In the local curling community, it’s called barbecue season.
It supposedly relates to backyard discussions in advance of an upcoming season, talk that often leads to the formation of new rinks or the shuffling of current lineups.
I’m not sure what it’s called nationally, but whatever the label, it’s already well underway.
This past week saw news of big changes to four of Canada’s top women’s teams, with 2019 Scotties champion Chelsea Carey’s rink blown up completely; Ontario’s Rachel Homan bringing in Sarah Wilkes, who had been with Carey, and jettisoning Lisa Weagle, who had been Homan’s longtime lead; Weagle, in turn, joining Jennifer Jones’ Manitoba rink, which will become a five-player combo; and Saskatchewan’s Robyn Silvernagle replacing two players.
On the men’s side, Alberta’s Kevin Koe, the 2019 Brier camp, is bringing back John Morris, who will now play second, taking over for Colton Flasch, dropped after two years with Koe.
The movement is unusual, but only for the timing. With the 2019-20 curling season cancelled entirely because of the coronavirus, the developments are coming earlier than normal.
But make no mistake, this annual and extensive remaking process has become the norm.
For example, since the start of 2017, every one of Canada’s top 10 men’s rinks — as listed in the World Curling Tour’s Order of Merit rankings — has undergone some kind of personnel change.
They’ve been together for six years, which is turning out to be a long time in modern curling. Along the way (from left), Brad Gushue, Mark Nichols, Brett Gallant and Geoff Walker have won three Tim Hortons Brier Canadian men’s championships, hoisting the Brier Tankard most recently at the 2020 event in Kingston, Ont.
Except for one.
That is the team skipped by Brad Gushue, who ironically, once swapped out more front ends than an auto mechanic.
The St. John’s-based foursome if Gushue, Mark Nichols, Brett Gallant and Geoff Walker has been together for six years, three of which have seen the rink claim the Canadian men’s championship, its most recent Brier title coming earlier this month in Kingston, Ont.
It’s the longest run of an unaltered top-level men’s quartet since Ontario’s Glenn Howard, Richard Hart, Brett Laing and Craig Savill and before that, the Ferbey Four of Albertans Randy Ferbey, David Nedohin, Scott Pfeiffer and Marcel Rocque.