Brier beware

TODD SAELHOF, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:25 AM ET

The self-proclaimed 'Outsider from Ottawa' is fitting quite comfortably into the Stampede City scene, thank-you very much.

Super-curler John Morris loves the hip, vibrant feel of the burg he's made his home, and the native Ontarian even covets a backyard Brier victory for Calgary when it hosts the men's national championship in March.

And oh yeah ... he's a big backer of the CFL's Calgary Stampeders.

"We saw that endzone curling celebration Nik Lewis and the boys did a couple of weeks ago," said Morris, referring to the Stamps receiving corps' touchdown skit imitating a curling shot Oct. 13 at McMahon Stadium.

"They said they would love to curl. Well ... bring it on."

Morris, who curls alongside fellow Calgarian Ben Hebert and Edmonton's Marc Kennedy under star skip Kevin Martin, then upped the ante.

"If they want to try it out, we'll take them on in curling -- then in football," Morris said. "Ben and Marc and I all play football. We'll do a total score kind of thing."

Don't sell Morris short on the idea, since he's as intense as they come in sports.

His own resume, which includes two world junior championships and last year's Brier and world men's crowns, proves he means business -- and his real job this year is working to bag a Brier title at the Saddledome.

"Calgary's such a great city to hold an event like this in," said Morris, a 29-year-old M.D. of Rockyview firefighter.

"It's a younger, more modern city than most. Everybody will have a great time on the ice and then a great time in the Brier Patch.

"We're pumped about being able to play in our hometown," Morris continued. "That would be cool.

"And this year, I won't be the young 'Ontario Outsider.' "

Six years ago, when Calgary last hosted the Brier, Morris was skip of the Ontario entry in the championship and lost the final to Alberta's Randy Ferbey.

So the competitor in him would love nothing more than to redeem himself at the Saddledome. Under Martin, that's hardly a far-fetched goal.

"We're in the full swing of things, and we've had a pretty strong start to the season," said Morris, whose rink had already pocketed $64,000 on the 2008-09 World Curling Tour prior to this past weekend's stop in Lloydminster.

"One difference this year is the pressure of media events is larger because we won the worlds. It's a slight concern because we have such a demanding schedule, we don't want to get burned out.

"But we're being asked to do media events when we usually train.

"For a couple of us, we don't have full-time jobs, so curling is good secondary income," added Morris, who is on casual time with the fire department. "If we don't do well, it's Kraft Dinner afterwards. If we do, then it's a T-bone."

EXTRA ENDS

Kevin Martin, John Morris, Marc Kennedy and Ben Hebert added to their earnings last night with the $22,000 first-place prize from the $81,000 Best Western Wayside Inn Classic in Lloydminster. They beat Lloydminster's own Warren Hassell in the final. Calgary's Steve Petryk lost in a quarterfinal to Scotland's David Murdoch ... The $35,000 Colonial Square Ladies Classic finished yesterday in Saskatoon, with Saskatoon's Stefanie Lawton pocketing $10,000. Lawton beat Regina's Michelle Englot 6-4 in yesterday's final of the WCT stop. None of the four Calgary rinks -- Heather Rankin, Leslie Rogers, Maria Bushell and Diane Foster -- made the playoff round ... Southern Alberta is represented by new blood at the 2009 Canadian Mixed Curling Championships, which began Saturday in Iqaluit, Nunavut. Kalynn Park, the daughter of former Martin third Kevin Park, is vice-skip with the Alberta entry skipped by Edmonton's Thomas Appelman. Kalynn has relocated to Lethbridge this winter to curl third under skip Casey Scheidegger. The Alberta champs are 0-4 through three days of the championship.

LAST ROCK

The next instalment of the WCT's Grand Slam begins tomorrow. It's the $100,000 Masters of Curling in Waterloo, Ont., where all the sport's top names will gather. Included is Alberta's big three of Kevin Martin, Randy Ferbey and Kevin Koe ... On the women's side, the $60,000 Wayden Transportation Ladies Classic opens Friday in Abbotsford, B.C., where Cheryl Bernard, Shannon Kleibrink, Heather Rankin and Diane Foster will carry Calgary's colours into the Grand Slam event.


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