Playing as a substitute has become the norm for curler Matt Wozniak this season. It’s a role that is almost completely foreign to Marc Kennedy.
Both players will serve as replacements on Team Brad Jacobs next month to fill the vacancy created by Ryan Fry’s decision to take an indefinite leave.
Wozniak, who planned to take a year off after his long run with Team Mike McEwen ended last season, has played twice for Team Reid Carruthers and once for Team Matt Dunstone this season. Kennedy, meanwhile, said he hasn’t played as a sub since a brief stint with the Ferbey Four rink 15 years ago.
“I was 21 years old and I didn’t make one shot,” Kennedy said with a laugh. “I missed every shot and we won the game. I played second because Scott Pfeifer had to write an exam for his MBA. So I came in to play, I was sweeping with Marcel (Rocque) and learning the ropes.
“I was nervous and I didn’t make one shot. Hopefully next week goes a little better than that.”
Kennedy took a step back from the competitive game this season to recharge mentally and physically after a solid four-year run with Team Kevin Koe. That was preceded by an eight-year run with Team Kevin Martin, highlighted by an Olympic title at the 2010 Vancouver Games.
“I’ve been on some pretty solid teams that played together for a long time,” Kennedy said. “Having a new player come in isn’t something I’m used to, especially being the new player. But you know what, I get along with these guys really well and I always have.
“There’s always been a real mutual respect there as competitors and friends. I think we’ll be able to jell and mesh pretty good together and hopefully pretty quickly.”
Kennedy will play third with Jacobs at the Dec. 5-9 Canada Cup in Estevan, Sask., with E.J. Harnden at second and Ryan Harnden at lead. The team will turn to Wozniak for the Dec. 11-16 National in Conception Bay South, N.L.
Wozniak will play his usual position of second at the Grand Slam event while E.J. Harnden will move to third.
“I really enjoyed playing against those guys and just hanging out outside of curling,” Wozniak said. “It was a pretty easy ‘yes’ for me.”
It’s unclear when Fry might return to the Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.-based team. He decided to take an indefinite leave after his disqualification from the Red Deer Curling Classic on Nov. 17.
He was ejected for what organizers called unsportsmanlike behaviour resulting from excessive drinking. Fry, who was playing as a substitute in Red Deer, was kicked out of the event along with teammates Jamie Koe, Chris Schille and DJ Kidby.
Organizers said Fry broke three brooms and that the team used foul language and was disruptive to other players on the ice. The World Curling Tour fined Fry $1,000 and said that his behaviour was the reason for the team’s disqualification.
All four players later issued statements to apologize for their actions. Fry has not responded to requests for comment.
Jacobs, Fry and the Harnden brothers won the 2013 Tim Hortons Brier and won Olympic gold at the Sochi Games the following year.
The team’s most recent victory came this month at the Grand Slam of Curling’s Tour Challenge in Thunder Bay, Ont.
“For them, it’s just a matter of filling that gap until Ryan is ready to come back,” Kennedy said. “I’m happy to help at one event. I’ve known Ryan for a long time as well. I certainly support him and hope he can get through this.”
Scotland’s Bruce Mouat is up to fourth on the World Curling Tour’s Order of Merit standings after his victory over Sweden’s Niklas Edin at the recent European curling championships in Tallinn, Estonia.
Edin remains in top spot while Canadian skips — No. 2 Brad Gushue, No. 3 Kevin Koe and No. 5 Brendan Bottcher — round out the top five. Koe has a slight edge on second-ranked John Epping in the year-to-date standings.
Sweden’s Anna Hasselborg won the European playdowns to cement her hold on the No. 1 spot in the women’s overall list. Canada’s Rachel Homan, Jennifer Jones, Kerri Einarson and Tracy Fleury hold the next four positions.
Olympic mixed doubles champion John Morris will team with Kalynn Park at next week’s Curling World Cup in Omaha, Neb.
Park replaces Taylor McDonald, who will be playing with Team Alison Flaxey at the Canada Cup that week instead.
Morris teamed with Kaitlyn Lawes at the 2018 Pyeongchang Games in South Korea, where mixed doubles made its Olympic debut.
Park, who played with Charley Thomas for several seasons, plans to team up with Braeden Moskowy for the rest of the mixed doubles campaign.
Fleury will skip the Canadian women’s team entry in Omaha while Jason Gunnlaugson will skip the Canadian men’s team.
Canada won gold in the men’s, women’s and mixed doubles competitions at the first leg of the World Cup last September in Suzhou, China.