Residency, family ties the keys to Russ' future

PERRY LEFKO -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:25 AM ET

REGINA -- You are Russ Howard and you have done it all in your career: National and world championships and an Olympic gold medal.

So, what do you do now?

Because he is based in New Brunswick, he faces an uncertain future with the Brad Gushue Newfoundland foursome that recruited him last year for the Olympic trials in December. The team won the trials, then followed up with an Olympic gold in Italy.

"It's just been a great ride," Howard said earlier this week of the camaraderie and friendships that developed with the Olympic team. "We've had a lot of fun along the way."

The foursome likely will be invited to some international competitions and/or cashspiels. If Howard wanted to continue playing with the Gushue team in provincial playdowns in Newfoundland with an eye toward the Brier, he'll have to make some adjustments. The rules for the provincials are different from the trials, which places no restrictions on player qualifications. At the provincial level, a team must be comprised of players residing in that province.

Howard could hurry hard and move to St. John's or set up a temporary residence, which some players have done in other provinces to qualify for playdowns.

Howard and his wife, Wendy, have transportable jobs selling real estate.

But the Howards have two children, so there are family considerations. Russ curled last season with his 21-year-old son Steven in some cashspiels, and one of the old man's dreams is to some day qualify with his son for the Brier, which would be something like Gordie Howe playing on the same NHL team as his sons.

But if Russ wants to try the provincial playdowns route with his son, he might not have the same opportunity of winning in New Brunswick as he would playing for Gushue in Newfoundland.

Gushue's foursome is the pre-eminent team on the Rock.

"I would love to (stay with the team permanently) if there was some legal angle to do that," Howard said. "We've got something special here, I think. You've got the old man's strategy, knowing all the other teams weaknesses, and wonderful young talent. Nobody can argue. So far, it has worked.

"We've had so much fun doing it. We truly are having a ball. I think that's made the difference under pressure, too. Of all the teams I've been on -- and I've played on a couple that were every bit as talented, including moreso with Wayne (Middaugh), Pete (Corner) and (Russ' brother) Glenn -- I think we've having even more fun, if that's possible. In those pressure situations, that's half the battle."

In 1998, his final year in Ontario before moving to New Brunswick, Howard played on a team that won the national money title, collecting $143,000 for his efforts.

He had a job offer as a golf pro in New Brunswick and needed the work. So, he resigned himself that his celebrated curling career in Ontario was over after five Briers (winning two), a pair of world championships, two Olympic trials appearances and tons of money on the cashspiel circuit.

New Brunswick didn't have the same pool of talent as Ontario, but the best curlers lined up to skip with Howard, who would go on to win five more provincial titles in six years, starting in 1999.

He made it to the Brier final in 2000 and placed third in 2003. That appeared to be as good as it was going to get for Howard, who had accumulated various Brier records as a skip for total appearances, games played and wins.

Then came the pinnacle last month -- winning an Olympic gold medal.

We likely haven't seen -- or, in his case, heard -- the last of Howard. At age 50, Old Yeller is still rocking along with no signs of sitting in a curling rocking chair.


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