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Curling world rallies around Savill

With the completion of the Home Hardware Canada Cup, two berths to the Tim Hortons Roar of the Rings awarded, a Grand Slam event starting today, and provincial playdowns on the horizon, there is no shortage of headlines flying around the curling community.

But as Canada’s elite players left the Home Hardware Canada Cup in Grand Prairie, Alta., on the way to the Pinty’s Grand Slam event in Yorkton, Sask., one story grabbed all their attention… and it had nothing to do with points, playdowns, or national rankings.

(Curling Canada/Michael Burns photo)

(Curling Canada/Michael Burns photo)

While those closest to Craig Savill were already well aware, TSN.ca’s Bob Weeks announced to the curling community that the four-time world champion was recently diagnosed with Hodgkins lymphoma and will be starting chemotherapy in the upcoming weeks.

“You’re speechless when you get the news,” said Rich Hart, Savill’s long-time teammate. “But he’s a strong guy, both physically and mentally. He’s so positive, you just know he’s going to beat it.”

“Everybody knows Craig’s a great guy,” said Brent Laing, member of the Home Hardware Canada Cup winners Team Koe, and Savill’s teammate for four world championships. “I’m sure his phone is blowing up with texts, and tweets, letting him know that everybody’s behind him. He’s got lots of friends pulling for him.”

Savill, famous for his role as lead on Glenn Howard’s dominant teams (including two World Championships), found a new skip this year after the “Howard Four” decided to switch things up. He spent the first half of the season playing with Shawn Adams out of Halifax. His hope was to play in this year’s Tim Hortons Brier in his hometown of Ottawa. Obviously, priorities have changed, but his colleagues in the curling world still want to see him there.

“He’s had his sights set on an Ottawa Brier for a long time,” said Laing. “I’m sure he’ll be there one way or another, if at all possible.”

Hart indicated that if he’s healthy enough, he could return to the Brier with Team Howard as a fifth player, should they win the Ontario berth. “It would be great if that worked out, or who knows? He might still want to go with the Adams team. Either way, it would be great to have him there. All of the players are thinking of him.”

“We’ve been playing Craig since juniors,” said Mark Nichols of Team Gushue. “That’s about 16 or 18 years now, so we’ve seen these guys a lot. One thing I know about Craig… Anything he’s ever done, he’s been a winner, and I don’t think this will be any different.”

With the heavy news still setting in for players, their focus will eventually shift to the Grand Slam of Curling’s Canadian Open in Yorkton. With Laing’s team (skipped by Kevin Koe) having locked down the first spot at the Tim Hortons Roar of the Rings, they’re one step closer to the Olympics… the light at the end of the four-year tunnel.

“It’s nice to have that locked down. It means we don’t have to spent the next few years chasing points,” said Laing. “We can plan our season the way we want to, but obviously the Grand Slams are big ones, and we always want to do well at them.”

Nichols, on the other hand, didn’t leave Grande Prairie with the golden ticket, and was more focused on a good result at this weekend’s event, which they won last year. “We didn’t play poorly (at the Canada Cup), we just didn’t get the results. We’ve been doing well in the Slams this year, so hopefully we can get back to the winning form this weekend.”

As for Savill, there’s no doubt his phone is “blowing up” as Laing predicted. A quick search on Twitter shows hundreds of well-wishes streaming in from all over the world.

One came from Norway’s Håvard Vad Petersson (@haavpet), lead for Team Ulsrud. “83,9% survival rate. Savill usually high 90… Sounds like an easy win!”

The Canadian Open starts tonight at the Gallagher Centre in Yorkton at 7 p.m. Central Time.