One for the aged

TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 7:32 AM ET

INNISFAIL -- Everybody remembers it was Ken Hunka who made it to the last Edmonton Brier. Not everybody remembers who he beat to get there.

"That would be us," said Dave Nedohin. "Grande Prairie. Last shot. One of the best shots I've ever seen. Almost impossible."

It was 1999, the first year of the Ferbey Four, except they were the Ferbey Three at the time, being that Carter Rycroft had yet to jump to play with Kevin Martin, and Marcel Rocque had yet to take his place.

They went on to win a record three straight Briers and would have made it four in a row if Nedohin hadn't come undone in the eighth end in last year's Brier final. They've twice been world champions. They're favoured to win the Olympic Trials next fall in Halifax. The legends of the game are saying they're the best rink ever.

But can they do at the end of Randy Ferbey's career what they couldn't do when they first put this rink together?

This isn't like any other Brier for Ferbey.

"Hometown Brier. It's what this is all about. If this year's Brier were anywhere else, it wouldn't have quite the same importance to us. Our enthusiasm wouldn't be as great. That's certainly the case for me. This is my last shot at playing in an Edmonton Brier. Dave, Marcel and Scott Pfeifer might have a few shots. This will be my last one," said the 46-year-old skip.

"If we get there, and win the Olympic Trials, this would also be my last Brier," said the only curler ever to win five Briers, two as a third with Pat Ryan and three throwing third rocks and skipping this rink.

The team which represents Canada in the 2006 Olympic Winter Games in Torino, Italy, will not be eligible to play in next year's Brier - as was the case with Kevin Martin's Edmonton rink in the 2002 Brier after they won the silver medal at Salt Lake City.

"I'll be walking away from the team and the game. Oh, I may make a half-hearted attempt when I'm 52 or 53 with my kids," said Ferbey.

"Dave, Scott and Marcel, I believe, will stay together and take a good run at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver.

IN THE BACK OF HIS MIND

"Winning a fourth Brier with this team is in the back of my mind," says Ferbey of equalling the record of the legendary Ernie Richardson rink out of Regina, which won four in a span of five years.

"But whatever happens, I know we've already made our mark on the game. And I know I'm getting old. There are not many guys my age who can still compete. It's kind of a funny feeling when you get here and consider where we're at and what might be left in front of us as a group. It's a funny feeling knowing I'm going to be walking away from the game in the near future."

For the record, Nedohin isn't buying.

"He'll keep playing as long as we keep winning," he said.

Ferbey says you can't stop the clock.

"I know I can still play the game. I think I'll still be able to play it at this level at the trials and Olympics if we get there. But I know the clock is ticking on me. There have been times this year when my heart hasn't been totally into it. I don't know if it's because it's been a long year or a long career. But when that happens, I know it can start hurting the team.

"That said, I know I'm up for this one," he said of the 12-team provincial championship which opens here this morning. "For me, this is one of the events I really do get up for. It's different with one of those $10,000 events."

Normally the Ferbey Four come to provincials razor sharp after the city and northern playdowns. But a change in format this year provided them with a bye.

"We went to Scotland and used that as our city playoffs and the Canadian Open in Winnipeg as our northerns. We've played well. Now we're at provincials. It's a different format, but I expect we'll adapt and feel our way through."

TICKETS AND THE BRIER

And if they do ...

"The Brier people tell us they'll sell more tickets if we're the team which wins this. But it's been so successful, I don't know how many more they could sell."

The Brier will announce this week they've sold more tickets than any Brier in history - before we know who gets there.

"Obviously you'd want to play in the biggest Brier ever held," said Ferbey.

Especially if it might be your last.

Nedohin, at least, agrees with that.

"It's going to be the Brier of all Briers."


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