Defection rocks curling scene

JIM BENDER -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 1:13 PM ET

One sudden defection could have major implications on the Manitoba men's competitive curling scene.

Ryan Fry confirmed yesterday that he is leaving six-time Manitoba champion Jeff Stoughton, where he had been the vice-skip, to play second for Newfoundland's Brad Gushue.

"I guess we need somebody new," Stoughton chuckled yesterday.

Stoughton had heard the rumours during the Grand Slam's Players' Championship in St. John's, Nfld., on the weekend and Fry finally confirmed them Sunday.

"There is no good timing for something like this," he said. "If we get a high-level player from Manitoba, it's going to disrupt another team because most teams have already been formed for next year."

And that would create a domino effect.

Stoughton, who just earned a berth into the Olympic trials qualifying tournament in Prince George, B.C. through his Canadian Team Ranking System points, would prefer to find a replacement from within Manitoba so he can pursue another provincial title and get back to the Brier. Fry's departure, by the way, does not affect Stoughton's berth in the pre-trials tourney. Nor will it affect his exemption into next year's provincials as Manitoba's top CTRS point-getter.

Jon Mead, Stoughton's former third, ruled himself out as a candidate.

"I'm fairly content with what I've got going on now," said Mead, who is playing third for Ontario's Wayne Middaugh. "It's worked out at least as well as we'd hoped so it would be hard to turn my back on these guys."

Middaugh also clinched a spot in the pre-trials tourney (CTRS points).

Stoughton, however, could probably have his pick from some of Manitoba's top competitive curlers.

"It would be nice to get a third who has always played third but then, Fry skipped before," Stoughton said. "But we need a guy who has the time and can commit to it."

Stoughton was also wondering why Fry really left.

"I wanted to play with three guys who were closer to my own age and a team that can win a Brier," said Fry, 29. "Jeff's still one of the best players in the game today but you look at his longevity and you don't know how much longer it is. Hopefully, we'll win lots of provincials, then the Brier. Then there's the Olympics.

"Jeff is a solid guy and there were no hard feelings. He did a lot in helping to develop my game and we had a good couple of years together."

Fry plans to move to Newfoundland this June and hopes to find a job there. He will replace Chris Schille, who is moving back to Alberta. Jamie Korab, who helped Gushue win the Olympic gold medal in 2006, will return to replace Dave Noftall at lead.


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