MQFT with Karlee Burgess!

Karlee Burgess, in action at the 2018 World Junior Championships. (Photo, World Curling Federation/Richard Gray)


This week, John sits down with Karlee Burgess, one of the most accomplished junior curlers of all-time. Karlee recently became the first three-time gold medallist in Canadian junior women’s history, and that’s to add to her resumé that includes two World Junior golds, a Youth Olympics gold, a Canada Winter Games silver, and two other World Junior Championship podium finishes (in addition to her two previous Canadian wins, she has also been to the worlds as an alternate twice). She heads to Krasnoyarsk, Russia, this week for the 2020 World Juniors to compete for her third World Junior gold with her Manitoba-based team, led by Mackenzie Zacharias.

Welcome to Magical Question Fun Time, the Curling Canada feature where comedian John Cullen sits down with your favourite curlers for interviews like you have never seen. Each interview will feature eight questions: five standard questions that will be asked to each curler, two questions specific to that curler, and one question that the curler interviewed before them asks.

1. What’s the best shot you’ve ever been a part of?

Karlee Burgess: I have two that come to mind right away. The first was World Juniors in 2018, we were playing Isabella Wranå (of Sweden) in the final, and I think it was going into the fifth-end break (ed note: it was) that Kaitlyn (Jones, skip of that team) made a hit around a guard for three and I just remember that really was huge for our emotions. It was a tricky shot; not too hard, but it was just that Isabella was SO good, and she was undefeated, and had already beaten us in the round-robin, so we knew going in it was going to be so tough. That gave us a 5-2 lead heading into the break and it made us so confident that we could close the game out.

John Cullen: And you did! It’s always nice when you make a huge shot early in the game and then it ends up being the difference.

KB: And then I think the other, maybe just because it’s still fresh, is the shot Mackenzie (Zacharias, skip of Team Manitoba) made this year in the final. It was a really close game and we knew coming in Alberta was going to keep it tight. We felt like we were in control, but once she made that shot for four, it was pretty exciting. It’s especially great when you make that shot to take a big lead and then you go, “oh wow, there’s only two ends left!” [laughs] It’s a good feeling, especially since I wasn’t sure the shot was there for four. She made it perfect, and now we are off to worlds.

2. What is a possession you just can’t seem to get rid of?

KB: OK, so I thought about this a lot, and I’m not sure I have one specific item I can pinpoint. That said, and I hope this isn’t too weird, but I have so many socks and underwear.

JC: [laughs] I mean, it’s kind of weird to talk about, I guess. Like how many?

KB: I have two full drawers. [laughs] I don’t even know why, really, I just never get rid of them. I also bring so many with me on curling events. Like I’ll just pack for a curling event and then get there and realize I packed like, 40 pairs of underwear and socks. I can’t help it.

JC: What the hell? Didn’t you just move across the country? Shouldn’t you have been able to get rid of a bunch of them?

KB: You’d think that, but no. I think at this point, everyone just kind of knows and accepts that I way overpack and I just want to keep them all. The idea of throwing any of them out doesn’t seem good to me. [laughs]

3. Who is the most underrated curler and why?

KB: I don’t know if this is an unpopular opinion, but I’m going to say Lisa Weagle and Dawn McEwen.

JC: What!? Why would that be unpopular? You know I’m a lead for life, Karlee, so this opinion is EXTREMELY popular with me. [laughs]

KB: Well, I just mean as far as the underrated aspect because they’ve both won so many championships. It’s hard to say two world champions, two Olympians, are underrated, but I think not enough people pay attention to them because they play on such high-calibre teams. 

JC: I love this answer. It’s my favourite answer in the history of the column.

KB: [laughs] I just think with the five-rock rule, it is so, so key to have a good lead. And Dawn and Lisa are the absolute best in the game. Getting the ends set up is crucial, and no one does a better job than those two. And while we’re at it, I have to give a shout out to my current lead, Lauren Lenentine, as well. She is THE BEST lead I’ve ever curled with, and it’s made such a massive difference.

JC: Lauren rules, there’s no doubt about that. And I spoke to her at the Canadian Juniors and she said she loves it. It’s not always easy getting a player who has played back end a lot of their career to buy into it.

KB: Yes! She has totally bought into it, and it’s so awesome how much she loves it. She’s totally confident in herself and ability to play lead, she loves making tick shots, it’s so great to see her own it.

4. Now, I often ask about jobs with this question, but since you’re a junior and probably haven’t had too many, I’ll ask this. What’s the worst class you’ve ever had?

KB: Ooh, so I figured out in high school that I wanted to go into kinesiology, so I started looking at the pre-requisites for the course because my Grade 12 year was crazy. I went to both the Youth Olympics and World Juniors that year, so I was really keen on having a lighter course-load at school. It turned out that the pre-reqs didn’t include anything too science-based, so I was relieved and I just kinda skipped that in Grade 12. I think I took yoga as a class? I had a spare. I’ll be honest, it was a BS year. [laughs]

JC: I mean, even people who aren’t going to the Youth Olympics have BS years in high school. [laughs]

KB: Exactly. [laughs] So fast forward a couple years and I’m in kinesiology, and it turns out that I need physics in order to graduate. It wasn’t a pre-req for the program, but now I’ve gotta take it in second-year university and I didn’t even take it in high school! At all! It was so awful, John. And I’m not a math/science person at all, I was so busy with curling and ended up going to World Juniors that year too in the middle of the course. Whew. It was chaos. 

JC: Did you pass?

