'Roar of the Rings' - Men's Preview

December 3, 2009

Come Sunday, eight of the very best curling teams in the world will take to the ice in Edmonton for the 2009 ‘Roar of the Rings’. On the line is the chance to represent Canada at the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games, arguably the biggest prize that has ever been up for grabs in Canadian Curling history.

Who Will Carry the Curling Torch for Canada in Vancouver?

Although there are favourites, each and every one of these teams has a chance to win gold in Vancouver. In fact, anything less than that result will be ultimately be viewed as a failure, as Harris in ’98 and Martin in ’02 learned. Curling is our game, and it will be up to one of these eight teams to defend our home ice.

As was mentioned during the Event Preview, the event will consist of a full round-robin, with the top three teams making the playoffs. The #1 seed goes right to the Finals, with #2 and #3 facing off in a semi-final.

Everyone is setting this up as a battle between Martin, Howard and Stoughton…and that’s tough to argue against. However, as history has shown, anyone can win these Trials. Resumes means little once the action starts.

As a final note, with his defeat at the 'Road to the Roar', the 2006 Gold Medalist team of Brad Gushue will not have a chance to even return to the games. It really speaks to the depth of talent in this country when the reigning Gold Medalist doesn’t even make the Final 8 this time around.


Team Martin
Home Province: Alberta
Team: Kevin Martin, John Morris, Marc Kennedy, Ben Hebert
Skip’s Resume: 10 Provincial Titles, 3 National Championships, 1 World Championship, 2002 Olympic Silver Medal
Current CCA Ranking: 2nd

There is no way around it, Kevin Martin sports the most impressive resume in Curling. 10 trips to the Brier is impressive in its own right, but when you consider that they are all representing the Province of Alberta, with its great depth of talent, it becomes even more impressive. Martin is one of the game’s great skips, blending a cautiously aggressive strategy with impressive shot making. He’s probably the best ‘all-around’ skip there is. Third John Morris is no less impressive, joining Martin after his own successes as a skip in Ontario. His pre-Martin record included back-to-back World Junior Championships in ’97 and ’98 and a trip to the Brier final in 2004. Marc Kennedy and Ben Herbert can’t be beat at front end.

Kevin Martin is the only skip at the trials with previous Olympics experience, gained when he carried Canada’s colours into Salt Lake City. However, Martin returned from those games with a disappointing Silver Medal after missing his final shot…a fairly routine draw to the four-foot. To this day, I still don’t know why he threw the turn that he did….had he come at it the other way, he had backing. If he had thrown the exact same shot, but gone at it from the other side….he would have won Gold.

A similar scenario arose at the 2009 World Championships, where Martin again let Gold slip through his fingers. Leading 6-4 after 8 ends, Martin surrendered 2 in the 9th, and then a steal of 1 in the 10th to Scotland’s David Murdoch.

Of course it would be no surprise to see Kevin Martin win the trials in his hometown of Edmonton, and he’s almost a certainty to make the playoffs….but the question has to be asked….does his record for faltering on the international stage make him the best choice for Canada? If he were to win, how confident can we be that we won’t see a repeat of Salt Lake City ’02 or Moncton ‘09?

I would suggest that we could do a lot worse than the veteran experience and skill of Kevin Martin. Many consider him to be the top team in the world. But if I had my choice, I would go with our next entrant…..

Regardless, a very interesting read is Kevin Marin’s own take on things, via the CBC

Team Howard
Home Province: Ontario
Team: Glenn Howard, Richard Hart, Brent Laing, Craig Savill
Skip’s Resume: 11 Provincial Titles, 3 National Championships, 3 World Championships
Current CCA Ranking: 1st

See Glenn Howard’s resume? 3 chances to represent Canada internationally, 3 times he’s brought home Gold. For me, that’s the biggest compliment that I can think of when it comes to Glenn Howard’s ability to represent Canada at the Olympic Games. Now granted, only one of those three appearances has been as a skip for Glenn, but you can’t argue with results.

