Curling schedule getting serious for John Morris and Kevin Martin rink

Alberta third John Morris yells words of encouragement to his teammates during an afternoon game...

Alberta third John Morris yells words of encouragement to his teammates during an afternoon game against Quebec at The Brier in London, Ont., March 8, 2011. (DEREK RUTTAN/QMI Agency)

ROD KELLY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:09 PM ET

CALGARY - If you’re a fan who thinks it’d be difficult for a player who’s won gold on curling’s biggest stage to get motivated for the regular circuit, think again!

For Calgary’s John Morris, a.k.a., Johnny Mo, it’s the regular grind — those weekend battles on the men’s schedule this season and next — which are most crucial.

And not only for the reigning Olympic championship rink he plays on, but for every team taking aim at the 2014 Games in Sochi, Russia.

“I think now is the time when we really want to start to step it up,” said Morris, the Chestermere firefighter and all-star third who reached the first-place podium in Vancouver almost three years ago alongside skip Kevin Martin, second Marc Kennedy, both of Edmonton, and lead Ben Hebert, another Calgarian.

“I know our rink is starting to think about how we can make sure we peak for next year’s Olympic Trials. It’s an important year, right now, and next year, too. We want to peak at the right time.”

Not surprisingly, the Martin contingent has been in contention at several World Curling Tour events early this season.

Perhaps not a stellar start to the 2012-13 campaign by their standards, Martin & Co. reached the semifinals in Saskatoon and also in Brooks.

As well, the Alberta rink won the title at the Westcoast Classic in New Westminster, B.C., and had a second-place showing at the Canad Inns Prairie Classic in Portage la Prairie, Man.

“We’ve been playing a lot this year,” Morris said. “It’s one of the busiest schedules we’ve had in awhile. We wanted to make sure we were out there competing a lot, and make sure we don’t get rusty.”

From his perspective, Morris said there’s been plenty of reason for optimism when he considers the rink’s success so far this fall.

“We haven’t always been quite as sharp as we would have liked,” Morris said. “But there’s been positives we can take out of it, too. Now, with slams and the Canada Cup coming up, we want to make sure we’re playing well. This is a good time to step it up.”

The first men’s grand slam on the schedule is this weekend’s $100,000 Masters of Curling in Brantford.

Martin and reigning world champion Glenn Howard of Ontario are the only rinks that have so far qualified for next year’s Olympic Trials on the men’s side.

The Masters competition is a valuable one, considering the points that are at stake for teams looking to join Martin and Howard at the 2013 Roar of the Rings in Winnipeg.

Following this weekend’s Masters, it’s the highly-anticipated Capital One Canada Cup in Moose Jaw, Sask., Nov. 28-Dec. 2.

It was at the 2011 Canada Cup where Martin, Morris and teammates earned their ticket to the 2013 Trials.

And while the team can compete this season and next knowing it’s already secured a Trials spot, Morris said solid showings at both the Masters and this year’s Canada Cup are important to the Olympic champions.

“I think we’ve been close a lot this year,” Morris said.

“We’ve seen some other teams really step it up, too, especially the past couple of years. That’s great. It’s good for the sport, but it also means we have to make sure we’re ready.”

PETRYK READIES FOR SLAM

Steve Petryk couldn’t have asked for a much better result last weekend in preparation for the upcoming $100,000 Masters of Curling in Brantford, Ont, a grand slam on the men’s WCT circuit.

The Calgary rink won Sunday in the championship game at the Original 16 World Curling Tour championship at the Calgary Curling Club.

He and teammates Dan Petryk, Dean Joanisse and Roland Robinson will join Team Koe as the two Calgary entries at the 32-rink showcase in Brantford, Ont.


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