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Eric Peterson, Published February 18 2011

USA Curling Nationals: Plys gives sport of curling a youthful face

Chris Plys does not look the part, from his two stud earrings to his tattoos to his shaggy hairdo.

“He’s got much more of a snowboarder look than a curler,” said Phill Drobnick, who plays with Plys on Team George. “The whole face of curling is changing. We are getting newer and younger athletes.”

Team George is the No. 2 seed for the men’s playoffs, which start at noon today, at the USA Curling National Championships at Scheels Arena. The women’s playoffs started Thursday night. The event concludes Saturday with both the men’s and women’s gold-medal draws.

At 23 years old, Plys is an accomplished curler. From Duluth, Minn., he was an alternate on the 2010 U.S. Olympic curling team that competed in Vancouver. His accomplishments also include three U.S. Junior Championships and an appearance in the men’s world championships in 2009.

While Plys may be part of a new breed in U.S. men’s curling, from an age standpoint, he is not the norm at the national level. The average age of the more than 40 men’s competitors at nationals is 37. However, Drobnick thinks the age demographic could shift in the future.

“Young kids are starting earlier and really liking it,” said Drobnick, who is 30 years old. “It takes a lot to be out there. It takes a lot of working out and you’ve got to be in shape and sweeping is a lot of work.”

During those 2010 Winter Games, Plys said not many guessed he was on the curling team.

“Most people didn’t think I was a curler at all,” said Plys, who does like to snowboard. “Most people thought I was with the snowboarding or something like that. I was fine with that. … I don’t really like being stereotyped as a curler.”

Plys gained notoriety for his looks from those Winter Games. The U.S. Curling team was featured on the Colbert Report and Stephen Colbert referred to Plys as “the cute one.” In addition, Entertainment Weekly’s PopWatch named Plys “Olympic Stud of the Day” during the Vancouver games.

“I woke up in the morning to all this harassing Facebook messages from my buddies,” Plys said with a laugh. “That kind of sealed the rep as being a pretty boy, even though I don’t think I am.”

In addition to being an elite curler, Plys is a budding musician. He has a “Chris Plys Music” Facebook page that features some of his songs. When he’s traveling to various curling tournaments, he often brings his guitar. Plys said he has four iPods that are “jam packed” with songs.

“I have always been super into music, like going to shows and stuff,” Plys said. “Right now it’s just a hobby. I have some other things going on. If something ended up happening with it, I would love it, but it’s not something I’m going hard after.”

Plys said there are similarities between curling and music. Both help bring out his imagination and creativity.

“There are 10 different ways to do something in curling and there are 10 different ways to play something on guitar for the same thing,” Plys said.

His curling and musical words often collide when he settles in the hack (foothold) to throw a curling stone.

“I always have something like a beat or something in my head. That’s constant in my life,” Plys said. “When I’m curling it’s kind of one of those things where I try to get into that rhythm and just ride with it. That’s kind of how it is with music, too.”

Drobnick said Plys has the right temperament when it comes to curling at the highest levels.

“He is not afraid of anything,” said Drobnick, who has coached Plys since 2006. “He has that carefree attitude. … He doesn’t get too nervous and too uptight.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Eric Peterson at (701) 241-5513.

Peterson’s blog can be found at peterson.areavoices.