Ryan Fry leans on a wall near the Mattamy Athletic Centre locker-room, his broom in one hand and a water bottle in the other, and tilts his head to the side as he thinks about what he’s learned during an unforgettable curling season.
What flowed out of Fry during the long chat that followed only seemed to scratch the surface.
He has experienced a lot in recent months and seems richer for it. Fry is capping a long run with Team Brad Jacobs with two more competitions — including this week’s Players’ Championship — before moving on to join Team John Epping.
He’s also getting married next month and said he’s ready for the exciting changes on and off the ice that await.
The Champions Cup in Saskatoon will be the team’s swan song. A couple weeks after that, they’ll head south to a resort with other friends and family members for Fry’s wedding.
“It’s great to be able to play out these last two Grand Slams with the boys,” Fry said. “We’re going off to Jamaica together in May. So it’s going to be a good little bookend to a good seven years.”
The Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.,-based team won the Tim Hortons Brier in 2013 before reaching curling’s zenith with an Olympic gold at the 2014 Sochi Games.
The rink has had success on tour in recent years but was unable to duplicate the lofty heights from the previous quadrennial. Over the last season or two, the spark from their earlier days started to fade.
Later that month, Fry took a leave of absence to focus on growth and self-improvement.
Playing as a substitute at a lower-level bonspiel, organizers had disqualified his team for unsportsmanlike behaviour resulting from excessive drinking. Fry took two months off and has played well since his return.
“It’s great being able to go and have the opportunity to play,” Fry said. “Because to be honest with you, after Red Deer in November, I was feeling pretty down that my opportunities … that it was going to take a lot of work to get back to where I wanted to get. It just was a change that I had to make and it’s amazing how many people will support you along the way.”
The Red Deer story filled sports sections around the country and set social media ablaze.
The 40-year-old Winnipeg native was very appreciative for the support he received afterwards.
“I think that I’m very lucky because I had something happen to me that snapped me into seeing that in the blink of an eye. That’s where you get to.”
Last month, Fry had a conversation with Jacobs about future curling plans. They agreed a fresh start was needed and that the team’s shelf life had been reached.
The team has looked strong this week, posting a 4-1 record entering Friday night’s draw. Jacobs shared first place in Pool B with Brad Gushue of St. John’s, N.L.
Late Friday, Sweden’s Niklas Edin secured a spot in the quarterfinals with a 6-4 victory over Winnipeg’s Reid Carruthers in the final round-robin draw.
Scotland’s Bruce Mouat and Ross Paterson both advanced to Saturday morning’s tiebreaker draw. Mouat took two points in the eighth to edge Calgary’s Kevin Koe 5-4 while Paterson held off Glenn Howard of Penetanguishene, Ont., 4-2.
Both Koe and Howard had already qualified for the playoffs and finished pool play with 3-2 records. Edmonton’s Brendan Bottcher also advanced at 3-2 while Brad Jacobs of Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., and Brad Gushue of St. John’s, N.L., finished as the top two seeds with 4-1 records.
Edin will meet Bottcher in the quarter-finals Saturday afternoon while Howard goes up against Koe. Jacobs and Gushue will take on teams emerging from the tiebreakers.
Mouat, Paterson, Carruthers, Toronto’s John Epping and Peter de Cruz of Switzerland all finished with 2-3 records leading to a mess of tiebreakers for Saturday. Mouat takes on Carruthers and Paterson plays Epping in the morning draw.
The winner of Paterson vs. Epping goes straight through to the quarterfinals while De Cruz awaits the victor between Carruthers and Mouat at Noon ET.
Japan’s Satsuki Fujisawa eliminated Ottawa’s Rachel Homan 6-5 in the lone tiebreaker game on the women’s side.
Fujisawa will play top seed Anna Hasselborg of Sweden in the quarter-finals. Winnipeg’s Jennifer Jones takes on Casey Scheidegger of Lethbridge, Alta., Tracy Fleury of East St. Paul faces Kerri Einarson of Gimli in an all-Manitoba match and Robyn Silvernagle of North Battleford, Sask., plays Calgary’s Chelsea Carey.