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GSOC Flashback: John Morris makes history winning 2004 Players’ Championship

Note: This article was originally published on March 30, 2017.

John Morris was surprised to see footage of his 2004 Players’ Championship victory airing during the 2017 Princess Auto Elite 10 final.

“They still have video of that?”

The flashback clip featured a babyfaced 25-year-old Morris and his young team — featuring third Kevin Koe, second Marc Kennedy and lead Paul Moffatt — defeat the Ol’ Bear Kevin Martin to capture their first career Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling championship. Morris made history in the series becoming the youngest skip to win a Grand Slam title. (Eve Muirhead has since broken the record when she captured the 2013 Players’ Championship at age 23.)

It was also just their first season together as Morris and Moffatt moved from Ontario to Alberta during the previous off-season to link up with Koe and Kennedy.

The 2004 Players’ Championship was held at Mile One Stadium in St. John’s, N.L., and featured two local squads among the 18-team field. A 23-year-old youngster named Brad Gushue received a sponsor’s exemption while Mark Noseworthy earned a spot based on a fan vote.

Guy Hemmings, who finished second in the fan ballot, received an entry too when Randy Ferbey declined his invite. All three proved to be worthy selections as both Noseworthy and Hemmings advanced to the playoffs with Hemmings edging Gushue in a tiebreaker.

Morris finished the round-robin with a 3-2 record to qualify and topped Pat Simmons 8-5 in the quarterfinals (six degrees of Morris: Ben Hebert played lead for Simmons at the time). That set up a semifinal showdown against Jeff Stoughton, who was the hottest skip of the week rolling out six consecutive wins. Morris cooled down Stoughton 7-5 to secure a spot in the final.

It was a Battle of Alberta for the Players’ Championship title between the Calgary-based Morris and Edmonton’s Martin.

Martin topped his pool with a 4-1 record, defeated Hemmings 5-2 in the quarterfinals and Brad Heidt 10-7 in the semifinals to reach the championship game.

Martin opened with the hammer in the see-saw affair. Morris scored three in the eighth to pull ahead 6-4, but the game was far from over as back then Grand Slam games were played to 10 ends (although this game in particular pulled a Spinal Tap and went to 11). Martin blanked the ninth and counted two in the 10th to force an extra end. Morris held the hammer in the extra and picked up a single to win 7-6.

A lot has happened since that day with Morris, Kennedy and Hebert joining Martin two years later and winning just about everything in curling during their powerhouse union: multiple Grand Slams, a couple Brier titles, one world championship and an Olympic gold medal.

It was fitting that clip aired during the Princess Auto Elite 10 final as Morris, now skipping Jim Cotter’s crew in B.C., claimed his 11th Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling title — and his second as a skip — with a 1-up victory over Brad Jacobs.