What is expected to be a major shake-up in the Canadian men’s curling ranks has already started, what with the announcement of the breakup of Mike McEwen’s Winnipeg rink, the departure of third Braeden Moskowy from the Manitoba entry skipped by Reid Carruthers and the fact that Team Canada/Kevin Koe third Marc Kennedy is stepping away from the game.
But there won’t be any changes with Brad Gushue’s two-time Brier champions.
During a Facebook Live chat this week from Winnipeg, where they will be playing in the Elite 10 Grand Slam event beginning today, Gushue, Mark Nichols, Brett Gallant and Geoff Walker announced they will remain together for another four years/Olympic quadrennial, eventually aiming for a place in the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing.
“There is a lot that goes into … making sure you’re ready to go for a four-year cycle, but our families are on board and we have a few sponsors that are coming back,” said Gushue in the video after announcing the decision to the cheers off his teammates.
“We’re in good position to say that we’re going to play for four more years.”
Nevertheless, Gushue says the line-up shuffling that has started and is expected to continue through the off-season should not be seen as surprising.
“We really enjoy playing together. We’ve had a lot of fun and we’ve had some success, too. When you have those two things, there is no need to change.”
“That’s the way I see it as long as the Olympics are involved,” he said before listing questions that he expects players are asking this time of the year.
“Can I make it four years with them? Are we going to get to where we need to get to? Do I enjoy playing with them? If you can’t answer that with 100 percent certainty, then it’s likely you need to make a change.”
Gushue said there is that certainty on his St. John’s team, where a bond of friendship exists — for example, the four have planned a one-week in vacation at the end of the season.
“We really enjoy playing together,” Gushue said. “We’ve had a lot of fun and we’ve had some success, too.
“When you have those two things, there is no need to change.”
Their latest success came Sunday in Regina where, as Team Canada, they defeated Brendan Bottcher in the Brier final for the rare achievement of back-to-back Canadian men’s crowns.
But while they obviously enjoyed their triumph, Gushue was candid — as he has been in the past — in his criticism of the Brier format introduced this year, one which allows for 16 teams divided into two pools.
“I don’t think we’re big fans of it,” said Gushue. “We’d like to back to something like it’s been in (previous) years.
“We recognize the importance of all the provinces and territories being involves, but we think there are better solutions than the format (that was used in Regina).”
The biggest drawback of the new scheme, according to Gushue and his teammates, is not being able to come up against all the teams in the Brier field. For example, Gallant, who is a native of Prince Edward Island, didn’t get to play against his brother Chris, a member of Eddie McKenzie’s P.E.I. entry in Regina.
P.E.I. wasn’t in Team Canada’s pool and didn’t qualify for the second stage/championship round, meaning McKenzie, Chris Gallant and their teammates didn’t face Gushue, Brett Gallant and Co. in crossovers.
The Brier was part of what will be a busy month-and-a-half for the Gushue team. There’s this week’s Elite 10, the world men’s championship (beginning in Las Vegas on March 31) and two more Grand Slam events — The Players Championship in Toronto and Champions Cup in Calgary — in April.
“And then I get married right after that,” added Walker, who is engaged to Edmonton curler Laura Crocker.