NORTH BATTLEFORD, Sask. — Pat Simmons’ time with Team Bottcher has come to an end.
The Edmonton-based squad is moving on without the two-time Brier champion. Darren Moulding from Team Blandford is filling in at third this week during the Meridian Canadian Open.
Simmons, from Moose Jaw, Sask., just joined Bottcher this season although the union didn’t result in a lot of success in the Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling series with the team sporting a 4-9 record and zero playoff appearances through three events.
“I think in a lot of ways Pat has been struggling this year with an injury and it’s been nagging him a little bit more at times and a little bit less at times,” skip Brendan Bottcher said Tuesday. “I think as a team we just didn’t have the front-half of the season as we thought we were going to have. I think it made sense for him to take a step back and time to make sure he was ready to go for the future, really. We’ve got Darren here now and we’re looking forward to having a good week.”
The 42-year-old Simmons won five provincial titles as a skip in his home province before latching on with Kevin Koe’s crew in Calgary in 2011 to play third. Team Koe won the Brier and finished fourth at the worlds in 2014. When Koe moved on in the summer, the trio of Simmons, second Carter Rycroft and lead Nolan Thiessen stuck together adding 2010 Olympic gold medallist John Morris at skip in order to return to the Brier the following year as Team Canada.
The new rink struggled until a shuffle during the 2015 Brier — with Morris and Simmons switching spots in the lineup — propelled them to another national championship with Simmons delivering the winning shot against Northern Ontario’s Brad Jacobs during an extra end of the final. Representing Canada again at the worlds, Simmons took home the bronze medal.
Team Simmons played their final tournament at the Humpty’s Champions Cup this past April with Rycroft and Thiessen stepping back from competitive curling and Morris moving on to rejoin Team Cotter in Vernon, B.C. Simmons didn’t stay a free agent for long announcing during the Humpty’s Champions Cup finals he was linking up with Bottcher, the 2012 world junior champion. It was an interesting pairing with Simmons serving the mentor role to the 25-year-old Bottcher although it ultimately didn’t work out.
“I think he needed to take some time himself to get better and feel better. For us it made some sense too,” Bottcher said. “It’s sort of the time of the year when we had a few weeks off. We had some weeks to get ready for this and get ready after this for provincials so we’re going with it.
“It isn’t [ideal] but in the middle of the season if there ever was a good time to do it I guess over Christmas would be one. All that matters at the end of the day is that everyone is happy and healthy and they’re enjoying doing it. We spend so much time on the road, we spend so much time away from our families, just making sure everyone is happy with that is important.”
Bottcher’s first game at the Meridian Canadian Open is Tuesday night against Saskatoon’s Steve Laycock.