Time has healed the wound a bit, but the pain of PyeongChang has just stoked the fire inside Ben Hebert.
With some time to digest the disappointment of a fourth-place finish at the 2018 Olympics, the Chestermere curler is ready for the start of another run at a gold medal.
The 2010 gold medallist from Vancouver will do it with a new team though. The Kevin Koe rink that included Hebert as lead, Brent Laing as second and Marc Kennedy as third will be disbanding at the end of this season.
The final event will fittingly be in Calgary at the Champion’s Cup event at WinSport April 24-29, while they are also competing at The Player’s Championship in Toronto until Sunday, April 15.
Once the season wraps, Kennedy is going to retire and Laing will return to his home in Ontario and join a new team. Koe and Hebert have already recruited replacements as B.J. Neufeld from Mike McEwan’s Winnipeg rink will take over Kennedy’s position as the third, and Saskatchewan native Colton Flash will fill Laing’s position at second.
Hebert is hoping the duo — Neufeld is 31 and Flash is 27 — will add some youth and exuberance to what was one of the world’s best four-man teams.
“We are going full after it and we have a great young team with Kevin here in Calgary,” Hebert said. “We are going to keep it going as long as we can. I think we have a real good shot at being one of the best teams in the world right out of the gates.
“We will be motivated to try and get back to the next Olympics. We are certainly going to have a good chance. We have good youth and experience, so hopefully we can put it all together.”
Hebert certainly feels humbled he was able to be part of two Olympic teams. He and Kennedy came up with legendary curler Kevin Martin and were crucial in reaching the pinnacle at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver.
Four years later, they were recruited to join Koe as one of the best front ends in the game, and they managed to reach the Olympics again, which is quite the feat in Canada. The Olympic trials are what Hebert calls the “toughest event in curling” so to win that twice was quite a feat.
Although they came up short of a medal in PyeongChang, it doesn’t put a damper on the journey they made over four years, which included the 2016 Brier and world championship wins. It was quite the ride for the foursome, which will make an emotional ending to these final two events.
“We are four good friends who put a team together to try to become Team Canada at the Games,” Hebert said. “We accomplished that goal. Those aren’t easy goals. When you set goals that high, it’s tough to reach them.
“We set them high and we almost reaching the pinnacle of winning the Olympics. Just getting there was a super tough grind. Any time you can represent Canada you know you’ve made it. Getting out of Canada in curling is as tough as anything.”
Hebert is now breaking with Kennedy after 12 years together. Kennedy is taking some time off to deal with injuries and get healthy. They will be lifelong friends of course, but Hebert isn’t sure what curling will be like without him.
“I’ve been with Marc longer than both of us have been with our wives,” said Hebert, who settled in Chestermere in 2011 with his wife and they now have two young children.
“It’s going to be super weird. It might hit me at the end of the season. Maybe it will hit me that he’s done and moving on. I owe a lot to Marc. He’s been a great friend and amazing teammate.”
Even though they have no hardware to show from it, Korea was a great experience for Hebert. It was much different from Vancouver obviously, as it took a trip around the world to get there, they were in foreign territory and were much more secluded with Team Canada.
It was an experience that Hebert will never forget.
“Maybe because I’m older and I had my kids there, but I enjoyed Korea more than I did Vancouver, the curling aside,” Hebert said. “We had 50 people that came from Canada and supported us. It was amazing. Being more mature and understanding how special it is to be an Olympian, I think that’s why I thought it was awesome.
“I might never get over the result. If it was the Brier, and you lose it, there’s another one next year. To be in the situation we were in and not deliver was obviously really bad. Time has healed some wounds. I’ve been back to work for a month and we are going to finish up the season with the team and try and do it again. That’s what happens with amateur athletes and amateur sports.”
Team Koe would like to finish out the season on top, and they have a chance at the season title still, so there is plenty of motivation for Hebert as this year finishes up. There is something extra Hebert is looking for though as the top curling team’s face off at WinSport.
“I know we’re all moving in separate directions except for me and Kevin,” Hebert said. “I’m proud of what we did over the past four years. We have great memories together that will last a lifetime. We will finish the year strong and put a couple of wins together. Why wouldn’t we want to finish strong?
“But both of my new teammates that I will be with next season are in the event as well. Hopefully we kick their butt at the Champion’s Cup before we join forces. That’s my plan.”