Losing becomes winning

CON GRIWKOWSKY -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 9:26 AM ET

If you can't beat 'em, join 'em.

When the phone rang at Mark Johnson's desk yesterday morning, Kevin Martin was on the other end of the line.

Martin was wondering if Johnson, the skip he beat in Sunday's Kia Cup final, would like to join his team as the fifth man for the Tim Horton's Brier.

"I told him I'd like to know by midday," said Martin, who talked briefly with Johnson about the possibility Sunday night. "Five minutes later, he called back and agreed."

And, with that, Johnson became Mark the Fifth.

"All of a sudden, it went from a huge disappointment ... and now I'm going in as one of the favourites," said Johnson. "I was a bit surprised Kevin asked me at first. I was caught off-guard.

"They said all kinds of nice things things about me in the paper. I wanted to make sure they weren't asking me just because I was skipping the team they'd just beaten.

"That sure is a nice thing they've done."

The team really had no idea who could fit their needs when Martin won his seventh Alberta title.

"We didn't have a Plan A or a Plan B," said Martin, who credits his wife Shauna for the idea.

It was an inspired choice. The physical issues the team is facing meant it needed a fifth man-plus.

"The more (my rinkmates) thought about it, the better idea it seemed," said Martin. "I think it's a great idea. He'll have to play some games. Don Bartlett, for sure, will take a couple of games off. Hopefully Wally (Don Walchuk) will be all right to play all the games, but you never know."

Johnson is an extremely popular member in the local curling community. He may well have been the sentimental choice to win Sunday's final, even among his opposition.

"I sort of wanted Mark to go to experience what we've experienced," said Bartlett, who's battling a chronic back problem.

"I haven't played front end since 1987," said Johnson.

"Brent MacDonald asked me to be fifth man for his Olympic Trials team. We went to a spiel in Kelowna and won it. Maybe it's a good omen."

A guy who can deliver rocks skillfully out of any position and a guy who's worked so hard to improve his game to the point where his team is ranked No. 7 in the world deserves this honour.

"Seriously, he'll take it seriously," said Martin. "If he can help us a bit along the way on the ice and, come playoff time, we know he's going to do what he has to do as a fifth man to get us ready.

"He's on fire right now on the ice. You want a guy like that to help your cause.

"It makes sense for a lot of different reasons."

It's also a classy move by Martin, who took a lot of heat for his role in pushing the Grand Slam agenda a few years back.

It makes sense for all the right reasons.


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