Most people call him Johnny Mo, but soon John Morris could be known as Mr. December.
Morris, who is skipping a Vernon-based rink featuring Jim Cotter (skip’s stone), Ty Griffith and Rick Sawatsky at the Prestige Hotels Curling Classic this week at the Vernon Curling Club, is one of a dozen athletes to grace the pages of the first-ever Men of Curling calendar.
A 34-year-old firefighter from Chestermere, Alta., Morris has the looks and build of a Sears catalogue model. He has been approached to do calendar shoots before with the fire hall, but always balked at the idea.
He was initially reluctant to do the Men of Curling as well, but changed his mind after considering the potential to support charity and showcase the sport.
“It took me a year to warm up to it,” smiled Morris, who joined up with Cotter after a successful run with Edmonton’s Kevin Martin that included Olympic gold at the 2010 Games in Vancouver.
“It turned out to be a good project and we’ll see how much money we can raise here.”
The 2014 Men of Curling is available online at www.menofcurling.com for $29.95. In addition, Morris and the other athletes will soon be selling the product personally, with a portion of those revenues going to a charitable cause of their choice.
Morris, who hinted his photo shoot includes a firefighter theme, has chosen Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada as his charity of choice.
“I have a Little Brother, and being able to raise money for that organization is important to me,” he said.
Female curlers have been ahead of the game when it comes to the charity calendars, with the Women of Curling being published for the past several years.
Heather Nedohin, whose Edmonton rink is 3-1 in the $40,000 women’s draw of the Prestige cashspiel in Vernon (see story on A19), believes the men’s calendar is a great idea.
“It think it’s absolutely perfect,” smiled Nedohin, the defending Prestige women’s champ.
“The male athletes in our sport are becoming quite fine to look at. It’s nice to see the image of curlers change from what it used to be in the past.
“And the men have some humour, which is a bonus.”
Nedohin, who’s second, Jessica Mair, posed for the women’s shoot last year, is impressed by the athleticism shown by calendar cover boy Mike McEwen of Winnipeg.
“It’s phenomenal. He’s in a Manitoba tuck balanced on pillars. How cool is that? It’s artistic, it demonstrates athleticism, and again, it’s fine to the eyes.”
As a firefighter, being fit is part of Morris’ job description, but he did tweak his diet a little.
“I didn’t have to do much different except eat more protein because I’m a pretty lean guy. I had to bulk up a little.
“Curling has changed. It’s become a sport where there are some really good athletes, and a lot of people don’t realize that still.”
Morris said it was essential get top male curling talent onboard to lend the calendar project credence. The following list is proof of that: Ben Hebert of Calgary, who won 2010 Olympic gold with Morris; world champion and Olympic silver medallist Carter Rycroft of Grande Prairie, Alta.; world champion Jon Mead of Winnipeg; two-time world winner Craig Savill of Ottawa; defending Canadian champions and world No.1-ranked Brad Jacobs and E.J. Harnden of Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.; veteran Atlantic Canadian skip Paul Flemming of Halifax and World Curling Tour cash dynamo Mike McEwen of Winnipeg.
A trio of international rock stars round out the group of 12: defending European and world champion Niklas Edin of Sweden, defending Olympic silver medallist Thomas Ulsrud of Norway, and three-time world champion David Murdoch of Scotland.
A bachelor, Morris didn’t have to ask anyone’s permission to do the shoot.
He grinned: “I know some of the guys did, and I think there’s a few guys that aren’t showing as much skin because they’ve got wives. But we’re not doing this to get a date, we’re doing it for a good cause.”
Asked if he would be buying a copy of the men’s calendar to support his new skip, Cotter chuckled: “I think I’ll wait for the women’s calender to come out.”
On the ice, Morris and Cotter faced Edmonton’s Tom Appelman for one of two A bracket berths into the Prestige playoffs Saturday at the Vernon Curling Club.
Morris racked up a pair of wins Friday, starting with a 5-2 win over Kamloops’ Brent Yamada. They followed that with a 7-5 win over Kelowna’s Jeff Richards.
“It’s better than last year – we started out 0-2,” said Cotter, the defending men’s champ.
“We’re just trying to get some games in and get to know each other. You always want to win, but I don’t think we’ve gone into events with expectations to win. We just want to put some solid games together.”
Kevin Koe faced Brendan Bottcher in an all-Edmonton battle in the other A qualifier Saturday.
Action in the 16-team, $26,000 men’s draw continues today at the Vernon club. There are six playoff berths available.
Playoffs go Monday, with quarterfinals at 9 a.m., semis at noon, followed by the championship game at 3 p.m.