Brad Gushue’s former third finding success throwing first stones for Jeff Stoughton’s Winnipeg rink
Labrador City native Mark Nichols (first from right) hoists the Canada Cup of Curling men’s championship trophy with teammates (from right) Reid Carruthers, Jon Mead, and skip Jeff Stoughton. Nichols moved to Winnipeg this summer to throw lead stones for the Stoughton rink. — Photo by The Canadian Press
Although he’s from Labrador City, Mark Nichols says he’ll be well prepared for Winnipeg’s winter.
“I haven’t lived in Labrador City in some time,” he said with a chuckle, “but I remember those winters and I’m assuming the winter in Winnipeg will be similar to that.”
In any case, he says he’s prepared.
“I’ve already bought a down-filled jacket and some other nice, warm clothes for the winter,” Nichols said with a chuckle.
The former third for Brad Gushue’s 2006 Olympic gold-medal-winning curling team moved to Winnipeg in mid-August, after accepting an offer to join Jeff Stoughton’s squad. Nichols, who announced he would take a break from competitive curling to focus on his career and family following the 2011 Brier, curled with Stoughton at The Players Championship in Summerside, P.E.I., last spring after the Manitoba skip and long-time lead Steve Gould parted ways.
“I’m very lucky to have this opportunity,” said Nichols. “It’s been a great change and I’m really enjoying being back on the ice.”
Nichols, who is working as a part-time personal trainer as he did when he lived in St. John’s, said his wife Colette is teaching dental assistants at the local CDI college.
He said they both are still trying to “settle in a little bit,” in Winnipeg.
“Things are working out very well for us. We’re very happy.”
Things certainly couldn’t be going much better on the ice for Nichols.
The lead helped Stoughton win his first Capital One Canada Cup of Curling Sunday which gave the rink a berth in the Roar of the Rings Olympic trials next December in Winnipeg.
In the 10th end of Sunday’s final, Nichols made a pair of perfect picks on a pair of guards to open up the house for Stoughton’s final shot which gave the Winnipeg team a 4-3 win over Ontario’s Glenn Howard.
“As soon as we signed Mark on, we said our first objective was to win the Canada Cup,” Stoughton told The Canadian Press.
“When he makes those it makes my job a lot easier. Mark’s been making those all year. He’s been phenomenal. We’ve been keeping track and he’s only missed it once,” added Stoughton whose rink also includes third Jon Mead and second Reid Carruthers.
Nichols said the transition from third to lead has been pretty smooth.
Despite the fact he was considered one of the top thirds in the world at one time, he said he hasn’t played lead full time since he was about 15, but things are working out well so far.
“There’s a bit of an adjustment, but my role as a lead is pretty straight forward,” he explained.
“I set up the first two shots of the end and work my butt off to make sure they guys are in good position to make shots behind me.”
The main thing, he said, is to make sure, “I’m not putting my team behind the eight ball to start off. I try to control the draw weight early. I have to position my rocks well either in front of the house or the T-line and that’s about it.”
Nichols said he’s really started to adjust well to his new position over the team’s last few tournaments.
“The only difference is that I’m not throwing big peels,” he pointed out.
“My two shots seem to be the same two shots over and over again which is fine by me, that doesn’t bother me at all.”
Still, he says the slot is different, but he’s enjoying his new team and seems to be fitting in well.
“The guys are great. I’m really having a lot of fun playing with them.”
Nichols laughed when asked what was the difference between his former and current skip.
“Every skip has their differences,” he said after a pause.
“Jeff’s a little more conservative when it comes to his style of play,” he noted.