David NEDOHIN came back to curling this season for one reason -- and one reason only.
"I was comfortable -- totally comfortable with my decision to step back and support (wife) Heather," Nedohin said of his decision to walk away from a sport in which he won four Canadian and three world championships and was, for years, considered the best pure shooter in the entire sport.
"It wasn't something that was a burden on my mind or even bothering me much. Except for one thing -- the Trials this year were here in Winnipeg. That was the one thing that made me want to come back. If it had been somewhere else -- another city somewhere -- it wouldn't have bothered me at all.
"But because it was in Winnipeg, it was the one thing that made me say, 'Jeez, I wish I was playing this year.' Just because it's in Winnipeg."
So there you have it -- take the boy out of Winnipeg, sure. But the Winnipeg out of the boy? Not this cowboy.
All of which is why after taking most of the last four years off from competitive curling, Nedohin is back in the middle of things, curling third for Edmonton's Kevin Martin for the next week at the Tim Hortons Roar of the Rings (while wife Heather skips her own team) and hoping to win the right to do the only thing he hasn't done in curling -- represent Canada at the Olympics.
It is the quirk of Nedohin's backstory that while he will forever be remembered as an icon of Alberta curling, the man who helped lead Randy Ferbey's Edmonton foursome to four Brier titles in five years from 2001-2005, it's here in his birthplace on the bald Canadian prairie that Nedohin still feels most at home.
It is not only the place he was born, raised and learned that visually unique, but technically perfect, delivery of his, it is also the site of what was maybe his greatest curling triumph -- a 2003 world championship at Winnipeg Arena in which Nedohin authored one of the greatest walk-off shots in curling history in a semifinal win over Norway's Pal Trulsen, the reigning Olympic gold medallist at the time.
An impossibly difficult tapback for a game-winning deuce by Nedohin that day still had Trulsen in disbelief long after a delirious Canadian crowd had filed out of their seats.
"Pal was funny after the game," Nedohin recalled Friday night after getting his first look at the MTS Centre ice in a practice session. "He told you reporters, 'The shot David made isn't possible.' And you guys said, 'You mean you didn't think it was possible.'
"And he said, 'No, it isn't possible.' "
With that as his lasting memory of playing in a major curling event in Winnipeg, it's no small wonder then Nedohin jumped at the chance to join Martin's squad when the two-time Olympic medallist came calling last spring with a vacancy at third created by the sudden departure of longtime teammate John Morris.
Martin already had his Trials berth locked up when he called Nedohin with the job offer, meaning that all the 39-year-old needed to do was say "yes" to earn a dream trip back to his hometown to hopefully finally win that last thing still missing from his resume.
"I can really honestly say that I had made peace with the idea that the Olympics just might not happen for me," said Nedohin. "I had no regrets on my career. I'd have been crazy to have had regrets. There's a million curlers who'd have loved to have been on a team like we had assembled (with Ferbey).
"So it wasn't something that was bothering me. But now that the opportunity is in front of me again, there is nothing I want more. Absolutely."
While they are a first-year team, this Martin foursome has jelled quickly and comes into this event second on the World Curling Tour money list.
Nedohin says he knows he won't be the home team at MTS Centre, the way he was when he skipped Canada at Winnipeg Arena in 2003. But he also hopes folks in these parts haven't completely forgotten a hometown boy.
"It won't be the same, no. But I hope maybe I bring a little of that Winnipeg support to Team Martin," Nedohin said hopefully, if perhaps not entirely realistically.
"I grew up in Winnipeg. I love Winnipeg. Winning that worlds here is one of my fondest memories. And the curling fans here are some of the best in the world.
"I'd love to win it here."
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