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Howard, Stoughton and Gushue top Tim Hortons Brier field

The Tim Hortons Brier, presented by Monsanto, gets underway Saturday, March 6 at the Metro Centre in Halifax.

It marks the sixth time that the city has staged the Brier.  Only Toronto has hosted the championship more often.   However, Halifax joins Calgary as six-time hosts and the only cities to hold the Brier under four title sponsors (Macdonald Tobacco, Labatt Breweries, Nokia and, for the past six years, Tim Hortons, Canada’s largest quick service restaurant chain), since the inaugural Canadian men’s curling championship in 1927.

Once again, TSN will provide exclusive and comprehensive coverage of the Tim Hortons Brier, televising all morning, afternoon and evening round robin draws, plus the playoffs.   The semi-final is scheduled for Saturday, March 13 at 7:30 pm AT/6:30 pm ET, while the final will be on Sunday, March 14 at 8:00 pm AT/7:00 pm ET. It’s the eighth consecutive year that the Brier final has been contested in Eastern prime time, beginning, incidentally, in 2003 in Halifax.

Glenn Howard of Coldwater, Ontario, the 2007 Canadian and world champion, will be making his 12th Brier appearance.  The 47-year-old skip is a three-time Canadian and world champion, having also played third for brother Russ Howard when winning in 1987 and 1993.   At last year’s Brier in Calgary, his team finished third to Alberta’s Kevin Martin, then lost the Tim Hortons Canadian Curling Trials final to the recent Olympic gold medallist last December in Edmonton.  Ontario has nine Brier titles.

Two-time (1996, 1999) Brier winner and 1996 world champion Jeff Stoughton of Winnipeg will once again represent Manitoba, which has won a leading 26 Briers, after not competing in the inaugural event in 1927.    The 46-year-old Stoughton, last year’s Brier runner-up, provided his province with its last victory in 1999 and will be making his eighth Brier appearance. His team also finished third to Martin at the Trials.

Newfoundland and Labrador’s Brad Gushue of St. John’s, who won Olympic gold in 2006 in Turin, Italy, along with third Mark Nichols and lead Jamie Korab, will be making his seventh Brier appearance while seeking his first win.   The 2001 world junior champion finished the runner-up in 2007 in Hamilton, losing the Brier final to Glenn Howard.  The 29-year-old skip will be trying to win just a second Brier title for his province since Jack MacDuff pulled off a shocker in 1976 in Regina. Gushue made his Brier debut in 2003 in Halifax.

Alberta, second to Manitoba with 24 Brier wins, will be represented by Edmonton’s Kevin Koe, making his Brier debut.  It will be the first time since 1999 (skip Ken Hunka) that the province’s fortunes will be skipped by someone other than Kevin Martin or Randy Ferbey.

Amongst Koe’s rivals is his brother, Yellowknife’s Jamie Koe, skip of Northwest Territories/Yukon, who makes his fourth appearance in the Brier.

It’s only the third time in Brier history that two brothers will have faced each other as skips.  In 1942, Donald Campbell of British Columbia competed against Gord Campbell of Ontario at the Brier in Quebec City.  Then, last year, New Brunswick’s Russ Howard battled Glenn Howard of Ontario in Calgary.

The host province, Nova Scotia, will be skipped by Ian Fitzner-LeBlanc of Halifax, a former provincial junior champion also making his Brier debut. Nova Scotia has three Brier wins. The first victory, by Halifax skip Murray Macneill, came at the inaugural Brier of 1927 in Toronto.  The province’s second win came in 1951 in Halifax by Kentville’s Don Oyler, while Halifax’s Mark Dacey defeated Alberta’s Randy Ferbey at the 2004 Brier in Saskatoon.

Completing the field are British Columbia’s Jeff Richard of Kelowna, New Brunswick’s James Grattan of Oromocto, Northern Ontario’s Brad Jacobs of Sault Ste. Marie, Quebec’s Serge Reid of Jonquière, Prince Edward Island’s Rod MacDonald of Charlottetown and Saskatchewan’s Darrell McKee of Saskatoon.

Making a special appearance for the Opening weekend will be the Olympic gold medal-winning Kevin Martin team from Edmonton.   Martin, a four-time (1991, 1997, 2008 and 2009) Brier winner and 2008 world champion, along with third John Morris, second Marc Kennedy and lead Ben Hebert, went through unbeaten at the Vancouver Olympics with a perfect 11-0 mark, capped by a 6-3 victory over Norway’s Thomas Ulsrud last Saturday in the final.   They’re also the only team in history to go undefeated in two consecutive Briers – 2008 and 2009.

Martin’s team will appear for a two-hour autograph session, Friday, March 5 from 11:30 am – 1:30 pm at the Metro Centre, open free to the public.  They’ll also attend a press conference at the arena and be special guests at Friday’s Opening Banquet and the Keith’s Patch later that evening.

Then, on Saturday morning, from 10:15 am – 11:15 am, Brier ticket holders are invited to an Up Close and Personal session with the gold medallists at the Metro Centre.

