Pat Simmons didn’t remain an unrestricted free agent for too long.
The two-time Brier champion has already found a new rink joining Team Brendan Bottcher, just one day after his Calgary crew parted ways following their elimination in the men’s quarterfinals at the season finale Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling event, the Humpty’s Champions Cup.
Team Simmons split up with third John Morris moving on to re-join Jim Cotter’s team in Vernon, B.C., while both second Carter Rycroft and lead Nolan Thiessen deciding to step back from competitive curling.
Simmons now joins Bottcher, second Bradley Thiessen, and lead Karrick Martin in Edmonton as the team parted ways with third Tom Appelman.
For Bottcher, the search for a new third was the result of reflection on whether his team wanted to either retool or rebuild leading up to the 2017 Canadian Olympic Curling Trials.
“We were looking at the last couple years we’ve had, we had a good couple years, and we were trying to sort out whether we were going to make a big push for the next two years to see where we could get to or whether we would take a little bit more of a development road to the future,” Bottcher said Sunday. “We sort of started there and we certainly tried out a few different people.”
Once Bottcher caught wind that Simmons was available, his decision was a no-brainer.
“Finding out Pat was interested, we got him out to Edmonton for a day and got to make sure it was all going to work,” Bottcher said. “I don’t think anyone would have said no to that. It’s a great bit of experience for us moving forward and really positions us for the next two years.”
Bottcher will continue to skip and throw fourth stones with Simmons assuming a traditional third role.
Simmons brings a wealth of experience to the young Bottcher rink. The 41-year-old from Moose Jaw has competed in nine Brier tournaments representing his home province of Saskatchewan five times.
He joined Kevin Koe’s team with Rycroft and Thiessen in 2011 and represented Alberta three times and won the Brier in 2014. The team also earned two Grand Slam of Curling titles taking the 2012 Masters and the 2013 Canadian Open.
When Koe decided to form a new team for the next Olympic cycle, the trio stuck together adding Morris as skip so that they could return to the 2015 Brier as the first Team Canada.
After struggling out of the gate at the men’s national championship, the team switched it up with Simmons taking over at skip and they went on a miracle run. Simmons made an incredible draw in an extra end to edge Northern Ontario’s Brad Jacobs during the final to successfully defend their Brier title.
Team Simmons then represented Canada at the 2015 worlds and defeated Finland in the bronze-medal game. Returning once again to the Brier with an auto-berth, Team Simmons just missed the playoffs this year finishing round-robin play in fifth place with a 6-5 record.
The 24-year-old Bottcher, winner of the 2012 world junior championship, believes it’s huge to be able to bring in someone as experienced as Simmons.
“We’re a team that’s trying to win a lot of the things that he’s been to and won already,” Bottcher said. “You can always fake it until you make it but having someone on your team who’s actually been there and can articulate that and just knows what it takes and knows how to keep everyone in check. That’s something you can’t do everyday and it’s something that very few people have done.”