Jeff Stoughton will be making his fifth appearance at the Canadian Curling Trials, Dec. 1-8, when Winnipeg welcomes the very best teams in the country to the 2013 Tim Hortons Roar of the Rings, presented by Monsanto.
But this will be the first time the skip from the Charleswood Curling Club will have the hometown advantage in his bid to represent Canada at the Olympic Games.
“We certainly hope it will make a difference,” said Stoughton, referring to the prospect of competing in the MTS Centre, home ice for the Winnipeg Jets – the venue that after just two seasons has earned the reputation as one of the loudest buildings in the National Hockey League.
“It’s the thrill of a lifetime. The closest we’ve come to playing in front of a huge home audience was at the world’s in Regina (2011 Ford World Men’s Curling Championship) when we felt like the home team. I think this time, at the MTS Centre, we’re going to really feel like the home team… it’s going to be phenomenal.
“If we’re playing in the final, it would have a buzz. We would have a really hard time calming down. I think that’s going to be part of our training… just calming down.”
In four previous trips to the Trials, Stoughton has been on the verge of turning the Olympic dream into reality, losing in 2005 on a last-rock measure in the championship final to the Brad Gushue team that moved on to win Canada’s first gold medal in men’s curling at the 2006 Olympics. At the 2009 Roar of the Rings, Stoughton finished third with a semifinal loss to Glenn Howard.
In a competitive career that includes 10 trips to the Brier wearing Manitoba colours, resulting in three Tankard titles and pair of world championships, Stoughton is accustomed to pressure. But he is well aware that the Trials, especially playing in front of a home crowd, is a formidable challenge.
A veteran of the experience – he and Kevin Martin will be the only two competitors in the men’s field to skip teams in the past five consecutive Trials – Stoughton understands the importance of the mental side of the game.
“It will really come down to handling the nerves and dealing with the excitement.”
The Stoughton team, including Jon Mead, Reid Carruthers and Mark Nichols, won the 2012 Capital One Canada Cup in Moose Jaw last December to secure their spot in the Roar of the Rings. And they’re off to a solid start to the new season, chalking up a second-place finish and a championship victory in their first two starts on the World Curling Tour circuit.
“We’ve done a little more off-season training… and we had the ice in a month earlier, so we had the chance to practice in August,” said Stoughton. “It makes a big difference this year because you’re looking to hit your peak in December. We’re off to a great start, so hopefully all the hard work is paying off.”
“You Gotta Be There” when Canada crowns its representatives for the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia. The best seats in the MTS Centre are available now by clicking here.