Howard on top of his game

CON GRIWKOWSKY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:21 AM ET

If nothing else, Glenn Howard is a realist.

There will never be a moment in his curling career that was as special as the week he won the 2007 world championship at Rexall Place.

Howard was somewhat apprehensive coming into the event. In the back of his mind, he wondered what Albertans' reactions would be after an infamous remark at the 1994 Brier in Red Deer.

The Red Neck Brier he called it, responding to a leather-lunged heckler who had been on the team's case for days.

After he felt the love in one of the more dominant weeks ever enjoyed by a Canadian team on the international stage, Howard is coming to Edmonton later this week in a much better mood.

"Alberta has been good to us," said Howard. "Hopefully, Edmonton will continue to be good for us for the trials. Without a doubt, it was the best curling event we have ever been in. We were firing on all eight cylinders."

Edmonton has been good for Howard. He was much younger when he came here to throw third rocks for his brother Russ in 1987 at the AgriCom. The brothers went on to win their first of two world championships together and that was their breakout moment.

"We'll be going for the trifecta," joked Glenn Howard, who knows Rexall may not be as friendly this time out. "The crowd was fantastic, the curling was fantastic, the whole atmosphere was fantastic. I think it's going to be the same again and that's a bit of an advantage for the Alberta teams."

One thing Howard has going for him is that he has an Olympic medallist playing on his team. Third Richard Hart played the same position for the Mike Harris-skipped team at the 1998 Nagano Olympics that came home with a silver medal.

"We've all been in big games at the Brier, at the worlds, at Grand Slams," said Howard. "This is definitely something different. This is for a chance to go to the Olympics. It is an advantage to have a player like Richard on our team. We've talked about the whole experience with him.

"He's so helpful in letting us know what it takes to get there and what the atmosphere is all about."

Howard nailed down his bye spot pretty early in the cycle, thanks to his performance at the 2007 worlds and a win in the 2008 Players Championship.

Howard has been on top of most of curling's tables ever since, occasionally spelled off by Kevin Martin, who's won the last two Brier titles.

"Consistency?" said Howard. "Yeah, that's a good word to describe what we've been doing for the last three to four years. There's fewer peaks and valleys. Kevin's the same, very consistent. When you play at that level and get into the big games, we tend to turn it up a notch. That's the natural product of consistency."

Howard had been peaking at the right time when he hit one of those valleys. He won the World Cup of Curling in Mississauga and followed that up the next weekend with a win at the Cactus Pheasant spiel in Brooks.

He ran his win streak to 17 games at Brantford last weekend before his A-B-C-ya later skid, losing three straight.

"We hit a valley and weren't able to get out," said Howard.

Sometimes, losing a game or two can take some pressure off a team and that's the way Howard is looking at it.

"The only thing missing on my resume is the Olympics," Howard said. "It would mean a lot to pull this off somehow and get to the Olympics."

Howard's not the only skip with wins at Rexall Place in a field which includes Brier winners Randy Ferbey (2005) and Jeff Stoughton (1999).

CON.GRIWKOWSKY@SUNMEDIA.CA


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