Brier a-flutter over flag flap

RYAN PYETTE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:14 PM ET

LONDON, Ont. -- The Brier's Flag Guy has been put in park.

Jack Cox, the elderly gentleman from Haliburton, Ont., whose mad sprints with a massive provincial flag have inspired Ontario curlers and thrilled crowds at 18 Briers, has been stopped by organizers worried his dashes through the John Labatt Centre aisles were too dangerous.

London Brier chairman Peter Inch gave Cox, who turns 80 on March 22, the bad news Monday. A day earlier, Ontario skip Glenn Howard chugged alongside Cox on one of his runs.

"I thought he should hear the news from the event chairman instead of some other person," Inch said. "I wanted to make sure there were no hard feelings."

There was a heap of disappointment from the Ontario team. They know, though, insurers and lawyers have much as much a part of the Brier as the brooms and stones.

"It's too bad," Howard said. "I understand the concern about a lawsuit, but I wish something could've been done to allow him to run. Get him to sign a waiver so he wouldn't sue if he got hurt. I feel bad for him and I feel like he's pretty upset about it, too.

"He kind of made a point of coming down to tell us about it in case we wondered why he wasn't running today."

There is no black-and-white rule that says patrons can't run at the rink.

"We don't have a definite policy on running in the arena," JLC general manager Brian Ohl said, "but some of our (arena) people have seen jumping over chairs from this individual. We want everyone to enjoy themselves and have fun, but we don't want to see anyone get hurt.

"Our concern is for this individual and for everyone around him. We don't want him falling and getting seriously injured."

Ontario lead Craig Savill called it a "terrible decision."

"Let him run," the 32-year-old said. "He's a Brier fixture. He runs all the time and this is the first rink we've ever been to that has told him to stop.

"We all understand the concerns, but he's great. It's something he loves to do. The crowd goes crazy.

"We heard talk they were going to take his flag away from him if he kept running. But our team talked about it and we said if they ever did that, we'd all get together and buy him a new flag."

Inch has seen Cox do his thing at previous Briers and knows what a crowd-pleaser his runs have become.

"I don't want to be at the event where he gets hurt and can't run again," he said. "We've had to tell him and the Nova Scotia fans who ran, too, with a flag.

"We want them to get the crowd revved up. We want them to have fun here. We just don't want any more running. There are other ways to have fun and get the crowd going.

"The Halifax crew gets the crowd fired up with their cheers but they aren't running up and down steps."

The Canadian Curling Association supported the move to put the stop sign on Cox.

"We certainly understand the decision," CCA director Warren Hansen said. "Times have changed. There will be new traditions."

The CCA is facing a lawsuit from an injury suffered at the Brier Patch three years ago.

Tuesday afternoon, Cox worked his way around the JLC and waved his big flag -- while standing still, of course -- in support of Howard.

"He can wave that flag as many times as he wants," Inch said. "We have no problem with that."

The rub, though, is a lot of people want to see Cox run again.

The retired civil engineer is in tremendous shape for his age. He jumps rope every morning, curls three times a week, cross-country skis and is a member of a bicycle club.

This Brier will forever be remembered as the one where he wasn't allowed to run.


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