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From high-profile shakeups to legend retirements, a week to remember on curling scene


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The so-called free agency period at the start of an Olympic quadrennial is typically the high-water mark for curling team adjustments and player movement.

Surprise announcements in recent days and speculation on what’s to come has created a Roaring Game version of a mid-quad trade deadline. Teams want to strike before it’s too late so they can prepare for the final 18-month push to the Canadian Curling Trials.

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With some big names on the move and a couple of curling legends calling it quits to boot, it has been a week to remember in the sport.

“Curling fans are getting their fair share of drama and news and that’s good,” veteran skip Brad Jacobs said Thursday.

Jacobs was right in the middle of the news cycle as he left Reid Carruthers’ side to join Brendan Bottcher’s previous team.

His new teammates — Marc Kennedy, Brett Gallant and Ben Hebert _ had delivered a stunner on Tuesday with word they were making a change at the skip position.

Bottcher was out and instantly became a top free agent. The Jacobs jump was finalized Wednesday evening while Carruthers was left to mull options with his front end.

“I just didn’t see another opportunity like this coming my way,” Jacobs said from Sault Ste. Marie, Ont. “To me, it was an opportunity that I couldn’t refuse.

“I think what I like about it the most is it’s going to be a difficult challenge for me and I welcome that very much.”

On the retirement front, Jennifer Jones played her last game on Friday at the Players’ Championship in Toronto. Considered by many to be the greatest women’s skip of all time, she announced plans last February to leave the team game at the end of the season.

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Four-time world men’s champion Glenn Howard, who has battled knee problems in recent years, announced his retirement this week, ending a career that lasted over 40 years.

“Wayne Middaugh had a saying that, ‘To skip, you’ve got to hit-and-stay and draw the eight-foot,”‘ former teammate Brent Laing said from Barrie, Ont. ‘ I think that Glenn Howard is the best ever to do that.”

There have been many other changes in recent days across the country. After Karsten Sturmay’s team disbanded, Kyle Doering — who was a fifth for Brad Gushue’s team at the recent world championship _ joined Aaron Sluchinski’s rink.

John Epping will skip a new team that includes Jacob and Tanner Horgan. And Kate Cameron’s vice Meghan Walter is stepping away to concentrate on her studies.

The Canadian Curling Trials are set for late November 2025 in Halifax. The winners will represent Canada at the 2026 Milan Olympics.

If things weren’t quite working over the first half of the quad, the end of the second year can be a popular time to make changes. It allows the new foursome to get a full season together in the push to qualify for the Trials.

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“There’s nobody that’s safe it seems, for better or for worse,” said Laing, who played at the 2018 Olympics with Kevin Koe and coached Mike McEwen’s side this past season. “We talk about how everybody makes the commitment for four years but that’s just not true, as we’ve seen this week. I’ll say that it’s interesting.”

Bottcher, meanwhile, said via email that he had nothing to add to his statement from this week when he wished his former teammates well and said he was excited about the “next iteration of Team Bottcher.”

Bottcher was 53-21 on the season but didn’t win any major titles. The squad finished just behind Gushue in the Canadian rankings.

“For what we wanted to do with Team Bottcher, we didn’t achieve what we set out to do in terms of winning big events,” team coach Paul Webster said from Calgary.

“The timeline was such that the boys decided they wanted to make a change because they didn’t want to wait to see if that was possible.”

Jacobs, who won Olympic gold in 2014, played with Kennedy from 2019-22. Kennedy and Hebert won Olympic gold with skip Kevin Martin in 2010 while Gallant took bronze with Gushue at the 2022 Games.

Carruthers, meanwhile, finished the campaign ranked sixth in Canada and 11th in the world.

“It has been an unbelievable week,” he said from Winnipeg. “Our team has been put in a situation we weren’t really expecting. But it’s like the nature of curling. It has become a bit of a business.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 18, 2024.

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