A new-look Team Brad Jacobs will have a fellow Olympian in tow at this week’s Canada Cup as the rink attempts to put recent distractions aside and continue a strong first half of the season.
Marc Kennedy will fill in for third Ryan Fry, who is taking an indefinite leave after his disqualification from a bonspiel last month in Red Deer, Alta.
Kennedy, who won Olympic gold in 2010 and returned to the Games this year, was available as a replacement since he’s taking a break from competitive play this season. The veteran left-hander will practise with the team Tuesday at Affinity Place ahead of a two-game opening day Wednesday.
“It’s the first time Brad will see the rock come out from the other hack,” Team Jacobs coach Adam Kingsbury said. “But I think that can just be a positive thing. Just that mindful focus on making sure that the broom is in the right spot and making sure that the communication is crystal clear.
“But outside of that, I think the team is pretty lucky to have someone of Marc’s calibre be willing to step in at a time like this.”
Jacobs, who skipped his team to an Olympic title in 2014, is coming off a win at last month’s Grand Slam stop in Thunder Bay and is currently ranked seventh in the world.
Fry recently announced he would be taking a break from the Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.-based team to focus on his “growth and self-improvement.” His decision came after his team was ejected from the Red Deer Curling Classic for what organizers called unsportsmanlike behaviour resulting from excessive drinking.
Fry, who was playing as a substitute at the World Curling Tour event, was kicked out along with teammates Jamie Koe, Chris Schille and DJ Kidby. All four players issued statements to apologize for their actions.
Team Jacobs later announced that Kennedy would fill in for Fry at the Canada Cup and Matt Wozniak would serve as a substitute at the Dec. 11-16 National in Conception Bay South, Nfld.
The rest of the men’s field at the Canada Cup includes Regina’s Matt Dunstone, Brad Gushue of St. John’s, Edmonton’s Brendan Bottcher, Calgary’s Kevin Koe, Winnipeg’s Reid Carruthers and Toronto’s John Epping.
Reigning world champion Jennifer Jones of Winnipeg headlines the women’s side. Ottawa’s Rachel Homan, Winnipeg’s Alli Flaxey, Edmonton’s Laura Walker, Calgary’s Chelsea Carey, Casey Scheidegger of Lethbridge, Alta., Kerri Einarson of Gimli, Man., and Winnipeg’s Darcy Robertson are also in the field.
An extra women’s team was added due to a virtual tie for the final qualifying spot in the 2017-18 Order of Merit standings.
The winning teams will be guaranteed berths into the pretrials ahead of the 2021 Olympic Trials. The Canada Cup champions will also qualify for a Curling World Cup event next season.
Kennedy announced last March that he would be taking a break this season to recharge and rest a nagging hip injury. He took on a consulting position with Curling Canada and has been practising through the fall.
The 36-year-old won Olympic gold with skip Kevin Martin at the 2010 Vancouver Games. Kennedy teamed with skip Kevin Koe last season, but they did not reach the podium at the Pyeongchang Games.
Even with limited practice time, Kingsbury predicted a smooth transition with Kennedy joining Jacobs, second E.J. Harnden and lead Ryan Harnden.
“I don’t foresee it being an issue at all,” he said. “The guys have known each other for a really long time. They’ve both experienced very similar things in the sport.”
Round-robin play continues through Saturday morning and the finals are set for Sunday.