Veteran skip Kevin Martin will have a much different lineup if he decides to return for another season on the men’s curling circuit.
Team second Marc Kennedy and lead Ben Hebert plan to leave Martin’s rink after this season to join reigning national champion Kevin Koe. It’s the first major move of what’s expected to be an off-season loaded with significant roster changes.
As for the 47-year-old Martin, who has national, world and Olympic titles on his glowing resume, he plans to take some time after the season to consider his future plans.
“I can’t confirm that I’m looking for a new roster,” Martin told The Canadian Press on Wednesday from Napa Valley, Calif. “But I can confirm that Marc and Ben are going to curl with Kev, yeah. I haven’t decided if I’m going to curl again at all.”
In addition to Kennedy and Hebert, the new Koe foursome will also include Brent Laing of Team Glenn Howard, according to a recent Rogers Sportsnet website report.
Laing declined to comment and a message left with Howard was not immediately returned.
The timing of the news is less than ideal for Koe and his current lineup of third Pat Simmons, second Carter Rycroft and lead Nolan Thiessen, who will try to put the distraction aside as they prepare to play at the world championship in Beijing this Saturday.
Koe preferred to keep his focus on the upcoming competition and respectfully declined comment.
Rycroft, whose wife is pregnant, has already said he’ll be taking a year off from the sport after this season.
Simmons and Thiessen were not available for comment and their future plans remain unclear.
Hebert declined comment and a message left with Kennedy was not immediately returned.
Martin said it was unfortunate that the news surfaced during the season and before the world championship.
“I sure wish none of this stuff (came) out,” he said. “I’m not exactly sure how it did but it’s too bad.”
With the Olympic season nearly complete, several roster changes are expected as teams prepare for the next four-year cycle. Team Brad Jacobs, which won gold at the Sochi Games last month, will be one of the rinks to beat next season.
What’s uncertain at this time is what ripple effect the new Koe lineup might have on teams throughout the country. The 2014-15 season isn’t necessarily critical as rinks start to look ahead to the 2018 Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, but the sooner that players can lock in the better.
Martin, Kennedy and Hebert teamed with John Morris to win Tim Hortons Brier titles in 2008 and 2009, going undefeated en route to the championship each year. They also won Olympic gold at the 2010 Games in Vancouver.
Morris left the team almost a year ago and later joined Jim Cotter’s B.C. rink. Morris was replaced by Dave Nedohin and the current Martin lineup has enjoyed a strong season.
Martin wasn’t surprised at the pending departure of two of his teammates since they want to position themselves for the next Olympic cycle.
“Having teams change and personnel change, that’s just part of sport,” he said.
“That’s not unusual I don’t think. It’s just unfortunate that any of these changes — and there are a lot of changes that are going to happen this year — happen before the end of the (season). That should definitely happen in May.”
Martin added the moves make “perfect sense” for Kennedy and Hebert. The veteran skip expects to decide on his own future plans by the end of June.
There is still one major event left on the curling calendar — the April 15-20 season-ending Grand Slam Players’ Championships in Summerside, P.E.I.
That competition was already shaping up to be an emotional one with Alison Kreviazuk’s announcement this week that it will be her last competition with Team Rachel Homan. The longtime second has decided to move to Sweden to be with her boyfriend.
Joanne Courtney of Val Sweeting’s rink will join Homan, lead Lisa Weagle and third Emma Miskew next season. Homan is the reigning national champion and won silver at the world championship last weekend.