just one song.  The entire album.  On repeat!

TT:  That’s fair.  Who is your curling rival?

CP:  Shuster!

TT:  *laughing*  I kind of assumed that one.  What’s your curling nickname?

CP:  They call me Cyps.

TT:  Weird combination of first name last name or?

CP:  Yeah I think so.  Not very clever though.  *laughing*

TT:  *laughing*  Ok.  How many tattoos do you have?

CP:  They kind of blend together now but I think around 30 or 40.

TT:  Now normally I would ask about forming an All-Star team but for you, given your bad boy reputation and playboy image before becoming engaged of course, I figured I’d ask you who you would put on a Dreamgirls team for you to coach.

CP:  Hmmmm…

TT:  And you cannot get in any trouble with your fiance for this because I am asking so you can blame me.  *laughing*

CP:  *laughing*  Ok….I’d say Jennifer Aniston.  A rapper named Dessa.  Gretchen Bleiler.  And…ummm…Colleen Jones.  *laughing*  I just don’t know about her man.  She just seems…I don’t know.  I just liked to watch her play so I would take her.

TT:  *laughing*  That’s very fair.  I am going to steal this next one from Julie Hastings.  Out of the 7 dwarfs, which dwarf are you and which dwarf are each of the members of your team?

CP:  Oh god…I’m probably Dopey.  *laughing*  I had so many teammates this year man I don’t know.

TT:  *laughing*  You have more than the dwarfs, oh no!

CP:  Yeah, exactly.  Too many names.  (Ryan) Brunt…when Brunt was on the team he would have been Sleepy.  He is always taking the naps.  Colin (Hufman) would have been Grumpy.  He gets a little bit moody sometimes.  Joe (Polo) would be Happy.  Joe is just the nicest guy anyone has ever met.  And he actually won to go to Mixed Doubles.  Nobody could ever say anything bad about him so he would be Happy…although he can get a little crabby sometimes too.  *laughing*

TT:  *laughing*  Nice, nice!  Everybody gets a little sometimes.  If we had to put a hashtag towards you, what would be the one hashtag that sums you up best?

CP:  Hmmm….the tag I use on instagram all the time is #ExploreTheNorthShore.  And when I’m not curling all the time I am usually on the shore.  It’s my place!  It’s where everything is good up there.

TT:  That’s a good one.  What’s your favorite popcorn topping?

CP:  Caramel!

TT:  Way to eat unhealthy by the way.

CP:  *laughing*  Yeah, that’s alright though.  This is going to sound weird but whenever I go to a game or a movie I will always get a tub of popcorn and a side of nacho cheese.  That’s super, super unhealthy but it’s soooo good.

TT:  Oh that’s a very good call.  I’ve only done that once but it is amazing!

CP:  It’s so damn good.  *laughing*

TT:  *laughing*  Oh sooo good.  And your stomach hates you after the game but you don’t care.

CP:  And people around you are looking at you like “Dude, you are disgusting!”  But whatever…it tastes good.

TT:  Exactly!  Now True or False…did you almost lose your Olympic ring?

CP:  True.  I forgot it when I was washing my hands at a rest stop in North West Minnesota.  I got maybe 20 miles down the road and realized I didn’t have it.  I turned around and did like 100 on the highway.  I got back there and my ring was sitting there with a note saying “Hope this finds you” or something like that.  I don’t remember exactly what is said but…good people!!

TT:  Good people indeed!

CP:  Yeah that was on my way to the Olympic trials in 2014.

TT:  Wow.  That’s insane.

CP:  Good people!

TT:  I can’t imagine that feeling.  Good thing you got it back.

CP:  Good thing I didn’t get pulled over too *laughing*

TT:  *laughing*  Yeah, no kidding.  Now I have an #AskTheCurler question for you from Kerry Galusha.  When I talked to her, she mentioned her team has become big Justin Bieber fans this year.  She really wanted to know, given your image, is he a little #Belieber?  Is he Anti-Bieber?  What is the deal with Chris and Justin Bieber?

CP:  *laughing*  I am not a Belieber.  But I am not Anti either.

TT:  So you are in the middle?

CP:  Well I mean the guy….let’s be honest.  If you were 21 or 22 or 23 or however old he is now, my god…the stories you read.  Buy a lamborghini.  Drag racing down Miami Beach.  I mean if you hate the guy you are just jealous.  I’m not a huge fan of his music but keep doing you I guess.

TT:  So do you have a favorite Justin Bieber song?  Kerry really wanted to know.

CP:  I guess that Sorry song.

TT:  That’s what she said as well.

CP:  *laughing*  Yeah, I can deal with that one.  It’s not too bad.

