It has been announced that Darren Moulding (Picture: World Curling Federation) will no longer be part of Brandan Bottcher's Edmonton-based rink moving forward.
By: Dylan Chenier
The 2021 Brier champions, Team Bottcher, will have a new man at third when the rink takes to the ice at the 2022 nationals in Lethbridge, as third Darren Moulding will no longer be part of the team.
A press release issued by the team on Friday states that Moulding is "taking time away from the game for personal reasons." The move takes place immediately, with the team stating they will announce a new third for the remainder of the season at a later date.
With Moulding on the squad, Team Bottcher made it to four consecutive Brier championship games, finally winning their first national championship as a team this past March.
Moulding also contributed to Bottcher's recent successes at Alberta's Boston Pizza Cup, with the team winning three provincial titles between 2017 and 2020.
In the 2018-19 season, Moulding also contributed to Team Bottcher's three Grand Slam of Curling victories, the 2019 Canadian Open, the 2019 Players' Championship, and the 2019 Champions Cup.
The team thanked Moulding for his contributions to the rink, stating that:
"Darren has been an outstanding teammate and we have shared so many amazing memories over the more than five seasons together; it was no coincidence that we took significant steps forward when Darren joined us in 2017.
"We wish Darren nothing but the very best moving forward."
After winning their first Brier title in 2021, the team suffered a disappointing result at the World Men's Championship in Calgary. As Team Canada, Bottcher's rink finished the week at 9-4 and lost to eventual silver medalists Team Scotland, 5-3 in the first qualification game of the playoffs.
Prior to the World Championships, Moulding was forced to retire from the National Mixed Doubles Championships due to back spasms.
So far this season, Team Bottcher has experienced their fair share of disappointing results, not necessarily the performance one would expect from the reigning Brier champions. Their best performances have been a pair of semi-final losses at World Curling Tour events, including the 2021 GSOC Masters. At last week's Olympic Trials in Saskatoon, Bottcher went 3-5 and failed to make the playoffs.
No additional reasons were given for Moulding's decision to step away, other than "personal reasons."
While the team's statement makes it seem as if the decision was reached by Moulding to step away, the third has put out his own comments on Twitter indicating that he is "ready, willing, and able to play."
"This is a complete bs statement... I'm very disappointed that the team didn't put out an accurate statement on my status. I am not taking time away from the game," Moulding said on Twitter.
"I was planning to defend my title as team Canada in Lethbridge."
The team has a bit of time to search for a replacement for Moulding. Given that they are the defending champions, the rink is secured a spot as Team Canada at the 2022 Brier, the only guaranteed entry in the event.
Team skip Brendan Bottcher will hold a press availability on Sunday.