February 7, 2012
Stoughton's foursome rested, ready for more
By JIM BENDER, QMI Agency
WINNIPEG - This is the sound the rest of his challengers do not want to hear: Jeff Stoughton revving up his fine-tuned motor to take a run at winning yet another curling race this week.
His Charleswood squad may have spent the season enjoying the perks of winning both the world and Canadian championships last year, but they are not about to rest on their laurels — not by a long shot.
“We aren’t where we were last year,” Stoughton said on the eve of the Safeway Championship that starts in Dauphin on Wednesday. “We went overseas and toured with our wives and took advantage of some of the things we got for winning the world championship, and curling kind of took a back seat.”
They also got invitations to both the Canada and Continental Cups, and the TSN Skins Game as Canadian champs.
“But the last two months, we realized how much we want to win again,” said Stoughton, 48. “And we all feel like we’re right there.”
Last season, Stoughton convinced Jon Mead to return to play third and added Reid Carruthers, an accomplished skip, at second. With Steve Gould back at lead, they had a decent cashspiel season, then caught a fire in the provincials that continued to blaze through the Brier and the world championship.
This year, Stoughton has a crack at winning a record 10th Manitoba men’s title — no other skip has won more than five.
“It would be pretty special to win again,” he admitted. “But the number would be irrelevant. It depends on what we would do with it. We want to get back to the Brier and win another Brier.
“I still love the game. I still get nervous. I’ve still got that drive and motivation. If I lose that, then it will be time to give up the game.”
Nervous? Stoughton? Manitoba’s greatest curler?
“Sure, I still get nervous in a game if I have to make a draw against four, or if I have a big hit to make four,” he said.
Stoughton, by the way, has already won three Brier titles, tying him for the most among Manitobans. A fourth would be a new milestone for the curlers of the Keystone Province. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. He will have to win in Dauphin first.
“I’m really looking forward to it,” said Stoughton, who won the last time Dauphin hosted the event (2007). “It’s been a long time since last year, and it’s always exciting to play in the provincials.”
But Stoughton knows there are a handful of squads among the 32-team field that could ruin his run for a 10th title. Chief among them is Fort Rouge’s Mike McEwen, whom he beat in the last two finals, and who is currently ranked No. 1 in the world. In fact, most expect them to face off in this year’s final lap again.
“That’s what all the pundits are saying,” said Stoughton, who could also win four straight titles, which would be another Manitoba first. “It’s almost parallel to last year when they played so well and won a couple of Slams. They put a lot of work into it, and I’m sure they want to win it as badly as we do.
“But whether it’s McEwen or (Brandon’s) Rob Fowler or any one of the other 29 teams, it doesn’t really matter. We just focus on ourselves and not worry about who we’re playing.”
Stoughton, who is currently in fourth place, cannot really catch either McEwen or Ontario’s Glenn Howard in the CTRS standings that will determine a second team to qualify for the 2013 Canadian Curling Trials in Winnipeg this season. So, McEwen, who’s in first, may be a little hungrier at this year’s grocery championship.
Then again, Stoughton does own these playdowns.