Team Laycock second Kirk Muyres would love nothing more than to compete in next month’s Tim Hortons Brier in his home province.
Wearing the green Saskatchewan jacket and playing in front of a capacity crowd at the Brandt Centre in Regina with family and friends going bananas and hanging from the rafters is already making his heart tingle with emotions.
Muyres can’t get too far ahead of himself as his Saskatoon-based club still has to punch its ticket to the Brier. Otherwise, the only ticket he’ll be buying is one with those aforementioned fans in the stands. It’s no easy task either with a tough field on hand for the SaskTel Tankard in Estevan, Sask., to determine who will represent the home team at the Canadian men’s curling championship.
“We snuck out the No. 1 seed by just minor amounts this year so it’s nice to start out there but it doesn’t mean a whole much if you don’t go out and play good,” Muyres said. “We’ve been playing really good as of late. We had two spiels after Christmas and we got to the final in both. The competition in one of the events was all Saskatchewan teams and then in Phoenix was a good field of a lot of top teams.
“We managed to play some of the best curling we’ve played this year in those two events. Hopefully, we can keep that rolling into provincials, get ourselves into one of the bigger games and it works out for us.”
Team Laycock won three consecutive SaskTel Tankard titles from 2014-16 and was king of the hill posting a dominant 19-2 record in provincials during that run. Since this is the flatlands of Saskatchewan we’re talking about, that wasn’t really a big mountain for others to ascend and capture the flag. Laycock sustained a crushing 11-3 loss in last year’s final to Adam Casey.
“We had won three in a row and after that you kind of think you’re invincible,” Muyres said. “You get a little cocky and think you’re probably going to win the rest of your life but we got stung pretty hard in the final there. … It really put everything into perspective, brings you back down to Earth and makes you realize you’re going to have to work a lot harder going forward for the next one.
“I think what it did was … it made us realize that there are areas we need to work on to continue to be one of the top teams and go and attack those areas. It was a matter of us taking a step back and realizing it isn’t always going to be roses and we’re going to have to work through some of the tough times.”
During that time of reflection Team Laycock parted ways with second Colton Flasch, who now skips his own squad, and Winnipeg’s Matt Dunstone took over. Team Laycock switched up the order heading into December’s Roar of the Rings Olympic trials as Dunstone, who skipped Manitoba to a couple Canadian junior titles, now throws fourth, Steve Laycock has moved to third while still calling the game and Muyres plays second. His brother Dallan Muyres has stayed put at lead.
“We decided that was going to be the change we were going to make and we had everyone in positions that maximize their strengths. I don’t think that changed anything after the trials,” Muyres said. “We’re sticking with that and we’re playing good in those roles. Everyone is really fitting in being comfortable in their new roles and good things are happening for us. It’ll be great to play well [this] week and get a chance at a hometown Brier. That would be one of the most exciting things I think a curler from Saskatchewan could have.”
That’s the big golden pot at the end of this rainbow and it’s something Muyres admitted he’s thought about a lot.
“Sometimes I get daydreaming about all the cool things that could happen in curling and that’s one of them,” Muyres said. “It gives you a tingling in your heart a little bit to think about being able to play in front of a soldout crowd here in Saskatchewan in front of family and friends in one of the greatest spots to have a Brier there is.”
“The first one you ever win, the first green jacket you ever get, still has to be the most special one but this will be a close second,” he added. “I don’t want to say it but I might have some tears if we take this one out. It would be such an opportunity to play in Saskatchewan.”
On top of his three Brier appearances, Muyres has also donned the green jacket for the 2007 Canada Winter Games and the 2011 Canadian junior curling championships. Both are sentimental with Muyres being part of a larger team at the former event — notables for Saskatchewan that year include Brayden Schenn in hockey and brothers Craig and Mark McMorris in snowboarding — while the latter resulted in winning a national title and going to the world juniors.
“I remember when we won to go represent Saskatchewan at the Canada Games, that was cool because we got to be with Team Saskatchewan of all other sports,” Muyres said. “We got to meet so many other kids that were about our age and that one was really special. Of course, winning our junior was the first time I ever won something that felt like a little more because we ended up winning Canadians.
“The best one ever was winning my first green jacket to play in a Brier. Everyone seems to know what the Brier is even if you aren’t a curling fan. … It was one of the most special things ever to be able to win that and to finally get to say I competed in the Brier. To be able to do that one more time or hope I can do that 20 more times, I honestly believe playing to represent Saskatchewan at a Brier is one of the most special things you can do.”