From bigshots to longshots

TODD SAELHOF, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 12:44 PM ET

After a year away from the game, Mark Dacey is back with his sights set on a second Brier title.

Jean-Michel Menard is shooting for another crown, too.

Take heed, curling giants Kevin Martin, Glenn Howard.

The former champions -- skips for Nova Scotia and Quebec -- might be packing the same slingshots they used to topple one of the sport's Goliaths in bagging the 2004 and 2006 Canadian crowns, respectively.

"It's not going to be easy with the pro-type teams out there," said Nova Scotia-champ Dacey of the two favourites in the 2009 Brier, which kicked off yesterday at the Saddledome.

"Curling is a profession for those guys. Most of the rest of us are good curlers who aren't at the same level as them."

Yet Dacey has gained a well-deserved reputation of being a big-game hunter. The highlight of his career was upsetting three-time champ Randy Ferbey in the '04 Brier final.

But it's not that Dacey is David of David and Goliath fame. He can hardly be considered that since he's been to the Brier five previous times, competed in three Brier finals -- two against Ferbey -- and won the shootin' match once. He also eliminated Martin in the '05 playoffs.

"If you give me the label of longshot or underdog, I'll take it," said the 42-year-old Dacey. "But I know our team's capabilities. I know what we can do, and we're coming there to play our game and do our best."

For Dacey, doing his best at the Brier is exactly what he seems to do best.

In 1995, he was vice-skip for Saskatchewan's Brad Heidt, and the rink finished runner-up to Manitoba's Kerry Burtnyk in Halifax, N.S.

Since moving to the Maritimes, Dacey has scored the provincial title five times. Under his leadership, Nova Scotia has advanced to the Brier playoffs three times.

After winning the national title in '04, he represented Canada at the worlds in Gavle, Sweden, where his only loss came to Germany's Sebastian Stock in the semifinal. Dacey's rink brought home bronze.

"A lot of teams out there are all about the Olympics, but I can't change gears for that," said Dacey, who took last year off to recover from knee surgery, build a new house and spend time with his newborn. "Still, it's all about the Brier for me, so that's where my goal ends.

"But I will say when we lost in the Worlds in the playoffs after going undefeated in the round-robin, it left a little bit of unfinished business for us. We'd like another chance to finish that properly."

Menard also has ambitions of returning to the Worlds -- this year in Moncton, N.B. -- after finishing second in '06 in Massachusetts.

Like Dacey, Quebec-champ Menard overthrew a super-curler to win the Brier that year in Regina. He topped Howard 8-7 in the final.

Menard is no stranger to the David role, either.

With all the triumphs on his resume, it's hard to consider him an underdog here, even though that's the consensus.

"There's the two huge teams in the field," Menard said. "Quite frankly, they're maybe a notch above the rest of us.

"Then there's teams like Jeff Stoughton and Brad Gushue. And then there's a bunch of teams like ourselves."

Yeah ... they're giant killers.

"We know they're tough teams and won't beat them all the time," Menard said. "It's a matter of doing it at the right time. Maybe Mother Nature will be smiling on us."


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