Kevin Martin goes out on top after announcing his retirement
The Kevin Koe rink weren't able to go out on a high note at the Players' Championship in Summerside, P.E.I.
The Koe rink — which features Moose Jaw's Pat Simmons, plus Carter Rycroft and Nolan Thiessen — lost in the quarter-finals at the final World Curling Tour Grand Slam stop of the season.
It's the final action of the curling season for the 2014 Brier champions. Koe will form a new rink, while the other three will carry on with a new skip and comprise the first Team Canada at a Brier next year in Calgary.
While it was the end of an era for the Koe rink, it was also the end of an era for Kevin Martin.
The 47-year-old skip announced his retirement Friday and on Sunday he won the Players' Championship with a 4-3 win over Brad Jacobs in the final.
Martin was on fire, shooting 98 per cent as his rink went ahead 4-1 through four ends before holding off a late rally from Jacobs for his 18th career Grand Slam victory. Martin takes home $23,500 for the win and an additional $50,000 bonus for leading this season's Grand Slam of Curling in points.
“Other than the Olympics, the Players' is my favourite event in curling,” Martin told The Canadian Press. “It's always the best against the best. The emotions of the day were all about trying getting that 18th Grand Slam win.
“It was a hard fight to win it today but we did it and nobody can take it away now.”
After winning their first four games in P.E.I., the Koe rink lost their final group game 5-2 to Martin. That left them tied for first in their pool with Brad Gushue who had a better point differential and finished first.
Koe had to then play a quarter-final where they lost 7-6 to Jacobs.
Jacobs stole a point in the third end to take a 3-2 lead. The team's traded deuces with the hammer and Jacobs scored twice in the eighth end to win the game.
Jacobs went on to beat Gushue 6-4 in the semifinal.
For Martin, the decision to retire came after the Canadian Olympic curling trials in December when his rink failed to book a ticket to the Sochi Games. Martin had planned to make an official announcement when the season was over, but that changed when news surfaced last month that second Marc Kennedy and lead Ben Hebert were joining Koe.
But retirement has been on the 47-year-old's mind since winning gold at the 2010 Vancouver Games.
“I guess when it comes to sports you kind of know when it's time,” said Martin who will join Sportsnet as a broadcast analyst next season. “I thought about retiring after Vancouver and we ended up deciding to play and try to get to Sochi and trained extremely hard in the last year and came close. But (Brad) Jacobs ended up winning, which is great, but that was it.
“I'm not trying for another four-year term. Right after the trials, that's when I told the team and I phoned my sponsors. Everyone knew, I just didn't want to announce anything at the time. That's not really proper.”
The affable Martin, nicknamed “The Bear,” has been a powerhouse in Canadian curling since making his junior debut in 1984. He won a Canadian junior curling championship with Alberta in 1985 and never looked back.
He leaves the sport with a glittering resume that includes a world championship in 2008, a silver medal at the 2002 Salt Lake City Games and four gold medals at the Brier. He also holds the record for Grand Slam titles with 17, including seven Players' Championships.
Martin's departure from the sport won't coincide with a drop in results. He said it was important to end his career at a high point.
“Absolutely. It's really important to me that I wasn't one of those guys that, you know, you're sliding down the hill there. I just don't want to be that guy,” he said. “You know the trials, I felt so good after the trials. It's about the best I've ever played I think. About a 93 per cent average for the week.
“So I was really good. So I was happy, not happy to not win, but that it was a good strong effort because I'm certainly not waiting around four more years for sure.”
In the women's side of the event, Jennifer Jones beat Rachel Homan 5-2 in the final.
Jones stole a point in the final end to earn her 10th Grand Slam curling victory.
Jones won the Olympic title in Sochi earlier this year, while Homan won the Canadian women's title and took silver at the women's world championship.
“It really has been an unbelievable season for us,” Jones told The Canadian Press. “We've won all the events we've set out to win and more. ”To come into our favourite event, the Players' Championship, and end with a win is a perfect way to head into the summer.“
Stefanie Lawton's Saskatchewan rink qualified, but lost 7-5 in the quarter-final to Homan.
— with files from The Canadian Press