The Howard team is representing Ontario in its sixth straight Tim Hortons Brier and, on Saturday afternoon, it won the pre-Brier Ford Hot Shots skills competition for the third straight year.
Two years ago, it was lead Craig Savill driving the Ford unit out of the arena. Last year, it was skip Howard. And, this time, it was third Richard Hart out-pointing Alberta skip Kevin Martin 23-18 in the Hot Shots final at the John Labatt Centre.
Hart clinched the win before either player was required to throw the final shot, the double-takeout. So the actual scores were 23 of a possible 25, to 18 of a possible 25.
Hart won a two-year lease on a 2011 Ford Edge SEL FWD, an approximate retail value of $22,000.
“He had the button in his pocket the entire piece, whether it drawing or rolling or bumping,” said Martin of his lefthanded foe. “He earned it. Hope he enjoys driving it.”
Hart emphasized how seriously the Ontario team takes the competition.
“This event is a lot of fun, the curlers love it, and we find it’s a real useful thing for us to pick up on the ice and get used to a bunch of shots,” said the Pickering, Ont., electrician.
“We think it’s a great practice tool for us. Some of the teams don’t take it too seriously but we kind of do. We find the extra time on the ice is really good for us. Not just for the guy throwing but for the sweepers to see a ton of shots and its good to start the week off like this and hopefully it’ll help us get some Ws this week.
“We haven’t won the Brier the last two years so maybe there is a (Hot Shots) jinx . . . but we’ll take our chances.”
The event was instituted in 1995 and only one skills winner since has gone on to win the Brier. That was Winnipeg’s Steve Gould, a member of Jeff Stoughton’s 1999 champion team.
“You’re always in the market for a car, eh?” asked Hart. “My wife was on the phone last night and she joked that she could use one. Goes nicely with the Ford F150 I’ve got.
“Our team has a formula. The precedent was set a couple of years ago.
“Whoever wins pays the other guys $1,000 each. The winners take the lease. If we actually got the car we’d probably sell it and then divide the take equally. As everybody knows, it takes four guys to make those shots.”
Martin picked up only one point on his last shot, the hit-and-roll and when Hart connected on the same shot, the jig was up.
“If I’d have rolled in for a two he’d have had to make the double, and that probably would have made it more fun,” said Martin. “But that’s the way it goes. Nothing you can do about these things.”
Martin won $2,000 for his runner-up showing while Ken Maskiewich, third player for British Columbia, collected $1,000.
Maskiewich won the earlier quarter-final round with 24/30 top Hart’s 23/30, Martin and John Morris of Alberta at 22/30.
Eliminated were Brad Jacobs, Northern Ontario skip, with 21, Christian Bouchard, Quebec second, with 20, Ryan Fry of Newfoundland and Marc Kennedy of Alberta with 19.
In the semis, Hart scored 25, Martin 23, Maskiewich 22 and Morris 21.
Martin and Hart scored 27 of a possible 30 points during the preliminary firing on Friday.
The pre-event shotmaking competition requires curlers to execute six shots: Hit-and-stay, draw-the-button, draw-the-port, raise, hit-and-roll and double-takeout. Each shot is awarded points on a scale from 0-5, rating the success of each.
All 48 Brier starters began the competition.
Other past Hot Shots winners at the Brier have been Manitoba’s Gould (twice), Greg McAulay and Pat Ryan of British Columbia, Alberta’s Don Bartlett, Randy Ferbey and Morris, Saskatchewan’s Steve Laycock, Northern Ontario’s Mike Coulter, Ontario’s Ed Werenich, New Brunswick’s Rick Perron, Jeff Lacey and Marc LeCocq, and Newfoundland/Labrador’s Mark Nichols.