MEDICINE HAT — John Morris came off the ice, used the big bad swear word at full volume a couple of times and kicked shovels and other assorted items as he tromped all the way down the hall to the dressing room.
Kevin Martin’s final rock in the fifth end had picked some debris and the result was a 5-2 deficit at the break and the Olympic gold-medal winners out of Edmonton’s Saville Centre chasing the final of the Canada Cup the rest of the way.
These guys don’t like to lose, even if they’re half a game away from actually losing.
As it turned out, it went down to the last rock in the last end before Howard became the first non-Edmonton team to win the Canada Cup in the eight-year history of the event.
In the end, Howard scored three with his last shot to win 10-7 and collect $29,000, a berth at next year’s event and a spot in the 2012 Continental Cup and leaves Martin and his mates with $19,000 for the first event of the Season of Champions.
“We’ve got to come and play,” said Morris, who hadn’t had a similar eruption since he broke a broom over his knee at the Hamilton Brier in 2007, that one being in front of the fans, not behind the scenes.
There was also another memorable meltdown at provincials in Hinton before that.
“That wasn’t our ‘A’ game. It was our ‘B plus’ game.”
Martin took it more in stride.
“It picked about two feet out of my hand. But it happens. Picks have cost him games against us. I’m not unhappy. We played decent this week. There’s not a lot of negativity here as far as I’m concerned. They outplayed us (Sunday) and they won.”
If there ever was a place to be a graceful loser, this was it.
And Howard winning over Martin is probably a better story than it working out the other way around.
Howard certainly didn’t take the win in stride.
“I guess he is beatable,” he enthused. “There it is. He is beatable!”
Forgive him if there was a question there.
Martin was 6-0 here going into the game after registering his fourth consecutive win Saturday morning over Howard, whose rink was in a skid which included losing a round-robin game and the final of the Roar of the Rings Olympic Trials in Edmonton last year.
Howard is also 0-6 lifetime against Martin in the Brier.
“He’s definitely dominated us the last two or three years. He’s dominated everybody. We just beat the best team in the world,” said the skip from Coldwater, Ont.
Howard, who became a world champion skip at the 2007 Worlds in Edmonton, has otherwise developed a reputation of not being able to win the big one.
His team of Richard Hart (replaced by Wayne Middaugh for this event), Brent Laing and Craig Savill have advanced to four of the last five Brier finals and won only the one. Last year, he lost both the Olympic Trials final to Martin and the Brier final to Kevin Koe.
“You look at last year — and it’s been the same for a few Briers — we put ourselves in a position to win. We get ourselves in the final games. But we’ve lost more of those than we’ve won. It’s been tough to handle.
“Last year, the whole focus was to get to the Olympic Trials. You lose. And you’re just numb.
“You know that you really missed out on a great opportunity, a great experience, the epitome of curling, and you think, now it’s a long four years away, you’re 47 at the time and blah, blah, blah. You don’t jump up and down and scream. You’re just numb.
“And I was so proud of my guys. We put it behind us. We didn’t lose one game at the Brier through to the final. We played terrific. We played as well as you can play to win that game against Koe and it just didn’t happen.”
You get the idea. There was a lot more here than winning $29,000 and the first major event of the season with the TV cameras rolling.
And, considering it’s been Edmonton teams making him numb again and again and again, you can’t blame him for taking particular pleasure in ending the seven-year domination of this event by the guys keeping the City of Champions signs up on the outskirts of town.
“Three of the best teams in the world have come out of there,” he said. “It was pretty cool to win.”