The names Glenn Howard and Mike Harris are usually used in the same sentence when referring to a strong on-ice rivalry on the Ontario men’s curling scene.
But this past week that pairing joined forces: as coaches for Scotland.
While Harris coached the Scottish men’s team, skipped by Tom Brewster, to a sixth place finish, Howard coached the women’s team, skipped by Eve Muirhead, to a bronze medal at the 2016 Le Gruyère AOP European Curling Championships, which wrapped up Saturday at the Braehead Arena near Glasgow, Scotland.
“It’s been 30 years that we’ve been curling against each other,” said Harris before adding, “this is the first time we’ve actually been on the same team.”
“I’m really pleasantly surprised at how fun I’ve found it. I’ve really, really loved it,” added Howard.
Howard, a four-time world men’s champ, said he had wondered if it would feel strange to sport a different country’s colours, but ultimately decided that he could get on board with a country like Scotland.
“I love the people, I love the country, and I’m quite proud to have Scotland on my back,” he said. “If it’s not the Canadian Maple Leaf, I’m quite proud to have Scotland.”
Harris, the silver-medallist at the 1998 Winter Olympics, had the same sentiments, saying, “It was a little bit odd to throw on a blue and white jacket instead of a red and white jacket but they’ve really embraced me and Glenn.”
The coaches were both called to Scotland after the Scots restructured their curling program last year to allow teams to bring on an extra coach to fill some of their needs. In Howard’s case, he’s the technical coach for Team Muirhead
“I’ve been matching rocks,” said Howard, “I come out here at night time and I’ve been matching rocks for the girls. I’m pretty good at that.”
He was sharing that information with Harris over the week.
“With the men and the women playing in the same building we’ve shared a lot of rock information, a lot of ice information,” said Harris. “Nobody’s matched more rocks than Glenn Howard in his life, so we’ve taken his information to heart generally.”
He added, “It’s been nice actually, having Glenn here.”
The duo are done competing and ready to celebrate together at the athlete’s banquet Saturday night at the Kelvingrove Art Gallery in Glasgow.
“We’re actually wearing kilts to the banquet tonight,” said a smiling Harris.
Sweden’s Niklas Edin beat Norway’s Thomas Ulsrud 6-5 in an extra end to win the men’s gold medal on Saturday.
Meanwhile, Jaap van Dorp of the Netherlands was a 6-5 winner over Austria’s Sebastian Wunderer on Saturday to win the eighth-place challenge and clinch a berth for his country into the 2017 Ford World Men’s Curling Championship, presented by Service Experts, next April at the Northlands Coliseum in Edmonton.
Sweden, Norway, Russia, Switzerland, Germany, Scotland and Italy also have qualified, along with the host country Canada, Japan and China.
The field will be filled in January after the Americas Zone Challenge between the United States and Brazil.
Jolene Latimer, an Edmontonian, is the recipient of the World Curling Federation Sports Media Trainee Programme journalist position and is currently reporting at the 2016 Le Gruyère AOP European Curling Championships in Glasgow, Scotland