SPRUCE GROVE -- There was about a quarter-second hesitation when Kevin Martin was asked who he considered to be the darkhorse entry at the 2008 Boston Pizza Cup.
"Never count out Kevin Park," said Martin, about his former rinkmate, who's tossing last rocks for Calgary's Steve Petryk. "He's one of the best curlers ever."
Park's individual talent was never in question when the pair, still in their early 20s, rolled all the way to a Brier title in 1991.
They made two other Brier appearances together before off-ice issues finally ended the on-ice relationship after the 1995 Canadian men's finale.
Time has taken the edge off whatever issues there were between the pair during their less mature years. A little smile crossed Park's face when he learned about the kind words his former skip had spoken about him.
"It's nice of him to say that," said Park. "Over the years, I'm sure we've developed a mutual respect for each other. Obviously, I don't have to say the same thing about him because everybody already knows it."
While Martin continued to tinker with his lineup over the years and stands on the verge of greatness in Alberta curling playdowns history, Park has had a bit more difficulty getting on track.
He's been an always-in-demand World Curling Tour sub and threw third rocks in helping the Kevin Koe rink reach the final of the Grand Slam event in Port Hawkesbury, N.S., in December.
He skipped a rink in the 1997 Olympic Trials.
It's nothing unusual in today's game to have rinkmates in different parts of the province. Martin's rink, for example, includes himself and fellow Edmontonian Marc Kennedy and two Calgary-based curlers, John Morris and Ben Hebert.
Petryk's main claim to fame was being the front-end man for Ed Lukowich in 1994, the last Calgary-based rink to represent Alberta in the Brier.
This lineup includes three Edmonton-area curlers -- Park, second Rob Schlender and lead David Harper.
When one of Park's teammates, Rob Petersen, could not commit time to the playdowns, Park was uncertain of what to do.
"That left the three of us trying to do something different, so I though it might be a bit of a cultural experience for these guys to come down south and try something different," said Park, who's taken the southern route before.
"It was not done to try and avoid any kind of tougher curling up here."
Two years ago, Park and Petryk came within a win of making the Alberta men's playoffs.
"That's the year we ran out of time," said Park, whose team forfeited the game and got eliminated in the tiebreaker.