It was a long, tough, gruelling ride but Jeff Stoughton successfully reached the end of the championship trail on Sunday night at the Brandt Centre in Regina.The 47-year-old Stoughton completed his most illustrious-ever curling campaign by adding his second Ford Worlds title to a glittering list of accomplishments that includes three Brier wins and a record nine Manitoba titles.
“It doesn’t get any better,” said Stoughton, shortly after recording a 6-5 championship-final victory over Scotland’s Tom Brewster in the event closer. “At my age, with my long career, it’s pretty special to be able to do this. We’ve put in a lot of hard work and dedication to play this game. And this says a lot for our longevity in the game and our perseverance and the sacrifices we’ve put in.”
Stoughton last won the Worlds in 1996.
“For a long time it was getting hard to be third or fourth or fifth, trying to get back to this,” he said. “You’re so close, but so far. It does get frustrating. But this makes up for all of it.”
It was a night when Scottish skip Brewster and Canadian vice-skip Jon Mead were celebrating very special birthdays — No 37 for Brewster, a native of St. Andrews, and No. 44 for Mead, who was born in Regina.
It was the first world success for Mead and second Reid Carruthers, but the second for lead Steve Gould, who was with Stoughton when he won his previous title 15 years ago at Copps Coliseum in Hamilton.
This was his third global final and the third time his team has faced off against a Scottish side. Stoughton defeated Warwick Smith of Perth in 1996, lost to Hammy McMillan of Stranraer in 1999 and won this year against a 37-year-old veteran from Aberdeen who had assembled a team of youngsters and qualified for his first Worlds since winning the global junior title the year before Stoughton won his first world men’s crown.
Playing with Brewster were 22-year-old third Greg Drummond, 21-year-old second Scott Andrews and 22-year-old lead Michael Goodfellow.
“That’s a great young team,” said Stoughton of his foe. “They have great mechanics. I think if they can just tone it down a little bit, relax and let the game play out. We had some more finesse shots than they did, made some more touch draws and some bumpers and hacks. I think that’s all that’s missing from their game. Those guys are young! That’s going to be a pretty strong team in the near future.”
The Scots erupted like gangbusters when Brewster unleashed a runback split triple on the first end to force Canada to a single. After an inconsequential blank, Brewster hit for two in the third, keyed by another spectacular Brewster triple, and stole a single in the fourth.
A critical Scottish miss in the fifth end signalled the game’s first big turnaround. It enabled Canada to set the table for a go-ahead three-ender and a 3-2 lead at the half.
“That was the big shot,” said Brewster later of third Greg Drummond’s attempt to follow a Jon Mead stone behind cover in the four-foot that wound up wide open. “He could afford to be heavy but he had to be tight. That definitely was the key shot. All of a sudden, we didn’t have the red rocks in the rings any more.”
Brewster executed a clutch tap to square the account in the sixth but after a blanked seventh Canada was afforded a draw for a deuce in the eighth. Then Brewster overthrew a hit for a tying deuce in the ninth and rolled out, leaving Canada with the hammer and the one-point advantage.
The jig was up.
“I’m overwhelmed,” gasped birthday-boy Mead moments after the handshakes. “I’m absolutely overwhelmed. It’s the greatest day of my life. I miss my mom (she passed away two years ago), I miss my wife and kids and I’m tired and I want a beer, and I just love the guys I play with.”
Mead said he’d never experienced such excitement in curling.
“I couldn’t get my heart rate down. We were nervous, no doubt. That’s an all-or-nothing game. We played the whole year for that one game. And we found a way. Jeff said, ‘C’mon boys, give me a chance’ and we did that. We got real fortunate today. We’ll take it and I’m not going to apologize for it.
“I can’t believe it. I thought I was done in this game. And then to do it now with these guys, it’s fantastic. We just did everything right and it paid off.
Mead had a little reminder of his mother scribbled on his broom handle.
“Every time I got tight I looked at it,” he said. “You know, this is why we play the game? I’m blown away, man. I’m absolutely blown away. And I’ve just got to thank my guys.
“Does it any better than this? Well, my hair could grow back tomorrow, I guess.”
Stoughton attempted to explain “a special feeling”.
“There’s nothing better than a world championship,” he said, clutching the championship trophy. “It’s better than the Brier. It’s one more step past the Brier and this is so much sweeter. I’m just so glad we got this one done. We had a goal set at the beginning of the year which was pretty lofty — to win a world championship. Jon and I wanted it so bad this year. We just felt it was our best opportunity.
“We didn’t have our provincial spot, we had to win seven in a row in November, went through the provincials undefeated, went to the Brier and had a great run. It was phenomenal how well the guys played there. This is something we’ll cherish for quite a while before we worry about the future. Hey, if they want this trophy, they’re going to have to come to Winnipeg to pick it up.”
Playing in front of a final-night crowd of 5,854 at the Brandt was “such a rush”, Stoughton said.
“It’s hard. The adrenaline pumps. You get emotional. You well up a bit at the start of the game. When they announce Team Canada, that’s a feeling you don’t get very often because we’re just curlers. I’m very honoured to be playing in front of a crowd like this.”
Brewster said he’d probably recall his birthday in a more favourable light later.
“A few months from now I’ll be quite happy to remember it,” he said. “But right now I’m gutted. “Oh boy, did we have things going our way. Then we gave up a soft three. If we kept him to two it’s different. But they played a great last end. It didn’t matter if I get my two in nine. I must have eased that one back a bit. The ice was so fast. Don’t get me wrong though. The ice was great. I have absolutely no complaints about that.”
Brewster said his team “gave it our all, we did our best”.
“We’ve had a fantastic season when you consider it’s our first together. An old guy and three youngsters aren’t supposed to be win this the first time out. They’re not supposed to win a silver medal, either, but we were so close to winning the gold.”
The Stoughton team won 10 straight during the preliminary round-robin segment of the 12-team tournament before losing to Norway’s Thomas Ulsrud on a heavy draw to the four-foot with the last rock of the last round-robin match.
But the Canucks already had first place locked up by then and went on to defeat second-finishing Brewster 5-2 in a tedious Page One-Two playoff and grab a berth in Sunday’s final.
Ulsrud was named winner of the Collie Campbell Award, voted by the players for sportsmanship and ability.
Total attendance for the nine-day event was 99,445.