No end to Howard's dominance

Bernie Puchalski, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:55 PM ET

GRIMSBY, Ont. -- Glenn Howard continued his dominance of the Ontario men's curling championships with 10-3 win over Greg Balsdon in the Tankard final Sunday afternoon.

It was Howard's record sixth straight provincial crown, approached only by the four straight titles won by his brother Russ from 1991 to 1994, with Glenn playing third.

But even more remarkable that the winning streak is the fact that the Coldwater and District Curling Club squad has done it with the same personnel all six years -- Richard Hart at vice, Brent Laing at second and Craig Savill at lead.

"It is very rare and that's one of the main reasons we're doing so well," Howard said after the final, which lasted just eight ends. "We're a cohesive unit -- that's one of the keys -- and we get along so well. And I know exactly how all three of my guys are going to throw the rock and how they are going to act and react. We've been married together for six or seven years."

Many of the rinks at this year's provincials have skips and vices that were leads and seconds on other successful teams, but wanted to assume a more prominent role on another team or skip their own rink. Not so with the Howard squad.

"Every person on the team respects the position they are in and respects the position their teammates are in. I wouldn't change the lineup and they all love the positions they're in. Obviously it works, so why change?" Howard said.

Howard admits it's not easy to find four players willing to stay in the same role for a long time. The rink has now played together for eight years.

"That says a lot about our team," Hart said. "To be together that long and have that much success in curling is unheard of. If we didn't get as long as well as we do on and off the ice, there's no way the team would be as successful as we are.

"The four of us have a great time together, even in the summer on the golf course."

Hart is now in his 11th season of playing for Howard and has never felt the urge to skip his own rink.

"As long as I'm doing what I love and part of being a great third is understanding that fact in curling. When I was in my 20s, it took me a couple of years to understand the skip is the focus. You need a great team but the media wants to talk to the skip. The sooner you realize that, it opens up things so you can become a great third."

Skipping his own rink would only be for ego reasons and that doesn't appeal to him.

"If you're curling to be famous or for the money, you're in the wrong sport. You better find something else to do," Hart said.

And Howard is quick to share the accolades with his teammates.

"As you saw Glenn tonight, he never misses a chance to congratulate us and he's very careful not to take us for granted. You can see why it's such a privilege and joy to play with Glenn," Hart said.

Howard's rink now advances to the Brier March 5-13 in London. In its past five appearances, Howard has won once, finished second twice and third twice.

"It's really tough to win. We're following the scores right now and it's going to be another great field. All the usual guys are going to be there and we will take another run at it," Hart said.

For now, the rink can savour another Ontario crown.

"I will sit down in the next couple of weeks and realize it is pretty special, but it's something I'm probably not going to appreciate until I'm done and out of the game," Howard said. "It doesn't matter what sport, if you can repeat I think it's amazing. To go six in a row is unbelievable and I'm really proud of my boys."

Howard took charge early in Sunday's final, scoring three in the first end and four in the fifth to go up 8-2. It seemed every time Balsdon stepped into the hack he was facing a do-or-die shot.

"It's disappointing to not make it a good game, but we did have a good week and we feel pretty good about that," said Balsdon, who made his first appearance in the provincial final.

The 33-year-old golf pro at Wyndance Golf Club in Uxbridge said his rink, which includes three players in their late 20s, wasn't sharp in the final.

"They played really well and that was probably one of our worst games of the week. That's why it wasn't close," he said.

In Sunday morning's semifinal, Balsdon blew open a close game by scoring four in the ninth end against Peter Corner of the Brampton Curling Club to win 9-4.

Balsdon's rink, which includes Chris Ciasnocha, Tyler Morgan and Jamie Farnell, was representing the Loonie Curling Club of Chaffey's Lock, about 60 kilometres north of Kingston. The club consists of one rink built by retired farmer Alex McKinney.


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