CALGARY – John Morris says he’s comfortable Canada will be attached to Pat Simmons’ name and not his at the upcoming men’s world curling championships.
Their team started the Canadian men’s curling championship in Calgary as “Team Canada’s John Morris” and ended it victorious as “Team Canada’s Pat Simmons.”
The Calgary-based foursome opens the 2015 Ford World Men’s Curling Championship against the United States on March 28 at the Halifax Metro Centre.
With a 2-3 record on Day 3 of the Tim Hortons Brier, Morris abruptly demoted himself to third and told Simmons to skip. The move transformed the team.
Simmons, Morris, second Carter Rycroft and lead Nolan Thiessen claimed the fourth and final playoff berth. They ran the playoff table to upset reigning Olympic champion Brad Jacobs of Northern Ontario in the final March 8.
It will be the second straight trip to the world championship for Simmons, Rycroft and Thiessen. They lost the bronze-medal game last year in Beijing with Kevin Koe. When Koe left to form a new team, his former teammates recruited Morris to skip them.
But what emerged from the lineup change during the Brier was how much Morris is in his element playing third, and also how much of a clutch shotmaker Simmons can be with his team’s last rock of the game in his hand.
“If Pat’s going to play like he did at the Brier, I’ll play third for him until we retire,” Morris said Tuesday at the Glencoe Club.
Morris, 37, has spent 17 years of his curling career playing skip. His greatest successes in the sport, however, came as Kevin Martin’s vice for seven years – a pair of Canadian championships, a world championship and an Olympic gold medal.
The firefighter from Chestermere, Alta., skipped B.C. in last year’s Brier, but threw third stones.
His body language in Calgary this year went from slumped shoulders on opening weekend to energized as the team went 8-1 after the position switch.
“I’m an energy guy on the team,” Morris explained. “When I’m deep in thought at the other end of the ice and I’m only communicating with one person, sometimes I found I wasn’t really utilizing my strengths as much as I could.
“I think as far as shooting is concerned, being able to throw third rocks, have an impact with the front end and the skip with strategy, I think that’s probably my best role in curling.”
His own experiences at skip, as well as previous games played against Simmons, had Morris recognizing the 40-year-old chiropractor from Moose Jaw, Sask., could make that winning draw to the button.
“Some guys are natural skips and I think Pat is a natural skip,” Morris said. “You saw him in Saskatchewan five years ago. He had a pretty good team, but he was a really good skip. He beat us when (I) was playing with Kevin Martin.
“He’s a great process-oriented skip that really thinks things through. He went from probably an 80 per cent shooter to a 90 per cent shooter at skip, which is unheard of. When you’re moving up a position it’s supposed to get tougher.”