Family values ring true for Jacobs curling team

E.J. Harnden of Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., from the Canadian curling team, attends a practice in...

E.J. Harnden of Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., from the Canadian curling team, attends a practice in Sochi, Russia, on Feb. 9, 2014. (Ben Pelosse/QMI Agency)

TED WYMAN, QMI AGENCY

, Last Updated: 10:11 AM ET

SOCHI, RUSSIA - In increasingly nomadic era for Canadian men's curling, when skips are reaching far and wide to build the best possible teams, Brad Jacobs and his teammates can best be described as throwbacks.

The Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., skip has formed the country's most powerful men's team with players who are mostly family.

His cousins, E.J. Harnden (30) and Ryan Harnden (27) -- yup, they're brothers -- form the front end of the team that won the Canadian championship last year, took a silver medal at the world curling championship and swept through undefeated at the Olympic trials.

Finding the right mix in a sport where teams are annually thrown in the blender and stirred, never has been an issue.

"This has been a dream of ours ever since we were kids and to be able to do something like this together is ultimately the goal that we wanted to achieve since we were young," Jacobs, 28, said Sunday, on the eve of the first draw of the curling competition at the Ice Cube Curling Center.

"With our team, because we're so close, because we were crawling around on the floor as babies together, we can get away with a little bit more honesty, a little bit more openness with one another. Team chemistry, team dynamic is something we always have been trying to build, to get to that point where you have four guys and the chemistry is unbelievable and it's one of the secrets to our success."

The fourth member of the team is third Ryan Fry, 35, an import from Winnipeg who took the team to a new level when he arrived on the scene. Jacobs and his cousins all describe Fry as being part of the family now.

"To start, we have a very close team and I think that's why we've done so well over the past few years," E.J. Harnden said. "We get along so well. We're not just teammates, we're real good friends and family and I think that's helped us. To come and do something like this is a dream come true but to be able to do it with your brother and a cousin, is beyond what any of us could have expected when we were younger and, you know, beating each other up and having fun together.

"It's something I know we'll never forget."

The skip's mom, Cindy Jacobs, is the sister of E.J. and Ryan's dad, Eric Harnden. The boys grew up together and have been curling together, off and on, since they were about 14. While so many teams can't find the balance required to stay together for a long time, longevity has been a huge boon to the Jacobs foursome.

"That goes to show how much chemistry means in our sport and how much of an impact it has in the team's success," E.J. Harnden said.

"For us it's just been a matter of maturing and getting more experience with one another. Now we're at a point where we're not only comfortable but know how to feed off of each other and help each other. That's why our success has come so quickly, because we found that kind of magic.

"With Ryan coming in, it sort of completed the puzzle with four guys who are all on the same page and are great friends on and off the ice."

So a group of buddies, three of them related, gets together to play a sport that about as social as any on the planet and wind up qualifying for the Olympics.

How can it get any better than that?

"We feel very fortunate," Jacobs said.

The Canadian men begin the Olympic curling tournament today with games against Germany and Switzerland.

HARNDEN CHOKES UP

E.J. Harnden saw something Saturday night that made him choke up a little.

The second on Brad Jacobs' Canadian men's curling team was watching the moguls competition as Canadian sisters Justine and Chloe Dufour-Lapointe won gold and silver medals. Harnden, too, has a dream of sharing an Olympic podium with his sibling.

"Honestly, I watched that and it was a little bit emotional for me," Harnden, whose brother Ryan is also part of the Canadian team, said Sunday. "Because that's what I hope to do at the end of the Olympics, is stand on the top of the podium with my brother, and with my cousin Brad. It would be extremely special to me."

The Harnden brothers have curled together for most of their lives and have curled off and on with Jacobs since they were 14.

"Now, it's crazy," Harnden said. "We've won a Brier and came second at a world championship and the very next year we're here at the Olympics. It's been a whirlwind, it's beyond our expectations even though we set this as our goal."


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