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Gould gone as world-championship team's lead

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SASKATOON -- Here's a little anecdote that speaks volumes about the kind of guy Steve Gould is:

I contacted him Monday morning to find out how his abrupt sacking late last week as the longtime lead for Jeff Stoughton was affecting him. It affects him badly, of course. Very badly -- and we'll get to that in a moment, just as, eventually, Gould and I got to that on the phone yesterday.

But the first thing Gould wanted to talk about -- literally the very first thing -- wasn't how it was affecting him, but rather how it might affect his former teammate and current Manitoba men's champion Rob Fowler, who's competing in a little thing called the Brier here this week.

"The timing of this coming out now is poor," said Gould. "This is Robbie's week to shine and a time for Manitoba to jump behind him. And I really don't want to take anything away from Rob and the guys. The focus should really be on them.

"I know you've got to do your job and write a story and stuff, but I don't want it to become a distraction away from them."

Fowler and Gould, of course, curled together with Stoughton at Briers in 2007, 2009 and 2010 -- three of six Manitoba titles that Gould won over the years with Stoughton in a relationship that goes back to 1996.

That was the same year Gould and Stoughton won one of two world championships together. The other world title, of course, came just last year.

And it's precisely because they've had so much success so recently that Gould said he never saw it coming when Stoughton told him that he's effectively been fired. "I'm shocked, I'm disappointed. There's a whole gamut of emotions," said Gould.

Gould was nothing less than Stoughton's longest-serving and most-loyal teammate. And Stoughton also had another superlative to describe Gould, when I contacted him Monday morning. "Steve's the most successful teammate I've ever had," said Stoughton.

So why then? Why would you fire a guy with whom you've had so much success -- and particularly right now in the middle of the Olympic qualifying process when berths are already being determined for the 2013 Canadian Curling Trials at the MTS Centre, an event at which Canada's men's and women's representatives for the 2014 Winter Olympics will be determined.

Indeed, it was Gould who was Stoughton's lead at the Trials in 2005 when they got all the way to final before bowing to eventual Olympic gold medallist Brad Gushue.

Stoughton spoke Monday in general teams of feeling a need to shake things up after a disappointing run at the provincials saw his team eliminated in the playoffs by Fowler. But beyond that, neither Stoughton nor Gould wanted to talk in detail.


"It's just a change in the team," said Stoughton, "and that's where it's going to end."

On the surface, some of this might seem reminiscent of Jennifer Jones's firing of Cathy Overton-Clapham a couple years ago, but the differences are significant.

Overton-Clapham's firing came as the Jones team was still in the midst of a historic run of three straight Canadian championships and with a guaranteed berth into the next year's Canadian championship, while Stoughton is coming off a losing year with no perks next year.

Jones was speaking to potential new players long before she ever told Overton-Clapham she was gone, while Stoughton said he told Gould first and as of yesterday had still yet to talk to any new players.

Jones didn't tell Overton-Clapham until late spring, leaving her with few options to form a new team. Gould finds out during the Brier and still has all kinds of options.

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 Gould will continue to receive all the considerable financial benefits 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 all right," said Gould. "I don't need to air any laundry out there."

Stoughton said he is committed to continue curling with third Jon Mead and second Reid Carruthers through the 2012-13 curling season, with a view towards qualifying for the December 2013 Canadian Curling Trials.

Stoughton said he has not yet approached any players about joining the team 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."

Steve Gould by the numbers

6 -- Manitoba men's curling championships

1 -- Number of people who have won more Manitoba men's curling championships than Gould (Jeff Stoughton)

2 -- Canadian men's curling championships

2 -- World men's curling championships

'06 -- Year Gould won the Brier individual skills competition and was named all-star lead

Above: Gould celebrates winning the world championship in 2011 with Jeff Stoughton.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 6, 2012 D1

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