Road To The Olympic Games

Curling

Team Jacobs hopes to have Ryan Fry back at next Grand Slam in January

Despite some turbulence surrounding Brad Jacobs' rink since Ryan Fry took an indefinite leave after a well-publicized incident, there's been a calm and confidence the team hasn't been able to find over the last number of years.

2014 Olympic champ took indefinite leave from team after incident at Red Deer Curling Classic

Skip Brad Jacobs, left, could welcome Ryan Fry back into his rink as early as January's Grand Slam event. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

CONCEPTION BAY SOUTH, N.L. — It's been nearly a month since curler Ryan Fry took an indefinite leave from Brad Jacobs' team after being kicked out of the Red Deer Curling Classic for "unacceptable behaviour" which included being "extremely drunk."

Since then, Jacobs and his team from Sault Ste. Marie, Ont. have played in two events — they've looked great in both with replacements including winning the Canada Cup in Estevan, Sask., with Marc Kennedy taking Fry's place.

The team also played in the Grand Slam event this week in Conception Bay South — this time they used Matt Wozniak in place of Fry, with E.J. Harnden moving from his usual second spot to third.

The team went undefeated in the round robin, however, they were eliminated from playoff contention Saturday after losing in the quarter-finals to Glenn Howard's rink.

Despite some turbulence surrounding the team since Fry's departure, there's been a calm and confidence they haven't been able to find over the last number of years.

"It's a really good string of games right now," Jacobs said. "It's been a long time since we've put this many games together and felt this good overall. There have been a number of frustrating points over the last number of seasons."

Watch highlights from Jacobs' run at the National:

The 2014 Olympic champion hit a highlight-reel double-raise in-off that found the button to force an extra end against Niklas Edin. Jacobs went on to steal two points for the win. 1:25

Part of that stems from the work being done behind the scenes by Adam Kingsbury. He spent the last three seasons with Rachel Homan's team but left and joined Jacobs during the offseason.

A PhD candidate in sports psychology, Kingsbury is using everything he's learned in the academic world to help curlers and Jacobs says it's paying off for them.

"We really have to give him a lot of credit. The work he's done with our team and some key points he's had us working on has made a difference," Jacobs said.

While the team continues to go about its business, Fry continues to work on "personal growth and self-improvement." Shortly after the incident in Red Deer, he posted a statement saying he would do everything he need to do to get back on the ice.

"It has made me take a hard look in the mirror to understand what fuelled my unprofessional actions," Fry said in the statement posted to Twitter.

"I am committed to taking every step possible to ensure that this never happens again, and to make amends to those who have been negatively impacted."

Fry's return imminent

Now it appears the team is hoping to have Fry back as soon as the next Grand Slam event at the beginning of January in North Battleford, Sask.

"Our hope is to have Ryan back for the next event. We have to regroup as a team," Harnden said. "We've been in constant contact with Ryan, checking in with him almost every day and seeing how he's doing."

"He's been messaging us after games congratulating us. We've been messaging him back and forth."

Harnden says despite their success without Fry in the lineup, it's been challenging at times missing a key member of their team.

The golden quartet of Jacobs, Fry, Ryan Harnden and E.J. Harnden, left to right, could be reunited soon. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press)

"We'd all be lying if we didn't say the last number of weeks have been difficult," he said. "But at the same time maybe it brought all of us as a team together. Maybe it made it easier because we knew we just had to go out there and play and try focus in on what's in front of you."

Harnden says when they were considering finding replacements for Fry over the last couple events they were really intentional about who they choose to take his place.

"The one thing we focused in on as much as we could was finding people we felt could fit in personality-wise," Harnden said. "We wanted good curlers but even more importantly it was finding guys we got along well with."

Now they're ready to reassemble the team that won gold at the Olympics just four years ago.

Follow CBC Sports' live coverage from Conception Bay South, N.L.:

About the Author

Devin Heroux

CBC reporter

Devin Heroux reports for CBC News and Sports. He is now based in Toronto, after working first for the CBC in Calgary and Saskatoon.

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