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The Big Spiel – Bracket

 

I made my way up to Minnesota for the 2nd Annual “Big Spiel.” The tournament has 96 teams playing their way through 4 different clubs in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area. This year, I ended up going solo (although bringing my co-pilot, Bella).
My co-pilot.

My co-pilot.

Was still feeling it a little bit from running in the Walt Disney World Marathon just five days prior … didn’t know how that was going to affect me.

Just about to finish the WDW Marathon, had to stop for a photo.

THURSDAY NIGHT

From DitchingSuburbia.com

I met my teammates on Thursday night at Frogtown Curling Club. Frogtown is a dedicated 5-sheet curling club, changed over from a hockey rink. As listeners to the podcast know, I was previously undefeated at Frogtown – winning one game at last year’s Big Spiel despite ending up on my rear end as our skip hit a game-winning draw. Yup, my gripper decided it didn’t want to drip to the bottom of my shoe.

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A lot of character at Frogtown Curling Club, as there is a lot of space to lounge around and watch the game right near the ice. The other thing, it gets COOOOOLD in Frogtown! I know near the end of my game, I was doing everything I could to keep the hands warm.

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A plus to Frogtown – free beer!

Our team struggled out of the game, and just couldn’t get the hang of Sheet A. My teammates had only curled at St. Paul CC, so it was tough getting used to the ice. It was a little bit slower, feeling a bit like the arena ice I had previously curled on at Windy City CC.

I was also struggling a little bit to push out of the hack as I curled. Between the car ride (rotating my ankle between the gas and brake) and starting to curl, the ankle went from sore to pain.

Ended up losing that one.

FRIDAY NIGHT

From FourSeasonsCurlingClub.com

After a night of icing down my ankle, I headed up to Blaine, MN to curl at Four Seasons Curling Club. Home of the US Olympic Training Center, it’s a beautiful 6-sheet facility. Watching over the ice is Gabe’s Rinkside Bar – which had a great BBQ Bacon Cheeseburger, which I thoroughly enjoyed after my 6 months of marathon training and tasteless food.

From GreystoneConstruction.com

We stormed out of the game and won our morning match. One of the goals of our team was to make sure we didn’t end up going back to Frogtown … not that we don’t love Frogtown, but the forecast for the weekend was BITTERLY cold windchills and temps. The team was much more comfortable on the quicker ice, and ended up taking the game in 5 ends.

The rest of my team had to go to work, so I drove over to check out the Mall of America. This was my first time at the famous destination, and was impressed at the size of the mall.

Walked around the mall/amusement park, but didn’t buy anything. Then headed over for our 6 o’clock game at Chaska Curling Center.

From ChaskaCurlingCenter.com

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The new Chaska Curling Center is a beautiful facility, located west of Minneapolis. Combined with some city offices, community center, and a new restaurant/bar (The Crooked Pint), it was a definite jewel. The Crooked Pint was pretty busy too, just with locals. There was about an hour wait for a table when we took the ice, and about an hour and a half wait when we were finished.

When you're as cool as Jess Schultz, you work in a Curling Rock into the signature

I usually get yelled at when I try and sign a wall.  

You know a place is fancy too, the power plugs at the restaurant had USB ports as well as the standard plug-ins.

I tried their Pepperoni Lucy, if you can imagine a pizza stuffed in a burger. This was my favorite meal of the trip. I definitely recommend trying this (or one of their many other Lucys).

The only “bummer” of the set-up is that the curler’s lounge is totally on the opposite side, in a corner. You can see the ice, but strangely, it felt weird being away from the business of the restaurant. So, some may enjoy the quieter section. Our team, and the team we beat, were able to grab tables in the bar (thanks to the fans of both of our teams already having tables).

From @ChaskaCubs

The ice started out slow, then hit “super quick” speeds in end 3.

We had a quick four-end victory against a truly fun team from Frogtown. It was a game that just felt like the momentum started on our side … we hit out shots and they had bad breaks.

So, all in all, only 9 ends of curling on Day 2. But, I was ecstatic … already another win more than what I had last year.

Ankle held up a little better, but I could definitely feel it. Was getting a little grief from everyone for hobbling a bit – but all in good fun.

SATURDAY NIGHT

An early appearance in Blaine for Game #4. It was the second event – “win or go home.”. Alarm went off, took the dog out in the bitter cold, and hit the road early to try and beat rush hour.

Of course, as I’m sitting in my car – warming it up – I realized it was Saturday. No rush hour. Oh well, never hurts being early.

Ankle was struggling again. Not sure if it was just the cold, the exertion from 2 games and walking around the Mall the day before … but just sucked it up and curled on.

We met a team that morning that had some sad news. Their 4th curler’s father passed away late Friday night. My thoughts and prayers to that curler and their family.

So, we went 4 vs. 3. We pulled away, ended up winning in 6. Felt like we were on a good run, everyone hitting their shots and throwing up a big end early to take control.

The Big Spiel had a party at Chaska for the afternoon, but I ended up heading back to the hotel room. I was starting to feel exhausted from my Florida trip, marathon, and a few days of curling. So, I was a party pooper.

And, go figure, I ended up winning a raffle prize. Got a tweet from Carl at Houston Curling, who I met the previous year, telling me to wake up.   But, I figured sitting back and resting the ankle was the best thing for me.

From @stpcurl

Then, it was off to the Cathedral, St. Paul Curling Club.  This is the largest curling club in North America in terms of membership, 1200 active members.   This year was its 130th anniversary (the club was established in 1885).

There is just something special about the club. You walk in and you can just feel the history. Then walk upstairs and have a bite to eat at the Granite Grill. Great view of the curling action on the 8-sheets below. Neat fact, you can watch curling while washing your hands in the upstairs male bathroom.

All good things though, had to come to and end. We went up against a buzz saw of a team from St. Paul CC as well.   Not sure if their back end missed a single shot, but our team just couldn’t pull it off.

From picturestpaul.blogspot.com

SUNDAY

I ended up hitting the road early on Sunday. So, I missed the last day of curling action. But, this year featured a new 9th event. The winner of the 9th event got to lead the teams on for the championships at St. Paul that night.

The events had great names, including the 9th event – the Cage Cleaner. Although, more people referred to it as the S— Show.

Throughout the trip, I met some great people. Especially want to give a special shoutout to Dan, Konzie, Fish (and little Jackson, Fish’s 9 month old grandson) for making the spiel fun for a guy just driving up.

Heard rumors that the spiel wants to expand to many more teams, and even another Curling Club. I definitely suggest anyone looking for a great weekend to make their way up to the Minneapolis/St. Paul area for next year’s Big Spiel.

It’s a great “tour” of a great city. And, hopefully, you all will say hi to me next year.

Dan Mulka is a member of Chicago Curling Club.  In his 3rd year of full-time curling, he was part of the team that won the inaugural Windy City Curling Club Championship.  Follow him on Twitter @dtgoalie30.