Brad Jacobs ready to 'Roar' as new kid in the hack
'Ripped' curlers are changing perceptions of the sport
It may seem like a strange sight to see the reigning Brier champs going through a last-chance qualifier just to get to the Olympic trials, but Brad Jacobs and his Northern Ontario rink are anything but the norm on the curling circuit.
As Team Jacobs prepares for the final stage of their Olympic qualifying, Nov. 5-9 at the Road to the Roar in Kitchener, Ont., they continue to carve an identity in stark contrast to their opponents.
"The brand of our team is well known as being the young, fit guys in curling," Jacobs said. "We really hope the brand we portray will attract new, younger fans to curling. It's really about growing the game."
Jacobs and his teammates E.J. Harnden (lead), Ryan Harnden (second) and Ryan Fry (third) made their biggest splash at the Brier in Edmonton in March, but the ripples have continued on the World Curling Tour this season, en route to the earning the No. 1 spot in the rankings this fall.
But that isn't the only way they've made waves in the sport. CBC curling commentator, and Olympic silver medallist Mike Harris says Team Jacobs is changing the rules of how teams are working out and training off-ice.
"You look at them and they're all just super-fit, and you don't see curlers on the circuit that are just ripped," Harris said. "They've dedicated themselves to improving."
"I'll be honest with you, I'm the skip and I don't need to sweep," Jacobs said. "I'm wearing a jacket and calling the shots, but the other three guys...are big guys and can push a lot of weight.
"The sweepers need to have that physical aspect no, and I just try to keep up with those guys."
Behind the scenes
Deadlifts aside, there's another way Jacobs said his team looks to grow and cultivate their brand, or identity. They've also dedicated themselves to growing the game through technology.
We're not talking space age sweeping techniques, or aerodynamic apparel. No, the whole team is happily tweeting away and sharing their off-ice exploits with social media.
"Hopefully we can showing our fans, people in general, curlers to show the other side of us from just playing curling," Jacobs said.
They've started a video blog on their website, which has garnered a few thousand views, and share plenty of photos and videos of their time off the ice from their Twitter account:
Jacobs even participated in an "Ask Me Anything" session with the Canadian Curling Association, taking questions from fans:
"Leading into the [Road to the Roar] hopefully we'll do some more cool videos because that's the part not a lot of people get to see from any athlete," Jacobs said.
Ready to hit the 'Road'
Fans will be able to watch the Jacobs foursome at the Road to the Roar, the qualifying tourney for the Roar of the Rings, which serves as curling's Olympic trials.
Since their torrid pace came too late to sew up a locked-in spot at the Roar of the Rings, Team Jacobs has to go through this additional step.
Harris believes the momentum the Team Jacobs carries into Kitchener has been no fluke and credits the the addition of Fry at third as the catalyst for their success.
"They were a talented team but Brad is an emotional skip," Harris said. "He needs an even-keeled guy. "Ryan Fry brings a calming influence to that team, which is what they needed."
When Jacobs's former lead Scott Seabrook left the team in the spring of 2012 due to work commitments, Fry was asked to join, after he was cut loose by Brad Gushue's rink.
Jacobs says the team checked their egos to snap up Fry — the Harnden brothers moved down a position so the new addition could take over the role of third. Fry had a 84 per cent shooting record as a member of Gushue's team at the 2012 Brier, and Jacobs praises his ability to make the soft and hard shots. But the skip has been most impressed with the way he's fit into the team dynamic.
"He's really good for all the guys on our team as far as being able to handle the personalities," Jacobs said.
"I've had my moments where I've been an emotional skip. We bring a lot of intensity to the ice as a team that's one of our traits.
"Slowly, over the last season our chemistry has gotten a lot better and he's put me in a better place on the ice than I have been in the past."
"Before Ryan was on the team, they had the odd time they would implode and that doesn't happen any more," Harris said.
"They're maturing and getting better every time and they're tracking down those top five teams right now.