Millroy: Like I Had Been Kicked in the Gut


Curling teams on the major circuit are changing personnel like changing socks these days, yet when I read a couple of weeks back that one of those breaking up was our own foursome led by Brad Jacobs, it was like I had been kicked in the gut.

We just had such a good thing going cheering for this hometown crew for so long.
Every year, for the past 15, we could look to a new curling season knowing Sault Ste. Marie was going to be represented at pretty well all the major curling events, such as the Grand Slam of Curling, the Brier and in one year, even the Olympics.

For instance, the Jacobs foursome, composed of Jacobs as skip, Ryan Fry at third, Jacobs’s cousins, the brothers E.J. Harnden and Ryan Harnden at second and lead respectively, won the Brier, the Canadian championship, in 2013 and followed it up with a gold medal in the Olympics in Sochi, Russia, in 2014.

You could describe this as the team’s heydays because they won the big ones, but that is to ignore the fact that they were in the running for major championships pretty well every year since then.

I like to watch curling on television, but when Jacobs and his crew were involved it seemed to become more than something I liked, it was something I needed.

When it comes to sports, the national fervour in me comes out when Canadian teams are playing on the world stage, be it hockey, curling, baseball or basketball, anything; I also pull for any team that hails from this city of ours.

I think that it is why I find such a loss in the breaking up of the Jacobs team; it covered both bases for me, world stage and national.

Fry was with the cousins for seven years. Marc Kennedy, himself an Olympic champion, came out of retirement as a replacement for Fry in 2019.

The breakup of the Jacobs foursome actually signals an end to an era in the Sault as the Harnden name in championship curling stretches back to the 1980s, Al and Eric Harnden, the father of E.J. and Ryan, combining to travel to several Briers, emblazoning the Hardnen name and the name of their city on the map of the curling world.

The breakup also signals what could be considered the end of a dynasty, the name Harnden and connections to it being front and centre for so long.

Jacobs actually got his first taste of Brier action playing for his Uncle Al in 2007. A year later he branched out on his own, recruiting E.J., Ryan and Caleb Flaxey to round out the team, which went to the Brier in 2010, 2011 and 2012 before winning it in 2013 with Fry now involved.

They won a silver medal at the World Championship, losing to Sweden’s Niklas Edin in the final.

Their win at the Olympics followed the next year.

It was somewhere around this time that a new type of curler began to appear, with workouts in the gym becoming an adjunct to their work on the ice. The finely-muscled Jacobs rink looked like they would have no problem finding a home at some position on a football field.
With the breakup Jacobs is taking some time off from curling but the other three still want to play. Ryan Harnden has already been picked up by Matt Dunstone , who will skip a team out of Manitoba that will also have B.J. Neufeld and Colton Lott on its roster.

E.J. Harnden is an alternate for Brad Gushue at the world championship In Las Vegas and although he says he has no commitment with the team beyond that, Kevin Martin, who skipped the 2010 Olympic winner that also included Marc Kenndy, suggested in his Inside Curling podcast that he could end up with Gushue full-time next season as Gushue’s second, Brent Gallant, is rumoured to be moving to Alberta to join Brendan Bottcher.

With Kennedy’s talent, have no doubt that he will be playing somewhere next season.
“As the saying goes, all good things must come to an end — what a ride!” tweeted Team Jacobs as it announced its breakup. “We knew that at some point this would come & as hard as it is, it is on great terms — our curling journey is ending, but we will always be part of each other’s personal journey moving forward & that is most important to us all.”

They are going out on a high if not winning note, having finished as runner-up to Gushue in the Olympic trials last fall and making it to the playoffs in the Brier. Over the years they also won seven Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling men’s championships.

So as much as I am going to miss them, I have to give them a shout-out for all they have given us over the years. I will be pulling for all those still playing, wherever that is going to be.
As for Jacobs, I think he deserves some time off. But in all truth I hope he returns, recruiting a young group of locals that he might not lead to the heights that his foursome reached but which undoubtedly will be highly efficient and competitive.

I think he still has too much to offer to mothball it.

So to all of the Jacobs team I say Godspeed. I, and I daresay this community, thanks you for the entertainment you provided for so many years and the acclaim you brought to our city.


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