An off-season of change:
The Sweeping Summit
The 2015-16 season is one that most in the international curling community would like to forget and there was much pressure on those to whom the integrity of the sport is entrusted to make the changes necessary in the off-season so that the focus returns to the skills and shot-making of the curlers and not on the equipment they are using. The World Curling Federation made positive strides in addressing the problem by hosting the “Sweeping Summit” this off-season. Each of the major stakeholder groups were in attendance and some of the world’s best sweepers and shot-makers were on hand to help with the testing. The “Sweeping Summit” led to a series of recommendations that are likely to be passed at the upcoming World Curling Congress to be held in Stockholm, Sweden. One of the athletes who took part in the testing told From The Hack that he believes these recommendations will put the game back in the hands of the shot-makers and will eliminate much of the concerns that existed last year. That being said, the same individual did express some concern about how these changes and recommendations can be implemented and regulated at the local level. Here is a link to the press release issued by the WCF following the Sweeping Summit.
Typically, the sport of curling sees a number of lineup changes immediately following the end of an Olympic cycle as players plan for the four-year process of qualifying for the next Olympic Trials and ultimately to represent their country at the Olympics. Towards the end of an Olympic cycle lineup changes are usually only made when a serious injury occurs. However, this off-season was a bit of an oddity with a number of elite teams making key changes to their lineup.
The dissolution of the two-time Brier winning Team Simmons seemed to be the accelerator for some of these high profile changes.. Although Carter Rycroft and Nolan Thiessen decided to take some time away from playing competitively, it did not take long for Pat Simmons and John Morris to find new teams for the 2016-17 season.
Pat Simmons who has been to nine Briers and two World Championships joins Team Bottcher who start the season ranked 14th in the WCT Order of Merit after an indifferent season where they did not win any events and never challenged at any of the grand slam events. Simmons believes this new lineup is a good fit as he can bring experience to a young, talented team:
John Morris was one of the more intriguing free agents of the off-season and he chose to reunite with Team Cotter. Morris played with Team Cotter in 2013-14 when they made the final at both the Olympic Trials and the Brier. Cotter hopes that they will be able to take care of some unfinished business this time around:
Another unexpected free agent in the off-season was 2016 Canadian Junior champion Matt Dunstone who left the team he had also skipped to the finals of the Manitoba Playdowns to join Alex Forrest’s team which Dunstone will skip. Dunstone explained why he split with the team he had led to a Canadian Junior Championship.
As it turns out, Dunstone learned some hard lessons about the business of curling in the off-season and he is now looking forward to some on-ice redemption.
One of the more interesting developments over the summer involved Team Howard. It started with Wayne Middaugh having to sit-out the 2016-17 season as he rehabilitates from a leg injury that kept him out of the Brier last season. He has been replaced on Team Howard by David Mathers who played out of PEI last season with Adam Casey. Mathers will play 2nd for Team Howard while Richard Hart moves up to his familiar position as 3rd:
The lineup switch was not even Glenn Howard’s biggest curling news of the summer. To the surprise of many, including Glenn Howard, he was asked to serve as a coach for Eve Muirhead and her team:
There were also a few significant changes on the women’s side starting with Team Sigfridsson of Sweden that will now have Cissi Ostlund throwing 4th stones, replacing Maria Prytz. Ostlund, who won the Swedish Nationals with her own team last season, will look to help Team Sigfridsson rebound from an uneven 2015-16 season.
U.S. Women’s teams
In an effort to maximize the talents of the athletes in their High Performance Program, USA Curling has made significant changes to both Team Roth and Team Sinclair for the 2016-17 season. Derek Brown, the director of USA Curling’s High Performance Program indicated the changes were made with the goal of finding a combination that will develop into a top-tier team and challenge for major titles such as the World Championship and an Olympic medal in Pyeongchang 2018.
For the third consecutive season, Stefanie Lawton will be playing with a different 3rd. Veteran Beth Iskiw, who is best remembered for winning a Scott Tournament of Hearts as 3rd for Heather Nedohin, joins Team Lawton as they attempt to re-establish themselves as a top-ten team. Lawton is confident that Iskiw is a good fit for the team.
*The full interviews will be posted on “From The Hack” next week.