November 19, 2018

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Carruthers, McEwen call truce, join forces

Friends create curling powerhouse as they try to build a successful relationship on the ice

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 20/3/2018 (244 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The days of Reid Carruthers and Mike McEwen pummelling each other on the pebble are just about over.

Rumour became reality Tuesday when the province’s two premier skips joined forces to create a super squad on the Manitoba men’s curling scene.

McEwen is joining his closest friend, Carruthers, and the two remaining members of Carruthers’ reigning Manitoba men’s championship team, Derek Samagalski and Colin Hodgson, for the 2018-19 campaign.

Team Carruthers has committed to playing the duration of the next four-year Olympic cycle together.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 20/3/2018 (244 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The days of Reid Carruthers and Mike McEwen pummelling each other on the pebble are just about over.

Rumour became reality Tuesday when the province’s two premier skips joined forces to create a super squad on the Manitoba men’s curling scene.

Michael Burns / Winnipeg Free Press Files</p><p>Team Manitoba skip Reid Carruthers, back, and Team Wild Card skip Mike McEwen will face each other Friday night with McEwen needing a victory just for a chance to get into the final four this weekend.</p>

Michael Burns / Winnipeg Free Press Files

Team Manitoba skip Reid Carruthers, back, and Team Wild Card skip Mike McEwen will face each other Friday night with McEwen needing a victory just for a chance to get into the final four this weekend.

McEwen is joining his closest friend, Carruthers, and the two remaining members of Carruthers’ reigning Manitoba men’s championship team, Derek Samagalski and Colin Hodgson, for the 2018-19 campaign.

Team Carruthers has committed to playing the duration of the next four-year Olympic cycle together.

Speaking with the Free Press, Carruthers said it’s been decided, after much discussion, he’ll command the T-line, at least initially, while McEwen will deliver final rocks. The team will likely call the West St. Paul club home.

He said forging an alliance with McEwen wasn’t an overnight decision.

"We’ve been really good friends for a long time and we’ve talked on and off over the years that maybe one day it would happen. We’ve both been on very successful teams and really had no reason to make this materialize," Carruthers said.

'It makes a lot of sense for two good friends that have been battling against each other for such a long time to try and make it work on the ice as teammates'— skip Reid Carruthers

"I put the bug in his ear right after the provincials were over (in early February). I guess he’d been thinking about it, too. It makes a lot of sense for two good friends that have been battling against each other for such a long time to try and make it work on the ice as teammates."

Samagalski will continue to throw second stones and Colin Hodgson stays at lead. The trio parted company with third Braeden Moskowy, a Regina resident, last week.

"I’m at the point in my career where signing on for four more years, it’s a big commitment. I ran it by my wife (Jodi) and got her blessing, and then you decide who you want to curl with and without a doubt in my mind I wanted to keep curling with Colin and Derek," Carruthers said.

"Lucky for me, they said yes to sign on for four more years. And the last piece was Mike."

McEwen is on a farewell tour with his current crew — third B.J. Neufeld, second Matt Wozniak and lead Denni Neufeld — after the team announced just days after the Brier in Regina it was breaking up.

The foursome captured a Grand Slam tour title, the Elite 10, in Winnipeg last weekend and will compete in a pair of Slams next month to close the book on a splendid 11-year run that came with both success and hardship.

McEwen said he’s really excited about the potential of the new squad as it pushes toward qualifying for the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing.

"I think it’ll really push me to be a better athlete and, hopefully, I bring something new to the table with the existing guys," McEwen said. "There will obviously be a lot of collaboration. We really want to create something new, something fresh and, in all reality, we want to take on anybody in Canada in the next quadrennial.

"I really hope this great friendship off the ice translates into something unique — that intangible effect that sometimes those dynamics can have with sports teams."

Skeptics might anticipate things going off the rails for Carruthers and McEwen, with the possibility of an in-house feud occurring between besties, both so used to calling the shots. But neither player believes that will happen, saying their friendship and mutual respect could spur something special on the ice.

"I think I know him really well and I think I know how to get the most out of him and vice versa," Carruthers said. "I think that’s what two good skips do. And the idea would be that we’re going to be in this together and trying to see where this potential could go."

"Having four guys in Manitoba where we can practise regularly together might help, but it really has nothing to do with shot-making ability, because Braeden is one of the best thirds in the game. It’s more about the back-end chemistry. If you have the right mix, great things can happen."

It was also announced Tuesday that B.J. Neufeld will play third as an import on Olympian Kevin Koe’s revamped Calgary-based team, while Wozniak and Denni Neufeld remain free agents.

The McEwen team name will disappear from the curling landscape under the new arrangement.

McEwen said there will be an adjustment to relinquishing some of the control that comes with being skip.

"Sure, absolutely. It’s not a decision I took lightly. It’s going to be a challenge for me. It looks like we’re going to put me on the sticks and have me sweeping. We’ll see what that looks like," said McEwen, who’s originally from Brandon.

"The great thing about Reid is, he and I are very open to try and make this work. I might be throwing the brick, the last stone, and him calling the game. It could be me just being a pure third. We’re not guys with big egos that have to do things one way. We’ll do what’s best for the team."

The changes don’t kick in until the fall, so the two might very well meet as opponents during a couple of upcoming Grand Slam tour events.

McEwen will curl with the old gang at the Players’ Championship in Toronto in mid-April and the season-ending Champions Cup in Calgary the last weekend of April.

Carruthers, Samagalski and Hodgson will compete at both events, too, with yet-to-be-named alternates at third.

The national mixed doubles championship begins March 27 in Leduc, Alta., and all three players on the current Team Carruthers will participate, paired with Alberta-based women. Hodgson is playing with Chelsea Carey of Calgary, Samagalski is playing with Jocelyn Peterman, also from Calgary, and Carruthers is partnering with Joanne Courtney of Edmonton.

The McEwens, Mike and his wife, Dawn, have joined forces in mixed doubles in the past but won’t play in Leduc.

She’s currently with the Jennifer Jones team, a favourite to win a world women’s curling title this week in North Bay, Ont. The 2014 Olympic gold medallists have also committed to another four-year cycle and a possible return to the Winter Games.

"It’s not just an endeavour for our household, we need a ton of family support behind us," McEwen said. The couple has a young daughter, Vienna. "We’ve got that support and we’re very thankful for that. It had to be there for us to even consider this."

jason.bell@freepress.mb.caTwitter: @WFPJasonBell

Jason Bell

Jason Bell
Assistant sports editor

Jason Bell wanted to be a lawyer when he was a kid. The movie The Paper Chase got him hooked on the idea of law school and, possibly, falling in love with someone exactly like Lindsay Wagner (before she went all bionic).

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History

Updated on Tuesday, March 20, 2018 at 2:19 PM CDT: Fixes Olympic year

March 21, 2018 at 8:43 AM: Edited

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