Stoughton shoots for Brier history

TERRY JONES, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 4:51 PM ET

LONDON, Ont. -- Just one more win.

One more for himself. One more for Manitoba.

"It would be nice to get Manitoba back on the map for this decade -- it would be a great way to start," said Jeff Stoughton.

It's been a dozen years for the skip, his third Jon Mead and their province.

Stoughton and Mead go back to the Edmonton 1999 Brier -- the second time Stoughton won the Tankard and the only time Mead won one.

Stoughton's other win was 1996 in Kamloops.

Those were the last two times Manitoba won the Brier.

Between 1996 and today, Alberta has won eight Briers (Randy Ferbey 4, Kevin Martin 3, Kevin Koe 1) and closed the gap in the all-time provincial standings to 26-25 for the keystone province. It's been the longest drought Manitoba has experienced in the 82-year history of the Brier and Stoughton considers it his drought, too.

"The first decade of the new millennium has definitely belonged to Alberta. No doubt about it, there's been a lot of looking in the mirror," he laughs.

"In a lot of ways, it's been disappointing not to get another one."

In there too, is that its been a long wait for Stoughton to join Manitoba's legendary three-time Brier champion skips Don Duguid and Ken Watson, not to mention Matt Baldwin and Ron Northcott, the other three-time winners sitting behind four-time winning skips Ernie Richardson, Ferbey and Martin.

"I don't think about it," said Stoughton.

"I've had chances before. I'm not looking at anything other than just getting another one."

The 47-year-old has been in this position before.

At the 2005 Roar of the Rings Olympic Trials, Stoughton famously declared that Brad Gushue had "no chance" of representing Canada at the Torino 2006 Olympic Winter Games.

Stoughton, of course, ended up against the Newfoundland crew in the final and lost to the eventual gold medal winners in a game which has haunted Stoughton, lead Steve Gould and third Jon Mead, the latter having left the team after that one.

Just two years ago Stoughton, who is in his ninth Brier with an all-time record of 78-34 going into Sunday, made the final of the Calgary Brier and was clobbered 10-4 by Martin.

The difference between this team and the team which was clobbered in the final by Martin two years ago in Calgary is that Mead is back at third and shooting out the lights here.

"It's been phenomenal how he's been curling all year," said Stoughton of his bald-headed third who has bettered his opposite in all but one of the 12 games he's played in shooting 87% during the round robin and 94% Friday in the 1-2 game against Newfoundland and Labrador.

"It's been great to have him back," said Stoughton. "This week I've been shaking my head when he only makes a half shot."

Mead says he's enjoyed every minute of his reunion with the Buffalo Boys after having split after the 2005 Roar of the Rings disaster in Halifax.

"I think teams run their course and I don't want to talk for Jeff but the put together that last team to qualify for the Trials and win them. Yeah, they got back to the Brier after that, but I think it was done," he said of Stoughton recruiting Edmonton's Kevin Park as his replacement.

"Same as 2006, eh? After losing those Trials we got to the Brier and had nothing left," said the third who spent a year playing event as a gun for hire and then joined Wayne Middaugh for his own run at the Trials.

But that was then and this is now.

"This is fantastic because this is what we wanted to do this year. It hasn't always been that way with me because this takes so much out of you to do these things. It hurts your family and work. So it would be unbelievable if we can pull this thing off. But it's going to be awfully difficult."

That 1999 Edmonton Brier was a long time ago.

"It was a lifetime ago. I've had two kids since then."

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