Martin Rule tough on Alberta

TERRY JONES, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:12 PM ET

LONDON, Ont. -- Not much has been made of it, but there's a new rule in play and it's making it interesting for Alberta at the Tim Hortons Brier.

"You mean The Kevin Martin Rule?" laughed second Marc Kennedy.

That's the one.

"I guess they thought it was unfair having Kevin win all 13 hammers and go 13-0 the last time we were at the Brier," said lead Ben Hebert.

The Kevin Martin Rule, as they are calling it, quietly came in this year.

It's the latest in the evolution of rule changes by the Canadian Curling

Association. The Brier went from an established rotation formula for awarding last rock advantage, to a coin flip and then to a draw to the button concept before every game.

"It's funny," said Martin. "I get a kick out of the CCA.

"It takes them 10 years to decide on a rule that's such a basic and

obvious thing to do. And now ...."

The trouble with the previous rule was that Martin drew to the button to win the hammer throughout the entire Calgary 2009 Tim Hortons Brier.

And that's why there's a new rule in play here this year?

It is now required that all four players on the team must make at least two draws to the button during the 11-game, round-robin portion of the Brier.

So far it hasn't worked out so well for Martin.

Third John Morris lost both his pre-game draws, first to Newfoundland in

the 9-4 loss Monday night that ended the team's 30-game winning streak at the Brier. The streak came to an end when Brad Gushue took a 4-0 lead and Martin chased the rest of the way, never catching up.

Morris lost another one Tuesday morning and Shawn Adams scored three on the first end to create some stress as Martin's men had to battle back to finally win it 7-5.

In the afternoon, Kennedy, who had won his first one, came through again. Martin, with the hammer back for the first time since Sunday, defeated Quebec 9-5 to end up 6-1 through the first four days of the Brier.

Martin's Albertans had been down 4-0, 3-0 and 3-0 in the first six games of the Brier when Morris lost two draws to the button and Hebert lost another.

Martin has won two and Kennedy two.

Morris lost two and Hebert lost one.

Martin still has three of his five draws to the button remaining and you

know he's saving two of them for the evening draws Wednesday against Jeff Stoughton of Manitoba and Thursday against Glenn Howard of Ontario.

Martin, predictably, has a problem with the rule because it takes away from the same-every-time pre-game routine he tries to teach juniors.

"It's non-curlers making up a rule like that," he said.

Actually, says Danny Lamoureux, the CCA's director of championship

competition, it was inspired by the curlers.

"The curlers wanted last-rock advantage to be skill-based but they hated

having a pre-event determination to settle ties when both shooters covered the button. They hated it because they'd just showed up for the Brier and ice changed so much from practice to practice," he said of a system where all four players threw a rock on the Friday and the combined distance from the pin was used.

"So we came up with this. We keep a running total of the teams total

distance from the pin and that settles ties as we go along.

"It's strategic now. If you have a player who is bad at draws, you use

him against teams you think you're going to beat. And you need to keep your team up there in the rankings to settle it as the week goes along when teams both put it on the lid."

After Draw 10 Tuesday, Gushue was first with a combined total of 5.3

centimetres from the pin. But he'd used up four of his five draws. Martin was second at 7.9, saving three of his for the last two days.

Ontario (47.4) and Manitoba (30.9) were 10th and sixth.

While Martin doesn't like it, the rest of his team does.

"It makes sense. I like the concept," said Morris, despite his two losses.

"I think it's a great idea. Everybody is involved. It makes it more of a

team thing," said Kennedy. "It hasn't helped with us getting down 4-0 and 3-0 in a couple games but I think it's a good rule."

The ayes have it.


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