SASKATOON -- Winnipeg’s Jeff Stoughton -- just a year removed from winning the world men’s curling championship -- has released his longest serving teammate.
Steve Gould -- a two-time Canadian and world champion as lead for Stoughton and the second winningest men’s curler in the history of Manitoba -- was informed by Stoughton late last week that his services will no longer be required.
"They’ve decided to make a change and that’s that, I guess," said Gould. "I’m shocked, I’m disappointed. There’s a whole gamut of emotions."
Gould won six Manitoba men’s curling championships with Stoughton dating back to 1996, second in the Manitoba record books only to Stoughton, who has won nine Manitoba men’s titles.
Gould and Stoughton together took down five of the last seven Manitoba men’s titles. They also won two Canadian and world championships together, first in 1996 and then again last year.
Contacted Monday morning, Stoughton had nothing but good things to say about Gould. "Steve’s the most successful teammate I’ve ever had," said Stoughton. "He’s a great guy on and off the ice."
Stoughton said he felt it was time for a shakeup on his team, but didn’t want to get into the gritty details of why. "There’s a multitude of reasons why and why not to keep somebody. We’ve discussed them all with Steve and the team..." said Stoughton. "It’s just a change in the team and that’s where it’s going to end."
The release of Gould comes after a disappointing winter for the Stoughton foursome that saw them eliminated in last month’s provincials playoffs by Rob Fowler, who is representing Manitoba here at the Brier this week.
That makes Gould’s firing different in a significant way than Jennifer Jones’s controversial decision two years ago to fire third Cathy Overton-Clapham. Overton-Clapham’s firing came as the Jones team were still in the midst of a historic run of three straight Canadian championships.
But the most significant difference between this situation and that one is that this parting -- while not Gould’s decision -- is ultimately amicable.
Stoughton said the team met with Gould Sunday night and have made a financial agreement with him that will ensure that Gould will continue to receive all the considerable financial benefits that he won with Stoughton when they won the world championship in 2011 -- most notably the tax free Sport Canada funding the four players are due to continue to receive through June 2013.
"We’re trying to do absolutely everything we can to ensure that what Steve won in 2011 is continued to be received for the two years we’re allowed to receive it," Stoughton said Monday morning.
Gould said he is satisfied with what amounted to a severance agreement and has no interest in bad-mouthing his former skip or teammates publicly.
"The reasons we’re going our separate ways are going to be left amongst just our team, if that’s alright," said Gould. "I don’t need to air any laundry out there."
Stoughton said Monday morning that he is committed to continue curling with Mead and Carruthers through the 2012-13 curling season, with a view towards qualifying for the December 2013 Canadian Curling Trials at MTS Centre, where Canada’s men’s and women’s representatives for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi will be determined.
Stoughton said he has not yet approached any new players and may audition a couple different leads at two cash spiel events his team is committed to play in later this month in Victoria and then next month in Prince Edward Island.
Gould said he’s not sure what his curling future will now hold, but he sounds like he still wants to play. "I sure don’t want my last curling game to be (the loss to Fowler) at the provincials in Dauphin," said Gould. "In any sport -- even just in life -- you want to walk away on your own terms.
"But I’ll be fine. You know me -- I’m a fighter."