Note: This article was originally published on April 5, 2018.
Legendary skip Kevin Martin capped his career on a high note at the 2014 Players’ Championship in Summerside, P.E.I.
Martin claimed his record-extending 18th Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling at the event as the Ol’ Bear tied the Golden Bear, golfer Jack Nicklaus.
“Eighteen Slams is just so difficult,” Martin said after winning the 2014 Players’ Championship. “I know when Nicklaus did it in golf he was 46 (years old), which is very difficult and it took me an extra year. Geez, I wanted that bad so it was a big day.”
Marc Kennedy and Ben Hebert already made plans to join Kevin Koe for the next Olympic cycle (that move turned out alright). With Kennedy planning to move from second to third for Koe, he got a head-start on the transition switching spots in the throwing order at the Players’ Championship with Dave Nedohin.
Martin’s first round-robin game at the 2014 Players’ Championship was fittingly against long-time rival Glenn Howard. The two battled for multiple Grand Slams over the years and Martin was victorious 6-4 in their final meeting.
Back-to-back losses against Brad Gushue and Steve Laycock dropped Martin to a 1-2 record and on the brink of missing the playoffs. Martin didn’t want to end his career on a sour note and got back on track defeating David Murdoch 5-3 and Koe 5-2 to squeeze into the playoffs with a 3-2 record.
Martin mounted a comeback in the quarterfinals scoring two in the seventh and stealing in the eighth to edge John Epping 6-4. After the draw to lie shot stone with their last rock in eight, Nedohin wondered if that was it for Martin’s career.
“When I was sitting out there on the last shot we threw today — we didn’t know if we were winning the game or not yet — and I thought to myself, ‘Am I watching Kevin Martin’s last shot come down?’” Nedohin said. “Thankfully not, we’ve got more to play.”
That set up a meeting against top-seed Mike McEwen, who earned a bye to the semifinals with an unblemished 5-0 round-robin record. It was a see-saw affair with Martin, who threw a nearly perfect 99 percent, holding the hammer in the extra end. Martin prevailed with a clutch draw through the port against a couple of counters to win 6-5 and reach the final.
Meanwhile, Brad Jacobs was only a couple months removed from his Olympic victory at the Sochi Winter Games and looking to wrap up his golden season seeking his first career Grand Slam.
“It would mean a lot to win this, to end the season winning the tournament,” Jacobs said after defeating Gushue in the semifinals. “We’ve had a really good year and I can’t think of a better way of finishing it than to win the last event and the last game of the year. We’re going to go out there, give it all we’ve got and see what happens.”
It seemed like an appropriate Players’ Championship final between the past two Olympic champions although there would be no passing of the torch here.
Martin, who was sparkling again with a 98 percent tally, scored deuces in the second and fourth ends to hold a 4-1 lead at the half. Jacobs blanked the fifth and sixth stanzas but was unable to convert with the hammer and settled for a single in the seventh to relinquish the hammer to Martin for the final frame.
Jacobs lied three in the eighth and forced Martin to throw his last rock of the game and the last of his career. Martin had to make his favourite shot, an out-turn draw, to limit the steal to just one and claim his 18th Grand Slam with the 4-3 victory.
“If I’m a little heavy and it slides out of the house, it’s my last shot and we don’t win,” Martin said. “So it was more important to focus on staying in the moment but over the last few years, being an Olympian and things, it teaches you to do that, stay focused on the job at hand and when it works out then you can breathe and let it go.”
Martin was already stoked for his next vocation: curling analyst for Sportsnet.
“I’m excited about it. It’s a new start,” he said. “I’ve done a little bit of the analyst stuff with NBC at the Olympics and I’m definitely looking forward to it. The neat part is for me, especially in the men’s division, I know them all. They’re all friends of mine so I know most of their wives, a lot of their kids and what they do outside of curling. It’s going to be so much fun.”