There were some major changes on the Manitoba men's curling scene over the weekend, with Jon Mead announcing Sunday he is going to curl next winter with Ontario's Glenn Howard while Reid Carruthers announced he's put together what looks to be a new local powerhouse.
Mead -- best known as the longtime third for perennial Manitoba champion Jeff Stoughton -- told the Free Press Sunday he will play second next season for Glenn Howard of Coldwater, Ont. Craig Savill, Howard's longtime lead, will remain in that position, while Richard Hart will reunite with Howard at third to round out the team. Wayne Middaugh, who had been Howard's third in recent years, is stepping aside, while it was previously announced Brent Laing, Howard's longtime second, is going to curl next winter with Alberta's Kevin Koe.
Mead had been looking for a new team in recent weeks after the Stoughton team announced after last month's Brier they are breaking up at the end of this year. Mead said Sunday the opportunity to curl with Howard was too good to pass up.
"I'd always hoped that I would get a chance to curl with Glenn before my career was over," said Mead.
Mead -- who won Briers in 1999 and 2011 and a world championship in 2011, all with Stoughton -- has curled second just once before in his career, and only for a single season, back in the late 1980s.
Mead said he will continue to live in Manitoba but is hopeful he will be able to curl with Howard in next winter's Ontario playdowns for a chance to represent that province at the Brier.
Mead's hope is based on a widely held expectation the Canadian Curling Association will this summer change its residency requirements so teams competing at future Briers and Scotties will require only three of the team's four members to be from the province they're representing.
That rule change would also affect Carruthers' new foursome. Carruthers -- best known as a front-end player for Stoughton in recent years -- announced Sunday he's forming a new team with Saskatchewan's Braeden Moskowy at third, former teammate Derek Samagalski at second and Alberta's Colin Hodgson at lead.
Moskowy represented Saskatchewan at the 2013 Brier, while Hodgson is a two-time Alberta junior champion. Samagalski won a Manitoba men's title as lead for Rob Fowler in 2012 and previously played with Carruthers.
Carruthers said Hodgson has already moved to Winnipeg, while Moskowy is remaining in Regina pending the expected residency rule change.
Put it all together, and Carruthers appears to have created an instant and bona fide challenger for next year's Manitoba men's title, particularly with all the uncertainty right now surrounding Stoughton's future and that of perennial Manitoba also-ran Mike McEwen.
"I'm really pumped. It's a team of guys who've all already won something before," said Carruthers. "And we're all at a point in our lives where we can still really make curling a priority."
With Sunday's developments, all the attention will now turn to what Stoughton and McEwen are going to do.
Sources indicated Sunday that Stoughton has been in discussions to have Fowler play third for him next year, but the 11-time Manitoba men's champion continues to search for a front end to round out the squad.
There are conflicting messages, meanwhile, coming out of the McEwen camp. The skip has insisted to at least one friend his current team -- third B.J. Neufeld, second Matt Wozniak and lead Denni Neufeld -- intends to remain together. But there have also been suggestions B.J. Neufeld has expressed an interest in skipping his own team next year.
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