Alberta longshots fire blanks

TERRY JONES, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:45 AM ET

OLDS -- For the first time in a long time, all things were considered possible.

At least, that was the theory.

The Old Bear, Kevin Martin, is at home in Edmonton practicing for the Olympics. And the Ferbey Four came here with nowhere near the swagger they had when they won four Briers in five years and should have won five.

For a few ends there in the morning, when 56-year-old Whitecourt ice maker Ben Wilkinson jumped to a 3-0 lead after four ends, maybe you could consider the idea that The Really Old Bear could make a fun run in this one.

Or when Warren Hassall of Lloydminster, won his first and was threatening to go 2-0 on the first day of the Boston Pizza provincial curling championships, the idea of a team which plays out of a curling club which sits on the Saskatchewan side of the border having a shot at winning Alberta looked like a story in the making.

WILD AND CRAZY

And Rob Armitage of Red Deer, in his 12th provincials, won a wild and crazy game for openers which maybe had thoughts of one of the real characters of the game getting to the big show.

But by the time the fog had cleared here Wednesday night -- and it was so thick that if this was an outdoor event, the shooters couldn't have seen the skips -- all things didn't look as possible as they did back when the first rocks were thrown at 9 a.m.

The top four seeds all went through to the A Event semi-final and everybody else starts Thursday in B looking like the same old longshots they usually are at this thing.

You have to go back to the 20th century to find somebody other than Kevin Martin or Randy Ferbey who represented Alberta at the Brier.

That was Ken Hunka of Edmonton in 1999.

And Tom Reed of Edmonton in 1998.

In 12 of the last 14 years either Martin or Ferbey have skipped a team to the provincial title.

An Edmonton team has represented Alberta in the Brier every year since 1994 when Ed Lukowich of Calgary was the most recent team to come out of the South. And you have to go waaaaaaaay back to 1982 and Gary Morken of Grande Prairie to find somebody who came out of the Peace.

You have to go back to 1993 and Greg Ferster (4-7) of Leduc and to 1990 and Harold Breckenridge (4-7) of Calgary were the last of the longshots to get to the Brier.

It looked like you needed to know all of this at the start of the day, and maybe you will by the end of the week.

UNDEFEATED

After Day 1, Randy Ferbey, Kevin Koe, James Paul and Ted Appelman are undefeated and everybody else in the 12-team field will start the Thursday in the B Event.

Ferbey scored two-three-enders to beat Rob Armitage of Red Deer 9-2, Pahl cracked a three-ender and a four-ender to knock off Kurt Balderston of Sexsmith 9-8, Appelman scored three and then stole two to defeat Hassall 6-4 and Koe needed to throw his last rock to score a 6-5 win over the other Edmonton team, Wade White.

All things possible this year?

"You do think that coming here this time," said Armitage, after getting pounded by Ferbey in a shake-hands-after-six A event quarter-final in the triple knockout tournament.

"We've been beat by those guys so many times that when you get down like that, the guys just let down.

"A lot of it for a lot of these teams, like my team, is that we're playing our first games of the year on arena ice. Just like we did last year. And the year before that," said Armitage.

"Early, it's tough to beat the cash spiel-tough teams on arena ice," he said.

Hassall, whose team had gone in the Saskatchewan playdowns last year, chose to be Albertan this year with Martin out of the mix. The team claimed the last Alberta Tour spot bye.

Thing suddenly look, er, greener, on the other side of the border again.

Maybe Ferbey has the bottom line.

"Edmonton teams are strong," he said.

"The other teams are not as good as the top four or five from Edmonton. That's not boasting. That's the truth."

TERRY.JONES@SUNMEDIA.CA


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