He's no Newfie joke

TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 12:57 PM ET

HALIFAX -- What we're dealing with here may be the biggest sports story in the history of Newfoundland.

"Oh, yeah,'' said Brad Gushue.

"This is the biggest chance for anybody in any sport in all of Newfoundland history.

"Right now it's huge back there. From what we hear it's bigger than we want to know.''

Probably pretty big, too, in Fort McMurray with the largest population of Newfies outside of Newfoundland.

It's a pretty good story anywhere.

Randy Ferbey and Kevin Martin win only four games each while a team from The Rock with a 49-year-old ringer holding the broom will have last rock advantage and choice of rocks when they go against Jeff Stoughton of Winnipeg tomorrow in the final of the 'Roar of the Rings' Olympic Trials.

The Newfies are one win away from representing Canada in the Winter Olympics, a dream no curler could even comprehend 30 years ago.

"It's the biggest thing to happen to Newfoundland in sport since Jack McDuff,'' said Gushue.

JACK MCDUFF REMAKE

It's a remake of The Jack McDuff Story.

Thirty years ago, McDuff rocked the roaring game by upsetting all the big names and winning the 1976 Regina Brier. No Newfoundland team had ever won before. None has won since. Toby McDonald was the third on that rink. And a legend in curling, Sam Richardson, winner of four Briers with his brother Ernie, was their driver/coach.

Flash forward. It's 2005. McDonald is the coach. Sammy is the long-distance consultant. McDuff, no longer in the best of health, was here Thursday to talk to the team and he'll be back tomorrow for the final.

"The first thing you think about is Toby and Sam,'' said Russ Howard, who, being 49, is old enough to remember.

"Toby has been doing a lot to make it work the same way again. Sam's in the background.''

Play it again, Sam.

Gushue says it's true.

"First of all, Toby was the guy who worked us through the whole idea of getting Russ and getting all of us through it so that it could work. Toby's doing all the things with us that Sammy did for them.''

McDuff said if it worked once, it can work again for Newfoundland.

"I will absolutely, unequivocally, say we'd never win that Brier if we hadn't had Sammy Richardson as our driver. He kept us focused and made us do the things we had to do to win.''

Toby says it's a template.

"We're using quite a bit of it. Sam convinced us to be a team, to do everything as a team. We spent all of our time together, eating, talking and sleeping curling. Between draws we'd go back to the hotel and put our feet up or get under the covers. That's the way we've worked it.''

SAMMY DOING HIS PART

Sammy has been doing his part.

"I talked to the boys Thursday night,'' he said on the phone from Regina.

"I talked to Toby a couple of times earlier when they were trying to figure out how to work Russ into the lineup. I told Toby not to move that skip and third,'' he said of Gushue and Mark Nichols.

"I told the boys to stay confident but never go over the line and become cocky. I told them how we used to treat Hec Gervais and Ron Northcott and the rest of those guys. We always figured if we treat those guys good enough, show them enough respect, they won't mind losing to us. I told them to get their rest. Get right under the covers between games. Never fall asleep but get under the covers.

"McDuff phones every day. He gets on the phone and wants to talk all day.''

The McDuff Brier win is curling legend.

"I went to get the driver assignments for that Brier in Regina and they told me 'Sam, you probably thought you were going to get a good rink. But you've won enough. We're giving you Newfoundland.'

"I picked them up at the airport and their goal was to win four games because that would be the Newfoundland record at the Brier. But Jack said 'Sam, I want this rink run like the Richardsons.' And that's what I did. Newfoundland curlers always had 50 people drinking in their room. I kicked them out and kept them out.''

Sammy said his brother Ernie restricted him to one beer a night. Once, after he made a great shot, Ernie allowed him two.

"I told our guys I don't mind them having a beer in their hand,'' said Toby. "But the beer in that bottle better be real warm by the end of the night.''


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