Manitoba’s reigning curling champion Jeff Stoughton is seeking a brand new team.
Stoughton has already parted ways with third Kevin Park, as expected. But second Rob Fowler will not be back and lead Steve Gould is mulling over whether to return.
“The whole team is going to change right now for next year,” Stoughton said Wednesday. “It’s not a surprise that Kevin won’t be here and he knew that. Rob was going to step away from the game anyway and Steve’s up in the air, so it’s hard to say what the team is going to look like.”
Fowler’s wife is due to give birth to their first child in June and he is poised to take over the family’s auto dealership business in Brandon so his dad, Brian, can retire.
Because at least half of his team is changing, Stoughton will lose his exemption into next year’s provincials as the defending champ.
Although Stoughton has not officially asked anyone to play for him next season, he did ask Reid Carruthers about the state of his injured knee (he will likely need surgery).
“It sounds like it’s doing better now and he’s young so he will recover fast,” Stoughton said.
Carruthers would only say that he was “honoured” that the two-time Brier champ would call him but he had not discussed plans with his own team yet.
Although Stoughton did not come out and say it, it is believed that he also called Jason Gunnlaugson. Carruthers and Gunnlaugson once played together. In fact, they lost the 2006 Manitoba final to Stoughton.
Stoughton hopes to have his new lineup in place in time for the Players’ Championship next month. Both the Gunnlaugson and Carruthers teams have also been confirmed as participants, although it is doubtful that Carruthers will be ready to play.
It is unlikely that Jon Mead will return to play with Stoughton. Another possibility is Mike McEwen, whose team came so close to beating Stoughton at this year’s provincials.
Meanwhile, Stoughton did not regret recruiting Park from Alberta despite missing the playoffs with a 7-4 record at last week’s Brier.
“I don’t think so,” he said. “He did everything we expected and is a great shotmaker. There’s no way of knowing if it was a good move or a bad move. We did have a couple of good years together, making it to the Brier final last year and we played well at the (2009) trials.”
But Stoughton, who is 46, obviously still has the desire to keep competing.
“I still love the game and feel that I can perform at the top level,” he said.