Break from curling allowed Manitoba’s Mark Nichols to reload for Tim Hortons Brier in Edmonton
Former Newfoundland/Labrador third took 18 months away from sport
Team Manitoba lead Mark Nichols watches his rock during game action against Team New Brunswick in the afternoon draw at the 2013 Tim Hortons Brier held at Rexall Place in Edmonton on Thursday March 7, 2013.
Photograph by: Larry Wong, Edmonton Journal
EDMONTON - It was the spring of 2011 and Mark Nichols had enough.
Widely considered one of the best thirds in the curling world, Nichols walked away from the game he loved, not really sure if he would ever curl competitively again.
“I was burnt out,” said Nichols, who after playing 12 years with Newfoundland/Labrador’s Brad Gushue now finds himself curling for Manitoba’s Jeff Stoughton at the 2013 Tim Hortons Brier.
“I just needed a break from the travel, the competition, the schedule and season after season of competing. It was pretty demanding,” he said about being away from home for upwards of 100 days a year.
“I needed to get a few things in my personal life in order,” said Nichols, who, at the time, had also just got married.
“All the travelling didn’t
allow me to do it. And travelling out of Newfoundland is a whole lot harder than travelling out of Central Canada. You are taking two or three flights to get somewhere as opposed to hopping on a flight and flying for an hour and a half or two hours to get to a spiel.”
A personal fitness trainer, Nichols, who was part of Gushue’s 2006 world championship rink, would take 18 months away from curling.
Then the phone call came from Stoughton.
“He asked if I was interested in curling for him,” said Nichols, 33. “They gave me some time to make up my mind about moving to Winnipeg and I finally said yes.”
He’s glad he did.
“I feel great. The year off did wonders for me. Curling is a lot of fun again,” said Nichols, who helped his rink defeat New Brunswick 6-5 Thursday afternoon. “We were fairly in control the whole game. They made some good shots at the right time to keep themselves in it; Jamie (Grattan) made a couple of beauty rolls.”
Manitoba, however, would lose the evening draw 9-4 to Northern Ontario when they gave up four in the 8th end to leave their record at 7-2.
Nichols said he found it a
little strange curling against and defeating Gushue, his former skip, Wednesday night.
“You could feel the tension; it was intense,” said Nichols, who also won a world junior title with Gushue in 2001.
“There was nothing said
between us. No jabs. No talking. It was pretty serious.”
Saying there was no animosity between he and Gushue, Nichols said the weirdest part was that he wasn’t wearing red and white colours Newfoundland/Labrador colours.
“My heart and soul I’m a Newfoundlander,” who wore Newfoundland’s colours in eight Briers. “So that was different. But once we got on the ice it was just another curling game.”
As well as a change of teams, the migration to Manitoba also involved a switch of positions as Nichols moved from third to lead.
“It’s an adjustment for sure. My shots are pretty much the same thing over and over again. Draws. Guards. Setting the end up,” he said as opposed to a third’s roles where the shots are usually much more varied and complicated.
“It’s quite a change for me. But I’m enjoying it.”
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