For curling skips with aspirations of representing Canada at the next Winter Olympics in four years, there’s a surprisingly short window to scramble together and form a lineup for the upcoming quadrennial.
Matt Dunstone shared how he joined forces with third B.J. Neufeld, second Colton Lott and lead Ryan Harnden on the latest episode of the Inside Curling podcast that dropped Wednesday.
Dunstone explained that it really all came together in a couple of days after the Brier ended in March. The dominoes started to fall once Brad Jacobs of Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., announced he was stepping back for at least a season. Jacobs’ decision meant his cousin Harnden was now a free agent, and Neufeld also became available as Kevin Koe’s Calgary club opted to head their separate ways.
“It’s really crazy how it all works,” Dunstone said. “Come Monday, Tuesday after the Brier, it’s just absolute mayhem and you start hearing of guys who are going to step back and the can of worms that opens, obviously, in Brad Jacobs’ situation, right, kinda specifically. Then it just goes from there.
“It was quite a hectic 72 hours, I guess, when it was all said and done. Everything was kinda figured out in 72 hours there.”
Dunstone, who is originally from Winnipeg, played with Lott in the past and the pair captured bronze medals for Canada at the world juniors in 2013 and 2016.
The 26-year-old Dunstone has played out of Saskatchewan for the past five-and-a-half seasons and skipped the province to back-to-back bronze medals at the Brier in 2020 and 2021.
Lott, 26, has also made a name for himself in mixed doubles with partner Kadriana Sahaidak winning two silvers and one bronze at nationals.
Neufeld and Harnden bring championship experience to the club. The 36-year-old Neufeld claimed the Brier and world silver medal with Team Koe in 2019 and has won seven Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling men’s titles in his career. Harnden, 35, has a similar resume, winning the Brier and a silver medal at the men’s worlds in 2013 plus seven GSOC championships as well but also captured Olympic gold in 2014.
“I’m obviously pretty excited (about the new team) and excited to get back to Manitoba here,” Dunstone said. “With that being said, I’m very appreciative of the five years I got to spend in Saskatchewan. It’s really all I ever kinda know on the men’s side of curling.
“I’m definitely going to miss my time there, miss the guys I got to play with, and just very thankful that I got to spend the amount of time I did there.”
Although there are usually some growing pains figuring things out after putting a new team together, one key factor is Dunstone, Neufeld and Lott are all “Manitoba tuck” siders, so they should already be on the same page (or at least on the same chapter) when it comes to the mechanics of delivering the rock in a similar fashion.
“I think it’s going to be spending a lot of time in Manitoba together and trying to find a way to get all four of us throwing exactly the same and take away a lot of the guesswork,” Dunstone said. “The earlier we can hammer that out likely the better for the longevity of the team. The fact that three of four of us throw pretty darn similar I think is a huge advantage to us.”
Residency rules will not be an issue for Team Dunstone. Neufeld and Lott both live in Manitoba and Dunstone can claim a “birthright” exemption allowing Harden to stay in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., as their one out-of-province import.
Dunstone plans to continue to live in Kamloops, B.C., with his partner, Erin Pincott, but has a place lined up in Winnipeg when he’s in town and is looking forward to spending more time with family when he’s in town, too.
“That was a big thing for me. Being in Kamloops and playing in Saskatchewan didn’t leave a whole lot of time for me to get back to Winnipeg,” Dunstone said. “Obviously, family is a huge part of life as well so now I get to kinda kill two birds with one stone here with the curling and the family side of things so that for me is a very exciting part of it as well.”
Dunstone and Lott are both done for the season but their two new teammates still have one Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling event remaining with their current clubs.
Neufeld wraps up his tenure with Team Koe and Harnden plays his final event with Team Jacobs next week in the KIOTI Tractor Champions Cup, May 3-8, at the Olds Sportsplex in Olds, Alta.