September 15, 2011
Team Gushue rebuilding
By DARCY CHEEK, QMI Agency
Brad Gushue knows what it takes to forge a world-class curling team into an Olympic champion.
This year, the Newfoundland skip is hoping a blend of top end experience and back end youth and energy will be the start of a journey back to the Olympics, starting with the AMJ Campbell Shorty Jenkins Classic this week.
With a failed relationship with Randy Ferbey last season and the departure of longtime teammate Mark Nichols after the 2011 Tim Hortons Brier, Gushue is back at the Shorty with a rink featuring two new players: Geoff Walker of Alberta and Adam Casey of P.E.I.
"Things are a little bit different, not having Mark on the team any more," said Gushue of his Olympic and World Junior championship teammate.
Gushue, Walker, Casey and third Ryan Fry, who has played every position on the rink except skip, were the first team to hit the ice for practice at the Brockville Country Club on Wednesday.
The rink has had limited opportunity to play and likely won't be taking advantage of any golfing at the country club this week.
"It's exciting for me," he said of a fresh start with new teammates. "You can definitely feel a new kind of energy on the team."
Gushue is confident the move of Fry to third – a position he played in the past with the Jeff Stoughton rink – will compliment "one of best" shooters in the business of curling.
The addition of Walker in the second position and Casey in lead brings an element of experience Gushue and Fry were looking in the selection process.
Walker has two world junior title, one as an alternate, with Calgary's Charley Thomas, and Casey was a world junior silver medalist with Brett Gallant.
"Geoff is a big, strong kid from Grande Prairie (Alta.)," Gushue said of the 25-year-old, "and he has a ton of potential."
Walker stunned the curling world earlier this year when skipped his rink to victories over former world champions Ferbey and Kevin Koe.
"He has a nice calmness about him, and I expect good things out of him," said Gushue.
Casey, Gushue said, brings a fitness and technical skill level that will also compliment a strong front end for the team.
"The difference, from teams of the past, I think our sweeping has improved quite a bit."
Gushue knows as well as any rink boss that moulding a team takes time and patience, but he hasn't felt this much anticipation to get going in a few years.
"Just the feeling of wanting to get out and play. There hasn't been that kind of excitement."
Enthusiasm will likely be tempered by the odd rough spot along the road, something Gushue expects and accepts.
"To be quite honest, we're not going to be too concerned with results," Gushue said of the Shorty and early bonspiels this season. "We expect there are going to be some bumps along the way this season."
The 15th annual Shorty Jenkins Classic has traditionally been good to the Gushue rink. he won in 2009 and was the runner up to Glenn Howard in 2007.
"I think we've been in the semis or the finals every time," said Fry prior to taking the ice.
The new rink will be taking the Shorty Jenkins Classic seriously while working on a few basic team concepts like communication and technical proficiency.
And while the complete rink might be new to most everyone Gushue meets along the way this week, there shouldn't be anyone taking them lightly.
"Anybody who knows me, and has curled against me, knows we are competitive," said Gushue. "We've done pretty well here. We're going to give it the old college try."
Gushue begins his Shorty schedule today when he meets Martin Ferland of Quebec City in the second draw of the day at 6:30 p.m.
The first draw of the 15th annual AMJ Shorty Jenkins Classic bonspiel starts at 4 p.m. Friday's draw begins at 10:15 a.m. with the last draw at 8:30 p.m. There is also a full day of curling on Saturday, with the playoff round starting on Sunday at 9 a.m.