Curlers carry on family tradition

STEVE GREEN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 4:35 PM ET

They carry names any curling fan in Canada would recognize - Howard, Folk, Fry. They've also been burdened with the sometimes unfair expectations that come with being the sons of former Brier champions.

But Steve and Scott Howard, Kevin Folk and Ryan Fry wouldn't have it any other way.

"Any time you curl, you have that name on your back, but at the same time, it's not a bad thing," said Folk, the B.C. second whose dad, Rick, won the 1980 and 1994 Brier and world titles, and is also the B.C. coach here this week.

And it does have its unexpected fringe benefits.

"I mean, not many 11-year-olds get a chance to play in a men's cashspiel," said Folk, who is now 30. "My friend Jeff Richard (last year's B.C. champion) was 12 and his dad, Gerry, was curling with my dad and we'd bugged them for a while about letting us play with them.

"So they took us to the Salmon Arm cashspiel -- to get us off their backs, mostly -- and we ended up going undefeated. Jeff and I promptly quit hockey for curling."

That doesn't mean it was a given the sons would follow in their fathers' footsteps.

"I don't know if it was inevitable," said Fry, 32, the Newfoundland/Labrador second whose dad, Barry, won the 1979 Brier for Manitoba, when Ryan was about eight months old.

"You are surrounded by it your whole life growing up and you're conditioned to appreciate the game, but it was just one of the sports I tried growing up," Fry said.

"People may have been a bit more intimidated (by the name) in junior, but once you get into the men's game, there aren't the expectations. I just have the added motivation of trying to match what my father did."

Like Folk and Fry, the Howard cousins say their fathers never pushed the roaring game on them.

"In Grade 9 I decided I could either stick with hockey or stick with curling and I chose curling," said Scott Howard, 26, the Ontario alternate and son of skip Glenn. "Growing up in the game, there was a lot of pressure wherever I went. Someone was always looking at me to be as good as my dad, but I just tried to forget about it."

Said Glenn: "If Scott had decided to be a skier or continued with hockey, that would have been fine. Basically our whole family has tried to introduce our kids to all kinds of sports -- they're a great direction to go in. But Scott's a pretty grounded kid -- his best answer is, 'I'm Scott Howard, not Glenn Howard.' "

The Howards and Folk, especially, can always turn to their dads for advice.

"I'm so used to talking curling with him," Folk said. "We've debriefed so many games over the years, it's bit of old hat for me. It's just nice to be able to do it with the whole team this time."

Of the four, only Scott Howard has a realistic chance to win a Brier with his father.

Steve Howard is the New Brunswick second this week. His dad, Russ, combined with Glenn to win the 1987 and 1993 Brier and world titles. Russ is the career leader in Brier wins by a skip with 113 and is now a TSN commentator, which basically precludes him from playing for the New Brunswick crown.

"I can't lie, there's no question there's a sense of pride in the name, a sense of eyes watching you," Steve Howard said. "What my dad and Glenn have done in this sport is phenomenal and obviously those are big shoes to try to fill, but I'm still my own person.

"I have to practise my yelling, though," he said with a laugh as he made a reference to Russ' famous sweeping calls. "He could yell at me a lot more than I could yell at him when I was growing up."

steve.green@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/SteveGatLFPress


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