Winning the battle

CON GRIWKOWSKY -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 7:03 AM ET

Hey. You with that cowboy boot on your chest.

Didn't you used to be Kevin Park?

Been with the Dark Force and lived to tell about it.

Finally defeated the demon rum.

"I still gamble," said Park with a chuckle. "Can't give up all my vices."

For years, Park tried to be curling's version of the ultimate warrior - party all night, win the Brier in the morning.

It seemed like a good idea at the time.

Park's brilliant shooting at third played a big role in helping Kevin Martin get his fuzzy-cheeked crew to the 1991 worlds.

After the relationship broke up in 1995, Park had enough raw talent to skip a team to the 1997 Olympic Trials.

"It was like being at the Brier all the time," said Park.

At least the party all night part.

SWEAR OFF THE SAUCE

A strange thing happened when Park decided to swear off the sauce at the start of this season.

Suddenly, people started talking about his talent.

Finally, he was a wanted man for the right reasons.

"I'm not attributing the entire success to that," said Park.

"Shooting-wise, it helps a bit. More importantly, the way you get along with your teammates is a more critical factor."

What Park discovered over the years is that his habit made him a much easier target when things went wrong on the ice. Missing too many wakeup calls for early-morning draws will do that.

"People tend to frown on that sort of thing if you do too much of it, as you know," said Park. "It's an easy thing for people to point fingers at. If you just don't do it ... don't make yourself the target for that sort of thing."

Park remained confident he could still get the job done even though other's opinions differed.

"I can still curl quite well under those circumstances," said Park. "Other people, they can quickly pull the trigger. If things aren't going right, they're really looking for fault and a person to fault."

Park has so much talent that it must have burned him inside to get the rap from teammates who weren't even qualified to carry his broom.

He didn't out-and-out say so, but at least figured out there's no percentage in making himself an easy target.

"I just decided to pack it in," said Park. "It had a cumulative effect over the years.

"There were no health issues - other than the hangovers.

"The hangovers got more severe over time. Booze would be a great thing if you didn't have the hangovers."

His image and on-ice performance has improved so much that Ferbey gave him a call to pinch-hit - proving that he could be trusted.

"I think their perception is that I would be that much better now that I've straightened 'er out," said Park. "They're entitled to that. Of course, these guys all do it themselves.

"You get painted with that brush and it's a hard thing to shake."

MAY ALLOW HIMSELF A CELEBRATION

Still, Park has no regrets. He's going to avoid the Kia Patch at the Saville Centre. If he can help Steve Petryk win the province, he may allow himself a little celebration Sunday night.

"It's been great," said Park. "I can't say it's been easy or difficult. One way or the other, I just stayed off it.

"I've been around it all year with curling and never felt tempted," said Park.

"I've always been good to my kids. I'm not a violent drunk or anything like that. I'm generally happy-go-lucky.

"It got to be a little bit more habit-forming because I'm sitting at home and having a few beer sitting at the computer. It's a little cheaper drinking coffee than four or five beer."

It might be a tough battle this week in a star-studded field that included four of the top seven money earners in the world.

Park has already won one battle.

A tougher one is ahead.


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