Martin's little secret a winner

TERRY JONES, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:29 PM ET

It’s been Kevin Martin’s little secret.

His unfair advantage. His extra edge.

For the last five years, since he put together his Olympic gold medal-winning team, the Old Bear has had his own special personally souped-up sheet of ice at the Derrick Golf and Winter Club.

It’s where, in the morning and early afternoon, he can escape the phones and practice-interrupting moments involving his own pro shop business and the busy and scheduled goings-on at the state-of-the-art Saville Centre.

Instead he and his teammates hold week-long camps and pre-event, two-a-day, four-hour practice sessions in the mornings and afternoons with his team in seclusion.

Which is one thing.

But the real secret is that his longtime ice-maker friend Moe Fagnan allows Martin, a world class ice-maker himself, to make and maintain his own sheet of ice, Sheet 3, to prepare for major events.

“Kevin makes the ice to replicate what he expects to be the ice conditions of the event we’re going to attend,” said Jules Owchar, his coach of 26 years, after a final practice at the club Wednesday prior to heading to London, Ont. for the Tim Hortons Brier today.

“We’ve spent a lot of time practising on Brier ice to get ready for this one and I think we’re as sharp as we were when we left here to go to the Olympics in Vancouver,” said Owchar.

“I think we’re going to be OK,” he said of the team, which has played a partial schedule while making appearances as Olympic champions and taken things like mid-winter Hawaiian holidays.

“We’ve done this before winning our last two Briers, winning the world championships, the Olympic trials and, of course, the Olympics themselves,” he said of the Derrick practices with John Morris, Marc Kennedy and Ben Hebert.

“This team has averaged 90% and led all those events in shooting statistics.”

Martin has a chance to become the first skip to win five Briers. He goes into this tied with Ernie Richardson and Randy Ferbey with four each. (Ferbey has six Brier wins but threw third rocks in all of them.)

Martin won Briers in 1991 and 1997 then put together the new team to win 90% of their games and go a combined 26-0 to win the 2008 and 2009 Briers before taking their Olympic sabbatical.

Owchar said Martin hasn’t been intentionally dialed down this season but he’s definitely driven for this Brier.

“I think he’s more fired up than usual.”

Martin says he wouldn’t go so far as to say that.

“I’m not headed to London thinking about needing to win a fifth Brier. I’m not wired like that. I’m headed there thinking we’ve worked really hard to be ready to face a Brier field that’s going to be about as tough as it can be.”

And that brings us back to “his” special secret sheet of ice over at the Derrick.

“There’s a lot of reasons involved,” he said.

One is that they have 15-year-old inserts in the rocks and they’ve never been sanded. That makes them close to being identical. If you throw 64 of these rocks in a row the same way, they’ll end up in the same spot.

“Another is, for this Brier for example, I can make ice with a lot of late swing,” said Martin, who does his own scraping and builds the sheet himself because he’s the one who knows what he wants.

“If we’re going to an event where we figure the ice will be straighter, I’ll build it straighter. To me it just makes sense. I’ve never heard of anybody else doing it.”

So why keep it so secret?

Optics.

The Saville Centre is his rink. It’s where his business is located. It’s the home of Edmonton’s legendary Super League and official Canadian Curling Association national training centre. It’s where he holds his junior bonspiel and summer academy and camps. And it exists because of his long-time friend and sponsor Bruce Saville.

“I don’t want Bruce upset at me,” he laughed.

Keep winning Briers, Worlds, Trials and Olympics and that’s not likely to happen.

Follow me on Twitter.com/sunterryjones

terry.jones@sunmedia.ca


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