Sweeping changes are happening to Manitoba’s two best men’s curling teams — just days after both bowed out early at the 2018 Brier.
Mike McEwen’s longtime crew, the 2016 and ’17 provincial champions, is shaking hands and calling it a day after 11 seasons, while ’18 Manitoba winner, the Reid Carruthers foursome from West St. Paul, is saying goodbye to its third Braeden Moskowy, who lives and works in Regina.
McEwen’s Fort Rouge team, with McEwen at the helm, third B.J. Neufeld, second Matt Wozniak and lead Denni Neufeld, are all going their separate ways. The team made the announcement on its Facebook page Tuesday, four days after competing at its third-straight Brier national men’s championship.
There was no mention of whether any of the players has committed to play with a new team or is stepping away from the game. The team will stick it out for a couple of season-ending events, including the Elite 10 Grand Slam, set to begin Thursday at the St. James Civic Centre.
Meanwhile, Carruthers and his front-end tandem of Derek Samagalski and Colin Hodgson have committed to another four-year Olympic cycle and are looking to recruit a third.
There’s been plenty of talk in recent weeks that McEwen, Carruthers’ close friend, would fit the bill.
Neither skip would confirm rumours Tuesday that an alliance is imminent.
"We’re actively pursuing a third who’ll be as committed as we are for the next cycle," Carruthers said. "I’m at the stage in my curling career where I have one or two more cycles in me. We’ve had success with this team. But I’m looking for that feather in my cap, and that’s an Olympic Trials win."
The split with Moskowy is immediate, Carruthers said. The team is also slated to play in the Elite 10, and he’s coaxed his former skip, Jeff Stoughton, to come out of retirement to hold the broom and toss third stones for the event.
The Carruthers team captured the 2015 Manitoba crown and then returned to the Brier this year, but stumbled mightily down the stretch, losing its last five games to finish 5-6 in the round robin and miss the playoffs.
McEwen came up a win short of making a tiebreaker in Regina. The team had earned the final Brier spot by way of the all-new wild-card game — defeating fellow Winnipegger Jason Gunnlaugson — and posted a 7-4 record in the 16-team championship.
The breakup, he said, had been coming for a while.
"We surprised some people and maybe not others," McEwen said. "If I’m being completely honest, I’m not sure a championship at any point this year would have necessarily changed the outcome, other than maybe we could have gone out as champions."
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).
Updated on Tuesday, March 13, 2018 at 7:22 PM CDT: Full write through
10:29 PM: Fixes typo
March 14, 2018 at 7:07 AM: Edited