If I had to think of one word to describe the Howard rink as a whole, it would probably be ‘consistency’. This is a team that you just know is going to go out there and take care of business. They call a good game, they shoot incredibly well, and Laing/Savill represent a great sweeping combo. If you’re up against them, I don’t know what you can key on as being their ‘weakness’….

Skip Glenn Howard is of course the younger brother of Russ Howard, who was part of Brad Gushue’s team in Turin. So even if Gushue won’t have the chance to repeat, the Glenn Howard rink represents a chance for the Howard brothers to keep the title in the family.

Vice Richard Hart is probably the best shooter in the world. Everytime he’s in the hack, you just expect that the shot will be made….raises, doubles, freezes…just doesn’t matter. Hart also carries previous Olympics experience on his resume, having won a Silver Medal at the ’98 Nagano Games, where he threw vice for Mike Harris.

Front end Craig Savill and Brent Laing share Howard’s later resume, having joined his team 2004. Previous to that, they of course were members of John Morris’ Ontario teams, winning the aforementioned back-to-back World Junior Championships in ’97 and ’98.

They’re the team I’ll be pulling for, and I think they would give Canada our best chance to bring home Gold. Expect them to see the playoffs for sure.

Team Stoughton
Home Province: Manitoba
Team: Jeff Stoughton, Kevin Park, Rob Fowler, Steve Gould
Skip’s Resume: 7 Provincial Titles, 2 National Championships, 1 World Championship
Current CCA Ranking: 6th

There are two things that Jeff Stoughton will be trying to avoid in Edmonton. The first is becoming the only skip to appear at all four Olympic Trials without a victory. In both 1997 and 2001, Stoughton finished with a 5-4 record…good…but not good enough to make the playoffs either year. In 2005, he improved…progressing all the way to the finals, before losing 8-7 in the finals.

That of course brings us to the second thing that Stoughton will be trying to avoid at the ‘Roar’ – making predictions!

In 2005, when asked about the prospects of the young team from Newfoundland, Stoughton responded that Gushue had “No Chance” at winning the event. Gushue went out of his way to prove Stoughton wrong…beating him in both the round-robin and finals en route to victory. I think Stoughton will probably keep his yap shut this time around.

Drama aside, Stoughton has long been a main-stay on the men’s national curling scene, with Brier wins in ’96 and ’99. Despite the fact that it’s been 10 years since his last win at a top-level event, Stoughton is more than capabale of taking this.

Assuming the predictions are correct, and Martin/Howard lead the way through the round-robin, expect Stoughton to battle for that last playoff spot. Still, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see Stoughton return to his ’97 and ’01 ways…over .500 record, but just miss the playoffs.


Team Ferbey
Home Province: Alberta
Team: Randy Ferbey, David Nedohin, Scott Pfeifer, Marcel Rocque
Skip’s Resume: 8 Provincial Titles, 5 National Championships, 4 World Championships
Current CCA Ranking: 3rd

Through the middle part of the decade, Randy Ferbey was curling in Canada. Some of the more recent innovations in the game, including the wider acceptance of the vice/skip throwing swap, the throwing crutch and the sweeping number system have their roots with Ferbey’s team. It’s no wonder some of these traits were adopted, considering Ferber’s wild success. Four Brier titles and three World Championships in five years (’01-’05) will spawn a lot of imitators.

Still doesn’t mean I can stand the guy. Ugghhh….

I don’t know what it is really…its hard to fully put my finger on. But the best way to sum it up is visually:

Everything you need to know about Ferbey is right there…..in that yellow and blue monstrosity of a jersey they’ve adopted. Ferbey is by no means a svelte man….and throwing that many ads on something of that size can only invoke thoughts of a walking billboard.

If he wins, I’ll be pulling for him come Vancouver. But until that time….I’ll be pulling for all 7 of the other teams first…

Thankfully, Ferbey isn’t the same team that he was in the mid-part of the decade, having been eclipsed by both Martin and Howard. Look for a roughly .500 record and a miss of the playoffs.

