Changing of the guard

TERRY JONES, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:44 AM ET

OLDS -- This time the picture was of Blake MacDonald, raising his broom into the air instead of collapsing against the boards sobbing.

This time he was hugging his teammates with that great gap-tooth smile of his lighting up the arena instead of laying in a pathetic prone position like a deflated hot air ballon as his mother learned over beside the boards and tried to console him.

Three years ago in Drayton Valley, then skipping Kevin Koe's team, MacDonald missed two draws to the eight- foot to win the provincial title and get to the Brier.

One was on the 10th end.

The other was on the 11th.

WASN'T GOING TO MISS

But this was the 10th end and skip Koe, who had shot the lights out throughout the Boston Pizza Cup provincial curling playoffs, wasn't going to miss this one.

It was a wide open shot to run Randy Ferbey out of rocks in a 7-5 win.

For the first time since 1999 when MacDonald made it to the Last Shootout of the Century Brier in Edmonton curling for Ken Hunka, somebody other than Kevin Martin or Randy Ferbey is headed to the Brier representing Alberta.

"It's been 11 years. That's a long time," said Blake.

"I was 21. I thought I was going to get there a lot of times. This feels really good. I really worked hard for this. To get there we had to beat arguably the best team of all time.

"And we have to credit them for helping us. If they weren't there, we wouldn't have become as good a team as we have become."

Koe was likewise classy as he took the microphone in the victory ceremonies.

He called the Ferbey Four "one of the top teams in the world and maybe the top team in the history of the game."

He said this has been so long coming.

"We should have been there three or four years ago. It's such a good feeling. We had to beat that team three times this weekend.

"This is such a big step for us. This is one we haven't been able to climb over.

"I feel so good for Blake because of what happened three years ago," said the player who currently resides in Grande Prairie while his team curls out of the Saville Centre in Edmonton where the rest of the players reside.

MacDonald isn't the only one going back to the Brier after a long absence.

So is second Carter Rycroft.

He was there with Martin in 2006.

Despite winning a silver medal at the Salt Lake Olympics with Martin in 2002, The Old Bear fired his entire rink and replaced them with John Morris, Marc Kennedy and Ben Hebert, the Olympic team which flies out of Edmonton for Vancouver this morning.

"It does seem like forever," said Rycroft, who is featured in a multi-story picture on the side of The Bay building in Vancouver, representing curling.

He, too, remembers Drayton Valley.

"It was our first year together with this team when we thought we were going to the Brier. And at the Olympic Trials in Edmonton that was the best we ever played and we just couldn't buy a break," he said.

Like the skip, Theissen will be a Brier rookie.

"Hopefully we can keep Alberta's run of dominance going," he said of four titles won by Ferbey and three by Martin in the last nine trips to the Brier.

BRIER FAVOURITE

Koe's 'Too-Good-A-Team-To-Never-Get-To-A-Brier' bunch not only finally get to a Brier but is going to be a favourite when he gets to Halifax, along with Glenn Howard of Ontario and Brad Gushue of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Also qualifying yesterday were Ian Fitzer-Leblanc of Nova Scotia, Jeff Richard of B.C., James Grattan of New Brunswick and Rod MacDonald of P.E.I. The other provincial championships will be held during the Olympics.

"It's been such a tough time to get out of this province, but now we'll be going to the Brier as a favourite," said Koe. "And after what we've been through I think we'll get there and it'll seem like the pressure is off."

TERRY.JONES@SUNMEDIA.CA


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