It’s going on five years since Brad Gushue and the boys from Newfoundland and Labrador — plus a New Brunswick ringer — shocked the curling world by first winning the Canadian Trials and later the whole Olympic enchilada in Torino, Italy.
And yet, while a full eight years — a career on the sporting calendar — will have passed between the 2006 Olympics and the 2014 Games in Sochi, Gushue is angling for another run at gold in Russia.
The question now is, who will be joining him?
Two of the curlers from Torino — Gushue and Mark Nichols — are still heaving rocks on the grind that is the World Curling Tour. Russ Howard has moved behind the TSN mike, Jamie Korab is curling Super League and coaching Heather Strong’s team, and Mike Adam’s married and running an arena in New Glasgow, N.S.
“I’m definitely giving it another crack,” Gushue said of the next Olympic cycle, which officially began this season but starts in earnest next fall.
“I love playing, and I’ve put myself in a position where I feel like I can put in the time and effort to do it.”
But what about Nichols, whose play in Torino and Halifax at the ’06 Trials was his coming-out party as an all-world third?
And Ryan Fry of St. John’s — via Winnipeg — who’s in his second year with Gushue and Nichols?
Gushue doesn’t know, and won’t know until March or April, when the season winds down and the team sits down to hash out next season and beyond.
A couple of years ago, Kevin Martin courted Gushue about joining him out west. Hooking up with another high-profile skip could be a possibility, but it won’t be Gushue who will be throwing third stones.
One thing is certain: it’s not like Randy Ferbey will be slinging rocks in 2014.
Ferbey and Gushue hooked up this season, not so much a match made in heaven, but a marriage of convenience. The great Ferbey Four disbanded after last season, yet Ferbey still had the will to curl another season. Meanwhile, Gushue was looking for a player after Korab opted to take a step back from the competitive game.
Gushue adds a sure-fire Hall of Famer — who carries lots of sponsorship money with him, we might add — and Ferbey gets to curl another year in the Tour with an elite team.
But Ferbey will be 55 by the time Sochi rolls around, in the darkness, let alone the twilight, of an illustrious career. But so will a number of other top-flight curlers.
Jeff Stoughton won’t be around. Neither will Wayne Middaugh. Don’t bet on Glenn Howard, either.
You would figure Kevin Martin’s machine that won gold in Vancouver last February will be back for another crack. And the team certainly doesn’t figure to disband, not with the amount of coin they’re taking home.
So that leaves the younger ones, curlers like Gushue and Kevin Koe and Mike McEwan and Pat Simmons to knock Martin from the curling peak.
And that excites Gushue.
“We’re coming into our time, really,” he said. “You would think the natural progression will see teams like ours take a step up and be a big contender in a couple of years, and even towards 2018. I’d like to be around for it.”
After a relatively disappointing 2009-10 by Gushue’s lofty standards — his team dropped three straight games and was ousted from the Olympic Pre-Trials in Prince George, and lost the 3-4 playoff game to eventual champ Kevin Koe at the Brier last spring — Gushue, Ferbey, Nichols and Fry are playing half-decently on the World Curling Tour this season.
The four have qualified in eight of nine events, but the problem is they’ve won only once, the Bally Haly Cashspiel.
“We haven’t broken through in a big event, and that’s been disappointing,” he said. “We’re consistent, but not quite at the level I want.”
Some of that might be chalked up to a switch in positions. Ferbey is throwing third stone, but is holding the broom on shots and calling part of the game. Nichols has been pushed back to second and Fry, who normally throws second rocks, is curling lead.
“There is something to be said for that,” he said. “But I think we have the ability to win more than what we have.”
In a sport where there can only be one boss, one person with the final say, Gushue insists it’s a “dual thing” with him and Ferbey. At the beginning of the end, it’s Ferbey who’s calling the game.
“When it’s closer to my shots, I tend to pitch in a little bit more,” Gushue said, “because there are certain shots I want to be left with and certain shots I don’t.
“That might be part of the reason why we haven’t won more, or it could be part of the reason why we’ve been so consistent.”
Which brings us to the name of the team. Earlier this season, it was known on the Tour as Team Gushue. Of late, including last weekend’s Canada Cup, the foursome has been dubbed Team Ferbey.
That’s because under Canadian Curling Association rules, the team is named for the skip, the person who calls the game regardless of which rocks he or she might throw.
So, technically, the ’06 Olympic champs should have been called Team Howard under CCA guidelines, as Russ Howard was throwing second stones but otherwise holding the broom and calling the game.
“Personally, I think it’s kind of silly the team is the skip’s name,” Gushue said. “There are four players with an equal amount of shots. Sometimes the skip gets too much credit and too much blame.
“The whole name thing has nothing to do with me. I just want to win.”
Ferbey won’t be playing with Gushue in the provincial Tankard playdowns to determine which team goes on to the Brier, replaced instead by Vernon, B.C.’s Jamie Danbrook.
Danbrook, who is living in St. John’s, was a member of the P.E.I. team that won the 2009 Canadian junior championship and last year curled with Matthew Blandford’s St. John’s team.
Robin Short is The Telegram’s Sports Editor. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org