KB: I passed! Thank God. I’m never taking it again. [laughs]

5. What’s a stupid thing you incorrectly believed was true for a long time?

KB: This is embarrassing, but I guess until I was like, 13 years old, I thought that at Christmas time, there was an elf that came into my house every night.

JC: An elf?

KB: Jeez, yeah. So when I was a kid, my mom created this elf called Isabella, and she told us that every night around Christmas, she was assigned by Santa to come into our house and spy on us to make sure we were doing good things. I would write to her every night and tell her how happy I was, and how I was being really good. My mom would write notes to me back as the elf, and I would read them every morning. I loved it.

JC: How did it last so long, though? 13 is SO old. [laughs]

KB: I know, I know. [laughs] I think I just really liked writing the letters. Finally, I remember being in Grade 6, and I was taking my elf notes to school to show my friends. My mom had to step in and say like, “Karlee, now the elf notes are secret and he doesn’t want you to share them with your friends,” because obviously she didn’t want me to be embarrassed. So that got me thinking about it, and then I found wrapping paper in the basement that looked an awful lot like Santa’s wrapping paper, and I connected the dots from there.

Karlee Burgess is the only player ever to have won three Canadian Junior Women’s Curling Championships. (Photo, Curling Canada/Michael Burns)

6. Now we move on to the Karlee Burgess-specific questions, and I have to admit, I do a lot of research for these articles, and this is probably the funniest piece I’ve ever received. Can I ask: do you know when Halloween is?

KB: [laughs] uhhh….October 31st?

JC: That’s right. I know that not only because it’s a holiday, but it’s also my birthday. Do you know why I’m asking that question?

KB: Yes, I do. One year, back when I was playing with Kaitlyn Jones…do I have to tell the story?

JC: Well, I can tell you what I heard and you can confirm or deny. What I heard was that you were playing in a Halloween spiel with Kaitlyn Jones, and you asked when it was. She said it was November 2nd to 4th, and you said, “Wow, Halloween is late this year!” [laughs]

KB: Yeah, I’ve had a couple of stupid moments in my life. [laughs] It’s all the holidays, I get confused. Some of them move around and it’s hard to know!

JC: Yeah, Halloween is a tough one. [laughs] Did you figure it out on your own, or did they tell you?

KB: Well, I remember them calling me an idiot a bunch, but they didn’t say why. I eventually figured it out, and was like “Oh jeez. I am an idiot.” [laughs]

7. For those who watched the New Holland Canadian Juniors this year, they already know this, but if they don’t, your boyfriend is Jacques Gauthier, who skipped Manitoba #2 to a Canadian Junior title this year, and you’ve been living with him since you moved to Manitoba. So….how’s that going?

KB: [laughs] Yeah, I think that’s a fair question. It’s honestly been so good, but I am 21 and living with my boyfriend, so it can be a lot sometimes. I don’t think I really thought it would happen this way, but once I started talking to the Zachariases about moving to Manitoba, their idea was that we would all get an apartment together. Now, I get along with all the girls so well and we are a super tight team, but we talked at the beginning of the season and I just wasn’t sure if I wanted to live with my curling team all the time, given that we knew we were gonna be really busy and competitive and spending so much of our year together already.

JC: I wouldn’t want to. And that’s no offence to a lot of the guys I’ve curled with, who are some of my best friends. But it’s a different thing.

KB: Exactly. The two sisters and Lauren have been living together and I hang out with them at their apartment a lot, so it’s worked out really well. They have a great relationship and obviously the team has gelled really well.

JC: But Jacques though.

KB: Yeah so when the team was talking about living together, I told Jacques I wasn’t sure about that and he was like, “Why don’t you move in with us?” I knew that we’d both be away a lot for curling and it wouldn’t be too overwhelming, and it’s been pretty seamless. Of course we argue sometimes, but Cathy and Ron (Jacques’ parents) are so nice and have been so cool about me just showing up and living there. [laughs] I think the whole year has been a unique situation for the entire team, and everyone has handled it super well. And getting to go to the Worlds with my boyfriend is pretty awesome, and we’re both really looking forward to it.

8. Speaking of Jacques, this is the rare occurrence where the previous player I interviewed happens to be in a relationship with the current player I’m interviewing. And I’m disappointed. He took it easy on you. He asks, what is the best place/venue you’ve gone for worlds?

KB: Wow. He did take it easy on me. Thanks Jacques! [laughs] Honestly, the Youth Olympics was pretty special, the whole atmosphere is amazing, it really does feel like going to the actual Olympics. We lived in the Athlete’s Village with all the other athletes, all the facilities there were amazing, it was a really unforgettable experience. Plus, it was in Norway, so that’s not a rough place to visit by any means. [laughs] The only thing I would say with the Youth Olympics is that the curling was held in a curling club. It was still cool, but maybe lacked a bit of that special feel you get curling in an arena.

JC: That makes sense to me.

KB: The venue I liked best would’ve been when I was an alternate in 2017, and we went to South Korea. Typically, the Olympics tests their curling venue a year before the Olympics with the World Juniors, so we got to play in the Gangneung Curling Centre the year before the actual Olympics were held there, which was so cool. It was just so nice and clean, it was very visually pleasing, I’d say.

JC: Fantastic! Thanks so much Karlee. I’m not sure who I’m going to interview next, so I will ask you for a question once I know!

KB: Thanks John!

As always, you can follow John on Twitter at @cullenthecurler and you can follow Karlee Burgess at @KarleeBurgess.

Curling Canada