WINNIPEG — It’s been more than two years since Jeff Stoughton hung up the slider, but his hiatus from the sport he once dominated ends on Thursday when Stoughton gets back in the hack for the Grand Slam Of Curling’s Elite 10.
Last year Rachel Homan competed against the men at the Elite 10 and this year the 11-time Manitoba curling champ was invited to put a legends team together for the event in Port Hawkesbury, NS. They’ll play a skins game type format and since Stoughton doesn’t have to worry about sweeping, being in game shape is really of no concern.
“I mean I just have to throw a couple down there and hope for the best,” Stoughton said.
Stoughton has recruited three other retired players with Dave Nedohin to play third, Nolan Thiessen will be at second and Jamie Korab will throw the lead rocks. They won’t exactly be eased back into competition as they have to face the newly crowned Brier champion Brad Gushue rink on the opening day.
“We’re competitors so I’ve been out practicing for a couple weeks, throwing a few rocks,” said Stoughton. “We’ll see how it goes.”
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While he hasn’t been playing competitively, Stoughton is still heavily involved in the sport as the manager of Canada’s mixed doubles program. He also provides commentary for television broadcasts, but talking the talk isn’t the same as walking the walk.
“It’s kind of funny. The shoe is sort of on the other foot,” Stoughton said. “There’s a lot of events that we’d go to where we’re going, oh my gosh, we shouldn’t lose to this team. We’re this team this time. Everyone is going to be saying we shouldn’t lose to that team.”
Stoughton won a record eleven provincial championships, three Brier titles and two World Championships, but he made it clear that this is a one shot deal, with no plans to return to competitive curling full-time.
“No chance I’m going to come back and try and play for some team,” said Stoughton. “It’s not that I don’t have the drive, I just think it’s past where I want to be. It’s so much commitment and time for these teams now.”
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Stoughton’s first game is against Steve Laycock on Thursday at 2 p.m. CT.