Curler Howard gives'em shelter

GEORGE KARRYS, Special to Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:25 AM ET

TORONTO - Olympic and world champion curling skip and TV commentator Russ Howard kept running into the new Team Canada as they tried to get from Charlottetown to Regina.

That didn’t work out, so he took them home.

Amber Holland and her victorious Tournament of Hearts champions ended up stuck in New Brunswick, and Howard — aided by his Brier-bound son Steve, who works security at the Moncton airport — hosted them from Monday morning through Wednesday, when the visitors finally left town for Saskatchewan.

“We’ve had 11 feet of snow in the last 60 days,” said the veteran Howard. “But it was fun. They had home-cooked meals and we all watched their final on TV. I got to commentate on my commentating on their playing.”

Holland is a different kind of curling champion. Rival Jennifer Jones, whom Holland defeated in the thrilling championship final, is a lawyer whose media quotes usually reflect her profession; cool and smooth.

Holland has a sharper edge — at least when competing. She bristled at a media query at the start of the event about a winning pedigree and her player microphone picked up some zingers, such as a shot referenced as a “piss-cutter”.

This is all the more remarkable in that the former Canadian junior-winning skip is also a “suit” — aka a curling politician — who became executive director of the Saskatchewan Curling Association nearly two years ago.

“It’s been a bit of running joke that I’m the self-promoter of curling in Saskatchewan because I also compete,” said Holland, who first started working for SCA in 1996. “One of my conditions in taking the job was that I could continue to curl. If I couldn’t curl I would have stayed doing my previous (technical) role. But I think it’s been good.

“I guess part of my job is to be the face of curling in Saskatchewan so I think (the public profile) is good. People are a lot more comfortable talking about issues because they think they know me.”

Howard admitted to being a Saskatchewan fan during the week, and predicts great things for the squad which heads to Denmark for the worlds later this month.

“(Amber) knows she can win even if no one else thought she could,” said Howard. “I think she’s fearless. They started (the final) without hammer and they didn’t have Jones’ experience and they were down at the break, and they came back and won it.

“The term that pops into my head for her is gutsy.”

Charlottetown proved to be a wild week that showcased the Jones vs Overton-Clapham collision, the arrival of an exciting new generation in Ontario’s Rachel Homan and a great rags-to-riches story in the bronze medallists from Nova Scotia, skipped by Heather Smith-Dacey.

The Saskatchewan story is worthy of headlines, too ... and the wheat sheafers have now won three of four national curling titles this season after sweeping the Canadian Juniors (they finished eighth at the Mixed).

BROOM BITS

The Scotties final attracted an average of 1.08 million viewers on TSN, the second most-watched final in tournament history. The Saturday semi-final grabbed an average of 800,000 eyeballs ... TSN opens London Brier coverage on Saturday at 2:30pm ET with Ontario’s Glenn Howard facing off against Jimmy (The Kid) Grattan of New Brunswick. Best guess for the 7:30pm TV match is Alberta kingpin Kevin Martin versus Northern Ontario’s Brad Jacobs, who finished third last year ... Team Jacobs leads all Brier-bound teams in social networking prowess — so far — with their vibrant Twitter account @TeamBradJacobs.

George Karrys is: curlinguru.com


Videos

Photos