Curling ready to rock the Sault

PETER RUICCI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:53 AM ET

SAULT STE. MARIE, ONT. - As exciting as the 1990 Labatt Brier, which was held at old Memorial Gardens was, Ian Fisher believes it'll take a back seat to what Sault Ste. Marie curling fans are in for this week.

Beginning Wednesday, Essar Centre plays host to the five-day, GP Car and Home World Cup of Curling.

A who's who of Canadian curling, along with some top Europeans, will be here for the first stop in the season-long Capital One Grand Slam of Curling.

"I don't know if there's ever before been the calibre of field about to play in Sault Ste. Marie or anywhere in the world," said Fisher, the event chair.

"The best of the best are coming and people are going to see fantastic shot-making."

Among those entered are Jeff Stoughton of Manitoba, the defending Brier and world champion, Alberta's Kevin Martin, a four-time Brier champion, a former world champion and the gold-medallist in the 2010 Olympics, three-time Brier and three-time world champion Glenn Howard of Ontario, four-time Brier champ Randy Ferbey of Alberta, the 2006 Olympic gold-medal winner, Brad Gushue of Newfoundland and Alberta's Kevin Koe, the 2010 Brier and world champion.

In addition, the world's No. 1-ranked rink, Mike McEwen, from Manitoba, will also be in action. McEwen has won three of four events this season, with his only loss coming in the championship during the season's opening playdown.

The Brad Jacobs rink, with third E.J. Harnden, second Ryan Harnden and lead Scott Seabrook, carries local hopes into the 18-team event, which concludes with Sunday's 1 p.m. final.

Teams will be divided into three, six-team pools for round-robin competition.

The top eight teams advance into a single-knockout playoff round set to begin Saturday.

In 2010, Team Jacobs, with Caleb Flaxey at lead, posted a 9-2 round-robin record and, after losing a semifinal, wound up finishing third at the Brier in Halifax.

A year ago, with Seabrook playing lead, Jacobs missed the playoffs, finishing fifth at the Brier in London with a 7-4 mark.

Presently, the Jacobs rink has climbed into ninth place in the World Curling Tour's Order of Merit.

"This will be anyone's game," said Fisher, when asked if he believes there's a favourite heading into an event that boasts of $100,000 in prize money.

A total of $22,500 goes to the winner.

"The Jacobs rink has got a shot," Fisher continued. "The home crowd may spark the boys. There's no reason why they can't make the playoffs."

Fisher spoke of how Winnipeg's Mike McEwen beat Koe over the weekend in the semifinals of a cashspiel in Brooks, Alta., and followed up by defeating Ferbey to win the championship.

The McEwen rink, also slated to play in the Sault this week, has a lot of similarities to Team Jacobs, Fisher opined.

"They're both young, up-and-coming rinks," Fisher said. "McEwen is really coming on and Brad is getting to the point where this week he could show the old boys he's coming on. Once you make the playoffs in an event like this, anything can happen. It's all going to come down to who's making shots."

The Jacobs rink begins play Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. against Stoughton.

Thursday, Jacobs faces Mark Kean of Innerkip, Ont., in a 9:30 a.m. draw and Jim Cotter of Kelowna, B.C., at 7:30 p.m.

Friday, Team Jacobs faces John Epping of Toronto at 4 p.m. and Howard in a 7:30 p.m. start.


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