Edmonton’s Kevin Martin is done, while Calgary’s John Morris is just hitting his stride.
The former teammates and 2010 Olympic gold medallists hooked up at the MTS Centre in a semifinal Saturday afternoon at the Roar of the Rings that proved as much about a changing of the guard as a game to determine who would face Brad Jacobs in today’s final, where Canada’s men’s representative for Sochi will be determined.
With a 7-5 loss to Morris, Martin — the only two-time Olympic medallist for Canada in curling — emerged from the ice and announced his remarkable career as an Olympian is over.
Asked if he had another four-year Olympic quest in him, Martin was unequivocal.
"No I don’t. I might have another year or two, but four years is a long time... I still feel good. I’m still throwing it reasonable. So I’m good for a little while yet, but four years is a long time. I’m 47 right now."
Asked if it stung a little sharper having his drive to compete in a third Olympic games ended by Morris — the same man who issued him such a stunning rebuke when he abruptly quit the Martin foursome last spring — Martin said it was immaterial.
"That’s fine. You have to play somebody," he insisted.
When the question was reversed and asked of Morris, he proclaimed the moment "bittersweet" and then, without further prompting, explained the bitter part.
"I played with those guys for so many years," said Morris. "And Ben and Marc (Martin lead Ben Hebert and second Marc Kennedy) are two of my best friends still."
Conspicuously, Morris made no mention of Martin among his current friends on the team, suggesting perhaps that was the sweet part.
But the sweetest part is surely this — after cobbling together a team over the summer with B.C.’s Jim Cotter, Tyrel Griffith and Rick Sawatsky, the new Morris team defied long odds and all conventional wisdom by first winning a trials berth in a last-chance bonspiel last month in Kitchener and then parlaying it over the course of the last week into a berth in the trials final today.
With Morris, 34, and Jacobs, 28, emerging as the last two skips standing in a trials field that at the start boasted the aging lions of the Canadian game — Martin, 47, Jeff Stoughton, 50, and Glenn Howard, 51 — Morris was asked what it said about the current state of the men’s game in Canada.
"I think it’s great. It brings some younger athletes and younger spirit to the game. I think it’s dynamite. And it’d be great if we got more youth involved in the game because I think you wouldn’t see so many curling clubs closing down across Canada."
This afternoon’s final will have a decided Winnipeg flavour, even though it will be absent the two Winnipeg-based men’s teams who began this event — Stoughton and Mike McEwen — and will feature a Morris team that is based out of Vernon and Kelowna and a Jacobs team curling out of Sault Ste. Marie.
Morris was born in Winnipeg and his father, Earle, is a former Manitoba men’s champion. The Morris team also has Winnipeg’s Jason Gunnlaugson as its alternate. The Jacobs team, meanwhile, has Winnipeg native Ryan Fry at third and Fry’s father, Barry, is a former Manitoba men’s champion.
"I was born here and my dad curled here for quite a long time," said Morris. "I love Winnipeg, I love the fans here. I wouldn’t say it’s my hometown or anything, but I guess I have some roots here if I was born here."