Is Ferbey automatic?

TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 7:43 AM ET

The best worst Brier ever held?

A no-name, "Brand X Brier?"

No Mark Dacey. No defending champion. No Brier final rematch. No Guy Hemmings. No Jeff Stoughton or Kerry Burtnyk. No Russ Howard. No Pat Ryan.

And who are these guys? Is this some sort of record for the most free spaces on the Brier bingo card?

Deane Horning? Pat Simmons? Randy Dutiaume? Mike Jakubo? Jean-Michel Menard? Wade Blanchard? Shawn Adams? Steve Moss? A record number of fans and nobody to watch?

Obviously only one name matters. Randy Ferbey will be the story, the whole story and nothing but the story regardless who is coming.

BREAKING THE RECORD

Breaking the Brier attendance record of 248,793 while the provincials were being played, Ferbey punching his Brier ticket sent sales from 253,085 to 257,283 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. yesterday.

But whoa, says Ferbey.

This is not a "Brand X Brier."

"The future of curling is going to be here.

"The future of curling from Saskatchewan, Quebec and Newfoundland is coming here," he said of Simmons, Menard and Gushue.

"We played Simmons twice this year and were 1-1 against those young guys. The one we won we were lucky to win. They're a great young team," he said of the rink skipped by the chiropractor.

"Menard is the best team in Quebec by a country mile. And Gushue has been to two Briers already and done well in both."

And then, of course, there's Wayne Middaugh, the only other former Brier winner (1998) in the field, placed third for Ferbey in his last Brier in 2001.

Middaugh says getting back to the Brier is no big deal except it's a shot at winning an Olympic trial berth.

Out of this Brier field, only Ferbey and Gushue have qualified for the Olympic trials in Halifax.

The highest finishing rink that isn't Ferbey or Gushue will win a berth.

"Middaugh will be a factor if he regains the form he once had," said Ferbey.

The Alberta skip doesn't know much about Manitoba's Dutiaume, but he's impressed with the people he left behind to get here.

"He had an amazing run just to get to the Manitoba provincial championships," said Ferbey, who won his 34th consecutive game at the provincial championships to get here.

A GREAT STORY

The Dutiaume rink was 16-1 to qualify for the Manitoba provincials. Dutiaume will be one of the best stories on the property.

Unlike the youth movement at this Brier, Dutiaume is a 42-year-old who formed his team on Jan. 17 and is now 23-2 since then.

He looks like he's going to be a whole lot more colourful than Stoughton was in winning the last Brier here.

"I'm happier than a pig in poop," he told the Winnipeg Sun when he won.

The last two Brier finals have been Ferbey vs. Dacey. But Dacey didn't get back.

"Shawn Adams has been to the Brier twice before and he has a young rink this time," Ferbey said of the skip who has 1999 Edmonton Brier Nova Scotia skip Paul Flemming at third.

One of the interesting angles with Adams' rink is his lead, Kelly Mittelstadt, was a teammate of Alberta second Scott Pfeifer when they played together on the Colin Davison rink, which won a Canadian championship out of Edmonton.

At first glance, it looks like this field is seriously short of Brier experience.

But that's not true.

B.C. skip Horning previously played in two Briers for Pat Ryan. And you think Ferbey is the guy who goes back furthest in the Brier?

Not even close.

PEI skip Rod MacDonald went to his first Brier in 1978 in Vancouver. New Brunswick skip Blanchard was at the 1980 Calgary Brier.

And then there's Moss of the Territories. This is his fifth trip to the Brier. Of course, he went 0-11 the last time.

Orest Peech, you'll remember, was 0-11 skipping the Territories at the last Edmonton Brier. Ferbey confesses he "doesn't know Jakubo" about Northern Ontario.

PLAYING AT HOME

Third Jon Solberg has been to a Brier before - with the Territories.

That probably doesn't strike fear into Ferbey's heart.

What probably strikes fear into the hearts of all the rinks headed here is Ferbey has a home-town Brier with so many fans in the stands.

There are a lot of young curlers who have never played before near-capacity crowds in an NHL arena.

"Hopefully they'll be nervous," said Ferbey. "Hopefully they won't play well."

Put them down as favourites, question how they'll play in front of the largest crowds in the history of the roaring game. But don't call this a "Brand X Brier" he says.

And he's right.

It isn't.


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