OTTAWA — Peter Steski was quite content with riding the pine as the fifth man for Brad Jacobs this week at the Roar of the Rings.
Steski was brought on board for the Canadian Olympic curling trials for his expertise of the game and handling rock scouting and evening practice duties but the 46-year-old from Toronto was called off of the bench for the reigning Olympic gold medallist’s final round-robin game Friday against John Epping.
E.J. Harnden headed home to Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., early as his wife is expecting the couple’s second child any moment now. His brother Ryan Harnden moved up a spot in the batting order to allow Steski to throw lead stones.
“They were going to play with three,” said Steski, who works as a financial advisor by day. “That’s probably where I would do the least amount of damage but they wanted me to get in and get some throws, so I appreciate it. They’re great guys and I really enjoyed my week with them.
“I think I just proved by playing that seven ends out there that my best spot is on the bench.”
Steski, who captured the 1991 Ontario junior men’s championship, is one of the original 18 skips of the Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling playing in the inaugural 2001-02 season. Although he stepped back from competitive curling, Steski returned to the series in 2014 as the master of ceremonies and host of the web series “Pete on the Street” where he interviews fans and curlers.
It wasn’t long — just his second event as MC — when Steski was lacing up the (wrong) shoes again as he subbed for two games on Team Carruthers during the National when Braeden Moskowy arrived late. Steski didn’t get off on the right foot as teammate Colin Hodgson alerted him to the fact he was wearing sliding shoes for a left-handed thrower. He didn’t make the same mistake twice.
“You know what? I found a pair of right-handed boots so I got off to a good start,” Steski said. “Better than last time.”
Team Carruthers went 2-0 with Steski in the lineup and he extended his winning streak to Goldberg-esque proportions through family spiels and the occasional appearance in league play at the Toronto Cricket, Skating and Curling Club to enter the Roar of the Rings unbeaten in 13 games. The 7-2 rout at the hands of Epping brought a humbling end to that torrid run though.
“It was a tough loss,” Steski said. “A tough way to end the quadrennial.”
The team pranked Steski by hanging back while he led the march out onto the ice for their introduction. Steski shot 82 percent in the game, which ended after seven ends, and was feeling dusted as the match wore on despite working out vigorously in the months leading up to the Roar of the Rings and keeping it tight.
“I was getting a little tired. I think one more beer would have gotten me through the game,” Steski said. “It’s nice to have a monster like Ryan Harnden when it’s only one sweeper out there. I just have to cheerlead, so that was good.”
Team Jacobs finished with a 3-5 round-robin record and was eliminated from playoff contention the previous night.
It was a heartbreaking week for Jacobs, who lost in his second match of the tournament to Kevin Koe when he overthrew his last rock in the extra end to give up a steal. After a win over Brad Gushue improved his record to 2-1, Jacobs dropped three consecutive games — to Steve Laycock, Brendan Bottcher, and Reid Carruthers — to fall behind the 8-ball. A victory over Mike McEwen on Thursday evening to snap the skid wasn’t enough to salvage things as Gushue’s win over Laycock during the same draw knocked out teams with four or more losses.
“I felt bad for the guys. They lost two brutal games,” Steski said. “They rebounded after the first one but that second one to Laycock, I don’t think they ever got the momentum back after that.”
Jacobs, third Ryan Fry, and the Harnden brothers are sticking together for another Olympic cycle and Steski said he would “absolutely” consider rejoining them if they asked him to return.
“I would do anything those guys ever want,” he said. “They’re beauties. I thought they handled the week with a lot of class.”
If not with Team Jacobs, Steski is also open to offers from other teams as well.
“I would think so based on that performance,” he said. “There are going to be some teams switching it up for the next quadrennial so if they have enough money they can maybe sign me on.”
Steski isn’t concerned if his appearance here means he’s now considered too elite to return to competition at the Toronto Cricket, Skating and Curling Club.
“That wouldn’t hurt me at all,” he said. “I don’t need to play there anymore so we’ll see.”