After two years of living in Manitoba and curling with Jeff Stoughton’s team, Labrador City native Mark Nichols is moving back to Newfoundland and will rejoin the Brad Gushue curling rink next season. The duo curled together for 13 years, winning a gold medal at the 2006 Turin Winter Olympics. While he threw lead stones for the Stoughton rink, Nichols will reclaim his spot at third on Gushue’s team. Brett Gallant moves to second and Geoff Walker remains at lead.
©— Photo by The Canadian Press
Mark Nichols, who has been through some changes in the past three years, hopes returning home will bring him satisfaction in his life while he maintains a burning desire to win a Brier.
The 34-year-old Labrador City native has decided to return to the province and play for Brad Gushue following the breakup of Jeff Stoughton’s Manitoba foursome.
“I’m really excited. A chance to move home and still play on a top team. It’s kinda what I want,” Nichols told The Telegram Monday.
Asked if he believes the Gushue-Nichols combination can regain its chemistry, he replied: “I hope so.”
Certainly, Nichols and Gushue remained friends since the split after curling competitively for 13 years together or this reunion couldn’t have happened.
However, Nichols moved to Manitoba two years ago specifically to curl with Stoughton. Prior to that, he took an entire year off from the game which he said Monday was “really good” for him.
“Being completely away from the game helped,” he said. “I’ve also got a better perspective the last two years playing the front end for Jeff.”
Nichols, who said he enjoyed his time in Manitoba, has decided to move back home to Newfoundland with his wife Colette, who is expecting the couple's first child in July.
While he threw second stones on Stoughton’s rink that included John Mead, Reid Caruthers, he’ll return to his familiar third slot with lead Geoff Walker of Alberta and second Brett Gallant of P.E.I. along with Gushue who he had success with winning Olympic gold in 2006 and the World junior and Canadian championship in 2001.
“We’re a little older,” he said of and Gushue and himself, “but we’re still competitive guys and we understand what’s going on a little bit more and we look at things a little different now. But we still hate losing.”
Nichols said the Stoughton rink break up was just a case of everyone wanting something different.
“When I signed for a two-year commitment we all had hopes of going to the Olympics. And perhaps if we’d been lucky enough to win the Brier last year or this year it might have been different,” he said, adding that Caruthers wants to throw skip stones next season.
Now he’s turned another page in his career, and believes good things will come of it.
“I feel like I’ve been playing as well as I ever have and I still feel like I can compete with the top guys. And I think it would be kind of silly to step away again,” he noted.
Still, he says he’s taking it one year at a time.
“I’d like to say we’d stay together for four years and go for the 2018 Olympics (in PyeongChang, South Korea) but there are a lot of things that go on in a season, so I’ll take the first year and make sure it’s going well and if it is, there’s no reason why we wouldn’t want to continue on.”
Nichols said the next goal is to “get ourselves to the Brier and hopefully make a good run.”
He said he’s noticed the Gushue rink this season and they’ve played well.
“I really think this is a team that can make some noise on the (World Curling) Tour and winning a Brier is at the top of our list. I got really close a few years ago and I’d like nothing more than to win a Brier with this (Gushue) team. It stings not being able to win the one you really, really are dying to win.”
In the meantime, Nichols said he hopes to find employment in St. John’s when he returns home.
“I kinda have to,” he said. “I’m exploring my options now when it comes to employment. I’d really love to find something that allows to work and curl. My main focus now is making sure I have a job that is going to support my family as it grows. That’s my biggest concern.”
He said there were “definite” other options he was considering, “but I really wanted to come home. That was at the top of the list.
“It seems you can take us out of Newfoundland but your heart’s always there,” he added.
“We have family back home and if I was going to continue curling I wanted to have that support system around while I’m away competing.”
Right now, he has plenty of time to practice diaper changes.
“Yeah,” he says with a laugh. “I’m really looking forward to that part too.”