Thursday, February 19, 2009

Rocky Mountain High?

Hello all.

Well,, we’re almost there! Tomorrow we leave for Denver to begin the last leg of our journey to Vancouver!

The last two weeks have been filled with much planning and organizing for our ten day trip. Hotel rooms, rental cars, new equipment and uniforms and the addition of a coach were at the top of the list. On that note I should mention that our new coach is Brian Simonson of Chisholm, MN. Brian has been around curling for many years and is a close friend to the Shuster family and is familiar with all of the guys on our team. Brian even spent a few years playing with and against my brothers Michael and Tim so I have had a chance to get to know him as well. Brian is also part of a team that recently won the U.S. Senior Nationals. For Brian this will be third time and will be representing the U.S. at senior worlds. We’re very excited to have him join us in Colorado and bring his knowledge and objective viewpoint to the team.

My wife Carrie has been busy setting up her plans with family who are tentatively planning trips out to watch. She will also be working with the USCA as a media liaison during the week so she will be able to keep busy! (She can’t bear to watch sometimes J) A note to those of you who would like more frequent updates while were in Denver: Carrie has her own e-mail list that she sends to with day to day updates from a fan’s perspective. If you are just dying to get all of the “dirt of the day” from Denver, just send a note to to have her add you to her list.

Mixed in with the planning have been many phone and e-mail conversations with my teammates. We all have spent some time on individual practice to keep in tune. But again, we’re well beyond “tweaking” time. Now it’s just time to go play!

Overall, the team seems to be in that workman like mode that we’ve been in for the last month or so. We really just want to get started.

For your convenience I have attached the detailed draw schedule so you can figure out when we play and who.

There has been a little buzz in the media about the trials in general and I would expect that to continue and probably pick up as next week starts to unfold. Here are a couple of nice pieces from this week.

(nice video piece from Duluth)

As far as live coverage goes, you will have the usual line scoring and standings updates at:

In addition there will be information on that site about an “Audiocast” over the web. There will likely be one for every set of games. It usually requires Winamp, but I’m not sure this year. They should have detailed instructions available on the site.
And of course, the big announcement was that NBC will be airing 12 hours of LIVE coverage from Denver on their 24 hour sports station NBC Universal! You will also be able to pick these games up on

And for the 100th time, we all thank you and our sponsors for every bit of support you have given us. You really have no idea what it means! Keep it coming!

Thanks again. Wish us luck.

John Benton

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

In the land of Green ($$$) and Gold!

Well, after a very short week we made a quick trip to Green Bay for the “Pre-Trials” games over last weekend. The games included four men’s and 4 women’s teams that have qualified for the trials. This was a “Competition / Camp” that allowed us to play 6 games over the 3 days. Each game had a different format (Skins, Moncton, Doubles, Normal). I’ll spare you the agony of explaining all of the differences. Just know that the formats were all designed to force us to play more offense and harder shots. The other twist is that each game was broken into 3 “Sets” much like tennis and each set won was worth points that translated into dollars! To make a long story short, in our 6 games there was a total of 18 sets available to win. We ended up winning 14 of the 18 sets and were named the “Pre-Trials” champion!

In addition to the competition there were USOC Trainers, Coaches and Officials present which allowed us to get some insight on the direction that the USOC wants to see curling move. It also afforded us some time with the trainers to work on advanced exercises and stretching techniques to help us stay fit over the 10 day event in Denver. We also did a series of “Functional Movement” tests that we will repeat over time. These test balance, agility, and mobility and are used in many other sports to set a baseline for fitness. For instance, in Pro-Football a minimum score on these tests is a 17 for the NFL to even consider a person for playing. Our individual high was 16 and the low was 14 so we have some work to do in these areas. All very interesting stuff that I never thought I’d be talking about in the same breath with curling! J

BIG NEWS! The long awaited announcement about Broadcast coverage from Denver! NBC will be airing 12 hours of LIVE coverage from Denver on their 24 hour sports station NBC Universal! Of course NBC Universal is only found on cable in limited markets, but do not fear….you will also be able to pick these games up on The 12 hours will only be the Semi-Finals and Finals but at least it’s something! For more information look here:

Otherwise travel plans have all been settled and we’re just about ready for our trip. Just trying to get our finances in order and we’ll be set.

I’ll check in one more time next week before we go.

Thanks as always for all of the well wishes and support!

John Benton
Team Shuster

Monday, February 2, 2009

Looks like we made it!!!

“Looks like we made it!”

All I can say is wow! We’re moving on to Denver!

What a week! All of the work we put in this year finally came together. We’re “peaking” at the right time.

We really went about things one game at a time and found a good rhythm. We ended up with an 8-1 record, which is quite an accomplishment considering how tough the field was at this event. And actually our one loss came to the Disher team in a game that didn’t really have any significance due to the fact that we had both qualified by that time. We ended up playing just 6 ends in that game for fun.

Our most dramatic win came late in the week against team Fenson (John Shuster’s old team and the reigning Olympic Team). We were 6-0 at the time and knew that by winning this game we’d likely be assured of advancing. The game was very well played on both sides and we were all tied up going into the last end where we had the advantage of last stone. When we got to that last stone, team Fenson was counting one point near the center of the rings and it was behind cover so we could not remove it. So we had to put one in there closer to the center for the win. John let the rock go and Jeff and I began sweeping immediately. We swept the entire length of the ice with John and Jason screaming at the top of their lungs. The rock came into the rings and with the last few strokes of our brooms the rock stopped right next to the Fenson stone. It was close, but we weren’t absolutely sure we’d made it so the officials had to measure to see who was closest (a common occurrence in curling but very dramatic on the last shot of a game). Our stone ended up ¼ inch closer than theirs! A game of inches!

That win assured us of advancing to the Trials! Whew!

So we now begin getting ready for the final stage on the road to the Olympics in Vancouver! Yes, this is now a very real possibility! The final trials are a similar event with a 10 team round robin, only this time there is a playoff between the top 4 teams at the end of the week. It is called the “Page Playoff” system. For more information on how this works, please see this Wikipedia page:

The first item on the agenda is a pre-trials training camp in Green Bay this weekend which is being hosted by the USCA and USOC. A very exclusive event for 4 Men’s and 4 Women’s teams that have qualified for Denver.

Also on the agenda are the usual plans for new uniforms, Flights, Hotel, Rental Cars, etc. for the team, family members and friends for the 10 day trip to Denver. Lots to do!

Anyone interested in attending the event can find all of the necessary information at the Denver Sports Commission’s website:

And / Or the usual USCA Website:

A very special thanks to our families, friends, and sponsors. This really would not be possible without all of the support we’ve gotten this year. You are all part of this team!

Of course I’ll keep you updated on all of the happenings in the next few weeks as we train, plan, and raise funds for the trip.