When all else fails, digging up the past sometimes does wonders.
That may be the theory to which Jimmy The Kid Grattan is subscribing as he heads into his ninth Tim Hortons Brier in the name of New Brunswick, a province that never has produced a Brier winner.
On the heels of a runnerup finish at the 1995 Canadian junior men’s championship, Grattan put together a Saint John lineup two years later that raised a ruckus at the Brier in the Calgary Saddledome. The team, in fact, finished third on the week after drumming out Ed Werenich in the Page Three-Four contest.
Grattan, resplendent in a ball cap in those days, had Charles Sullivan Jr., playing third stones, Daryell Nowlan and Jeff Lacey up front.
In the wake of that successful season, Grattan faded on the provincial scene until joining forces with Russ Howard when that worthy moved bags and baggage to Moncton. Sullivan, on the other hand, rejoined his brother Jim — they won the Canadian junior title together in 1987, the world junior title in 1988 and finished runnerup to Werenich at the 1990 Brier at The Soo — and qualified for the 2001 Brier where they posted a 6-5 record.
Grattan returned as Howard’s third in 2002 and, over a three-year Brier stint, won 22 and lost 15. And except for one kick at the can together in 2009 at Calgary where they logged a 6-5 record, Jimmy The Kid has been back on the teehead and enjoying very limited success at The Show.
But now, with Sullivan back at third and Nowlan handling a coaching role, The Kid is hoping to revive his fortunes at the age of 36 years.
When the defending champion Grattan won his provincial title with a tight 6-4 victory over Rick Perron of Moncton at Miramichi last month, the victory produced as much relief as celebration.
“Don’t get me wrong, they’re all special, but this one feels great because of the way we won it,” said the Oromocto skip.
“We had to scratch and claw for everything. Every game was tough. I think we appreciate winning more because the whole week, including the final game, was so tough.”
Perron finished the eight-team round-robin dispute with a 6-1 record, losing only to Moncton’s Terry Odishaw. Grattan won four in a row, then was derailed 6-4 by Paul Dobson of Saint John and 8-2 by Perron.
The champ needed a last-round 4-3 decision over Jeremy Mallais of Moncton to avoid a squeaker tiebreaker and qualify for the semi-final against Dobson.
Both had 5-2 records.
In the semi, Grattan required an extra-end theft to eliminate Dobson 6-5.
The final was another tingler for Grattan, Sullivan, second Steve Howard and lead Peter Case. Grattan scored in the first end and the teams exchanged last-rock singles all the way until the ninth, when the defending champion picked up a critical deuce which proved the difference.
“There were a lot of rocks in play,” said Grattan, a customer service agent with Air Canada at Fredericton airport. “But no one really had a good chance to pick up two until near the ninth end.
“We had to grind it out all week long because we never did play our A-game. I think Rick probably had the better team all week, but it came down to one game and we were just able to get a break at the end.”
Grattan finished at 7-2 to Perron’s 6-2 while Dobson was 5-3. Odishaw just missed the playoff round with a 4-3 record while Moncton’s Scott Jones and the 22-year-old Mallais were each 3-4. Derreck Ellard of the Gladstone and Gary Sullivan of Saint John wound up with 1-6 records.
“It’s been great all year,” Grattan said. “We turned back the clock a little bit with Charlie back in action. We hadn’t really played together at all since (2000). He tried skipping for a bunch of years. He was always around and close, but he seemed to keep losing in the semi-final. He wanted to get back on a team that had a chance to win and do well at the Brier when we got there.
“Every time Charlie’s been to the Brier he’s had success. So, yeah, that was my angle for picking him up.”
The dynamics are different now.
“In 1997, I was 22 and he was the veteran on the team. Now I’ve been to a few Briers so I’ve noticed a big difference this year. Charlie’s letting me dictate the type of game we’re going to be playing whereas back then I relied on him for that kind of thing.”
Young Howard, Russ’s son, has been steady at second.
“Steve would tell you his natural position is second,” Grattan said. “He likes to sweep, he’s one of the best sweepers in the country. He played well at third (last year). He probably was the reason we won at provincials last year — but he was missing that (sweeping) aspect. He’s kind of a weapon at second.”
Case, a former skip, has been a dependable lead with Grattan for four years.