No shortage of talent at Brier

Skip John Epping of the Leaside Curling Club in Toronto throws a rock during the Ontario Tankard southern Ontario men's curling championship in Cornwall on Jan. 28 (Ian MacAlpine/The Whig-Standard) Ian MacAlpine / Ian MacAlpine/Kingston Whig-Standard/Postmedia Network

Share Adjust Comment Print

Although there won’t be a hometown team competing in the Tim Hortons Brier later this month, there will be no shortage of ultra-talented skips and teams taking to the curling sheets at the Leon’s Centre.

Of the 15 confirmed teams, the field includes a pair of Olympic champions and world championship winners, and the field shares seven Brier championships.

According to World Curling rankings, six teams attending the Brier in Kingston are ranked in the top 10 in the world.

Competing this year will be Northern Ontario’s Brad Jacobs, with the No. 1-ranked team in the world, Ontario champion John Epping, (second), Brad Gushue of Newfoundland and Labrador (third), defending champion Kevin Koe (10th) and Brendan Bottcher, the Alberta champion (seventh).

Area curling fans may remember Bottcher, who skipped his Alberta rink to the Canadian Junior Curling Championship at the Strathcona Paper Centre in Napanee in 2012.

Bottcher, as the Brier wild card winner in Brandon last year, lost in the 2019 Brier final to Koe, who is back to defend his team’s title.

Koe is a four-time Brier champion and has won the world championship twice. His rink competed at the 2018 Winter Olympics, finishing fourth.

Gushue is a 2006 Winter Olympics champion, a 2017 and 2018 Brier champion and 2017 world champion.

Jacobs is the 2013 Brier champion and 2014 Olympic champion.

“The field is as good as we can hope for,” said Brier vice-chair Ken Thompson on Thursday. “There’s nobody missing except the local team.”

Thompson was referring to Team McDonald, skip Scott McDonald of London, third Jon Beuk and second Wes Forget of Kingston and lead Scott Chadwick of Napanee which failed to qualify, finishing third at the Ontario Tankard in Cornwall two weeks ago.

The field is so strong that one curler, Glenn Howard of Ontario, a champion of four Briers, four world championships and 17 Ontario championships, will have to win the wild card game on Friday, Feb. 28, to qualify for the Brier.

Skip Glenn Howard of the Penetanguishene Curling Club throws a rock during the Ontario Tankard southern Ontario men’s curling championship in Cornwall on Jan. 28. (Ian MacAlpine/The Whig-Standard) Ian MacAlpine / Ian MacAlpine/Kingston Whig-Standard/Postmedia Network

Howard’s opponent will be Mike McEwen, ranked fourth in the world, who lost in the Manitoba championship final but is a veteran of four Briers and was the bronze medallist in 2017.

Howard lost to Epping in the Ontario Tankard final.  Howard beat Scott McDonald’s Cataraqui Golf and Country Club-based team in the Tankard semifinal.

The wild card game opens the Brier on Friday, Feb. 28, at 7 p.m. The game is free to attend, with Curling Canada accepting donations at the door for youth curling programs. Doors open at 6 p.m. for first-come, first-served seating.

The round-robin draws start on Saturday in both pools A and B.

The championship round starts on Thursday, March 5, for the top eight teams, with tiebreakers and Page playoffs set for Saturday. The semifinal will be at noon on Sunday, March 8, with the final set for 7 p.m.

imacalpine@postmedia.com

twitter.com/IanMacAlpine

List of teams and skips in the 2020 Tim Hortons Brier

Pool A

Northern Ontario, Brad Jacobs

Alberta, Brendan Bottcher

Newfoundland/Labrador, Brad Gushue

Manitoba, Jason Gunnlaugson

Nova Scotia, Jamie Murphy

Quebec, Alek Bedard

Prince Edward Island, Bryan Cochrane

Nunavut, Jake Higgs

Pool B

Ontario, John Epping

Wild Card (Howard or McEwen)

Team Canada, Kevin Koe

Saskatchewan, Matt Dunstone

British Columbia, Steve Laycock

New Brunswick, James Grattan

Yukon, Thomas Scoffin

Northwest Territories, Jamie Koe