Team Jacobs and longtime third Ryan Fry to part ways at end of curling season

Team Northern Ontario third Ryan Fry calls a shot during the first draw against team wildcard at the Brier in Brandon, Man., on March 2, 2019. Team Brad Jacobs says that longtime third Ryan Fry will not be returning to the team next season.In a statement, the team says that Jacobs, Ryan Harnden and E.J. Harnden will continue to play together and that the search is on for a replacement for Fry, who will be "exploring alternative options for next season." Fry took a mid-season leave of absence to focus on growth and self-improvement after his ejection from the Red Deer Curling Classic in November. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

Ryan Fry’s arrival on Team Brad Jacobs seven years ago helped push the rink to curling‘s greatest heights. His departure will come at the end of a season that included significant challenges.

A mutual decision to move on came after Fry called Jacobs on Thursday morning.

“We had a conversation that basically consisted of us both agreeing that everyone needs a fresh start and the shelf life of our team had been reached,” Jacobs told The Canadian Press on Friday. “It was time for everyone to kind of hit the refresh button.”

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The team will play two Grand Slam events together next month before going their separate ways. Jacobs, second E.J. Harnden and lead Ryan Harnden will continue to play together next season and the search is on for a replacement at third.

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“I think everyone is feeling probably mixed emotions,” Jacobs said. “Both disappointed as well as relieved in a way. I think that’s probably the best way to describe it.”

Fry joined the team in 2012 to form a stellar back end with Jacobs, who had arguably the strongest sweeping duo in the game with the Harnden brothers. They won the Tim Hortons Brier in 2013, silver at the world championship and Olympic gold at the 2014 Sochi Games.

WATCH: Ryan Fry playing third for the Brad Jacobs rink adds another name to the list of Manitoban gold medalists

The winning continued into the next quadrennial.

The team won the Players’ Championship in 2015 and added three more Grand Slam titles since, including a victory at the Tour Challenge in November 2018.

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A low point came a week later.

Fry, playing as a substitute at the Red Deer Curling Classic, was disqualified along with teammates Jamie Koe, Chris Schille and DJ Kidby for what organizers called unsportsmanlike behaviour resulting from excessive drinking.

READ MORE: Policy review underway after team ejected from Alberta curling classic

Organizers said Fry broke three brooms and that the team used foul language and was disruptive to other players on the ice. All four players later apologized and Fry took a leave of absence from Team Jacobs to focus on growth and self-improvement.

He came back in January at the Canadian Open and posted strong numbers after his return. The team won the Northern Ontario playdowns but lost in the semifinal at the Brier last weekend.

“We went through the highest of highs and the lowest of lows as a team and I wouldn’t have wanted to do that with anyone else,” Jacobs said from Sault Ste. Marie.

“I’m proud of our successes and I’m proud of our failures because we’ve learned a lot from them.”

The team issued a statement Friday morning to formally announce the lineup decision.

“After seven amazing years together, which resulted in a Brier win, an Olympic gold medal, multiple Grand Slam titles and being one of the best teams in our sport for many years, we feel as though it is time to try something different — a fresh start,” the statement said.

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The mutual decision came “after some reflection and multiple conversations,” it read.

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Jacobs, ranked No. 2 in the country behind Brier-winner Kevin Koe, is entered in the April 9-14 Players’ Championship in Toronto. The team will close out the season at the April 23-28 Champions Cup in Saskatoon.

“What an amazing ride the last seven years have been,” Fry said in the statement. “Over that time, Brad, E.J. and Ryan have become some of my closest friends and I wish them all the best moving forward.”

Fry said he was excited to pursue new opportunities and added that while “change is sometimes necessary for personal growth and perspective,” he’ll always be thankful for time spent with the team.

“We have two events left to play and then they will be joining me at my wedding this May.”

Before joining Team Jacobs, the 40-year-old Winnipeg native won four provincial titles (2009-12) with skip Brad Gushue out of Newfoundland and Labrador. Fry also won a Manitoba crown in 2007 with skip Jeff Stoughton.

READ MORE: Winnipeg’s Stoughton named Canada men’s curling coach for 2022 Olympics

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Fry represented Northern Ontario on six occasions at the Brier.

“You can talk about someone’s seven-year history and their shotmaking performances, but what I’ll certainly always take with me is how good of a person he is,” Team Jacobs coach Adam Kingsbury said from Ottawa. “If we judge someone based on one public incident, it’s actually doing a disservice to all of those things.

“So I hope he looks back and he’s proud and I hope the game gives him the respect that he deserves because he’s a hell of a person.”

Matt Wozniak and Marc Kennedy played as substitutes on Team Jacobs during Fry’s leave of absence.

“When Ryan returned in January, the dynamic was something that we had to work on,” Jacobs said. “But we handled it very well. I think we really bounced back from that as best we could and made the most of the last couple of months.

READ MORE: Northern Ontario’s Brad Jacobs in control at 2019 Tim Hortons Brier

“I’m really looking forward to heading out on the ice with the guys for the last two events and hopefully ending our team’s seven-year run on a great note.”

Curling lineup moves are quite common throughout a quadrennial leading up to a Winter Games. A team lasting seven years together has become a rarity at the elite level.

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“Everything that we dreamed about accomplishing since we were kids — this team did it,” Jacobs said. “Obviously we’re very proud of those accomplishments. It was a great run. We had a lot of fun and a lot of success.

“We’ll certainly cherish all of those moments and all of those memories for the rest of our lives.”

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