The timing of our lunch was rather appropriate. Last Thursday, when he would normally be making the trek down the 401 to Brockville for the Shorty Jenkins Classic, Richard Hart was saddling up to a table in a pub near Pearson Airport.
For the first time in ages, Hart isn’t suiting up along side longtime teammates Glenn Howard, Brent Laing and Craig Savill. As most fans know by now, he’s retiring from the competitive part of the game to spend more time with his family and at his job.
Most of our interview will appear in the Globe and Mail and Ontario Curling Report in the coming weeks, but safe to say that an hour with Richard is never enough for all the stories, all his sharp observations about the game and his funny stories that usually left me trying not to snort the Diet Coke out my nose.
Hart is one of those genuine people in curling. Honest, forthright and extremely likable. He’s a go-to guy for us scribes who want a good quote.
And he really, truly loves the game. That’s so obvious whenever you’re around him and what must have made his decision to quit agonizingly hard.
He told me that the idea of parting with the pebbled ice was on his mind for about four months and he had long conversations with his wife, who ended up encouraging him to keep playing. But in the end, it was clear to him that the drive and desire weren’t at the top of his priority list any more.
He’ll still likely spare here and there and he’s also going to coach his two sons in Bantam curling. Of course thanks to the draconian coaching standards put in place these days, this past Olympic medalist, world and Canadian champion was slated to attend a two-day coaching course so he would be allowed to do that. (That’s a rant for a different day.)
I think Hart will miss the game, but I suspect curlers and curling will miss him more.