Whitehorse Daily Star

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AT THE MIXED– Team Yukon at the Canadian Mixed Championships in Canmore, Alta. on Nov. 7. Left to right: Terry Miller, Laini Klassen, Brayden Klassen and Shani Rittel. Photo courtesy CURLING CANADA/BEN DREGER

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KEEPING IT CLEAN – Third Shani Rittel sweeps a rock while second Brayden Klassen (left) and skip Terry Miller (back right) look on during the mixed curling championships. Photo courtesy CURLING CANADA/BEN DREGER

Team Yukon rebounds with strong finish at Mixed Curling Championships

Team Yukon may have finished the Canadian Mixed Curling Championships with a 3-6 record, but they finished strongly in 4th place in the seeding round for next year’s event.

By Morris Prokop on November 19, 2021

Team Yukon may have finished the Canadian Mixed Curling Championships with a 3-6 record, but they finished strongly in 4th place in the seeding round for next year’s event.

The championships took place in Canmore, Alberta from Nov. 7-14.

The team from Whitehorse was skipped by Terry Miller. Laini Klassen was the third, her son Brayden Klassen was shooting second stones, and Laini’s sister Shani rounded out the team as the lead.

“It was a great experience,” enthused Miller. “First of all, Canmore, where they had it, is an amazing area of the country.

“But when it comes to the competition, there was a lot of really good teams. The four best teams in the competition definitely ended up where they deserved to be. Laini, Shani and Brayden, they all curled amazing ... I know they don’t feel this way, but I feel like, myself, that I somewhat let the team down and didn’t play all that well. I had my moments, but I just did not pick up on the ice as early as I would have liked. To me, missing shots is not in my repertoire, but that happens. It’s just like in any sport whether you’re curling, golfing, anything, you have those weeks.

“The rest of the team played well. I look back at it and there was no time when they left me in big trouble I didn’t think I could get them out of ... I just didn’t play well. I think I should be curling 80 to 90 per cent, and I probably curled like 60 to 70 per cent. You can get away with missing maybe one shot a game, but missing two to three shots per game – it’s just not helping the team.

“We probably could have reversed our record quite easily,” stated Miller. “There were a couple of teams that we would have to all be standing on our heads to beat, but we could have definitely made that championship pool, but it just didn’t happen.

Miller had a little bit of trouble reading the ice.

“We have an amazing ice facility up here and it was just curling way more there than what we were expecting, and I just didn’t pick up on it as early as some of the teams did.

“Early on – obviously you start picking up on it, but the early few games ... it was a struggle. You’re taking ice and over-curling – you just can’t be doing that. You got to be makin’ the shots ... I feel like I let them down, but I’m sure if you talked to them, they wouldn’t say that, but in my own heart, I gotta make more shots than what I made.”

“It’s a team sport and everybody counts on everybody. I was proud of the way the team played, for sure.”

Team Miller bounced back in the seeding round after a tough round-robin (one win, five losses).

“We came back, we beat Alberta ... (and Nunavut) ... and then we played Nova Scotia,” recalled Miller. “They’re definitely a top team. Two ladies on there are defending World Senior champions and the two men are amazing curlers ... we had a great game against them. It just came down to one little shot and that was it. At the end of the week, we were playing very well.”

In the seeding round, Team Yukon beat Alberta 7-5 in a tight game by scoring two in the final end. It wasn’t that close against Nunavut, as they triumphed 11-3 over Peter Van Strien’s foursome. Miller’s team finished up the tourney with a 9-5 setback to Nova Scotia, on the strength of the Bluenoser’s four-score in the 5th end.

“The teams we played against, they all complimented – ‘the Yukon sent a good team’, and – (we were) just one or two shots away ... you even talk to the teams that were in the final. One or two shots here and there and they wouldn’t have been in the final ... (Quebec skip Jean-Michel) Menard that won, he said – I think they played 11 games, and 10 of them came down to the final shot of the game. So you could easily turn that around.”

Was the competition what you expected it to be?

