The Big Four of Canadian curling is heading back to the Brier.
Manitoba’s Jeff Stoughton will be re-joining Alberta’s 2010 Olympic gold medallist Kevin Martin, Ontario’s former world champion Glenn Howard and Newfoundland’s 2006 Olympic gold medallist Brad Gushue in London, Ont., March 5-13.
Those four were also at the 2006, 2007 and 2009 Briers. Martin missed last year’s only because he was competing at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.
“It’s really tough to win,” Howard told QMI Agency. “All the usual guys are going to be there and we’re going to take another run at it.”
Martin defeated reigning world and Brier champion Kevin Koe 7-4 in the Alberta final Sunday.
Stoughton, however, has suffered the longest drought among the four — as far as winning a major championship is concerned — as he won Manitoba’s last Canadian crown way back in 1999.
Gushue has yet to win a Brier but does boast Olympic gold.
“We’ve beaten Martin, we’ve beaten Howard and, all these guys that are coming to the Brier this year, we’re pretty sure we can handle,” Stoughton said after becoming the first skip to win three straight Manitoba titles Sunday.
“We would love to finally get that Brier back in Winnipeg, and we think we’re going to give it a good shot.”
Stoughton failed to qualify for the playoffs at last year’s Brier, and lost the 2009 final to Martin — with a different foursome.
“This team really is ready to win a Brier,” said veteran Manitoba lead Steve Gould. “We are getting a little long in the tooth, some of us, and I don’t know how much longer we’re going to end up playing anyway, so we might as well do it now, right?”
Martin, however, will return to the Brier riding a 26-game winning streak, with his last win being over Stoughton in the 2009 final.
Howard beat Gushue in the 2007 final and lost to Martin in the ’08 final.
Saskatchewan’s Pat Simmons, Nova Scotia’s Shawn Adams and B.C.’s Jim Cotter could also make some noise in London.
“If we find our best game, we can play with anybody that’s going to be there (at the Brier),” said Manitoba third Jon Mead.
Both Mead and Gould won the ’99 Brier with Stoughton.
— With files from Kirk Penton
At London, March 5-13
B.C. — Jim Cotter
Alberta — Kevin Martin
Saskatchewan — Pat Simmons
Manitoba — Jeff Stoughton
Northern Ontario — Brad Jacobs
Ontario — Glenn Howard
Quebec — Francois Gagne
New Brunswick — James Gratton
Nova Scotia — Shawn Adams
Newfoundland — Brad Gushue
P.E.I. — Eddie MacKenzie
Yukon/NWT — Jamie Koe