Brier Bound: The Road to the 2011 Tim Hortons Brier in London – West Region

With less than two months before the start of the 2011 Tim Hortons Brier at London’s John Labatt Centre, provincial curling championships are getting underway across the land. Today we examine the ‘wild west’ including Saskatchewan, Alberta, British Columbia and the Territories.
West Region:
The Sasktel Tankard, February 2-6 in the Battlefords, will determine the 2011 Saskatchewan men’s curling champions. The provincial final will feature a 16 team triple knockout format with four qualifiers advancing to a page playoff system. Sasktel Northern and Southern playdowns will each produce five teams for provincial finals. Unity will host the northern playdowns, while southern finalists will be determined in Weyburn in competitions running January 20-23. Six spots have been awarded to leaders on the Saskatchewan Curling Tour or the World Curling Tour including Terry Marteniuk, Brad Law, Shawn Joyce, Pat Simmons, Randy Bryden and Scott Bitz. Reigning Saskatchewan champion Darrell McKee and his rink of Bruce Korte, Roger Korte and Rob Markowsky captured Region 13 honours in early January to advance to the Sasktel Northern Finals. The “Wheat Province” produces more than its share of competitive curlers, so we’ll keep an ear to the ground for upcoming qualifers as we get closer to the Sasktel Tankard finals in February.

Team Saskatchewan at the Brier

Half of the field is now set for the Boston Pizza Cup Alberta Men’s Curling Championship slated for the High River Arena , February 9-13. Reigning Alberta and World Champion Kevin Koe will be on hand as will CTRS points leader and Olympic champ Kevin Martin. Teams skipped by Don Walchuck and Rob Schlender have qualified through their Alberta Curling Tour standings. Graham Powell, the pride of Sexsmith, Alberta and Grande Prairie’s Geoff Walker have advanced through Peace Association playdowns and will do battle in High River. The final six teams of the triple knockout provincial finale will come out of Northern and Southern Alberta Curling Association playdowns. Three teams will advance through the southern playdowns to be held at Calgary’s Garrison Curling Club over the extended weekend of January 14-17, and three northern teams will determined in a four-day competition in Leduc concluding January 23. Regardless of who rounds out the provincial final field, you can be certain that the four curlers wearing the Wild Rose at the 2011 Tim Hortons Brier in London will be intent on maintaining Alberta’s national curling dominance.

Team Alberta at the Brier

British Columbia
The 2011 Canadian Direct Insurance B.C. Men’s Curling Championship presented by Kal Tire will see the best west coast curlers compete for provincial supremacy, February 7-13 in Vernon. The event will be a 10 team round robin, followed by a page playoff system. Returning men’s champ Jeff Richard and his rink of Tom Shypitka, Tyler Orme and Chris Anderson, as well as B.C.’s CTRS points leader Jim Cotter (without Bob Ursel – knee injury), are assured their place in the finals. As well, first round Coastal Playoff winning rinks skipped by Sean Geall and Brent Pierce and Interior Playoff winners Aaron Herrick and Darren Heath will be on hand. Four more teams will survive Interior and Coastal round 2 play and complete the final field.

Team British Columbia at the Brier

Northwest Territories/Yukon
The Territories made their first appearance on the Brier stage in 1975 when they were invited to the national championship rock-toss in Fredericton, New Brunswick. Don Twa and his Whitehorse Curling Club foursome shocked all the pundits by finishing the competition with a record of 8-3, good for a second place tie in a time before playoffs were the order of the day. Some 35 years later, this remains as the best the boys from the Great White North have achieved.  At last year’s Halifax Brier, the Jamie Koe rink of Kevin Whitehead, Brad Chorostkowski and Martin Gavin finished well out of the playoffs with a record of 1-10 . The combined Yukon/North West Territories men’s curling championship will be held in Yellowknife February 10-13. The format will be a four team, straight double round-robin affair, with a tie breaker playoff game only if necessary. Both the Yukon and Northwest Territories will hold independent playdowns in late January in order to determine their two respective regional representatives for the combined finals.  Last year Koe and Greg Skauge came out of the Northwest, while Jon Solberg and Chad Cowan represented the Yukon.

Team NWT/YT at the Brier