Wednesday, April 23, 2008

New Team Gushue confirmed

In an exclusive interview with The Curling News Blog, 2006 Olympic champion skip Brad Gushue has confirmed his new team for the upcoming 2007-08 season... and it does indeed welcome a new western Canadian and also the return of a longtime local teammate, both of whom also spoke to TCN for this story.

As speculated, Ryan Fry of Winnipeg and former Gushue lead Jamie Korab will suit up for Gushue and third man Mark Nichols next season.

The skip – whose team with Nichols and the departed Chris Schille and Dave Noftall finished 10th on The Curling News Gold Trail list at just over $62,000 in season winnings – spoke to TCN early this afternoon.

“We’re pretty excited,” said Gushue, referring to himself and Nichols. “We were contacted by both Ryan and Jamie shortly after the Brier, and we weren’t sure what we wanted to do (for the next season).

“We were intrigued.”

Gushue adds that he was unlikely to appear at Victoria’s Bear Mountain Classic, a major World Curling Tour cashspiel held just before his hometown Tylenol Players’ Championship, except that he and Nichols considered it “a good opportunity to sit down and speak to Ryan in person, about what he was thinking and wanted to do with us.

“He’s now got three other guys very close to his age who are trying to build the same thing. His goals were very much in line with ours.”

The deal was then confirmed during the TPC at Mile One Stadium in St. John’s But what are the goals, exactly?

“It’s obviously Vancouver and also 2014 too,” the defending Olympic champion confirmed.

Fry’s motives, of course, were well-publicized earlier this week (examples located here and here). But he spoke briefly with The Curling News too, before hopping on a Thursday morning flight to Sudbury, Ontario for the season-ending celebrity/charity Heart to Heart Bonspiel.

“It’s like switching from one team to another; except they’re about 5,000 miles away,” said Fry, who finished third in Manitoba with Jeff Stoughton after winning the Bison title with him in 2007.

“I’m really excited. If things go as planned, we can hopefully make some headway to getting into the top four in the country.”

Gushue admits that he and Nichols were delighted to hear that Fry was willing to move to and live on The Rock, full-time... and avoid the new provincial residency restrictions that forced second man Schille to depart the team and return to Alberta.

“We were shocked,” Gushue confirmed. “We thought we’d won the lottery, that’s a good way of putting it.”

And what about Jamie Korab, the Gushue loyallist who was cut adrift following the 2007 Brier? Curling fans saw the split as a typical divorce among teammates but for Newfoundlanders... well, they went somewhat bonkers.

“Jamie seems to have the drive again,” said Gushue.

“I think he’s been quoted recently as saying he overreacted last year and took it a bit personally. He knows what it takes to win and he knows he really didn’t have the drive that year... I think he regretted how things went down and of course then it snowballed and snowballed. It really got out of hand.”

“People have to realize we have the smallest talent pool across Canada,” Gushue added.

“It’s hard to try and find the right fit, the diamond in the rough, so to speak. So it’s been a challenge. If we had thousands of players to draw from like they do in the rest of the country... at the same time, I’m not going to apologize for trying to build as strong a team as you can. I do think that it’s part of the game now.”

Gushue also spoke about his two years since Turin and drew what might become a parallel to another rival skip, who also changed his team following an Olympic appearance... Kevin Martin, the 2008 world champion.

“We’re disappointed (with the last two years),” said Gushue. “Ever since the Olympics we’ve been struggling to find four guys with the same goals, the same drive. The fact that Ryan and Jamie both have that drive is amazing.

“I think a great example is Kevin (Martin). The last couple of years (of his old team) he didn’t seem to have that sparkle in his eyes any more. Then he gets these three young guys with strong goals and a work ethic and I’d say there is a spark there now.”

So what does Korab think about his skip’s comment that he seems to have the drive back?

“I would agree 125 per cent,” Korab declared.

“Without a doubt, back in ’06 we win the gold, Canada’s first Olympic gold for the men, the pinnacle of our sport, blah-blah,” said the excitable Korab.

“And then maybe I was a little lackadaisical. We lose the Brier final, still have a good year, but I guess I thought things would come easy. I didn’t train as hard, didn’t work as hard as I had. And when you make it to that level, people are gunning for you. So you’ve gotta work hard.

“So to say I have the drive again would be an understatement.”

Korab said he understands – now – how the decision to cut him from the team wasn’t meant to be personal.

“I got cut,” said Korab. “The guys didn’t do anything to hurt me, they made the best move for the team and looking back, I agree (with their decision).”

Korab reports that yes indeed, he and his former mates had a few conversations in the lead-up to this year’s Brier – and at the event itself.

“There wasn’t much contact during the summer, but we weren’t going to hold out forever,” said Korab.

“We had a few good conversations at provincials, and then I was actually out at the Brier and I wished the boys the best of luck. It wasn’t fake, it was really nice. I also got to see Brad’s baby, I hadn’t had a chance to see her before.

“Meanwhile me and Ryan we kinda get talking, and he suggests it would be great if we’re both on that team, and I say ‘Well yeah, it would be great, except...’

“Anyway, we literally threw it out on the table and started talking. And when the calls came in there was a lot of excitement.”

Gushue and Korab will appear on local St. John’s television (NTN) Thursday evening for the formal announcement to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.

The people of curling, meanwhile, have this announcement here and now.

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