“Oh, yeah. Definitely,” stated Milller. “I looked at the lineups before and there’s definitely a lot of top-notch curlers there that have a lot of experience. There’s no soft teams. You’ve got to go there and you’ve got to plan on makin’ your shots to win games. No one’s just gonna hand you a win.

Miller says the mixed championships are a little different from men’s events– to a point.

“Comparing a mixed to a men’s – it’s a different atmosphere ... it’s a little less intense ... the men are obviously a little more intense than the ladies ... it is a bit of a social. Everybody’s socializing ... but once you’re on the ice, it’s definitely a mini-war I guess you’d say.”

Miller may also have a future career in broadcasting.

“I was fortunate enough to have Curl Canada ask me to commentate a couple of games because it was live-streamed ... that was something I never thought I could do, but some of the messages ... and some of the compliments I got from Curl Canada – they asked me to do one game and then they said ‘if you’re available for any more games we’d be happy to have you’, so I came out and did another game. That was a blast. It was lots of fun.”

However, Miller doesn’t think a career in broadcasting is in the cards.

“I’m a little too old for that. I’m looking to retire here soon, but if Curl Canada ever asked me, believe me, I would come and help them out for sure.”

This event will be memorable for Miller for another reason.

“I was fortunate enough to win the Most Sportsmanlike Award for the skip position, which was amazing. That’s voted on by the players and that was fantastic. It’s nice to be recognized by ... all the other players ... that was definitely a surprise.

“I think part of it was because I was so positive with the team, even though I was missing shots and ... ‘you miss that one, let’s make the next one’. I wish I could have told myself that, but it’s all about keeping everybody happy around you.”

Needless to say, Miller didn’t break any brooms during the competition.

“I think it’s been about 25 years since I’ve done that. In the back of your head, you want to, but you can’t be doin’ that in front of – at a national event. That would not go over too well.”

Miller was happy his friends and family were able to watch him curl thanks to the live streaming on Curling Canada’s YouTube page.

“When they did livestream a couple of our games, lots of friends and family and people I haven’t seen for years sent messages saying ‘it was great to watch you guys’ and it was a great experience for all of us.”

When asked what he learned from this tournament, Miller responded, “I don’t know what I learned. That’s a tough question. I’ve been around so long ... there’s always something. I think the reason why I still curl is because I learn something new every year. There’s always like interesting strategies that people do ... it’s nice to trick guys into different things, or you look back at a game and say ‘why did he call that?’ and then you think ‘ok, now I see why he did that.’ But I’ve played a lot of games.”

“I learned that definitely Canmore’s a beautiful spot. We’re in the stretching room and it’s a big huge open glass room and there’s about 30 elk outside the room. We’re all standing there taking pictures.”

“I didn’t really learn this, but I would say, ‘just keep your head up and just ... make the next shot.’ I’ve always known that but it’s tough to instil in yourself sometimes. I know I’m good at motivating my own team, but sometimes I’m not good at motivating myself.”

Miller is planning on returning to the mixed championships next year, as he wants to take care of some unfinished business.

“I think we’re definitely going to give it a go. I’l love to go back again. Not only to play, but to play a bit better. Just make those extra few shots ... it’s nice to see everybody and it’s nice to represent the Yukon at any national championship.

“Now ... the focus for me is on the Seniors. There was a couple gentlemen there that will be in the senior men’s also. It was good to talk to them. They hadn’t been to the Seniors before, so we sat and had a conversation and I told them what to expect and it was good. It’s nice to go to something like the nationals and meet new friends.”

The 2021 Everest Senior Curling Championships take place Dec. 6-11 in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.

“I talked to the Northern Ontario team ... they said they’ve curled there a number of times. ‘It’s a great facility’ they said, and it’s a great area of the country and they said ‘you will enjoy yourself there’, so that’s good. I mean, what part of the country isn’t good? It’s Canada.”

Miller added that overall, the mixed championships were a good experience for Team Yukon.

“The team curled well. Laini and Shani and Brayden, they were great and we all had a ton of fun and we definitely enjoyed representing the Yukon ... it was a blast.”

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