Team McEwen lead Hodgson turns to curling roots as he prepares for return

Colin Hodgson is planning to use an old-school approach for his return to curling.

The Team Mike McEwen lead is going to play in a local curling league this season for the first time in years. With travel plans and the tour schedule unsettled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, his training routine will be a throwback too.

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"I'm going to just do what I did all summer at the golf course," he said. "I went to the range and hit four buckets a day. I want to (throw stones) on the curling ice and get back to that kind of training like I used to do as a kid.

"It might be a little less structured but it's been a long time since I've been able to work on feel by myself that way. To just (be) in the same place for the same time and not do all that travelling, it does afford that opportunity to actually hone things a little bit."

Hodgson, a co-manager at the Red Lake Golf & Country Club in north Ontario, is looking to make his competitive season debut with his regular Winnipeg-based team next month. Hodgson is also planning to play some mixed doubles events this season with Chelsea Carey.

Feeling ready to return after a long off-season, Hodgson was able to get the extended rest he needed for a number of nagging leg and foot injuries. He also got engaged a few weeks ago and has been busy running his curling apparel company.

Even though he has plenty on the go, Hodgson feels the pandemic period has given him a chance to recharge, reflect and grow.

"Personal anxieties, things like that, things that I didn't even really realize maybe how much I was struggling with (before)," Hodgson said. "Just (to) be in the middle of a day and you have a stressful moment with work and hold your breath and your heart starts racing, your head gets cloudy.

"I've been so fortunate to just be able to breathe and maybe enjoy more moments."

The 30-year-old Winnipeg native lives in the small town of Balmertown, Ont., about 100 kilometres east of the Manitoba border. With the ice recently going in to his local club, Hodgson will play in men's and mixed leagues while training in preparation for events with Team Mike McEwen.

"I'm practising with purpose and feel and taking all the time in the world and not being rushed to move on to the next activity," he said.

The McEwen side, ranked fifth in the country, is targeting a return next month at the Ashley HomeStore Curling Classic in Penticton, B.C. The 24-team event boasts an $84,000 purse.

The team missed out on a playoff spot at last season's Tim Hortons Brier after dropping a tiebreaker.

McEwen, a 2014 Canada Cup winner, reached the final of the 2017 Olympic Trials but dropped a 7-6 decision to Kevin Koe. McEwen joined forces with vice-skip Reid Carruthers at the end of that season with Hodgson and second Derek Samagalski forming the front end.

Tour play has resumed in recent weeks with teams primarily focusing on regional events. Four Grand Slams and other notable bonspiels were cancelled, but there is optimism the second half of the 2020-21 season will be brighter than the first.

The Canada Cup, originally set for next month in Fredericton, has been postponed. It's unclear when Curling Canada will announce plans for that event or the Tim Hortons Brier, originally set for Kelowna, B.C, in early March.

Gerry Peckham, Curling Canada’s high-performance director, recently told The Canadian Press that the federation is "definitely getting into the deep end of the pool" regarding the possibility of a hub city concept, calling it "arguably our final card to play as it relates to our more major events."

"We're definitely going to get a season in," Hodgson said. "It's going to be a short one. But curling fans do have a lot to be excited for ... everything should be in place to have a safe bubble like a lot of the other sports."

In addition, the Olympic Trials for the 2022 Beijing Olympics are just over a year away. That's also on Team McEwen's radar after coming up just short at the last Roar of the Rings.

Curling Canada put the qualification process for the Trials on hold over the summer. When the setup is eventually clarified, McEwen's team is a good bet to be among the contenders for entry spots.

There's a lot for the veteran team to play for in what should be a most interesting year to come. In the meantime, Hodgson can't wait to resume regular training now that he's refreshed and injury-free.

"I was able to get things a little bit more settled at home and not be travelling on the road as much," he said. "It was a pretty crazy six years in a row and now to get a break and be rejuvenated is exciting."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 19, 2020.

Follow @GregoryStrongCP on Twitter.

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