Koe took a risk, Olympic berth was the re­ward

De­ci­sion to leave Team Canada to form new team aimed at reach­ing 2018 Games

Saskatoon StarPhoenix - - WINTER OLYMPICS - TED WY­MAN Twyman@post­media.com @Ted_Wy­man

GANGNEUNG, SOUTH KOREA

In 2014, Kevin Koe made one of the tough­est de­ci­sions of his life: He gave up his role as skip of Team Canada to form a new squad he be­lieved would have a good chance of reach­ing the 2018 Olympics.

On Wed­nes­day, when that team played its first game on the ice at the Gangneung Curl­ing Cen­tre, pulling out a work­man­like 5-3 win over Italy, it ce­mented Koe’s be­lief that he made the right call.

“I had no re­grets at the time,” Koe said. “I didn’t have any re­grets even when we didn’t have a great first year and ob­vi­ously I def­i­nitely don’t have any now.”

The Koe four­some, with Marc Kennedy at third, Brent Laing at sec­ond and Ben He­bert at lead, was formed in April 2014. There was sig­nif­i­cant con­tro­versy be­cause word of the new team leaked out be­fore Koe and his Brier-win­ning team of Pat Sim­mons, Carter Ry­croft and Nolan Thiessen even com­peted at the world cham­pi­onship.

Un­der the cir­cum­stances, the old team didn’t fare well at the world cham­pi­onship, and Koe was heav­ily crit­i­cized for walk­ing away from a team that had earned a re­turn visit to the 2015 Brier as Team Canada.

Sim­mons moved up to skip, John Mor­ris was added to the lineup and Team Canada won that 2015 Brier, while the Koe team didn’t even make the play­offs.

Sim­mons and Co., went on to win a bronze medal at the world cham­pi­onship.

“I’m still great friends with those guys and we had a great team,” Koe said. “I didn’t even re­ally ques­tion the de­ci­sion when they went and won the Brier the fol­low­ing year. We had played to­gether a while and I felt it was time for a change for me. Lucky enough, we put this team to­gether and this was the farout goal, to get to the Olympics and hope­fully do well here.”

It wasn’t all smooth sail­ing from the be­gin­ning.

When the new team was first formed, Koe, Kennedy, Laing and He­bert didn’t im­me­di­ately gel.

Though they were all world cham­pi­ons and two of them — Kennedy and He­bert — were al­ready Olympic gold medal­lists, the play­ers all came with dif­fer­ent styles and philoso­phies.

“The big­gest chal­lenge was we came from three re­ally suc­cess­ful teams and I felt like Team (Glenn) Howard did things the right way and Ben and Marc felt like Team (Kevin) Martin did things the right way and Kevin thought that his team did things the right way,” Laing said. “We were all right, but it wasn’t nec­es­sar­ily the right thing for us, we had to re­al­ize that this is the new Team Koe, so how do we do things? We had to fig­ure that out.”

The team came to life in the 201516 sea­son, win­ning the Brier and the world men’s cham­pi­onship. They fol­lowed that up with a loss in the Brier fi­nal to Brad Gushue in 2017. Later that same year, they had won­der­ful week at the Cana­dian Olympic tri­als in Ot­tawa and booked a ticket to the Olympics.

Kennedy praised Koe for stick­ing to his be­liefs dur­ing a tough time.

“It was a big risk for him,” Kennedy said. “He knew he was go­ing to take a lot of heat for it. But we built a plan and we can only hope that you fol­low through on it and we did. Not with­out some huge ups and downs. It’s been a dif­fi­cult jour­ney but all the credit to Kevin for mak­ing a re­ally, re­ally tough de­ci­sion and see­ing it through with the three of us.”

NAT­ACHA PISARENKO/THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Skip Kevin Koe as­sesses things dur­ing Canada’s 5-3 win over Italy on Wed­nes­day in Gangneung, South Korea.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.