Halifax previously hosted the Canadian men’s curling championship in 1951, 1966, 1981, 1995 and 2003, when won by Alberta’s Randy Ferbey, who went unbeaten during the week, finishing with a perfect 13-0 mark after defeating Mark Dacey in the final.  The total attendance was 158,414, a Brier record for an Eastern Canada site (east of Winnipeg).

When Halifax staged the 2005 Tim Hortons Canadian Curling Trials, won by Brad Gushue and Shannon Kleibrink, a then-record event attendance of 159,235 was established.

The Brier attendance record is 281,985, set by Edmonton in 2005 at the first Tim Hortons Brier, which eclipsed the former mark of 248,793 established in 2000 in Saskatoon.

The Brier competition involves 10 provinces plus teams representing Northern Ontario and Yukon/Northwest Territories playing a round robin, leading to the Page Playoff system involving the top four teams.   The first and second place teams meet in the Page 1 vs 2 game, with the winner advancing to the final while the loser goes to the semi-final.  The third and fourth place teams meet in the Page 3 vs 4 game, with the winner advancing to the semi-final while the loser is eliminated.

Since 1980, when the first Labatt Brier was held in Calgary and a playoff format was introduced, 19 of 30 Brier winners have also won the world championship.  The latest was Kevin Martin, who captured the 2008 Tim Hortons Brier in Winnipeg and the world championship in Grand Forks, North Dakota.

The winner of this year’s Tim Hortons Brier, the 81st edition of the Canadian men’s curling championship, will represent Canada at the Capital One world men’s curling championship in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy, April 3-11.

Once again this year, $130,000, representing ‘cresting television exposure value’, will be distributed to the four Page Playoff teams: $40,000 each to the winner and runner-up, $30,000 to third and $20,000 to fourth.

The entertaining and always popular Ford Hot Shots, the curling skills competition, gets underway Friday, March 5 with the preliminary round from 1:10 pm – 4:40 pm.   The playoffs take place Saturday at 1:00 pm, following the Opening Ceremonies, which start at 11:30 am.

Ford of Canada will provide the winner of the Ford Hot Shots with a two-year lease on a 2010 Ford Taurus SEL FWD, an approximate retail value in excess of $25,000.  The second place finisher earns $2,000 while the third place finisher receives $1,000.

The first draw of the Tim Hortons Brier begins at 3:00 pm AT/2:00 pm ET on Saturday, March 6.

The media room telephone number at the Metro Centre will be (902) 491-4401, as of Friday, March 5.  Up-to-the-minute draw results will be available on the Canadian Curling Association (CCA) website (www.curling.ca <http://www.curling.ca> ).

CurlTV (curltv.com) will also provide internet round robin game coverage to its subscribers.

2010 TIM HORTONS BRIER, MARCH 6-14, METRO CENTRE, HALIFAX, NOVA SCOTIA
(listed in order of skip, third, second, lead, alternate and coach)

ALBERTA – Saville Sports Centre, Edmonton

Kevin Koe
Blake MacDonald
Carter Rycroft
Nolan Thiessen
Jamie King
John Dunn

BRITISH COLUMBIA – Kelowna CC, Kelowna

Jeff Richard
Tom Shypitka
Tyler Orme
Chris Anderson
Kevin MacKenzie
Gerry Richard

MANITOBA – Charleswood CC, Winnipeg

Jeff Stoughton
Kevin Park
Rob Fowler
Steve Gould
Randy Dutiaume
Norm Gould

NEW BRUNSWICK – Gage Golf & Curling Association, Oromocto

James Grattan
Steven Howard
Jason Vaughan
Peter Case
Bobby Vaughan
Dean Grattan

NEWFOUNDLAND & LABRADOR – Bally Haly Golf & CC, St. John’s

Brad Gushue
Mark Nichols
Ryan Fry
Jamie Korab
Glenn Goss
Ken Bagnell

NORTHERN ONTARIO – Soo Curlers Association, Sault Ste. Marie

Brad Jacobs
E.J. Harnden
Ryan Harnden
Caleb Flaxey
Rob Thomas
Tom Coulterman

NORTHWEST TERRITORIES/YUKON – Yellowknife CC, Yellowknife

Jamie Koe
Kevin Whitehead
Brad Chorostkowski
Marty Gavin
Jon Solberg
Terry Shea

NOVA SCOTIA– Mayflower CC, Halifax

Ian Fitzner-LeBlanc
Stuart MacLean
Kent Smith
Phil Crowell
Mark Robar
David MacLellan

ONTARIO – Coldwater & District CC, Coldwater

Glenn Howard
Richard Hart
Brent Laing
Craig Savill
Steve Bice
Scott Taylor

PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND – Charlottetown CC, Charlottetown

Rod MacDonald
Kevin Champion
Mark O’Rourke
Andrew Robinson
Peter MacDonald
Pat Aylward

QUEBEC – Kénogami CC, Jonquière

Serge Reid
François Gionest
Simon Collin
Steeve Villeneuve
Pierre Charette
Paul Gagnon

SASKATCHEWAN- Nutana CC, Saskatoon

Darrell McKee
Bruce Korte
Roger Korte
Rob Markowsky
Jason Jacobson
Gene Friesen