Winnipeg's Jeff Stoughton will have an Olympic gold medallist at lead when the team takes to the ice next curling season.
Stoughton told the Free Press Monday afternoon that 2006 gold medallist Mark Nichols, the former third for Brad Gushue, will move with his wife to Winnipeg this summer and will compete with the Stoughton foursome on next winter"s cash spiel circuit and in next year's Manitoba men's provincial playdowns.
Stoughton -- with third Jon Mead and second Reid Carruthers -- is focussed on qualifying to represent Canada at the 2014 Winter Olympics and said the fact Nichols has already undertaken that journey successfully was a big factor in offering him the position.
"There's no doubt -- it's a huge perk that he's a guy who's been there, done that already," said Stoughton. who lost the 2005 final of the Canadian Curling Trials to Nichols and his skip, Brad Gushue.
"We're a group of guys who are focussed and want exactly the same thing right now. That's what makes this so exciting."
Nichols left the Gushue team in the spring of 2011 and did not curl competitively last winter with the lone exception of The Players Championship in Charlottetown, where he curled lead for Stoughton in what the men described at the time as a "one-off" experiment.
The audition was inauspicious as the foursome won just one game all week, but Stoughton said the adversity of the week proved to a perfect test of how the men could work together. "In a way, it's a perfect way to see how you fit together," said Stoughton.
Reached by phone Monday afternoon in St. John's, Nichols said the week with Stoughton proved to him that he wasn't done with curling yet. "I realized that I still have a bit of game left in me and that I still want to play," Nichols said. "It took me a long time to make this decision...but it's a chance to get back playing and get playing with someone who's pretty good too."
Nichols -- who was widely considered the premier third in the world at one time -- said he hasn't played lead full time since he was about 15, but had no hesitation in dropping down to play with Stoughton, who will have Mead remain at third and Carruthers at second.
"I will do anything these guys want to make this team and make this team work," said Nichols. "If that means throw up a couple of guards and then sweep my ass off, that's what I will do."
Nichols, a fitness trainer, said he and his wife, Colette, a dental assistant, will spend the summer selling their home and finding a place to live in Winnipeg. He said they're both hoping to find work in their fields in Winnipeg.