Brier ripe for the unexpected

MORRIS DALLA COSTA, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:40 PM ET

LONDON - There are certain words a curling rink doesn't want to hear.

"No line," "never, never," "heavy," "light," and probably a few others not spoken loud enough to hear.

Early in the 2011 Brier, there have been a few more words heard, including "wild and wooly," "don't know what's going to happen," and "some shots act funny."

What that means for the curlers is usually bad news.

What it means for the crowds is the excitement of the unexpected.

That's what every Brier needs -- a few upsets.

The unexpected doesn't happen as often as it should in curling. Certain teams are expected to dominate, and usually do. But because there are so many good teams in competitions like the Brier, big ends are rare.

But the first two days of the competition here in London leave you with a little different feeling.

It was an unpredictable first few draws, in large part because of the weather.

From warm temperatures, to rain then snow, humidity caused all sorts of issues with the ice, especially on the first day.

While the weather forecast is not calling for any drastic changes, don't count on that being accurate.

The ice issues were dealt with by the end of the second day.

Saskatchewan's Pat Simmons, who throws skip rocks, called the ice "terrific" on Sunday.

With the ice issues in the past, chances of the unexpected happening are lessened. But stick around and the weather will change, regardless of what anyone says, and when that happens, so will conditions.

Stick around, because this is one of the most talented fields in recent Briers and when you have so many good curlers in one place, the expectations are there will be some upsets.

At least you hope.

Nothing livens things up like a few good upsets.

There's already been one, with New Brunswick beating Ontario. Kevin Martin of Alberta had to work to beat New Brunswick and Brad Jacobs of Northern Ontario needed to score four over the last two ends to defeat Jamie Koe of the Yukon/Northwest Territories.

Being a curling neophyte, I have no particular technical insight into why I have the belief that this Brier will produce something different.

But after Simmons and Saskatchewan defeated Quebec's Francois Gagne in extra ends Sunday, Simmons said something interesting -- and it reflects the kind of pressure these teams play under.

"They are all huge, all week, but especially early in the week," he said. "You just can't give games away here early in the week and expect to be around come playoff time."

That means every game, every rock, is important.

It's an enormous amount of pressure, especially when playing teams you are expected to beat.

That's what makes Kevin Martin's streak of 29 wins in succession, including playoffs, so remarkable.

Alberta still has Ontario, Newfoundland, Saskatchewan and Manitoba to play, all tough matches. But it won't be easy for anyone to get through this unscathed.

Upsets mean tight standings. When things get that tight, no one can predict what will happen when it comes to a one-and-done scenario.

While it's easy to look at some games in the schedule and feel comfortable, Martin is one skip who won't do that.

"I've never done that," he said. "If you look too far ahead, the losses will come."

The losses will come.

Maybe it won't be Martin who suffers them but there will be surprise losses.

The funny thing about surprises? They often have a tendency to breed even more surprises.


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