Saskatchewan mines its Manners

GEORGE KARRYS, Special to QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:22 PM ET

A funny thing happened on the road to the 2012 Brier: a team came out of nowhere to win a major provincial championship. And curling traditionalists are rejoicing.

This simply doesn’t happen anymore. Since 2000, only three teams have won the Alberta men’s title: Kevin Martin, Randy Ferbey and Kevin Koe. The last “surprise” champions came in 1998 and 1999, when seniors Tom Reed and the wonderfully gruff Ken Hunka creaked their way into the Brier.

Ontario has a similar history. Glenn Howard is currently battling for his seventh consecutive The Dominion Tankard in Stratford and 13th since 1986. In fact, Glenn, his brother Russ and the legendary Eddie (The Wrench) Werenich have scored 21 Brier team trips over the last 31 years, and some of the other winners are no slouches: Wayne Middaugh, John Morris and Paul Savage are big names on that list. Only a small handful of shockers have ever broken through, the most notable being southwestern Ontario’s Bob Ingram in 1996 and Bryan Cochrane’s win for the Ottawa region in 2003.

Things are slightly different in the Buffalo province, where the wild nature of a 32-team double-knockout makes the Manitoba provincial a real test. The Grand Slam exclusivity project — often referred to as The Boycott — saw a string of surprise winners from 2002 through 2005, but three names have still captured 15 titles since 1998: Jeff Stoughton, who goes for his fourth in a row this week in Dauphin, the retired Kerry Burtnyk, and ageless Vic Peters, who was only recently forced to the sidelines after a recent battle with cancer.

And then there’s Saskatchewan. The wheatsheaf province has seen its share of surprise winners in the past, but few have been as surprising as last Sunday’s 2012 champions. Scott Manners and teammates Tyler Lang, Ryan Deis and Mike Armstrong beat Saskatoon’s Bruce Korte 6-5 in the provincial final after notching remarkable steals in both the 10th and 11th ends … and now this gang of whodats are off to the Brier.

Comparisons were immediately drawn to one particular underdog victory way back in 1987. Don Gardiner won in the same town Manners did — Assiniboia— and went on to an inglorious 1-10 record at the Brier.

“Twenty-five years ago a rookie skip went to the Brier from here,’’ said a jubilant Manners. “And 25 years later another rookie skip won again and is going to the Brier. So let’s go Saskatchewan!”

The Manners win is a real shock in today’s high-performance curling world; this squad, in their first year together, ranked 12th among the 16 Tankard teams at the start of the event. The foursome played in only one event on the World Curling Tour this season, in Red Deer, Alta., and lost all three games.

However, Manners himself is no rookie. The 39-year-old grain farmer lives in a border city — Lloydminster — and has, in fact, been competing in Alberta for the past 15-odd years. Last season, he competed with well-known Jamie King and the Hassall brothers. He played in another recent WCT event when he was picked up by none other than Randy Ferbey.

As such, Manners is fairly well-known on the Alberta Curling Tour — just as he is now suddenly very well-known in the province of his birth. And in a nod to old-school curling, when anyone could truly beat anyone on any given day, this new Team Manners lost only one game all week in Assiniboia, beat Korte in the first Page playoff game and just plain got ’er done when it was all on the line in the final.

The Manners steal in the 10th end was preceded by a superb tap-back, which put the pressure on Korte. The veteran’s miss in the extra-end was more of an unforced error; Korte hit and rolled too far when he needed to stick for the win.

Manners and Co., will now experience the proud pleasure — and hopefully not the sheer horror — of wearing the green at a hometown Brier: in Saskatoon in early March. Oh boy.

“It’s just, wow,” Manners said. “I’m super-excited. I looked at (the last rock), saw we had it by six inches and I just lost my mind.

“I told the press I was just befuddled, standing there in front of you guys.’’

So are we, Scott, so are we. But we love it.

TV TIME

More and more provincial championships are on television or online. The Saskatchewan Tankard was webstreamed live via UStream and garnered some 66,000 views throughout the championship. The Alberta women’s provincial was also webstreamed live, through an organization called Leduc Radio. Ontario curling fans are currently in heaven, as both Rogers TV and Cogeco are broadcasting every draw of this week’s Tankard, and with decent production values to boot. Ontario curling fans are currently in heaven, as both Rogers TV and Cogeco are broadcasting every draw of this week’s Tankard, and with decent production values to boot. Retired six-time champ Richard Hart was Tuesday’s colour analyst. This weekend’s Manitoba, Alberta and B.C. men’s playoffs will also be This weekend’s Manitoba, Alberta and B.C. men’s playoffs will also be televised locally on Shaw cable, and throughout the west on Shaw Direct … The recent Ontario women’s semi and final were televised on both Shaw and Rogers TV from Kenora, Ont., and featured somewhat drab commentary by the former world champion teammates from Thunder Bay, Heather Houston and Lorraine Lang … After CBC Sports left their Grand Slam contract, iSport and the World Curling Tour teamed up to webstream playoff matches from The National in Dawson Creek, B.C. The last-minute, McGyver-esque production came off well enough, with commentary provided by Tour and CurlingZone statman Gerry Geurts and iSport videographer Matt Kelly.

SUPER BOWL CURLING

USA Curling, which has experienced nearly 20% participation growth since the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games, scored a PR coup last week in Indianapolis. As the only non-football sport permitted to showcase themselves in the Super Bowl village, a sheet of faux ice was installed and mock rocks were tossed, and swept, by tens of thousands of NFL football fans. The invaluable amount of news coverage included heavy-hitters NBC and the New York Times … Currently hot on the social media rounds is the Super Bowl commercial spot for Ciroc vodka featuring entertainer Sean Combs aka P Diddy. Combs’ face was expertly superimposed onto that of veteran U.S. curling skip Pete Fenson, and the hybrid “F Diddy” managed a perfect draw to the button against Canada — but of course. Check it out online at: http://bit.ly/diddycurl

Twitter: @curling

Email: gk@thecurlingnews.com

Web: thecurlinguru.com


Videos

Photos