Brier Bound: Teams set for the 2012 Tim Hortons Brier

Let’s face it, curling is a world-wide phenomena. But, nowhere is it more of an addiction than here in Canada, where fans of the Roarin’ Game can get slap-happy in anticipation of our national championships; where the best of the best from across this curl-crazy land come together to compete for supreme bragging rights. The 2012 Tim Hortons Brier, which will be contested at the Credit Union Centre in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, from March 3-11, will showcase Canada’s best, when provincial and territorial champions from across the country come together in the ultimate shootout.

Newfoundland & Labrador's Brad Gushue (Photo Michael Burns)

This year’s field will feature a blend of savvy experience and youthful enthusiasm, as the nation’s top 12 rinks gear up for a week of battle in Canada’s heartland. Detailed descriptions of provincial championship playdowns will be showcased here, under the Brier Bound heading, over the course of the next two weeks. This overview should act as an introduction to the teams, both familiar and new, who have earned the coveted Purple Heart, and a trip to the 2012 Tim Hortons Brier. From East to West, let’s look at who’s in and who’s out as we head to Saskatoon and the Canadian Men’s Curling Championship. Two-time World Junior champ and 2006 Olympic Gold-medalist Brad Gushue will be representing Newfoundland & Labrador at his ninth Brier when play gets underway in Saskatoon. He returns with Ryan Fry in tow, but front-enders Adam Casey and Geoff Walker will be making their Brier debuts. Gushue snagged the win in the first-ever bronze medal game played at last year’s London Brier. Jamie Murphy and his CFB Halifax team of Jordan Pinder, Mike Bardsley and Donald McDermid earned their first Purple Hearts at this year’s Nova Scotia Molson Men’s Provincial Championship. They will be short on experience, but long on enthusiasm in Saskatoon. Prince Edward Island’s Mike Gaudet will be making his fourth trip to the Brier when he leads his Charlottetown Curling Club team of Tyler MacKenzie, Tyler Harris and Sean Clarey to this year’s national shootout. He skipped P.E.I. to a record of 2-9 the last time the Brier was contested in Saskatoon. Moncton’s Terry Odishaw will be in the house when play gets underway at the 83rd Canadian men’s curling championship. He and his rink of Andy McCann, Scott Jones and Grant Odishaw captured New Brunswick’s bragging rights in early February. Odishaw last skipped at the Brier in 1998, when he finished with a 4-7 record in Winnipeg.

Ontario's Glenn Howard (Photo Michael Burns)

Robert Desjardins and his Chicoutimi teammates Jean-Sebastien Roy, Steven Munroe and Steeve Villeuve will be going to the Brier wearing Quebec’s colour’s after winning the 2012 Quebec Tankard in late January. This will be Desjardins’ first trip to the Brier as a skip after playing vice for Francois Gagne at the 2011 Tim Hortons Brier in London. Glenn Howard will make his 14th trip to the Canadian men’s curling championship in Saskatoon. The three-time world champ will be considered one of the favourites when play gets underway in March. When Richard Hart retired after last season, Wayne Middaugh filled his spot at vice and the team, which includes Brent Laing and Craig Savill up front, never missed a beat in their ongoing domination of Ontario curling. This is the 7th straight year that Howard has represented that province on the national stage. Howard lost the 2011 Tim Hortons Brier final to Manitoba’s Jeff Stoughton by a score of 8-6. In Northern Ontario, Brad Jacobs captured his third straight title with the help of E.J. Harnden, Ryan Harnden and Scott Seabrook, and will be looking to get back to the Brier podium in 2012. In Halifax in 2010, Jacobs finished round-robin play with a record of 9-2 before losing two playoff games and settling for a third place finish. Last year in London, this same team finished with a 7-4 record, just out of the playoffs.

Northern Ontario's Brad Jacobs (Photo Michael Burns)

Jeff Stoughton will not be back to defend his Canadian and world championship titles this year. Brandon’s Rob Fowler and his team of Allan Lyburn, Richard Daneault and Derek Samagalski will be wearing the bison on their backs in Saskatoon. This will be Fowler’s 4th trip to the Brier, but the first as skip. His father Brian skipped Manitoba to a record of 6-5 at the Edmonton Brier in 1987. The home-province favourite at the Saskatoon rock-fest will prove to be Scott “Bad” Manners, after he and his Battleford Curling Club team mates Tyler Lang, Ryan Deis and Mike Armstrong stole the 2012 SaskTel Provincial Tankard away from Bruce Korte in early February. This young first year team swiped single points in the tenth and eleventh ends against the three-time Saskatchewan provincial champ en route to their first Purple Hearts. In Alberta, Kevin Martin went down to defeat in this year’s Boston Pizza Cup Championship playdowns. Kevin Koe, the 2010 Brier and world championship winner will be making his second trip to the Canadian men’s shootout; this year in the company of Pat Simmons, Carter Rycroft and Nolan Thiessen. Look for this foursome to be in the mix when the Page playoffs get underway later in the week. Kelowna’s Jim Cotter defended his British Columbia men’s championship title and will represent Canada’s Pacific Province for the third time when he leads his team of Kevin Folk, Tyrel Griffith and Rick Sawatsky to Saskatoon. He’ll be looking to improve upon his team’s 4-7 finish at last year’s Brier. Kevin’s kid brother Jamie Koe will be making his 6th Brier appearance when he and his Yellowknife team of Tom Naugler, Brad Chorostkowski and Robert Borden trek south to Saskatoon. They won the combined Yukon/North West Territorial playdowns in early February and would like nothing better than to make an impression on the fans in the stands at the Credit Union Centre.

The Koe brothers: Kevin (Alberta) and Jamie (Yukon/NWT) (Photo Michael Burns)