Bottcher impressed by Murdoch’s game plan; Plett hits the mark with Jones
OAKVILLE, Ont. – Scottish curling great David Murdoch was named Curling Canada’s new high-performance director earlier this year and has already been involved in some major changes within the organization.
Some of those changes included adding pre-qualified teams to the Scotties Tournament of Hearts and Montana’s Brier and moving up the Canadian Mixed Doubles Trials 14 months ahead of the 2026 Winter Olympics.
He also spearheaded August’s National Training Program technical review at the Saville Community Sports Centre in Edmonton alongside national coaching staff members Viktor Kjell, Renee Sonnenberg, Scott Pfeifer, and Elaine Dagg-Jackson.
Brendan Bottcher and his Calgary foursome were there, as well as teams led by Clancy Grandy and Jennifer Jones. Murdoch is in communication with other teams from Canada’s high-performance program and the plan is have similar technical reviews with as many as possible throughout the season.
So far Bottcher, who won the Brier Tankard in 2021, is a major fan of Murdoch.
“I think Dave's awesome. I mean, he's clearly shown an ability to create a winning program [in Great Britain], and I think even in the first few months of him being
involved here in Canada, he's set some good expectations, tried to impart a lot of his knowledge. I just think it's awesome,” Bottcher told TSN.ca on Thursday morning ahead of his Sweep 16 matchup against Jake Dobson.
Bottcher says it was great to get Murdoch’s insight during that technical review in addition to seeing some of Canada’s top teams attempting to find an edge during the summer heat when curling is far and away from most people’s minds.
“I just thought it was great that you saw a lot of our high-performance teams trying to move the needle in August,” said Bottcher. “I don't think that was something that many teams focused on in the past and I think it was a good step forward for us to all be thinking about that a little earlier in the season.”
Canada hasn’t won an Olympic gold medal in four-person curling since 2014 and hasn’t stood atop the podium at the World Men’s and Women’s Curling Championships since 2017 and 2018, respectively.
Bottcher, who has always been known as a savant when it comes to the minutiae of curling, says Canadian curlers may have to commit a deeper focus to the technical aspects of the game to get even with other top teams on the world stage.
“If you look at the international teams that are having a pile of success, I mean that's what they're doing,” said Bottcher. “So, it's one thing to go out and just throw more rocks. But are you really moving the needle? And are you really trying to get better so that you're making more shots tomorrow than you were today? And frankly, I don't think our Canadian teams did enough of that. So, I'm glad to see a kind of a new focus on technical for all the teams and certainly benefit on mine.”
Murdoch played a heavy role behind Eve Muirhead winning gold at the 2022 Olympics and Bruce Mouat doing the same at last year’s World Men’s Curling Championship.
Bottcher’s stacked foursome of vice Marc Kennedy, second Brett Gallant and lead Ben Hebert have been the hottest team in men’s curling leading into this week’s PointsBet Invitational, capturing two bonspiels against strong fields, and winning 13 of their 14 games. The extra work over the summer hasn’t hurt says the 31-year-old skip.
“Part of that I can attribute to it's our second year together so it's a little more comfortable than it was maybe last September, but no, I just think that the focus on technical practice in August was great,” he said. “It's kind of led into a real good start to the season for our team, personally, and I just feel like we got a pile of momentum here headed into the season.”
Bottcher adds that giving the proper resources and attention to Canada’s Under-25 teams, many of whom are competing at the PointsBet Invitational, will be invaluable for the continued success of the program.
“I think to build a real strong program you have to have that next layer of teams and then the layer below that to kind of all feed into what are your high-performance teams today, so that you have a sustainable program for the future,” remarked Bottcher.
Bottcher and company defeated Team Dobson in the Sweep 16 and will take on No. 10 Team Mike McEwen in the Elite 8.
Plett keeps pace with Jones
Myla Plett gave Jennifer Jones a game Thursday afternoon in the Women’s Sweep 16 at the PointsBet Invitational.
The 18-year-old skips a team of teenagers that have been making plenty of noise at the junior level over the past few years and have now shown what they can do against one of the game’s best.
Team Plett – featuring 17-year-old Alyssa Nedohin at third, 17-year-old Chloe Fediuk at second and 16-year-old Allie Iskiw at lead – is the youngest team in Oakville this week but managed to keep pace with the six-time Scotties Tournament of Hearts champion in Jones for most of their clash at Sixteen Miles Sports Complex on Thursday, eventually losing 10-6.
“It was a really good game. The girls played really well,” Plett told TSN.ca after the draw. “We just kind of took what we’ve been doing all season and we put it into the game and just put up a fight against them.”
Team Plett scored a pair of deuces against Team Jones, including a delicate tap double in the 8th end to keep the game alive.
Jones, who shot 82 per cent in the win, slightly better than Plett’s 81 per cent, says the future is bright for this squad.
“They were great competitors and I really respect that," said Jones "They made big shots on the big stage and they were just kind. It was a fun game to play.”
Team Plett have been dominant on the junior circuit for the last two seasons after winning back-to-back Canadian Under-18 Championships in 2022 and 2023 as well as the New Holland Canadian Under-21 Championship last season.
Four-time Brier champ David Nedohin, who coaches Team Plett, says the team was prepared for this moment with the work they’ve been putting in.
“It starts to show when you trust the work you put into it,” said Nedohin. “You get to a big stage like this, and this is where our girls play the best.”
The two sides took a group photo together following the game to remember the moment.
“It was just really exciting to be a part of that and just to be around such amazing curlers,” explained Plett. “It was a really cool experience to play against such an amazing team.”
That has been a common perspective for many of the young teams competing at the PointsBet Invitational this week.
The field is loaded with up-and-coming rinks looking to soak in the experience under the bright lights.
Some are even finding wins, with No. 13 Team Rylan Kleiter upsetting No. 4 Team Kevin Koe and No. 9 Team Ryan Wiebe beating No. 8 Team John Epping during Men’s Sweep 16 action on Wednesday.
“Just the chance to play these teams on arena ice, the fans, the lights, everything like that,” said Wiebe. “The more that we can play under this pressure and this kind of atmosphere is just going to do tons of good stuff for us.”
Twenty-year-old Johnson Tao, skip of the Canadian Men’s Junior championship team from last season, fell to Reid Carruthers in the opening round on Wednesday and says the biggest difference he’s noticed between the junior and high-performance ranks is the precision.
“I think it's the precision, shot making and the shot management. I think the technical aspects are quite easy to master, but it's the way they can manipulate the rocks going down the sheet and line calling,” said Tao. “It's quite a bit more precise than what you can expect from junior curling.”
The Elite 8 goes on Friday with the Final Four happening Saturday and the championship games on Sunday.