TT:  Very fair.  Now my next interview will be with Matt Dunstone.  And now you get to ask him one question.  What is the one question you would like me to ask him on your behalf?

CP:  Hmmm….I actually just met Matt this year.  Had a couple beers with him.  He is a cool ass dude.  An amazing curler.  What a season he had.  We will see what he does next year.  He must be at the top of people’s list.  Hmmm a question for Matt Dunstone?  With all the Manitoba legends, who has been his favorite?  And who has given him the most to get him to where he is at right now?  Because we should all have whatever he’s got.  Whatever it is he has got, I want some.  He is going to be really good!

TT:  Yup, he is going to be really good.  I have been on the record as saying between him and Korey (Dropkin) in the US, that is the future of men’s curling.  Those guys are going to be competing for World Championships for sure.

CP:  Oh for sure.  Korey is great.  He took the year off school to concentrate on curling.  Tough spot in the world final.  It didn’t pan out the way they wanted but it’s still not a bad way to end their junior career.

TT:  Nope, exactly.  Now I am hoping to take some of your time and preview the upcoming World Men’s Curling Championships if that’s ok with you?

CP:  Yup, absolutely.

TT:  It’s going to be a pretty interesting field I think.  Who do you think are the favorites going into the event?

CP:  I mean Koe (Canada) is unconscious right now.  You can’t bet against him.  Watching him at the Brier this year, you were picking your jaw up off the floor every end with them.  And Marc (Kennedy) transitioning to be such a great third right now.  And you have Ben (Hebert) and Brent (Laing).  They are the odds on favorites for sure.  You also have your usual with Sweden (Edin) and Norway (Ullsrud).  They will be around at the end of the week.  I am actually going to put John (Shuster, Team USA) there as well this year.  I think Tyler (George) is playing really well.  When I have been talking with the coaches, they are saying he has been playing just really strong year round.  I’ve played with him for a few years and when Ty has got some swagger going and he is feeling it, he gets on rolls.  John is the same way.  And they have a great front end.  I am going to put them there near the end of the week too.  I was looking at the field and it is an interesting one.  You have Denmark (Stjerne) who is either there or relegated.  It’s always one or the other.  Actually when I was in my last year of juniors, it was playing Rasmus…that was the year they won.  It will be interesting to see what Finland (Kauste) does again.  Team Lord of the Rings!  Those dudes straight up look right out of Winterfell.  *laughing*

TT:  *laughing*  Oh dude, straight up they do.  I would not want to mess with or piss off that team at all.

CP:  *laughing*  No exactly.  I’m surprised he doesn’t call the house with a sword man.  You know what, I have seen them.  I’ve never played them.  I’ve been in a few events with them and they are always there around the weekend.  I am interested to see how they do.  But if I am going to pick a Top 4 I am going to go with:  Canada, Sweden, USA and…..I need to check out the line up again here…..ohhhh you know I am going to put a dark horse on Korea.

TT:  Really?  That is surprising.  I would not have picked them.  You are taking them over Ullsrud?

CP:  Yeah…I mean….

TT:  Wow…you are betting against Thomas at a Worlds?

CP:  I mean, I’m not going to bet against him.  He is there every year.  But that Korean dude….ok this is why.  So back is 2003 I was like 15 and I was at Junior B trying to win back a spot for the US at worlds and the Korean skip (Soo-Hyuk Kim) was the skip of that team then.  *laughing*  Ok, they may get last…I don’t know.  But I am picking them to make the top 4.  And I cannot go against the US man, we need the Olympic points.  *laughing*  I might get kicked out of the program if I don’t pick them…

TT:  *laughing*  Ok, that is fair.  Well I kind of agree with you.  I think John is going to have a great event and I do have them as one of my dark horse teams to make a deep run into the playoff picture.  It’s going to be really hard though.  Those top 3 with Canada, Norway and Sweden just seem to be too strong.  They have been dominating the world circuit for a couple of years now.  Yeah Koe wasn’t there last year but he was there is 2014.  They seem unbeatable.

CP:  He was there is 2011 too right?  No 2010…

TT:  Yeah, exactly in 2010.  This is his 3rd appearance.  You can’t think he won’t be in the playoffs.  Where he finishes depends on how he does against the other big two.  Edin you can’t bet against.  Ullsrud you can’t bet against.  It doesn’t matter how their season goes.  Once they go to worlds, regardless of how the season has gone, they just turn it up a notch.

