Howard favourite in this year's brush with Woodstock

STEVE GREEN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:39 AM ET

Eight years later, Glenn Howard is returning to the scene of the crime.

It's a game he doesn't think about unless someone brings it up -- a 14-2 playoff drubbing by Wayne Middaugh in the 2001 Ontario men's curling championship in Woodstock. Middaugh stole seven in the second end of that game, which had to go at least six ends because of television.

Howard calls it a learning experience and the lesson certainly took, as he's won the last three provincial crowns, the 2007 Brier and world titles and a ton of cash.

Now he returns to the Woodstock District Community Complex as the favourite to win the TSC Tankard, which begins Monday.

"I know where you're going with this," he said with a low chuckle yesterday from Midland. "But I don't think about that game much at all. It's just one more game, part of the learning process even though it was a horrible game.

"I believe it made us (him and third Richard Hart) tougher. We learned from it. We learned how to win and how to deal with adversity mentally."

Howard, Hart, Craig Savill and Brent Laing are in their fifth season together and are coming off a win over Kevin Martin, who beat him in last year's Brier final, in the final of the BDO Classic Canadian Open last weekend in Winnipeg.

"I love winning, I love beating Kevin and it's a nice segue into the Tankard," said Howard, who can break one record and tie another if he wins the Tankard this time. It'll be his 11th Ontario crown all told (four as a skip), breaking a tie with the legendary Ed Werenich. And his team will equal the mark of four straight with the same personnel, a feat first achieved by Glenn and his older brother Russ, along with Middaugh and Peter Corner, from 1991-94. Middaugh and Corner went on to skip their own title-winning rinks.

"Cool. I wasn't even thinking about that. It's another carrot to chase. But when you start thinking about it, it's been pretty cool to have been a part of this," he said.

Howard puts the team's longevity -- five years is at the long end of the spectrum at this level -- down to a couple of things.

"One is, of course, being very successful, because if it isn't broken, why fix it? Plus we all get along so well on and off the ice. When you spend a lot of time together from September through April, you've got to enjoy the company you're in. And we all very much respect each other."

Middaugh didn't qualify for this Tankard, but Corner did. The 2000 champion, playing out of Brampton, is joined by fellow former winners Mike Harris of Toronto Donalda (2004) and Bryan Cochrane of Ottawa Rideau (2003).

"Wayne not being there is a bit of a surprise, but all the rinks there are capable of winning and capable of dethroning us," said Howard, whose daughter Carly is skipping a rink at the Ontario bantam (16-and-under) girls' championship next week in Oshawa.

"But you just go out to win your game. Whether it's against a club team or Kevin Martin, whether it's for steaks, cash or your province, the pressure's pretty much the same.

"We've been there so many times and put ourselves in a position to win so many times that it's a nice comfort zone for us. But having said that, we're really gunning for this one."

Play begins Monday at 2 p.m., with the final set for Feb. 8 at 2 p.m. The winner heads to the Tim Hortons Brier March 7-15 in Calgary.

AROUND THE HOUSE

Pete Vidler of Forest and Lee Penfold of Leamington Sun Parlour were the A and B winners at the Zone 16 masters (60-and-over) men's playdowns last weekend at Forest. Jane Galloway of Ilderton and Jean Corey of Sarnia were the women's qualifiers. All four advance to their respective regionals this weekend in Paris . . . The schoolboy and schoolgirl regional playdowns for Zones 13-16 are this weekend in Niagara Falls . . . Zone playdowns are on this weekend for men's Colts at Harriston (14), Ingersoll (15) and Detroit (16). The same sites will hold the women's Trophy zone playdowns.

TSC TANKARD ONTARIO MEN'S CHAMPIONSHIP

When: Monday-Sunday, Feb. 8

Where: Woodstock District Community Complex

Teams: Joe Frans, Oshawa; Bryan Cochrane, Ottawa Rideau; Mike Harris, Toronto Donalda; Jake Higgs, Harriston; Rick Thurston, Dundas Granite; Rob Lobel, Whitby; Glenn Howard, Coldwater; Peter Steski, Sarnia; Chris Gardner, Arnprior; Peter Corner, Brampton.

Schedule: Monday, 2 and 7:45 p.m.; Tuesday-Thursday, 2 and 7 p.m.; Friday, 2 p.m., 7 p.m. (tiebreaker or 3-4 playoff); Saturday, midnight and 9 a.m. (tiebreakers if necessary), 2 p.m. (1-2 playoff game), 7 p.m. (semifinal); Sunday, 2 p.m. (final).

Television: All draws on Rogers. Draws 1 and 3 (both 3 p.m.), 3-4 playoff game (10 p.m.), semifinal (10 p.m.) and final (7 p.m.) tape-delayed, all others live.

Tickets: Available at Golf Curl and More, Huron and Dundas streets, Woodstock; at the complex; online at www.tsctankard.2009.com; by calling 519-539-4454.


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