Rookies not Tour-ists

STEVE MACFARLANE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 12:43 PM ET

Labelling the crew from Saskatchewan green is fair.

Just don't call them starstruck.

They've seen their fair share of the country's heavyweights on the World Curling Tour, where skip Joel Jordison's rink sits 10th in earnings.

"It's a tremendous help. We're not intimidated by anybody here by any means," Jordison said yesterday after losing 7-5 to Quebec in the opening draw of the 2009 Brier.

"It's unfortunate we had a bit of an off-game, but I expect to come back strong and have a good week."

Things don't get much easier today with a morning matchup against New Brunswick's Russ Howard, the most experienced skip at the 2009 Brier, and an evening draw against defending champion Kevin Martin's Team Alberta and his partisan crowd.

Martin has been to 10 Briers.

A lone member of Team Saskatchewan has been here before. And just once.

"And it's so long ago, I forget," said third Scott Bitz, who skipped Saskatchewan at the Saddledome in 2002.

Handing out advice isn't on the 35-year-old's agenda. Partly because he doesn't have much experience on this kind of stage himself, and also because his teammates -- Jordison, lead Dean Hicke and second Aryn Schmidt -- need to feel their own way through it.

"It's great to hear it, but until you experience it ... It's like saying sit on a bull for eight seconds, it's gonna buck hard. Seriously, until you're there, good luck," said Bitz.

"If we're looking at the Russes (Howard) and the Kevins (Martin) and the Glenns (Howard) -- and the list goes on at this event -- we might as well not even show up, because we're just gonna get blown away by the grandness of the teams here and of the venue and of all the people.

"I don't think we're overwhelmed or awestruck."

Expecting a challenge as difficult as he'd experience on the Tour, Martin knows not to take Jordison's team lightly.

He's seen the progress they've made, just as he saw the steady improvement of Pat Simmons' Saskatchewan rink that was prevented from making a fifth straight Brier by Jordison's group.

"Joel's come a long way. He plays a lot more aggressive than he did, say, a year and a half, two years ago," Martin said after Alberta polished off New Brunswick 7-4 in the opener. "It looks good on him. I'm glad he's here.

"They're getting better every year. They've won a few really big games this year on the Tour. That's where you go -- that's where Simmons went to get so good."

Anticipating a loud crowd to be on hand for the battle of the prairies tonight, Jordison is actually looking forward to being the villain.

If Calgary Stampeders/Saskatchewan Roughriders matches are any indication, there should be plenty of green in the stands as well as on the ice.

"It'll be pro-Alberta, I know that. We'll have our contingency, but I think it's definitely going to be pro-Alberta," said Jordison.

"That's something a guy has to look forward to. You've got to love that, being out here in front of people who aren't cheering for you. The hostile environment -- even though I'd never say it's a hostile environment, very friendly, obviously.

"We're looking forward to that matchup, but we've got a big one against Russ (Howard) tomorrow that we have to straighten things out for."


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