March 4, 2009
Brier engagementExpect another Martin-Howard final
By JOE PAVIA, SUN MEDIA
The Tim Hortons Brier boasts a deep field, including six past champions, but expect a repeat of last year's final -- Kevin Martin vs. Glenn Howard -- in Calgary March 15.
Chuckwagon Racers: Manitoba's Jeff Stoughton (Brier winner in 1996 and '99), who dearly wants a spot in the Olympic trials, will make the playoffs. He'll be joined by Brad Gushue from Newfoundland. The 2006 Olympic gold medallist was a Brier finalist in '07, but won't make it this year.
Bronco Busters: Saskatchewan's Joel Jordison has won plenty of money this season, but will suffer the flat prairieland curse. Joining him will be New Brunswick's Russ Howard (champ in 1987 and '93), who's won more Brier games than anyone else, but can't do it by himself no matter how hard he yells.
Outriders: Nova Scotia's Mark Dacey (2004 champ) returns after a year's sabbatical, but will finish mid-pack, along with a strong B.C. team skipped by Sean Geall, which won almost $30,000 this season. The Territories' Jamie Koe, who surprised in his 2007 Brier appearance, and an inconsistent Jean-Michel Menard rink (2006 champ) from Quebec round up the Outriders.
Rodeo Clowns: Not in contention are P.E.I.'s Rod MacDonald and Northern Ontario's Mike Jakubo.
Will the ice be a factor like it was at the Scotties? Both Canadian Curling Association icemakers, Hans Wuthrich and Dave Merklinger, are busy with the world junior ice at the newly opened Vancouver Olympic venue. Assuming Brier duty is Grand Slam icemaker Mark Shurek. Tour players like Howard and Martin love Shurek's ice.
TSN's coverage begins Saturday at 3 p.m. with Martin vs Russ Howard. Hopefully, the final will be better than last year's underwhelming Martin-Glenn Howard final. This time, Howard will prevail.
Intermediate region winners: 1A -- Debra Karbashewski and Paul Madden, B -- Cheryl McBain and Dave Collyer. Junior mixed zone winners: 1A -- Christian Tolusso, B -- Kevin McConnell; 2A -- Geoff Spruitt, B -- Katie Morrissey; 3A -- Graham Rathwell, B -- Brett Lyon-Hatcher; 4A -- Scott Ray, B -- David Staples. Bantam mixed zone winners: 1A -- Casandra Raganold, B -- Coulton Daly; 2A -- Curtis Byrd, B -- Tom Lepage; 3A -- Ryan McCrady, B -- Chris Lewis; 4A -- Riley Calwell, B -- Katherine Nicholas.
Grand Slam for Ottawa?
Last year, the Capital One Grand Slam series announced a pre-Olympic event for October 2009 in Toronto's Air Canada Centre. Tough economic times and the high costs associated with the ACC forced the event's move to Mississauga's Hershey Centre. However, a couple of months ago, Pierre Charette, interim president of the World Curling Tour Players' Association, checked out Ottawa venues with an eye to moving the event here.
B.C.'s Jim Armstrong, a six-time Brier participant and finalist in 1987, led Team Canada to the world wheelchair championship with a 9-2 victory over Sweden in the final at the Olympic venue ... At the World University Games, host China beat Team Canada, skipped by Hollie Nicol, 6-5 in the final. Canada went undefeated in the round-robin in which it beat China 7-6. Our men finished sixth.
Curling this week
The mixed regionals for senior, junior and bantam are this weekend ... The 71st Day Ladies Bonspiel finals are at the RA tomorrow at 9 a.m.