Park's move to Manitoba pays off

Kevin Park of Team Stoughton warms up during the Roar of the Rings team practice sessions yesterday...

Kevin Park of Team Stoughton warms up during the Roar of the Rings team practice sessions yesterday in Edmonton. (Amber Bracken, Sun Media)

CON GRIWKOWSKY, Sun Media

, Last Updated: 2:51 PM ET

Nobody has ever questioned Kevin Park’s ability or his dedication to curling.

He won a Brier title back in 1991 throwing third rock for then young upstarts skipped by Kevin Martin. They earned a trip to the 1992 Albertville Olympics off that win.

Yet, by the mid-90’s, the relationship broke up. Since then, Park had been unable to duplicate that early success, even though he skipped his own team in the 1997 trials.

Too much depth and too many established teams in Alberta left him out of the mix.

Park was ready for a change of scenery.

So, when he got the call came back in the fall of 2008, he wasted little time in agreeing to join Jeff Stoughton’s team.

Even though his family is still here, Park now splits his time between Edmonton and Brandon.

“It wasn’t much thought to it, given where I was in the curling world at that time,” said Park, who filled in the spot vacated by Ryan Fry, the team’s former third who moved to Newfoundland to tag up with 2006 Olympic gold medallist Brad Gushue.

“I had to jump at the chance,” said Park. “The thing is, you could find good guys here, but that doesn’t put you in the thick of things as far as going to Olympic trials and Briers and everything else.

“You look at the depth here in Alberta, even if you form a real solid crew, you’d still be hard-pressed to crack the code.”

So far, the partnership has worked. The squad lost the 2009 Brier final to Martin and has done well for a second-year team. There’s added incentive here for Stoughton, who lost the 2005 trials final to Gushue.

“We’re not putting all our eggs in one basket as far as this Roar of the Rings,” said Park. “We enjoyed our run at the Brier last year and if things don’t work out here, we’re going to take another run at that.

“It’s been quite a while for me since I’ve been in that type of situation.”

There may have been times Park became discouraged about the inability to showcase his talents, but he remained patient until the right situation showed up.

“It certainly was a little bit discouraging,” said Park, who made a sought-after fill-in on the tour. “I always did manage to have some level of success no matter who I was playing with, but not to this level.”

Playing on another elite team has stoked him up again.

“It was enough to keep me interested,” said Park. “Always deep-down, you had a feeling you could do it. Manitoba’s a tough province, too, but the difference is I was jumping into a lineup that’s really proven itself there.

“It would be akin to cracking into Martin, Ferbey or Koe here, where you’re right in the mix already.”

There are some down sides to the long-distance relationship, including time away from family.

“It’s not a conventional way of doing things,” said Park. “I’m certainly getting a little tired of all these airports. The novelty’s certainly worn off on that part.”

Curling always dangles its carrots that few teams can get a nibble of.

“It’s been well worth it,” said Park. “If we can do well at one of these events, that pays for itself. It’s huge if you win here, obviously.

“Manitoba and Alberta are two curling meccas. You have more teams that are good there. Here, you have the top three, but then you have the fourth to seventh teams that can do a lot of damage.”

For now, Park is happy with the way his situation has allowed him to compete at the level he’s most comfortable with.

con.griwkowsky@sunmedia.ca


Photos