Hart ♥ Middaugh

When your curling team needs a spare, you always can call on a long-time friend and former...

When your curling team needs a spare, you always can call on a long-time friend and former teammate, which is how Wayne Middaugh (left) wound up playing for skip Glenn Howard (right) on the winning team at the Canada Cup in Medicine Hat, Alta. (MICHAEL BURNS)

GEORGE KARRYS, Special to QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:08 AM ET

Last Sunday was a strange one for curling star Richard Hart.

The longtime third player for Team Glenn Howard was watching TV at home in Pickering, and there was his curling team — live on TSN — competing against Kevin Martin’s Olympians at the Canada Cup in Medicine Hat, Alta.

“I watched the first few ends but then I had to leave,” Hart said. “Both my sons are playing in the interclub on Sunday nights, so we went up to the Richmond Hill Curling Club.”

Hart did catch much of the final end — and his makeshift squad’s $25,000 victory — at the club while his youngsters were gearing up.

“It was a fun place to watch the end of the game,” Hart laughed. “The crowd was following it, and I think they found it a little curious to be watching it with me.”

The win, which featured rival skip Wayne Middaugh replacing Hart, marked Howard’s first over Martin in the past four attempts, including a killer loss in last season’s Olympic Trials final. But Hart, who has taken a couple of other tour events off as well, said there were no regrets about missing out on his Coldwater, Ont., team’s first big victory of the 2011 season.

“Due to your own ego you want to think the team can’t win without you, but of course they can,” Hart said. “Wayne Middaugh has been one of the best curlers in Canada since he was 14 years old, so why wouldn’t this have worked?”

Middaugh won a Brier and world title with Howard in 1993 before leaving the fold, and captured his own dual crowns as a skip in 1998.

Hart is a funny fellow, and well-known for his zingers. And despite the Canada Cup triumph he felt obliged to drop another bomb on Team Martin.

“I think the whole country was cheering against Kevin,” Hart offered.

Say what?

“At some point, when you’ve been as successful as that (Martin) team, even the casual curling fan has seen enough of them,” Hart opined.

“Everybody likes to cheer against Goliath once in a while. Those guys have been so good for so long, I think everybody likes to see someone finally come in and knock ’em off.”

Hart was also chuckling over a message he received on Monday morning.

“I got an email from (former teammate) Jason Mitchell, and it had only one line: ‘How come you don’t squeal like a schoolgirl when you win?’ And I didn’t know what he was talking about, because the sound was off on the (club) TV.”

What Hart missed was his squad’s victory screeches, followed by rampant fist pumps, with Middaugh leading the celebrations.

“Good for him,” said Hart. “It’s been a long time since Wayner had a big win on TV, and it’s great to see that old guys like him can still get jacked up.”

Hart returns to Team Howard, and Middaugh returns to skip his own foursome, next week at the second Grand Slam of the season — the Swiss Chalet National — in Vernon, B.C.

But were there really no zingers dropped on Mr. Hart in Richmond Hill, as he watched his team win without him?

“I was expecting some cracks,” Hart said. “There were just lots of kind remarks about how much people like our team, and how strange it is for them because they don’t normally like Wayne Middaugh but they were cheering for him this time.”

Zing!

George Karrys is: curlinguru.com


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