Another Ontario Brier has come and gone, and this one was a whale of a show. Not to mention historic.
First of all: Kevin Martin didn’t win. In fact, the Alberta legend lost four games in total to finish fourth, and he shouldn’t have qualified for the playoffs at all.
Readers of this space will recall the Martin-themed headline one week ago: “Ready for a whipping”. Martin was 3-0 and receiving praise for reaching 100 career Brier game victories. But yours truly declared him to be ripe for the picking after a sub-par season. When his struggles finally became obvious a couple of days later, the rest of the Brier media bench had awakened … as had Martin’s opponents.
It’s a testament to the veteran, his accomplished teammates and their burning desire to win that they hung in right to the end of their playoff loss to Glenn Howard’s Ontario on Saturday. This after Martin began the game by throwing two awful in-turns, the second of which prompted him to say “forget it” to his brushers a mere three seconds after throwing it.
Yet Martin, in spite of himself, made a half-shot, scoring one… and nearly scored two.
“Maybe this will be good for this team,” second Marc Kennedy said. “Maybe this team can learn from this. Maybe this will teach us that we need to learn how to play when everybody isn’t playing well.
“Maybe we need an attitude adjustment.”
Too many “maybes” with the Sochi 2014 Olympics just too far away. Maybe next year?
More history for the home team: The Howard gang finally beat Martin at a national championship, but lost another big championship final. The 2007 Brier and world titlists continue to win (and win often) but simply ran into a Manitoba squad that has rediscovered its mojo. Winnipeg, the hometown of Jeff Stoughton, was a double winner as the city captured hosting sweepstakes for the 2013 Olympic Trials.
More than 110,000 curling fans circulated through the John Labatt Centre and the nearby “Patch” party palace over nine days — not bad for an Ontario Brier, and pretty good for a post-Olympic year. Throw in superb event organization and it means the ghost of that disappointing 2007 Hamilton Brier has been effectively laid to rest.
Newfoundland’s Brad Gushue qualified for yet another Brier playoff round — finishing first overall — and beat mighty Martin twice en route to winning the Brier’s first bronze medal. The 2006 Olympic champion did it through controversy over his cashspiel team split with Randy Ferbey, with an untested rookie lead and also with a third man, Mark Nichols, who struggled through the playoffs — perhaps with his impending competitive sabbatical playing havoc with his mind.
What will it take for critics to realize that The Goo is the real deal? Perhaps the revelation — old news, now — that he once declined an invitation to relocate to Edmonton to join Team Martin?
As for that bronze medal game, it allowed 7,000 delighted spectators to witness sights rarely seen at a Brier: Athletes joshing amongst themselves, tossing jerseys and equipment into the crowd and fans actually permitted to pose with players for rinkside photos and autographs after the match.
Historic stuff from a historic London Brier.
George Karrys is: curlinguru.com