Off-season free agent signings aren’t exactly a hot topic in curling, but the move Jim Cotter just made qualifies as a blockbuster.
In reality, the Vernon skip didn’t do anything but answer the phone. On the other end was 2010 Olympic gold medallist John Morris asking to join the team.
Morris, who played the past seven seasons with Edmonton’s Kevin Martin, will join the Cotter rink – third Jason Gunnlaugson, second Ty Griffith and lead Rick Sawatsky – at the Capital One Road to the Roar Pre-Trials competition in November in Kitchener, Ont.
“When a guy of John’s calibre calls you out of the blue, you’re definitely interested in what he has to say,” said Cotter. “John is someone who I’ve always highly respected on and off the ice. John is one of the best players in the world and surely would be accepted by any team he approached.
“Just based on his attitude and passion that he brings to the game and the fact that he is already good friends with several of our team members, it was an easy choice to make to join forces.”
Morris will slot in at third and call the game on a five-man rotation, leaving Cotter to throw skip’s stones. The early part of next season will be devoted to finding the best lineup to use in Kitchener.
“We will simply try out some front-end combinations early in the season at our first few bonspiels and whoever is rising to the occasion and playing the best will earn their spot,” said Morris. “All five members understand this situation and have embraced the challenge.”
Cotter described the Martin team as “one of the most successful teams in the history of the game,” but said he broached the idea of including Morris with his rink before making it official.
“We all quickly agreed that the addition of John’s experience and ability would substantially improve our team and take us to a new level,” said Cotter. “We all recognize how much John has sacrificed; it’s no secret. With that said, it has motivated us even more; it’s not every day an opportunity like this presents itself. We are ecstatic right now and are already looking forward to stepping on the ice again next season.”
The team will get together for meetings in May and begin dry-land training soon afterward. The team will continue to play out of the Okanagan but will hold high-performance training camps at the National Training Centre at the Glencoe Club in Calgary.
The format for the Pre-Trials will see teams play a modified triple-knockout draw leading to a four-team playoff. One playoff qualifier will come out of the A-event, one from the B-event and two from the C-event. The A- and B-event qualifiers will meet in the playoffs, with the winner advancing to the Tim Hortons Roar of the Rings.