SASKATOON - So much for Ontario’s chances of winning the Tim Hortons Brier. They’re cursed again.
And this time it was a double whammy. Or as the sponsor would probably prefer, a double double.
Third Wayne Middaugh defeated his own teammate, lead Craig Savill, in the final of the annual Ford Hot Shots competition which has become a jinx to Brier competitors.
For the previous three years, members of Glenn Howard’s team won the event at the Brier. And in each of those years as a co-favourite, Howard has failed to win the event.
Indeed, nobody has won both the post-opening ceremonies skills competition and followed through to win the Brier since Steve Gould did it with Jeff Stoughton’s Manitoba team in 1999.
It was the only time in the last 17 years of the Hot Shots event that the winner has also won the Brier and, at the time, Gould wasn’t a regular member of the team but a fifth subbing for a sick teammate.
Don’t think it’s a curse?
Randy Ferbey won it here in 2004. He lost the final to Mark Dacey of Nova Scotia, the only loss in what would have been a five-in-a-row run for the Ferbey Four.
Kevin Martin could have had a three in a row run if third John Morris hadn’t won the car in 2007.
Savill, Howard and retired third Richard Hart won it the previous three years. Ontario won the Brier and the world championships in 2007.
“They didn’t have me before,” said Middaugh, the former skip who replaced Hart this year for the Roar of the Rings Olympic trials run. “Hopefully I’ll help change that.
“I’m pretty happy to be on this team this year.”
For a while there, it looked like the curse was going to kick in on the first draw as Howard scored two in the first end and stole another in the second and looked like he was going to be on cruise control the rest of the way. But all of sudden he gave up a steal in the ninth instead of shaking hands and ended up having to make a 10th end takeout to win it 6-5 over Terry Odishaw of New Brunswick.
The Hot Shots competition begins with each curler on the Friday practice day delivering six skill-testing shots — hit and stay, draw to the button, draw the port, the raise, hit and roll and double takeout.
Eight competitors proceed to the playoff between the opening ceremonies and the opening draw. The field is reduced to four. And then to two.
Pat Simmons (Alberta), Rick Sawatsky (B.C.), E.J. Harnden (Northern Ontario) and Jamie Koe (Territories) were eliminated in the quarter-finals and Ryan Harnden (Northern Ontario) and Scott Manners (Saskatchewan) were eliminated in the semifinal.
Middaugh said he and Savill didn’t have to have a discussion about making a deal how to split the winnings before the final.
“There was a pre-arrangement going into it so we’ll share. No choice. I’m the new guy on the team. It’s a team rule going back that everything we win is split four ways,” he said.
Besides, he doesn’t have a four-car garage at his home in Victoria Harbour, Ont.
“Hmmm, let’s see. I have a Lincoln Mark LP, a Mercedes L550 and a Corvette.
“You know what? I enjoyed that. I think it would be a better competition for the Olympics than the mixed doubles. How’s that? It’s more exciting. There’s sweeping. It gives fans something to cheer for and I actually think it’s more entertaining” said the 44-year-old winner.