It’s deja vu for Pat Simmons as the two-time Brier champion is returning to competitive curling in pursuit of the Olympic dream with a Manitoba-based team.
Simmons, from Moose Jaw, Sask., has linked up with third Colton Lott and second Kyle Doering again for another run aiming to represent Canada at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. Lead Tanner Lott and alternate Emerson Klimpke round out the lineup playing out of the Winnipeg Beach Curling Club.
Doering told sportsnet.ca during a phone interview Monday night it’s the exact same scenario as when he and Colton Lott coaxed Simmons out of retirement four years ago.
“We thought who better than to ask Pat, who has all of this experience, to just step right in there at skip,” Doering said. “We’ve already curled with him, so it’s not really anything new. That’s how it came about. I shot Pat a text and he was totally surprised and caught off-guard. He thought it over for about a week and decided that [he’s] pretty excited to have another crack at the pre-trials with us.”
The story of Simmons’ back-to-back Brier wins is the stuff of legends. Simmons, who has also won two Grand Slam men’s titles, played third for Kevin Koe when they captured the Brier in 2014. After Koe moved on, Simmons stayed put with second Carter Rycroft and lead Nolan Thiessen to retain the Team Canada auto-berth. John Morris joined at skip but after a rocky start during the 2015 Brier, the team shuffled the lineup and moved Simmons up to skip. That sparked a dramatic turnaround with the team going on a tear all the way to the championship game. Simmons pulled off a clutch draw to the button in an extra end against Northern Ontario’s Brad Jacobs to retain the title.
Lott, Doering and lead Robbie Gordon were still fairly new to the men’s tour — just one year removed from winning the 2016 Canadian junior championship with skip Matt Dunstone — when they asked Simmons to skip their squad the last time around but finished the pre-trials event in Summerside, P.E.I., with a 2-4 record.
“Four years ago, our team was known as ‘Pat and the kids,’” Doering said. “We were very inexperienced, it was our first ever pre-trials. This go-round, Colton and I have already played with Pat, we know what to expect and we’re four years older.”
Doering and the Lott brothers played with skip Tanner Horgan during the 2019-20 season and finished 10th on the Canadian Team Ranking System list with two tour wins and a runner-up result in the KIOTI Tractor Tour Challenge Tier 2. Although pleased with their performance, in retrospect, Doering wished they had played more as they were just eight points behind Glenn Howard’s club for ninth place. That proved to be a pivotal position as Howard not only secured the final spot in the wild card game at the 2020 Brier but also received the last extra wild card berth in this year’s Canadian men’s curling championship.
Horgan, from Sudbury, Ont., parted ways with the team last month to join a new squad and opened the door for Simmons’ return.
“We have a lot to build on and it’s going to be an exciting whatever sort of season,” Doering said. “Just knowing Colton and we’ve already curled with Tanner, it could be something special.”
Although the COVID-19 pandemic cancelled most of the 2020-21 campaign, Colton Lott has been busy in the Calgary bubble. Lott earned a silver medal in the Canadian mixed doubles championship in March with fiancée Kadriana Sahaidak and filled in for third Ryan Fry on John Epping’s team during the two Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling events last month.
“His success in mixed doubles doesn’t surprise me but obviously it adds more confidence to the team,” said Doering, who has played with Lott for over a decade. “We already knew he could make any shot. It’s nice to have such a world-class person at the third position and then bringing on Pat with his experience and resume will make this quite a unique and dynamic team, I think.”
The Canadian Olympic curling trials, known as the Roar of the Rings, will take place Nov. 20-28 in Saskatoon and determine Canada’s men’s and women’s teams for the Beijing Winter Games. Team Simmons will have to first play in the pre-trials event scheduled for Oct. 26-31 in Liverpool, N.S. (Teams have yet to be announced, however, Team Simmons will retain points with three of the four members from Team Horgan.)
While this is when they would normally begin to plan a tour schedule and line up sponsorships, none of that is possible at the moment with the COVID-19 pandemic still ongoing.
“For the time being we’re just going to sit tight, see what happens and hope for the best with everything,” Doering said. “We hope we can make it through this whole thing and return to normal soon.”