Full-time curlers have last laugh

PAUL FRIESEN -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 7:22 AM ET

At the time it seemed a little risky: four guys quitting their day jobs to try curling for a living.

I imagine coming home with that little brainstorm drew a scowl or two at the family dinner table, not to mention some laughs at the local curling club.

Well, nobody's laughing anymore, except maybe Randy Ferbey, Dave Nedohin, Scott Pfeiffer and Marcel Roque.

They are, of course, Team Ferbey, the three-time Brier champs and two-time world title holders.

They're also sitting at about $250,000 in earnings this year -- $150,000 in winnings plus $100,000 in sponsorships -- which isn't bad, even divided by four, for five months work.

"We figured we needed to make $100,000, or a little over $100,000," Nedohin was saying over the phone from Edmonton yesterday. "We've obviously re-adjusted our goals."

Funny thing is, Nedohin, the transplanted Winnipegger, figures he took a huge pay cut for this latest career move, the second time he's done that for the game he loves.

This is the same guy who, when he graduated from the U of M back in 1997, took the $40,000-a-year job in Alberta instead of the one that paid $90K, just so he could keep curling.

This time around he left the consulting firm he founded, a business that was booming.

"I probably wouldn't like myself very much if I had to quit curling," Nedohin explained. "It was a huge hit in the pocketbook, but again, it was something in my heart I needed to do. A lot of people think I'd be crazy for doing that."

This week, Nedohin's pursuit of happiness brings him back home, to the Canadian Open of Curling, one of the big-money events on the World Curling Tour.

It's the first time the Tour has ventured into a big-time arena, and Nedohin is looking forward to his first look at the new, downtown rink.

Most of the game's big names are here, too -- Martin, Morris, Middaugh and Stoughton -- all after the $30,000 top prize.

But, ultimately, this full-time, rock-throwing gig isn't about dollar signs, it's about rings. As in, Olympics.

The Fab Four's sights are set on next September's Olympic Trials, and the biggest bonspiel of them all, the Winter Games in Turin, Italy -- the only notch on the broom these guys don't have.

That's why they've been at it almost non-stop, travelling from Gander, Nfld., to Vernon, B.C., with a stop in Perth, Scotland, along the way -- some 15 spiels since September, with just one week off until January.

"We didn't know exactly how much was going to be too much, as far as being on the road," Nedohin said. "We wanted to find out ... so we can prepare ourselves best for next year's trials."

They found out, like The Beatles before them, that being with the same four guys on the road all the time can get a little tiring.

Instead of breaking up, though, they just took the last two weeks off.

"As bad as it's going to sound, it's like a wife," Nedohin said, no doubt setting himself up for another dinner-table scowl tonight. "When you're married for a while, there's little things about your wife that once in a while are going to annoy you ... and when you look at all the great things about them and all the reasons you love them, then those things seem so insignificant."

Based on the results, this is one functional family.

And the head of it isn't about to let anyone slack off.

"It's been prosperous," Ferbey said. "At the same time, it's a little tiring. A lot of people mention the word burnout, but I don't like that word. It's an excuse. We will not use that word at all."

So it's onward and upward. Or, at least, to Winnipeg.

After all, there's another job to do, and, if you're lucky, another cheque to cash.


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