WINNIPEG - The “Gunner” has gone from star of the future to Russian champ, then to cold, hard reality.
In fact, they could already write a book about Jason Gunnlaugson no matter what his curling future may now hold.
To recap, it was just back in 2009 when Gunnlaugson’s foursome surprised even themselves by earning a trip to the Canadian Curling Trials through a pre-qualifying spiel where the more accomplished Mike McEwen failed to advance.
Gunnlaugson, who is known for his one-million-miles-an-hour rockets (check YouTube), became both a fan favourite and a media darling at those trials despite not winning a single game — as he had predicted beforehand.
Gunnlaugson then interrupted his progression as a Canadian team of the future to become one of three Canadian hired guns of the Russian Curling Federation. The other two were his trials teammates, Justin Richter and Tyler Forrest. They spent the first part of the 2010-11 season training in both Canada and Russia with a pair of Russian recruits, and trying to learn their language.
They won the Russian championship with those recruits and were readying themselves to qualify for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia when the Russians suddenly sent the Canucks packing.
What followed was a rather forgettable season once the three were reinstated to become eligible for the Canadian playdowns again.
Gunnlaugson then started the current season anew, recruiting Saskatchewan’s Jason Ackerman and Manitoba’s David Kraichy to join him and Richter. They didn’t last half a season together. Richter, who was getting married, decided to sit out the rest of the season and Gunnlaugson spared for whatever team came calling.
That’s when “Gunner” hooked up with Assiniboine Memorial’s Bohn brothers.
“It was through Reid (Carruthers), really, because I didn’t even know those guys,” Gunnlaugson said before his newfound foursome opened the Safeway Championship in Dauphin with a 9-2 victory over East St. Paul’s Carl German on Wednesday. “One of their guys, Larry Solomon, had decided to go back to school at the start of the year, so they were playing with three and picking up spares.”
Carruthers, who usually plays second for Charleswood’s Jeff Stoughton, skipped the Bohn team to victory at a World Curling Tour cashspiel in Swan River. Gunnlaugson, who had become part of CurlManitoba’s Road Show with Carruthers, was sparing for an ailing Vic Peters there.
“Reid floated the idea of us joining and we said, ‘Perfect,’” said Gunnlaugson, who then skipped the squad into the provincials.
“This season hasn’t really gone according to plan but at least I’ve gotten to play with a lot of guys I never got to play with before,” Gunnlaugson said. “Before, it was all about getting the (CTRS) points and stuff to qualify for the trials. Now, it’s a different mentality.”
Twins David and Dennis Bohn are no slouches as they lost the 2008 provincial final to Assiniboine Memorial’s Kerry Burtnyk. Andrew Irving, who moved from third to lead, has won a junior men’s championship. David surrendered the skip’s reins to Gunnlaugson.
“There’s not a lot of expectations on us,” Gunnlaugson said of the eighth-seeded squad. “We don’t expect too much of ourselves, either, but you never know.”
Yes, no one knows better than the “Gunner” that you just never know what might happen.