Finally made it to Winnipeg late Thursday, in time for the evening draw. Most of the excitement was over by then, of course, with the exception of the Saskatchewan-Manitoba tilt, which didn’t last long. Burtnyk sure didn’t look his normal self. As many folks pointed out, his losses came to all the playoff teams. I don’t think his play at the Canada Cup last week where he went 1-4 helped his confidence coming in here. While he didn’t get much help in front of him, Burtynk threw two stinkers in the fifth, one that came up way short and the next that wrecked on a guard. Sure you can blame frost or whatever, but he missed nonetheless and although he came down the ice stone-faced after the second miss, you could tell he knew it was over.
Some general observations about what I saw here:
• Crowds are a little thin and from what I read in the local bugles, the walk-up is somewhat disappointing. I think I saw that organizers are hoping to get to 165,000.
• An interesting and well done story in this morning’s Free Press about the age of the fans at the Brier. It’s no secret that curling attracts an older audience, but hasn’t this story been written for about 15 years now? So either the fan base is getting really old or newer, older people are coming in. There won’t be any shortage of older people over the next 20 years as the baby boomers hit retirement age so maybe the sky really isn’t falling. Maybe curling should embrace the older generation.
• After flying all day and having to carve out a story for the Globe, I took a pass on the Patch last night. But I’ll ensure to provide a full report after tonight’s visit.
• Pat Simmons had the quote of the night when he was asked what he’d have to do to beat Kevin Martin tonight: “My team is going to have to play very, very well and I’m going to have to be perfect.” Even that might not be enough.
• The Alberta team, with nothing on the line, looked loose, relaxed and almost cavalier last night against the Territories. They seemed to spend a lot of time watching the Howard-Rafuse game on the next sheet and also casting an eye to the Jumbotron to watch the Manitoba-Saskatchewan tilt. For the record, the Territories didn’t play too poorly.
Got a chance to hear more of Russ Howard this morning in the tiebreaker and he really is excellent with his insight. In the first end, when Gushue’s draw shot with his first one came up short, Howard pointed out that in practice, players tend to aim at the middle of the 12 foot and draw to the button. Not many, Howard said, will draw to the side of the button. As a result, there was a lot of pebble down the path where he threw and he ended up coming light. That’s the type of thinking that will make Howard an excellent broadcaster.