CP:  You know that is the interesting thing about their system.  They basically know they are going to the worlds every year.  You get that experience of going to the worlds.  You get the experience of knowing how the week goes.  Your preparations….you get to figure it out.  There is a definite advantage to sending the same team every year.  Niklas’ team played a bunch of events this year…it’s insane.  Oskar (Eriksson) and Kristian (Lindstroem) and Chris (Sundgren)…I played those guys the last few years in juniors.  They are good buddies of mine.  They are some of the best dudes in curling.  Kristian is one of the best dudes ever!  You can never really bet against them.

TT:  Well they also get the advantage too of just playing the Elite 10.  They can get in that competition mode earlier since they already knew they would be going to worlds.  This is just part of the season for them.

CP:  Yeah, I think Niklas just lives in that moment.  Wherever he seems to play he just seems to be in that mode of being a killer.  He is one of those teams that maybe isn’t always qualifying A side but they are always qualifying.  They are always grinding.  They are always making qualifiers.  And that makes you better too.  You get all those games.  You get to play all those extra games as a team.  They lived in Canada for a few months.  They are hard to bet against.  There is a reason he won two of the last three and was in the final the other one.  Ullsrud is always there.  Scotland always has a good program too.  This is a big one with the Olympics too.  I think Korea is going to surprise a few people, especially with the Olympics coming to South Korea in 2018.  They have the auto bid and they are going to be there.  We don’t get to see them a lot and they can surprise a few people.  Their federation has put a lot of money into the program because they want a good showing in 2018 and they are going to catch a lot of people’s attention this week.

TT:  Well they did also win the Pacific-Asia Championship this year too, beating Japan in the final.  They are fresh off a huge title.

CP:  Yup, exactly.  Those guys can play.  I haven’t really seen them play a whole lot.  I don’t know what their strategy is.  I know sometimes those developing countries can have beautiful slides and make beautiful shots but the strategy is different.  The way they throw the rock…they are going to make a lot of shots.  Whether it is the right shot or the wrong shot though.  If you make them all, the strategy can work.

TT:  I think that is the same thing we saw with the Korean women in Swift Current this year.  Great form, great technique, great shooters all of them but it’s the strategy side.  How are they going to perform when put in those tough situations like Sidorova or Carey can put against you.  When you are put in those tough spots it is tough to say how they will react.  I just don’t know.

CP:  Yeah, it is going to be interesting.  And Japan.  They are bound to crack one one of these years.  There is some Japanese momentum right now too.

TT:  Now what about the Swiss?  You didn’t even mention them.  They are the home nation.  Sven Michel has been here before.  He has a strong team.  What do you think about them?

CP:  I am going to go with a tiebreaker team, maybe middle of the pack.  You have two teams really, Sweden and Canada, doesn’t really matter they are going to give a good game.  The host nation thing though…I don’t know.  It’s tough.  If you get a lot of fans out there and lots of good cheering, they can make a good run.  If the turnout is not that great, then it turns into a regular curling match and the best team is going to end up winning.

TT:  That is very fair.  I kind of want to see Sven do well.  I want to see this massive story of him winning because he is married to (Alina) Paetz and she won worlds last year.  It would be this interesting cool story playing off her win of last year.  I don’t think it will happen.  But I do think her experience of winning last year can be a help to him, whether they want to admit it or not.  She is going to be able to bring something to that team off the ice and help.

CP:  Yeah for sure.  Absolutely.  And those guys can play for sure.  He has the Pfister boys.  They are a good team.  Well I mean every team there is good.  See what kind of week they all bring out.

TT:  Ok so who is your fourth place team overall at the end of the event?  Who is going to be the Team Canada/Team Carey over here who just misses the podium?

CP:  Ummm….I’m going with Norway.  But…

TT:  No no you don’t get to put an asterik next to it…it doesn’t work that way.

CP:  The States are going to beat them in the 3vs4 game.

TT:  Ok that’s interesting.  I think Shuster is going to finish fourth.  Sorry for you.

CP:  *laughing*

TT:  The important thing though he is going to pick up a lot of Olympic qualification points for you.

CP:  Fourth place….ok yeah that’s a good start to making sure you are in South Korea that’s for sure.

TT:  It’s pretty hard to miss the Olympics if you have a Top 4 finish.

CP:  Yeah absolutely.

TT:  You know you are going to have a rep at worlds every year.  It’s not like you have to do a challenge against Brazil or anything.  You are gaining points.  I think he will get you on the right path with a Fourth place finish.

CP:  Hey, I’ll take it.

TT:  So who is your bronze medalist?

CP:  Well I was going to say the States.  *laughing*  I am going to go with John for the bronze.  Sweden with the silver and Canada with the gold.

TT:  Wow….our picks are actually quite dead on.  I am taking Norway with the bronze.  I am agreeing with you in thinking Koe takes the gold and Edin takes the silver.

