After doing some golf work down at Doral, I rolled into Halifax last night in time to catch the last five ends of the Ontario-Alberta match. Here are some early observations of this Brier:
• I was stunned at Manitoba’s fall. I figured they’d be right at the top of the standings. Looks like the skipper had a tough week, which is rare for Jeff Stoughton. I didn’t see all their games (although we did manage to convince the waitress at the sports bar in Florida to pop it up on to one of the many TVs, much to the delight of the locals) but I’m sure they expected more.
• Fan support hasn’t been great here. As I tap this out, the 1-2 page game is on and there are still some noticeable gaps in the stands. I spoke with a local woman here today who is not a curler but still wasn’t even aware the Brier was on. I’m thinking that the Olympic attention curling received may have worn out people’s desire to see more. But who knows? You can make any excuse you want to justify the lack of attendance. The bottom line is the people aren’t here as you might expect.
• I was shocked to see that Northern Ontario hasn’t been in the playoffs at the Brier since 1993. Wow. That’s stunning. But this Jacobs team is impressive. I know they’ve worked exceptionally hard over the last couple of years so it’s nice to see them play well here. They’re exciting to watch and certainly aren’t afraid to throw just about any shot.
• Jacobs fine run here has also brought more attention to dropping the dual entries for Ontario and turning one into a Team Canada. Kevin Martin stirred the pot by suggesting just that. But Jacobs has been defending the region, saying that tradition should be weighed in the argument. Warren Hansen said this week that Northern Ontario won’t be dropped but a Team Canada could be added along with rinks from Nunavut and separate entries for each of the territories. It’s possible a type of relegation system might be used where the bottom teams have to play off to stay back in the main event. Stay tuned.
• Have to love the story of these eight guys here, six from Alberta and two from Saskatchewan. The guys went to the Olympics and then jumped on a train to get to Halifax, apparently drinking the bar car dry several times along the way. Here, they show up every day with a different matching outfit. Tonight for example, they have yellow shirt on and bald wigs and fake gold medals around their necks. Their shirts read: Kevin Martin look-a-like contest. And about every second end, they hold up a big sign that reads “Sociable.” They’ve become the talk of the Brier and when they walk in to the arena –fashionably late – they get a big ovation.