Brier preview: 2015 title up for grabs
CALGARY – The Tim Hortons Brier returns to Saddledome ice for the fourth time, and if history is any indication, keep your eye on the local rinks. The previous three Briers in Calgary were won by Team Alberta: Skips Kevin Martin in 1997 and 2009, and Randy Ferby in 2002.
The odds of a local rink winning it are doubled this year, with two Calgary-based rinks. Team Canada–skipped by John Morris–is coming in as the defending champion, while Kevin Koe–the former skip of Team Canada–left in the off-season to start a new rink (third Marc Kennedy, vice-skip Bren Laing, lead Ben Hebert).
Both teams are certainly threats to win it again, but they’re not alone. This is a Brier field filled with past champions and Olympic Gold medalists.
“It’s as deep as I can remember,” said 2006 Olympic gold medalist Brad Gushue.
“This is my twelfth Brier, and I have a hard time finding another Brier that was as deep as this one.”
Brad Gushue as the Newfoundland and Labrador skip in 2014. Andrew Vaughan / The Canadian Press file
Brad Gushue as the Newfoundland and Labrador skip in 2014.
Andrew Vaughan / The Canadian Press file
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Northern Ontario, skipped by Brad Jacobs, enters as the clear favourite coming off an Olympic gold medal performance in Sochi. They also won the tankard back in 2013.
Gushue returns to the Brier for the twelfth time. His Newfoundland and Labrador rink have won twice this season on the World Curling Tour and sit second in money earnings.
Quebec skip Jean-Michel Menard is back for his ninth appearance; he won back in 2006. Manitoba skip Reid Carruthers may be a rookie skip at the Brier, but he’s been on the big stage four times before, including winning it all as a second for Jeff Stoughton in 2011. Carruthers also had to beat one of the hottest teams in Canada this year, Mike McEwen in Manitoba play-downs, just to get here.
“You want to have the best competition, especially before you come to a National Championship,” said Carruthers. “So for us, we’re very lucky to play in a province where we have a very deep field.”
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Not to be forgotten is British Columbia’s Jim Cotter, who was the runner-up in Kamloops last year. While Steve Laycock and team Saskatchewan sit fifth on the Canadian Team Ranking system, and are making their fifth appearance.
2015 also marks a changing of the guard in men’s curling. Absent are some of the most recognizable names in the sport: Glenn Howard, Jeff Stoughton and Kevin Martin, with some new faces coming to the forefront.
“Probably lacks a bit of the star power that we’ve had over the past five to ten years,” said Gushue. “But the younger teams coming up are just as good as those teams; they just don’t have the name recognition of those teams.”
“It’s a younger field with lots of talent, and hopefully some people will be making names for themselves,” added Carruthers.
Only four playoff spots up for grabs, and numerous teams capable of earning them.
One thing is for sure, no matter which teams are left standing come the final weekend, Calgary curling fans are in for a treat.
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