CP:  Yup, I think it will be one of those things where Koe loses the 1vs2 and comes through the semi and wins the final.  I mean all those guys…Niklas, Thomas, Kevin…they are all really good.  But right now with Kevin there is nobody better in the world.

TT:  Yeah I agree.  I think of the Top 3, Koe is probably more prone to a loss or two in the round robin than the other two.  They both seem to be really good round robin teams.  Koe seems to have at least one maybe two mental slip games.  I think each of them will actually finish with 1 loss and tie for top spot anyways.  On the other side though I think there is going to be a few tiebreakers probably involving Switzerland, the US and maybe even throw in Scotland and Japan as possible tiebreak options too.  There could be just as many tiebreak teams as there are teams tied for first, if not more.

CP:  Yeah I agree.  It is going to be a log jam, maybe even for two of those spots.  But a log jam for sure.  But Sweden and Canada are hard to bet against.  They get in those big events and they are just groomed for them.  Yeah I would like to see an upset.  I mean both of those teams are going to be at the Olympics is 2018, it’s not like either is going to be scrapping by for points.  But it would be cool to see somebody come out like the Japanese women and add some fun and entertainment.  It just looks good for the sport.  I think Sidorova is a perfect example.  There are a lot of teams in Europe getting better.  Asia is getting better.  When you have such a big audience in Canada seeing mainly those Canadian teams, it is nice to see some international teams where sure Canada is the mecha of curling but there is a lot good teams out there.  The game is just not big enough to support all those teams quite yet but maybe someday.  It would be good for the game.  Basically USA for the gold *laughing*

TT:  *laughing*  So your upset pick is basically saying USA for gold…of course!

CP:  *laughing*  I mean I don’t think it is going to happen but I’ll be cheering for them.

TT:  Well way to earn your High Performance pay cheque at least.

CP:  *laughing*

TT:  *laughing*  At least you are saying you want them to win gold, whether you think it will happen or not.

CP:  Hey, team player all the way man.

TT:  Yup, team player all the way.  *laughing*  Well we will see how you do.  I don’t think I have lost a challenge to anybody when taking on a preview for an event.  We will see if you somehow can take me down and the US does do better than I expect.  We will wait and see what happens.

CP:  For sure, for sure.

TT:  Well that is everything I have for you Chris.  I want to just thank you once again for taking some time out to chat with me.  I really appreciate it.

CP:  Not a problem at all man.  And thank you.  I appreciate it as well.

TT:  Excellent.  Best of luck with Red Bull too….I am looking forward to seeing how it turns out.

CP:  Awesome, thanks.  Well curling appreciates what you are doing too man.

TT:  Thanks.

So you love him now too right?  There were honestly so many different avenues our conversation could have gone throughout the time we had to talk.  As I said in the intro to this post, Plys is a very knowledgeable and intelligent man to chat with.  And even I will admit at times I got a bit lost in those puppy dog eyes listening to his responses…..and there is absolutely nothing wrong with admitting that either.  I can see why he has such a strong female fan base.  On the flip side (and perhaps a bit less creepy) I will also say talking with him is like sitting down and talking with one of the boys.  I wanted to just order a few rounds, add in a plate of nachos and just shoot the breeze with the guy all night.  These are the kind of people the sport needs more of.  Down to Earth, friendly personalities who love the sport, love the fans and love to engage.

Now as much as I love the guy, I still want to beat him in the #TwineTime vs. Plys Challenge for the World Men’s Curling Championship.  To quickly summarize our predictions:

Plys                                                                                   #TwineTime

Gold:  Canada (Koe)                                                        Gold:  Canada (Koe)

Silver:  Sweden (Edin)                                                     Silver:  Sweden (Edin)

Bronze:  USA (Shuster)                                                   Bronze:  Norway (Ullsrud)

4th Place:  Norway (Ullsrud)                                           4th Place:  USA (Shuster)

It would appear our challenge will come down to who does better overall between Norway and USA.  I will have to put on my crazy curling pants and cheer hard for Norway while Plys drapes himself in Red, White and Blue pulling for a Shuster podium finish.  This should be an exciting, and close, finish.

I must admit, I am excited to see what next season brings for Plys.  I already love his desire and passion to want to get back on the ice as soon as possible and start winning.  I hope that hunger does result in success.  For those who say “nice guys finish last” might want to stay away from Chris Plys…..here is a genuine nice guy who is ready to find the top of the podium next year.  And #TwineTime wishes him all the luck in the world….hopefully our paths cross again at a slam in the near future.

 

James Runge

Spark Sports Curling Analyst

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