John Cullen likes to joke around.
Over the past seven years, he has been going to venues making people laugh. What he doesn’t joke about is how the team he plays on with Dean Joanissse, Jay Wakefield and Steve Petryk will do in Penticton during the World Curling Tour Ashley Home Store Curling Classic, Nov. 3 to 6.
“I would like to think that the modest goal is to qualify for the playoffs,” said Cullen, who is a teacher. “There is a lot of really good teams. If we make the playoffs, then chances are pretty good that there is a team ranked ahead of us that is going to be on the sidelines. Once you make the playoffs, it’s a single elimination tournament. Anything can happen.”
What will bring Team Joanisse success during the weekend is their confidence to play the best in the world. Cullen won’t be in “awe” as they take on the big names. He already experienced that earlier in his career. He said it is the crazy part of curling that may not occur in other sports. He talked about his experience at the West Coast Classic in New Westminster and Kevin Martin was there after winning Olympic gold in Vancouver.
“You can be a good curler, not a great curler, and be able to sign up for a ‘spiel where there are world champions and Olympic champions, teams from other countries,” said Cullen. “It’s kind of a crazy experience for a younger guy coming up. There is definitely that sense of awe for sure.”
He had that moment against Kevin Koe and Greg McAulay, who was someone he always looked up to. Cullen faced Koe, one year after he had just won a world championship.
“Oh my gosh, I’m out here, I’m playing the reigning world champion,” he said. “That was definitely a ‘wow’ moment. We’re playing the world champs right now. You can’t ever not enjoy that.”
It’s that experience of playing the best players that Cullen is counting on for success. The team has performed “OK” this season, according to Cullen. They lost the championship game in Maple Ridge in an extra end and made the semifinals in Vernon. Their only bad performance was in Medicine Hat, Alta. The one thing they are working through is not having Paul Cseke, their regular third as he recently became a father. With Petryk filling in and throwing lead rock, the team is working through role adjustments.
It’s not Cullen’s first trip to the Penticton Curling Club. His friend Matt Tolley, one of the local organizers for the WCT event and a player in the tournament, invited him to perform a comedy routine during the men’s Tin Cup Bonspiel.
“It went pretty well. It’s always hard to do,” he said. “I was doing it in between draws. Hard to do comedy when guys are antsy to get on the ice. I can see guys starting to get changed, put their curling shoes on, get their brooms together while I was still on stage. I totally respect that.”