Young guns refreshing addition

MORRIS DALLA COSTA, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:31 PM ET

Brad Jacobs took his time, lined up the shot and coolly sent his rock into Glenn Howard's stone.

It gave the Northern Ontario rink a 5-4 extra end win over Ontario, one of the Brier favourites.

And it kept Northern Ontario alive in the run for a playoff spot.

Who knows what the rest of the event will bring for Northern Ontario but it's the kind of win curling needs more of.

Too much of the same thing tends to make things stale.

Kevin Martin and Glenn Howard, Martin and Howard, Howard and Martin ... every once in a while you can throw in Brad Gushue.

The emergence of Mike McEwen in Manitoba is a refreshing addition to the curling scene. But he didn't make the Brier thanks to the Jeff Stoughton rink.

Nothing is as dreary as watching the same teams win the same events. As good as that is for supporters of those teams, for neutral observers it tends to take the surprise and excitement out of the sport.

Nothing makes a sport better than competition.

It's why so many sports have worked it so that additional teams make the playoffs. When a team runs away and hides, there isn't much reason left to watch.

Curling suffers from Roger Federer syndrome. The tennis great dominated before Rafael Nadal, and then Novak Djokovic, came along.

It's a lot more interesting to watch now.

The idea of watching Martin and Howard beat on each other most of the time is not all that thrilling, especially for an occasional curling fan.

That's why rinks like McEwen and Jacobs are keys to the future health of curling.

"Every now and then I think about it (the importance of moving into the elite group)," Jacobs said. "I know that people get sick of the same faces. I know we are a young team and there aren't too many young teams where there are four young guys out there that are trying to make it to that elite level or getting really close."

Jacobs and lead Scott Seabrook are 25, second Ryan Harnden is 24 and third E.J. Harnden is 27.

It's not only important from a competitive level but from the perspective of having an elite team in another area of the country.

"I feel like we are getting closer and closer to that elite level every year," Jacobs said. "It means a lot and it means a lot to be from Northern Ontario because Northern Ontario takes a lot."

It doesn't hurt the image of the sport if good looking, fit, hip guys wind up as poster boys for the sport. It might not mean much to the traditional followers of the sport but it means a lot to the marketing and selling of the sport.

Look what the Guy Hemmings explosion did for the sport, even for a short time. The popular Quebec skip was an instant favourite because of his looks, skill and personality. He sold the sport.

"We think about wanting to be in the top four or five teams all the time, making that step like McEwen did to be one of the top teams," said Ryan Harnden. "That is good for the sport, a young team like McEwen. Martin and Howard, Stoughton and Gushue are there all the time. It would be nice to see the young teams make the finals and maybe win. But they worked hard to get where they are and we need to do the same."

No one is suggesting it would be good for the sport if great teams like Martin and Howard simply disappeared.

But it would healthy if there was a little more room at the top.


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