Martin, Morris on path to 2010

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After it was all said and done – and carefully considered for about a month – the young skip went and signed up with the fellow he's been calling The Old Bear.

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The Calgary Herald reports that effective today, youthful John Morris (photo) and veteran skip Kevin Martin have joined forces in a four-year curling pact to win Olympic gold at Vancouver 2010.

Edmonton’s Martin, the 2002 Olympic silver medallist, has parted ways with all three Olympic teammates: the two Dons (Walchuk and Bartlett) and youthful second Carter Rycroft.

Morris, the occasionally tempestuous Calgary-by-way-of-Ottawa skip, drops to third stone, and has brought regular second Marc Kennedy along for the ride. At lead stone is Saskatchewan import Ben Hebert, a key cog in the successful Pat Simmons foursome from the past two seasons.

Today’s story by Herald curling writer Allen Cameron – also a top scribe for The Curling News – is in today’s edition and also appears throughout the CanWest Global news empire, including the National Post; in papers located in Regina and Saskatoon; in Victoria and also in Ottawa.

In a TCN exclusive, we spoke with Morris, who said:

I know that these other three guys share my desire and passion for the sport of curling, and I think with some hard work we can have a pretty deadly foursome.

We’re all very excited and are looking forward to putting in a lot of hard work for 2010.

Hebert, just 23, is moving to Morris’ HQ city of Calgary. Kennedy lives in Martin’s hometown of Edmonton, and in fact works for Martin at his curling/tennis supply shop at the Saville Centre. Both previous Martin and Morris squads were sponsored by Bruce Saville, the magnanimous curling sponsor who also steers the ownership group behind hockey’s Edmonton Oilers.

Said Morris:

I’m really looking forward to my new role at third, to being in a more supportive and sharpshooter type of role... even a little bit of sweeping in there is gonna keep me in better shape. We’re gonna work hard in the off-season and hit the gym, and be ready to go for next year.

The Martin/Morris merger brings together two of Alberta’s top squads. Martin won the 2006 Alberta title – breaking arch-rival Randy Ferbey’s string of five consecutive crowns – while Morris finished third. Morris also finished third at the Olympic Trials in Halifax, behind runner-up Jeff Stoughton of Winnipeg and the eventual Olympic gold medallist squad of Brad Gushue and Russ Howard.

For the castoffs, some are assured of bright futures. Both Rycroft and former Morris third Kevin Koe will be tremendous additions to any squad, at any position... including skip. That happens to be Koe’s natural position: he returned there this past weekend and won the final celebrity/charity event of the season, the 25th anniversary Heart to Heart Bonspiel in Thunder Bay.

The two former leads are out of the local picture – Bartlett is taking the 2007 season off while ex-Morris lead Paul Moffatt is moving to his original home province of Ontario. Longtime Martin third Walchuk, constantly on pins and needles with his skip (Martin asked Morris to play third prior to the 2004-05 season, but Morris declined) could return to skip stone, which he played for a couple of years in the mid-1990s, or could retire: he suffered from a serious stomach illness this past season. Earlier rumours had him shuttling down to road to Red Deer to hook up with returning Alberta legend Pat Ryan.