You’d be hard-pressed to find a curler on the planet who’s more used to curling in the glare of the spotlight than John Morris.
It seems as if the Winnipeg-born vice-skip for Edmonton’s Kevin Martin foursome has been winning championships forever, and you tend to forget that he’s still a relatively young 32 (he turns 33 in December), despite all of his accomplishments.
Morris grew up around a curling rink, and his dad, three-time Brier participant (representing three different provinces) Earle, was his coach. That partnership made John one of the bright rising stars in the game, and he showed his skipping skills early on by becoming just the second man, after Paul Gowsell, to win a pair of Canadian and world junior men’s championships, in 1998 and 1999.
After moving into the men’s ranks, Morris quickly proved he could play with the big boys, skipping his Ontario-based team featuring front-enders Craig Saville and Brent Laing, along with third Joe Frans, to a berth in the 2001 Canadian Curling Trials in Regina, and then claiming his first Purple Heart later that season, winning the 2002 Ontario men’s title and going on to a memorable second-place finish to Alberta’s Randy Ferbey at the 2002 Brier in Calgary.
Not long afterwards, Morris, voted one of the top 100 alumni in the history of Wilfrid Laurier University, pulled up roots in Ontario and moved to Calgary so he could be closer to the Rocky Mountains and find new curling challenges. He skipped a successful Calgary-based team that won a Grand Slam Players’ Championship, but when he got the chance following the 2005-06 season to join forces with the legendary Martin, the offer was too good to pass up.
That team — rounded out by second Marc Kennedy and lead Ben Hebert — is now considered one of the best ever, having won back-to-back Briers in 2008 and 2009, a world title in 2008, and, oh yes, an Olympic gold medal in 2010 at Vancouver.
What’s not generally known about Morris is the work he puts in behind the scenes to help young curlers; he’s a tireless volunteer at junior clinics, helps out at his local club in Chestermere with the junior program, and co-authored a book, Fit to Curl, with Dean Gemmell.
Morris and the rest of the Martin team open play on Nov. 30 at the Capital One Canada Cup of Curling at the RecPlex in Cranbrook, B.C.
Hometown: Chestermere, Alta.
Curling Club: Edmonton-Saville Sports Centre
Current Team: Team Kevin Martin
Nickname: Johnny Mo, Motown
Quick Hits with John Morris
Do you have any superstitions?
“Not anymore; I used to before we hired a sport psychologist.”
Three people, living or not, whom you would invite to a dinner party.
“Barack Obama, Will Ferrell and Jerry Dee.”
If you could be a star any other sport, what would it be, and why?
“MLB player. I’ve always loved baseball . . . probably even more than curling!”
If you could change any rule in curling, which one would it be, and why?
“Eliminate the bronze-medal game at the Brier, add a Team Canada to the Brier and have the bottom-placed team play off against the worst team from the previous year. This would ensure all games at the Brier would be meaningful!”
What music, if any, do you like to listen to before a game?
“The odd time I will rock some classic rock or Coldplay before games.”
— Website? “www.precisioncraft.com (beautiful log home builder); www.fittocurl.com; www.teamkevinmartin.com.”
— Order from Tim Hortons? “Chili in a bread bowl, and then I eat the bowl!”
— Vacation destination? “Costa Rica or the Mediterranean.”
— Junk food? “Homemade pie and vanilla ice cream.”
Do you have any pet peeves?
“People who are not genuine; and straight ice.”
Person who had the most influence on your curling career. And why?
“My father, Earle (The Pearl) Morris — he’s the reason I started curling, and he showed me how to be a better teammate and skip.”
First thing on your Bucket List?
“Visiting all 42 of Canada’s national parks in one summer.”
Favourite pastime between draws at cashspiels?
“Playing cards — whist, 9-5-2. Also, watching NFL football or NHL hockey.”
Mixed doubles in the Olympics — thumbs up? Thumbs down? And why?
“Thumbs up; it’s a welcome change from the traditional roaring game. If we want new and younger people to pick up this game, we have to find some unique ways to draw them to it. Plus, I think it requires more athleticism and endurance to play a competitive game of mixed doubles, not to mention that the ’spiels would be way more fun!”
One thing most people don’t know about you?
“I love the outdoors and cooking — fishing, camping, hiking, mountain biking, you name it!”
Your ideal shot to win an Olympic gold medal:
“In-off double takeout to score a deuce and the dramatic victory!!”