The field for the Tim Hortons Brier is going to feature a lot of familiar faces with Glenn Howard, Kevin Martin, Jeff Stoughton, Brad Jacobs, Brad Gushue, Jean-Michel Menard, James Grattan and Jamie Koe all heading to Edmonton.
This is going to make a lot of people very, very happy. People like, oh, TSN which should get boffo ratings, and the local organizers in Edmonton, who should see a surge in ticket sales. Currently there were still a lot to sell.
Here are some rundowns from the provincial playdowns.
Organizers in Edmonton will be hoping that Kevin Martin will be a big enough draw to sell tickets for them. Martin, the home-town boy, won his 12th Alberta championship and earned a spot at the national championship with a 5-4 win over rival Kevin Koe.
Apparently ticket sales haven't exactly been through the roof with more than 100,000 still up for grabs. Norm Cowley talked to officials after the Martin win.
“History shows that we should see a spike in ticket sales once the roster is determined,” said Brier event manager Trina Joly.
The ticket sales count was at 151,328 before Martin edged Koe 5-4 in an extra end in a classic curling game at the Alberta men’s championship.
This will be the first time that Martin has played before his home crowd as he attempts to become the first player to skip five Brier titles.
“Edmonton Brier does (mean something) though, because of all the friends, family and everybody who can come watch,” said Martin, who enjoyed his experience playing in the 2009 Olympic Trials at Rexall Place. “As far as the 12th Brier and any records and things like that, I’ll worry about that when I’m done.
“But the Edmonton Brier is going to be a lot of fun. Can you imagine? It’s going to be just a hoot.”
Glenn Howard and his team are going back to the Tim Hortons Brier for an eighth straight year. They seem to get to the Canadian championship as if they were signing up for the regular men's beef spiel.
Howard, along with Wayne Middaugh, Brent Laing and Craig Savill, defeated Joe Frans at the Dominion Tankard in Barrie in a last-shot thriller. The fact that Howard was eligible for Senior playdowns this year wasn't lost on the reigning world champs.
"The later in my career, the harder it is to win," Howard said. "Lo and behold, we've won eight in a row.
"I don't know how this keeps happening, but we're just going to ride it."If my records are correct, the Howard four have the record for most consecutive Brier appearances with their eighth.
Another, um, veteran, Jeff Stoughton earned his 10th trip to the dance by winning ever-tough Manitoba with a 7-4 victory over Sean Grassie.
As Paul Wiecek noted in the Winnipeg Free Press, Grassie struggled with his draw weight early in the game and gave Stoughton a lead that he ran with, all the way to the title.
"It never gets old," said Stoughton. "We knew we’d have to come out with a really good game. We certainly got a couple of breaks from Sean’s misses early, which made the game a little simpler for us. We didn’t have to go too hard after that.
"(It was) just sort of scoreboard management and the guys played well enough to pull this off."
In B.C., Andrew Bilesky won his last four games to earn the Hearts. The team, coached by Neil Houston, won a 7-6 match over Brent Pierce in the final. Mario Annicchiarico explains:
"It's awesome," Bilesky told Shaw cable after the win. "The whole game you try not to think of the outcome. This hasn't sunk in yet. The team played awesome, shot well all week."It was great to have our coach as well, he was a big help to us this year. We worked hard all year for this."