TORONTO - After winning yet another provincial curling title, Glenn Howard spent the last two days doing interviews and fielding congratulatory calls.
Ho hum. ’Tis the same routine every middle of February – the last six in a row, in fact.
Clearly, something had to give. As the grizzled veteran considered the host team spotlight at the Brier in London, Howard suddenly began to wax philosophical about certain subjects in the vast curling pantheon. And the three-time world champion was soon to go to a place he’s rarely gone before – with the media, at any rate.
Howard weighed in on the spat between Alberta legend Randy Ferbey and two of his now-former World Curling Tour teammates from Newfoundland, Brad Gushue and Ryan Fry.
That rather odd squad decided to part ways after Oshawa’s BDO Canadian Open, and the two camps have been lobbing some very public hand grenades at each other.
Ferbey first revealed the split, telling the Edmonton Sun “they quit on me”. Fry then caused an eruption with an email to the media which declared that the sport “has passed (Ferbey) by” and that he believed “it is time (Ferbey) decided to retire”.
Howard was stunned.
“I know Randy was very, very discouraged in Oshawa,” Howard confided. “He said he wasn’t having much fun, he felt the guys were being distant. He said ‘watch when we play’ and we played against them, and from my outside view it looked like the team was done, there was no fire in the engine.”
“But I heard what was said and I was shocked,” said Howard. “I was very disappointed to hear this and very, very disappointed in the two of them (Fry and Gushue). It makes me sad.
“I don’t know what goes on behind closed doors, and maybe Randy shouldn’t have said what he said, and I don’t know what Brad wrote privately to Randy. But for Ryan to say that (Ferbey) should retire and that the game has passed him by is completely offside. It’s unjustified and it’s unfair.
“I have the utmost respect for Randy Ferbey, he is the most decorated curler in the world, as far as I’m concerned.”
It’s the concept of respect that soon had Howard’s voice rising.
“I’ve had run-ins with curlers and opponents but there’s always, always, always been utmost respect,” said Howard. “I hope it’s not old school, but I go back to my team with Russ Howard and Eddie Werenich’s team, we had our issues, we had our on-ice and off-ice issues.
“But I know for a fact that we respected Eddie and he respected us, and there was never any sort of verbal abuse when it comes to a lack of respect. I think that’s what’s happened here and I don’t think Randy Ferbey deserves it.”
Howard recalled a series of skirmishes with two rival skips from out west, Pat Ryan and Rick Folk, who teamed up to battle the Howard clan in two feisty Brier finals in the 1990s.
“A lot of the stuff back in the day was gamesmanship,” said Howard. “It was there with Pat and Rick and Eddie, all kinds of little things were done and said, but it was never a lack of respect.
“Pat Ryan was notorious for it. He had all kinds of little tricks up his sleeve, but it wasn’t disrespectful. He wanted to get under your skin, he wanted to win. It wasn’t underhanded, and I’m fine with that. I think that stuff is great.
“In my mind there’s an incredible lack of respect being shown for one of the legends of the game who, in my mind, doesn’t deserve it.”
Team Howard beat Team Gushue in the 2007 Brier final, and they lock horns in London on March 8 at 2:30pm (TSN). Let the old school gamesmanship begin.
George Karrys is: curlinguru.com