Ottawa — Meet Tom Sallows of the Brad Gushue curling team. He’s the guy no one knows.
No one in Newfoundland and Labrador, at least. Sallows is the Maytag repairman, the fifth man on Team Gushue. He may as well be in witness protection.
But in curling circles, Sallows has a pretty good name, and not just because he’s the spare on the reigning Brier and world championship team, the same one that’s here in Ottawa trying to nab an Olympic berth from the Roar of the Rings curling trials.
A Grande Prairie, Alta., native, Sallows sits and waits with the other extras and coaches along the tables at the rear of the curling rink at Canadian Tire Centre, knowing there’s little or no chance — save for a limb hanging off — of him getting into a game for one of the four rock-slingers on Team Gushue.
But he’s there just in a case, a human, broom-carrying insurance policy.
“Hey, I embrace it,” Sallows said.
Of course, Sallows isn’t just sitting there every game in la-la land, perched next to coach Jules Owchar, a curling savant who himself looks as if he’s ready to nod off any minute. Rather, Sallows, 33, makes the most of it, doing a bit of scouting, looking for rock tendencies, keeping an eye to the ice for any changes, etc. etc.
This is Sallows’ second year on Team Gushue, thanks to a friendship with Gushue lead and fellow Albertan Geoff Walker. It’s a friendship that goes back when they were kids curling together.
But if you know Gushue, he’s not going to bring in someone just because he’s knows a guy who knows a guy.
Sallows skipped a junior team with Walker, Charley Thomas and Kyle Reynolds that finished runner-up in the Alberta provincials four years running.
Sallows aged out, Thomas took over throwing last rocks and won two straight Canadian and world junior titles.
“I guess I was the problem,” he laughs.
At the men’s level, Sallows played in three Alberta provincials, making a run in 2011 when the team, skipped by Walker, lost to Kevin Martin in the semifinals.
“After 2011, Geoff was called to the big leagues (he joined Team Gushue in 2012) and that was pretty much it for me,” Sallows says.
“I played one year with Dave Nedohin, and we didn’t have the best year, so I took a little bit of a step back, but I still played in some spiels and playdowns.
“Finally, I thought I was done, when Pat Simmons and John Morris called.”
Simmons and Morris were looking for a fifth for their new team, and Sallows accepted. It was a good move, as they won the 2015 Brier.
“That got me back into this role, which has fit very nice with my life,” he said. “Geoff and I are friends, (but) I don’t think that was the sole reason why I was brought on board. I think Brad liked the fact I have experience in this role.”
“I think Brad liked the fact I have experience in this role.”
Sallows wasn’t always a curler. Like Walker, he played hockey growing up just outside Grande Prairie, and was a bit of a latecomer to curling, at age 15.
His parents were curlers — his father was an icemaker — along with his sister. Cary-Anne McTaggart-Sallows is the third on Casey Scheidegger’s Alberta team here at the Trials.
“I grew up around the curling clubs,” he said. “I was still playing hockey when I played in a fun curling league with my sister and my parents, and I guess I realized there was a little bit of talent there.
“I was getting a bit sick of hockey for some reason, and curling was looking pretty good.
Besides, he adds with a wink, “there were some good looking girls in curling, so …”
Away from the rink, Sallows may be more Newfoundland and Labrador than Gushue, who hails from Mount Pearl, and Labrador City’s Nichols.
He owns and operates Mountain Man Adventures, a hunting and fishing guide service he runs out of Grande Prairie, taking clients from all over on hunts for moose, black bear, elk and deer.
He’ll go as far north as the Yukon, but primarily stays south of Grande Prairie.
“I grew up living off wild meat, and that goes back to my parents and grandparents,” he said. “I’ve always hunted and fished, just loved being in the outdoors, camping, hunting, finishing, whatever.
“It’s a true passion of mine, and I’m pretty lucky to have built a business around it.”