'Totem Pole' Kevin Koe stacks up wins
By GEORGE KARRYS, Special to QMI Agency
Now that their favourite television shows have been decided, Team Kevin Koe can go about their business — namely, terrorizing their opponents on the World Curling Tour.
Sophomore third Pat Simmons arrived in Edmonton in 2011 to replace Blake MacDonald, mere weeks after the Koe team had captured the 2010 Brier and world championship. After a slowish start to last season, the Koe gang put it together in early 2012 by winning the Skins Game at Casino Rama, followed by the Alberta provincial championship. They went on to lose the Brier final to Ontario’s Glenn Howard.
Today, there’s no doubt that Simmons and his mates are fully settled as a foursome. The squad just won back-to-back WCT events in Portage, Man. and Brooks, Alta. and sits high atop the money list with nearly $60,000 in winnings, some $22,000 ahead of Winnipeg’s Jeff Stoughton.
Team Koe hadn’t scored consecutive Tour wins since the fall of 2007, when they grabbed titles in Oslo, Norway, and New Westminster, B.C.
Recent teams to score back-to-back wins include Toronto’s John Epping (September in Brockville, Ont., and Saskatoon a week later), Koe city rival Kevin Martin (Grand Prairie, Alta., last March and then Victoria two weeks later) and Winnipeg’s Mike McEwen, who turned the trick twice last season.
On the surface, the reserved Simmons is the perfect fit for skip Koe’s quiet, unexcited demeanour. In contrast, MacDonald was a high-powered sparkplug.
“(Pat’s) got a pretty good sense of humour on him, that’ll never come across on TV,” Koe said. “He doesn’t say too much out there, but he’s really fun off the ice and he’s been a great fit for us.”
“Everyone knows Kevin is pretty quiet and poker-faced out there, where with Blake you could read everything,” team lead Nolan Thiessen said.
“Blake is an open book.
“Last year we kinda had to find a way to rachet up the intensity, because Blake was always our igniter. He was the guy, especially at big events, who would get fired up and he’d get us fired up. So we had to figure out how to get the team going with both Kevin and Pat, as they’re pretty quiet.
“You know what I’ve actually seen this year? Pat is now much more talkative and I think he’s figured out, as a third, what he needs to say to Kevin and when he needs to just take a step back.”
Simmons may walk softly, but he slides with a big stick — specifically, the brush he holds while delivering his stones. He swings it far, far outside, perpendicular to his body and, occasionally, this style can prove hazardous to his sweepers.
“That’s pretty common for me, the first couple of slides (with a new team) tend to cause a commotion,” Simmons said. “But it wouldn’t have been any fun if I warned them in advance!”
“We’d had Blake on our team for five years and it was weird to see Pat slide out of the hack the first time,” Thiessen said.
“Both Pat and Kevin have unusual deliveries, and Carter (Rycroft, the second) is on Pat’s brush side. Carter has to delicately tiptoe around (the brush), especially when (Pat’s) throwing peels.
“He’s kicked Pat’s brush a few times, but he’s never wiped out or burned the rock or anything.”
Simmons is a licensed chiropractor, and delivers on the promise of free, on-the-spot services for his teammates. That’s a definite perk, as training and touring take their physical tolls.
“Oh yeah, we’ve put him to work lots of weekends,” Koe said. “Whether it be backs, knees or necks, you kinda get worn down out there, and it’s nice to have. He’s proven his worth in that capacity as well.”
Years ago, Thiessen shook his head at his dead-quiet skip and gave him a nickname: The Totem Pole.
“I just heard that a couple of weeks ago,” Simmons said. “Water was coming out of my nose, I was laughing so hard.
“That’s a good one. I’m not even sure if Kevin’s heard it yet.”
But back to the television.
“Blake and Carter used to room together and they watched the History channel,” Thiessen recalled. “Sometimes they would discuss it in the van on the way to the rink.
“Now Carter and Pat watch Criminal Minds, and they discuss and try to solve those mysteries.”
And what between-competition shows are preferred in the other hotel room?
“Kevin and I watch CSI: Miami,” Thiessen said. “Just because we feel that Horatio (Caine) is the best law enforcement officer on television.”
Heading into November, the curling laws are being enforced by a bald-headed skip from Edmonton named Kevin — but the last name is Koe, not Martin. So far.
DOLLARS TO YUANS
Lurking just behind Stoughton in World Curling Tour men’s earnings is Martin, followed by Epping and Vancouver’s Brent Pierce.
Winnipeg’s Mike McEwen has jumped up 17 places and now sits fifth.
On the women’s side, Sherry Middaugh still leads Rachel Homan in an all-Ontario race but Middaugh is now in Yichun, China, for a non-WCT exhibition series against teams from the USA, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Switzerland and China.