Park to the rescue

JIM BENDER -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 11:04 AM ET

A week ago, Manitoba skip Jeff Stoughton was still trying to get over the shock of his third, Ryan Fry, suddenly defecting to Newfoundland's Brad Gushue.

Yesterday, Stoughton may have become a better team with the addition of Alberta's Kevin Park to replace Fry.

"Kevin is top five or 10 curlers in Canada, bar none," said Rob Fowler, Stoughton's second. "He's a Brier champion (at third for Kevin Martin in 1991) and he's actually played in the Olympics when it was a demonstration sport (1992) ... I think he'll make our team as good or better. He's just a topnotch player."

Together with lead Steve Gould, Stoughton made the announcement at a precedent-setting press conference called by the team and held at a team sponsor's business.

Meanwhile, it looks like reigning Manitoba champion Kerry Burtnyk will indeed add Alberta's Don Walchuk to his lineup as the Sun first suggested when he cut third Dan Kammerlock. Burtnyk, however, declined to confirm that move again yesterday.

Park also skipped his own squads at both the 2001 and 1997 Canadian Curling Trials.

"He's going to bring a lot to our team," said Stoughton, a former world and two-time Brier champ. "We've seen that whenever he's been with great teams that he's a great player and a great personality out there. I think he's going to mesh well with us so, we don't have to have a little bit of a learning curve. That was our objective with Ryan and those things didn't work out. With Kevin, he can fit right in. He knows the pressure and he knows what it's going to take to win."

Park's international experience gave him the edge over younger, local curlers. Players on both the Mike McEwen and Reid Carruthers teams -- including McEwen and Carruthers -- were seriously considered, Stoughton said.

"We wanted someone now," Stoughton said. "We didn't want someone for 2014. We're looking for 2010 (Olympic trials). We're looking for that experience and we got it."

But Park was the first choice despite a battle with the bottle that had caused him so many problems in the past.

"He's been two years without a drink," said Stoughton, who has already earned a berth into the Olympic trials qualifying tournament. "I'm not sure if he's in a program or not but he's been two years dry and I can't see any problems unless he starts missing a lot. Then, my teammates will force him to do something along those lines. I don't think that's going to be a problem and if it is, we'll deal with it then. He knows what he's coming into and we know what we expect from him."

Park was overjoyed.

"I am very excited about this new team and really do believe we have a shot at some great accolades," he said in an e-mail. "Curling success is largely dependent on how the team gels so hopefully, I can slide in and get the job done."

Stoughton also suggested that Park will be a better third than Walchuk.

"Don Walchuk's a great player and he and Kerry should be a great fit," he said. "I know they've played together in the past."

Walchuk has won two Brier titles with Alberta's Pat Ryan, one with Martin and an Olympic silver medal with Martin (2001).


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