Less than three weeks after being cut by Team Bottcher, third Darren Moulding has found a new curling team and is preparing to make a run for the Brier in Lethbridge, Alta., this upcoming March.
CBC Sports has learned Moulding will be teaming up with James Grattan and his veteran rink out of New Brunswick.
Grattan is no stranger to the men’s national championship, having curled in the Brier 13 times. In the days following Moulding’s abrupt firing from Team Bottcher, Grattan reached out to Moulding and set things in motion.
“A few days after the split with my old team, I got a message from James. He said if I was looking for a way to Lethbridge he might have an idea. The team offered me a position going forward for the year,” Moulding told CBC Sports.
“I read the message and thought about it. I took some extra time. We talked a few times and I weighed my options,” he said.
WATCH l Bottcher, Moulding open up about latter’s departure from team:
Moulding says he had a few things to consider, the most important being his health and the competitiveness of the team he would be joining — most importantly he wants to be on a team that has a shot at making it to the Brier in his home province of Alberta and a city he knows well.
“It’s another crazy turn in my curling career. But I’m just grateful for the guys on the team for making a spot for me. It’s a really good veteran team. That was really important to me.”
Grattan says he heard Moulding was exploring opportunities to join a team and try and make it to the Brier — and that he had to reach out.
“Darren is obviously one of the most likable curlers in the game,” Grattan told CBC Sports.
“After talking with my team we decided to reach out to Darren and see if we could be a part of making that happen.”
In some ways, this is a full-circle moment for Moulding, who recalls seeing Grattan play for the first time at the 1997 Brier.
It was Grattan’s first appearance at the event.
“I was 14 years old. Calgary was hosting the Brier that year and I was a volunteer selling programs which meant you could get in and watch the games,” Moulding recalls.
“I skipped school a lot that week and I was there all the time. James was a rookie skip there and they went on a run and made the playoffs there. They were a crowd-favourite. They were making so many shots. And that’s where he got the nickname Jimmy the Kid.”
Grattan finished third at that Brier, his best-ever finish as a skip.
Now the two are teaming up all these years later hoping to make a run at the Lethbridge Brier, just down the road from Calgary.
“Team Grattan historically competes very well against the best teams in the country. Adding a player of Darren’s abilities and experience instantly improves our squad in almost every way,” Grattan said.
But there’s work to be done before that. The team has to win the New Brunswick provincial playdowns set to take place in mid-February.
WATCH l Moulding discusses exit from Team Bottcher:
Moulding says he plans, COVID restrictions permitting, to travel east in January to get valuable time on the ice with the team.
“I’m really looking forward to getting there and spending some time with them. One thing that’s really important to me is to respect the New Brunswick playdown process,” Moulding said.
“That’s why I want to go there and work with the team and try to make the most of our time left. The plan is to go there in the later part of January for a few days and train and practice. And then come home for about 10 days and then head back for the playdowns.”
The sting of being cut from Team Bottcher still hurts, says Moulding. He’s spent the last few weeks digesting what transpired but says he’s now only focused on the future.
Team Bottcher, having won last year’s title in the Calgary bubble, has already qualified for the Lethbridge Brier and will be Team Canada.
Moulding hopes to face Team Bottcher
Moulding doesn’t have much to say about the chance to play them during the event, other than a few words.
“I just hope they put us in the same pool if we’re there,” he said. “I think a lot of people would want to watch that.”
The biggest motivating factor though for Moulding is getting to the Brier where his six-year-old son currently lives.
“He understands what’s going on now. I want to play in front of him. And I want him to know you don’t let someone put you in a place. You go where you want to go. I want to be the one who determines where my curling career goes,” he said.
Moulding says he wants to thank the fans for all the support he’s received since being cut from Team Bottcher.
“I just want to thank everyone for all the support. The one thing that’s always been important to me is making sure I acknowledge and appreciate the fans,” he said.
“That’s what makes the atmosphere. It’s always special to play in front of them and I feel we have a strong bond now.”
The Brier in Lethbridge is scheduled for Mar. 4-13.