Soo skip retools rink

PETER RUICCI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 2:32 PM ET

SAULT STE. MARIE, Ont. -- Following a highly-successful run at the 2010 Brier — a 9-2 record and a third-place finish — the Sault rink skipped by Brad Jacobs will be reconfigured for 2010-2011.

With lead Caleb Flaxey moving to Calgary, Jacobs, third E.J. Harnden and second Ryan Harnden have brought Sault native Scott Seabrook aboard to take Flaxey’s spot.

Jacobs and the Harnden brothers hope to get a quick start to their season when they attend a training weekend in Edmonton, Sept. 10-12.

The La Releve Program is designed to assist elite, individual curlers, 32 years of age and under, in training, preparation and competitive performance.

La Releve, loosely translated, equates to the “next generation.”

A recent letter, inviting the Jacobs rink to participate, informed team members they’d been recognized for their success and seen as “part of the next wave of podium-bound athletes with the potential to wear the Canadian Maple Leaf on the world stage.”

Jacobs and the Harndens booked their flights to Edmonton on Wednesday.

“It’s definitely an honour,” the 25-year-old Jacobs said.

Though he’s no longer a team member, Flaxey was also invited.

Reached in Calgary, the 26-year-old said he’d love to have gone, but would be in Victoria, B.C., that weekend for a trip he’d previously planned.

“If it was any other weekend, I’d be there for sure,” he said. “It would have been awesome.”

Shortly after the team’s 10-3, semifinal loss to eventual Brier champion Kevin Koe, Flaxey told his teammates of plans to move to Calgary to be with his girlfriend, Alli Nimik.

Jacobs said the move “didn’t make it feasible” for Flaxey to continue curling with the rest of the Soo Curlers Association foursome.

“He (Flaxey) wouldn’t have been able to compete in Brier playdowns,” Jacobs said, citing the fact Flaxey would no longer be living in the province. “And as far as the World Curling Tour, it would have cost way too much to fly him to spiels. The three of us talked about it along with (coach) Tom (Coulterman) and that was our conclusion.”

While he says it was difficult for him to move and there are no hard feelings, Flaxey was hoping the team could try out a long-distance relationship, with him travelling to meet his teammates, for one year.

“It’s amicable,” he said of the split. “I was just disappointed by the way in which I was informed.”

Flaxey said he was told of the team’s decision to seek a replacement by e-mail, something Jacobs confirmed.

“But they’re still my buddies and I wish them nothing but the best,” Flaxey said. “I’ll be tracking all of their games, for sure.”

Though it’s difficult to lose Flaxey, Jacobs called Seabrook “a great addition and a great player.”

As for the training weekend in Edmonton, Jacobs' request to have Seabrook, who played second for Al Belec’s Sault rink a year ago, accompany the team there was denied.

Thirty-two women and 32 men were originally invited and openings are quickly filled by others on a waiting list.

“The coaching they’re going to provide us with there is topnotch,” Jacobs said. “Anything they can do to make us better, they’re going to do.”

The Sault skip believes much of the instruction will deal with the mental part of the game — something he believes accounts for “90 per cent” of curling at this level.

“It’s going to be curling all day, every day there,” the skip said. “We’re really looking forward to it.”


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