On Bottcher/Moulding, Gushue, and Other Notes
Tough positions, team shake-ups, and a mixed doubles bonanza
Here are some odd thoughts over the last 2 weeks in curling, which have been real busy, unexpectedly so, post-Trials.
—I don’t have a particularly interesting thought on the whole Bottcher/Moulding situation that hasn’t already been expounded elsewhere, but one thing that kept coming up was the theme of honesty. Most notably, a lot of people seemed to side with Darren in the team split because Darren was more honest about what had happened, and Brendan was not. I thought that was a little odd, only because I firmly believe Brendan was being honest too. Was he a little more cagey about exactly what happened? Sure. But nothing about what he said struck me as being dishonest. Obviously we can’t know the full story (despite knowing a lot more of the story than we usually do, owing to Darren’s candour), and I’m not interested in choosing sides, but with knowing everything we know, I have a hard time getting upset with Brendan for his approach to the situation in opposition to Darren’s. Brendan was put on the back foot and there was never going to be any benefit for him to come out of the corner swinging. The internet had made their choice, and I think it would’ve only been worse had he been more “open”. It seemed to me like he was being direct with his responses and while there may have been a “PR” tone to the whole thing, I never felt like he ducked anything other than entering into specific details, which is his right. How Brendan responded is how MOST teams do things when they go their separate ways and we don’t have an issue with it, so I don’t really understand why the fact that Darren was SO open about what happened should force Brendan to respond in kind.
—Brendan spoke mainly on team chemistry and one thing you learn over years of curling is that some curling teams can exist without dynamite chemistry, or at least what we think of when we think of the word. I think when we think of curling chemistry, we think of players who are as close off the ice as they are on it, the best of friends until the end and such. But there are lots of players who are able to exist in a successful curling arrangement without really liking each other. They like the way they interact on the ice and the way they fit together in a sports context, and that’s enough.
I think Brendan’s idea of team chemistry involves friendship off the ice and also involves a pretty firm hierarchy where he makes a majority of the decisions (which again, doesn’t strike me as particularly uncommon at the top levels but people were jumping down Brendan’s throat for that too). It’s clear that set up no longer worked for either guy, and because of a misrepresentation in a team statement, we got a spilling of tea that hasn’t been seen since a fateful night in Boston a few hundred years ago. All this is to say, it’s clear things didn’t work and it was a painful separation but one that seemed necessary, and got more public as it went along.
—I can recall the toughest team separation I ever went through, as me and a couple teammates decided to move on from another teammate despite 5 years together. It was the worst decision we ever made, and luckily he was a good enough person to curl with us again a year later despite us doing that (we realized our mistake), and it led to the 4 best years of curling I’ve ever had, with a team that lost the BC Final twice, won 6 WCT events, and DID have that “best friends” chemistry many players spend their entire careers seeking. I couldn’t even imagine if that stuff got as public and as personal as the Bottcher/Moulding thing did. It really does feel like a breakup of a relationship, and having to answer for all of that publicly is so, so hard. I wouldn’t have wanted to do it then, and I thought Brendan pretty much made the best of a very tough situation.
—Another note on that: the money thing. I thought it was somewhat interesting that it was Kevin Martin who pushed him on that on the Inside Curling podcast, as Kevin essentially invented the concept of a curling team as a business proposition. I thought the airing of the money laundry was the worst part of the whole thing, an impossible situation for either guy to look good in. I just wonder how many fans know how many curling teams don’t split things evenly. And it’s not always what you think, it’s not always that the skip demands a larger share. It can sometimes be based on who is bringing what sponsorship, who runs administrative roles within the team, etc. I think a lot of teams are even or close to even, but it’s certainly not all of them.
—I noted in my men’s prediction newsletter the Canadian Press article where players were talking about how team shifts might be happening before the Brier. I doubt they knew that the Bottcher blow-up was on the horizon, but typically in a Trials year we’ve always seen teams make it to and through the Brier/Scotties before any changes happen. I wonder if the Bottcher situation changes things in a much bigger way this year. We’ve got Darren Moulding commenting that he might have something lined up. We’ve got Adam Casey conspicuously absent from the Team Gunnlaugson win in Morris. This could end up being one of the more interesting Briers we’ve had in a long time before it even happens.
—Last note on the Bottcher thing. I thought Brad Gushue gave a sneakily very interesting interview to a Newfoundland newspaper last week, and it kinda slid under the radar a bit with everything else happening in the curling world. As I noted in my men’s prediction article, Brad has been not-so-quietly dealing with a hip issue for a few years now, and I had no doubt that if he didn’t make the Olympics, he would be finished, potentially forever (especially with a broadcasting career awaiting him whenever he wants). With him making the Olympics, I thought perhaps another year or another quad might even be in the offing, and then he said this:
No one really talked about this much, but I thought this was surprisingly open from Brad and tips the hand that Geoff is probably looking to play closer to home with a young son, and maybe reveals a bit about Brett too, who is likely also bound for an Alberta home after his impending marriage to Jocelyn Peterman in the spring. If Brad Gushue is done, I have almost no doubt in my mind those two are heading to play with Brendan Bottcher. The only remaining question there is if Brett moves up to play third, or Marc Kennedy does and the two Gushue gentlemen remain at front end.
Mixed Doubles Stuff
—The Olympic Qualification Event saw Australia make it through for their first Olympic appearance, which we have to love. That’s the one thing Mixed Doubles has brought to the game, the ability to bring countries into the fold without needing 4 people of the same sex to all be committed enough to play, and Australia punching through is great for the sport. It also reminded me of Hugh Millikin, the Canadian ex-pat who dragged an Aussie team to the Worlds 11 times, and nearly beat Randy Ferbey at the 2005 Worlds in Victoria, with Ferbey needing a 3 in the 10th end to scrape out an 8-7 victory.
—It also saw a United States qualification, and it was pretty notable for two things: one, the play of Chris Plys throughout the event. Having already qualified for the Olympics with his 4-man rink, it’s not easy to refocus, head over to Europe, and get it done in a very tough field. But him and partner Vicky Persinger did just that, and it was pretty fantastic to see. Two, I think Persinger has been one of the more underrated pieces of the American ladies’ puzzle over the last quadrennial, and it was fun to see her get her just rewards after a tough loss in the 4-person Trials final with Team Christensen. It was also fun to see one of the game’s good guys, Colin Hufman, have a good cry about it.
—Finally, how about this shot from Chelsea Carey to qualify her and Colin Hodgson for the Canadian MD Trials?
That is…nasty. It’s been a weird few years for Chelsea but this was a staunch reminder she’s still one of the best last-rock throwers in the women’s game and I would think her and Colin will be one of the sneaky favourites at the Trials later this month.
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