Team Koe
Home Province: Alberta
Team: Kevin Koe, Blake MacDonald, Carter Rycroft, Nolan Thiessen
Skip’s Resume: No Provincial Championships
Current CCA Ranking: 9th

Kevin Koe comes into the ‘Roar’ as the best team that nobody has ever heard of.

Koe has the misfortune of being from Edmonton, shared home of both Randy Ferbey and Kevin Martin. As you’ve seen from above, those two teams happen to be very good….making it very tough for Koe to make it out of his province and to the Brier. One can only wonder how many Briers he would have been at if had he been from a different province, or how many World Championships if he’d been from a different country.

Despite the lofty competition he faces in Edmonton regularly, he’s obviously still a step behind them….else we would have seen him slip past them before. I don’t expect anything to be different this time around…..it would be a surprise to see him in the playoffs.


Team Middaugh
Home Province: Ontario
Team: Wayne Middaugh, Jon Mead, John Epping, Scott Bailey
Skip’s Resume: 7 Provincial Titles, 2 National Titles, 2 World Championships
Current CCA Ranking: 5th

What can be said about Wayne Middaugh? After sustained success through the early nineties as part of Russ and Glenn Howard’s powerhouse team, (4 straight Brier appearances ’91-’95) he struck out on his own after Russ moved to New Brunswick. That didn’t slow him down however, as he not only made the Brier in ’98 as a skip, but won the World Championship. I always remember watching Wayne during the TSN Skins games, and being thoroughly impressed.

Since the 90’s Middaugh’s star has dwindled somewhat, only making the brier twice since the millennium. However, he is still a main-stay on the World Curling Tour and comes in ranked 5th by the CCA. Still not bad.

Overall however, Middaugh is a little like Ferbey in that his prime has probably past, as he’s been eclipsed in his home province by Glenn Howard in the way Ferbey has by Martin.

He could surprise…but probably won’t. Look for a 2-5 record…

Team Simmons
Home Province: Saskatchewan
Team: Pat Simmons, Jeff Sharp, Gerry Adam, Steve Laycock
Skip’s Resume: 4 Provincial Titles
Current CCA Ranking: 19th

Pat Simmons has enjoyed a fair amount of success over the past few years, with four straight Brier appearances from 2005-2008. His best result was in that last of these trips, where he lead his Saskatchewan rink to a 9-2 record, before bowing out to Glenn Howard in the semi-finals. Simmons would love a chance for a repeat, but given the depth of the field that will be difficult for him to achieve.

In order to make the playoffs, you really can’t lose more than 3 games. With teams like Howard, Martin, Stoughton and Ferbey out there, it’s pretty easy to get to those 3….so expect a valiant effort, but a under .500 record and no playoffs.


Team Gunnlaugson
Home Province: Manitoba
Team: Jason Gunnlaugson, Justin Richter, Braden Zawada, Tyler Forrest
Skip's Resume: No Provincial Championships
Current CCA Ranking: Ranking? We Don’t Need No Stinking Ranking….

Definitely the wildcard of the event, a lot of people will be watching the Gunnlaugson team just to see if they are the real deal.

Prior to the ‘Road to the Roar’, I’d never head of the Gunnlaugson rink, which isn’t surprising given their ages. This team is very young, with Jason only being 25 years of age….very young in the curling world.

The Gunnlaugson team plays an unexpectedly aggressive game, relying on their excellent peel game to bail them out of any jams. Quite a few times during the ‘Road’ I would watch Gunnlaugson’s aggressive strategy get them in trouble, only to see them bail themselves out with a couple double-peels or a nice runback. Given that Gunnlaugson’s official job title is ‘Poker Player’, I don’t think we should be surprised that he likes to take risks.

Odds are that Gunnlaugson isn’t ready to run with the big dogs yet, and really just making it this far is very impressive. But don’t forget that Brad Gushue was only 26 when he won the last trials….

Roar of the Rings Overview
Women's Preview
Draw and Standings


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This blog is the online chronicle of our adventures leading up to, and including, the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games. We hope to give you a little insight into what went into planning our trip and a first hand look at the Games from the ground in Vancouver.

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