Road To The Olympic Games

Curling

Fry's return at Canadian Open gives Jacobs yet another lineup change

After avoiding public comment since his ejection from the Red Deer Curling Classic, Ryan Fry returns to the spotlight this week as the Grand Slam series makes a stop in North Battleford, Sask., for the Canadian Open.

Fry hasn't spoken publicly since taking a break after ejection in November

Ryan Fry, pictured in 2017, returns to competition this week at the Canadian Open in North Battleford, Sask. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

After avoiding public comment since his ejection from the Red Deer Curling Classic, Ryan Fry returns to the spotlight this week as the Grand Slam series makes a stop in North Battleford, Sask., for the Canadian Open.

It's unclear whether Fry will discuss his disqualification and the steps he took during a seven-week break to focus on growth and self-improvement. His return to Team Brad Jacobs was confirmed on New Year's Day and he'll be in the lineup for Wednesday's opener against Switzerland's Peter de Cruz.

"I think the story kind of grew a life of its own and I'm sure he regrets what happened," said curling commentator Mike Harris. "But I would anticipate that they get back at it pretty quickly and pretty readily. I don't see there being a whole lot of pushback from the players, for example. The challenge is going to be with Brad himself.

"They obviously would have felt some pressure from sponsors and whatnot to address what happened in a reasonable and quick manner. So I'm hopeful that everything will focus back on curling. That's what I'm hoping for for that team and we'll see how it goes."

Fry, who was playing as a substitute at the World Curling Tour event in mid-November, was kicked out along with teammates Jamie Koe, Chris Schille and DJ Kidby. Organizers said the disqualification stemmed from unsportsmanlike behaviour resulting from excessive drinking.

All four players issued statements to apologize for their actions.

Play at the Canadian Open began Tuesday night at the Civic Centre, with winners including Calgary's Kevin Koe, who defeated Saskatoon's Rylan Kleiter, 10-1, Toronto's John Epping, an 8-1 winner over Saskatoon's Kirk Muyres, and Penetanguishene, Ont.'s Glenn Howard, who beat Newfoundland's Brad Gushue, 5-4.

In other Draw 1 action, Scotland's Bruce Mouat defeated Kingston's Scott McDonald, 8-5, and Sweden's Niklas Edin beat Winnipeg's Jason Gunnlaugson, 7-6.

Kept low profile

Fry, who recently declined an interview request, has kept a low profile and has only weighed in via social media on rare occasions since the bonspiel. He posted an apology statement on Twitter on Nov. 21 and didn't post again until Jan. 1, the same day the team announced it was excited to confirm Fry's return.

The team used a pair of substitutes while Fry was away. Jacobs won the Canada Cup with Marc Kennedy at third last month and the team reached the quarter-final at the National a week later with Matt Wozniak in the lineup.

"Obviously Ryan is under a microscope right now," said Harris, a Sportsnet broadcaster and 1998 Olympian.

Jacobs, Fry, second E.J. Harnden and lead Ryan Harnden won gold at the 2014 Sochi Games in Russia, a year after winning the Tim Hortons Brier and a world silver medal.

Former Team Rachel Homan coach Adam Kingsbury started working with the Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.-based rink this season. A PhD candidate in clinical psychology, Kingsbury specializes in helping players with mental preparation.

Jacobs has risen to the No. 3 spot in the world rankings behind Kevin Koe and Niklas Edin.

"There's no lack of commitment or talent there," Harris said. "Certainly they needed to change something to get back to their winning ways and it's worked. So I look forward to seeing what (else) Adam can do to help them. He'll certainly help a lot with this transition as Ryan comes back into the mix.

"You've got three new players (in) three events, they've got the perfect coach for that."

Jacobs won the Tour Challenge on the Grand Slam circuit earlier this season and finished second at the Shorty Jenkins Classic.

"This is the last Slam before the (provincial) playdowns start," Harris said. "All of the teams will want to be peaking if you can for the next couple months of curling."

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