Team Howard adds Mathers to lineup with Middaugh still out

David Mathers (Jeff McIntosh/CP)

Veteran skip Glenn Howard is adding some youth to his team for the upcoming curling season.

David Mathers will join the rink at the second position and Richard Hart will move into the vice-skip role. Longtime teammate Wayne Middaugh will not return as he was unable to commit to a full campaign after suffering a serious leg injury last winter.

Mathers, 25, previously played with Scott Howard — Glenn’s son and the team lead — at the junior level and on John Epping’s rink a few years ago. They also reached the 2015 Tim Hortons Brier together with skip Mark Kean before Scott joined his father’s rink this past season.

Mathers, meanwhile, moved to Adam Casey’s team and they made it to the 2016 Brier as Team Prince Edward Island.

"He’s going to be terrific on the front end with my son," Howard said Tuesday from Midland, Ont. "Easy to get along with, a terrific sweeper and a great shotmaker."

Middaugh, who served as coach for the Howard team at the Brier last March in Ottawa, remains out indefinitely. He needed surgery to repair a broken left leg after crashing on the ski slopes last January.

Adam Spencer filled in while Middaugh was out and helped Howard return to the national championship for a 16th time. Spencer played second and Hart moved up to third.

They beat Epping in the Ontario playdowns but missed the Brier playoffs, settling for a seventh-place tie at 4-7.

Howard, a four-time national and world champion, will turn 54 in July. Next season will be a critical one in his pursuit of a qualifying spot for the Canadian Curling Trials in Ottawa in December 2017.

"I’m hoping that the change will be seamless," Howard said. "I don’t want it to be a couple years because I don’t have a couple years. I think David … he and Scott have got history together at front end. They know each very well and they know how each other thinks."

Howard has never represented Canada at a Winter Olympics. The 2018 Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, would likely be his last opportunity as a player.

Reigning Brier champion Kevin Koe of Calgary has already locked up a Trials spot while Ottawa’s Rachel Homan and Winnipeg’s Jennifer Jones have locked up berths in the women’s draw. There will be nine men’s teams and nine women’s teams in the field.

Jones won gold at the 2014 Games in Sochi, Russia while Brad Jacobs of Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., won the men’s Olympic title.

In other changes next season, Pat Simmons will join skip Brendan Bottcher of Edmonton as a third. Simmons skipped his Team Canada rink to a 6-5 record and fifth-place finish at the Brier.

Former teammates Nolan Thiessen and Carter Rycroft recently announced they are stepping back from competitive curling while John Morris, who played third on the Simmons rink, will team up with Jim Cotter of Vernon, B.C.

Morris will return to the skip position while Cotter will throw fourth stones.

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