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Sibling rivalry on the rings: Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., curler reflects on Brier win against brother

When E.J. Harnden won his second Brier earlier this month, it felt a little different from the first time.

The curler from Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., is 10 years older. But more importantly, he won the recent tournament with a new team and in a game against his younger brother Ryan.

“It’s hard to put into words, but what an experience,” he said.

For most of his professional career, Harnden played on the same team as Ryan and with his cousin Brad Jacobs as skip.

When Jacobs announced last year he would take a break from competitive curling, the Harnden brothers became free agents.

Ryan joined Matt Dunstone’s rink in Manitoba, and E.J. joined Canadian champion Brad Gushue and his rink out of St. John’s, Nfld. 

We all miss playing with one another, but I think we’re all enjoying new experiences.- E.J. Harnden

E.J. said it was emotional to meet his brother in the final.

“I really wanted to see Ryan play well … because if we’re gonna beat them, you know, I want to beat them when they’re at their very best,” he said.

“And that’s going to force us to be at our best when the other team is on as well.”

He added it’s been a positive experience for both of them to play with different teams.

“We all miss playing with one another, but I  think we’re all enjoying new experiences,” E.J. said.

That change has meant playing with a team he once considered his arch-rivals.

But the Gushue rink is also one E.J. has long admired, he said.

A bald man in a yellow curling jersey.Team Manitoba lead Ryan Harnden directs teammates during their match vs. Team Saskatchewan during the Tim Hortons Brier at Budweiser Gardens in London, Ont., on March 4. (The Canadian Press)

“There’s so much attention to detail in everything that they do, and really probably more so than anyone else on the technical side of things,” E.J. said.

“Throwing it the exact same way over and over again so that when Brad, for example, puts the broom down, we’re all taking the same path.”

Now that he’s preparing to represent Canada at the world championships in Ottawa next month, E.J. said he’s back on the ice with his brother Ryan.

“I’m ready to go in a couple of weeks time and then just beyond the preparation is to enjoy spending time in a few weeks with my family,” he said.

“That last week was quite a grind and so more than anything I’m going to have some fun with the family and make sure that, you know, in two weeks time that I’m mentally and physically refreshed and ready to go.”

The Harnden brothers will reunite at the worlds, as Ryan is expected to join the Gushue team as an alternate. Their cousin Jacobs announced he’ll be joining Reid Carruthers’s team from Manitoba.

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