New tricks for old dogs!
Team Bottcher soaking up new insights at PointsBet Invitational
Ben Hebert and Marc Kennedy aren’t the oldest players at the 2023 PointsBet Invitational, but they’re not the youngest, either.
They’ve won Briers together, a world championship together, Olympic gold together, and undeniably belong on any list of the finest curlers ever in the rich history of the sport.
But today, closer to the end of their competitive careers than the beginning, they still find themselves eager to learn, eager to listen to new ways to approach this sport and solve the conundrums that curling offers to high performance players.
Which is why when rumblings started circulating that David Murdoch was potentially on his way to Canada to become the High Performance Director for Curling Canada, Hebert (lead) and Kennedy (vice-skip), along with teammates skip Brendan Bottcher and second Brett Gallant and team coach Paul Webster were eager to pick the brain of the Scottish legend.
“Well, I think his resume speaks for itself,” said Hebert, moments after Team Bottcher’s 7-1 win over Jacob Dobson and his Humber College Hawks team from Toronto Thursday night in Sweep 16 action at the 16 Mile Sports Complex in Oakville, Ont. “I got to see it from two different lenses; I knew Dave the player, knew he was a real good competitor and, honestly, we got along great. It’s very similar to what we had with (former Curling Canada High Performance Director Gerry Peckham, who retired after last season). Everyone loved Gerry, right? But I think bringing in some different ideas will help. We’re veterans, you know; he’s not going to come in and tell us exactly how to do things. But I think giving us a couple extra tools in our toolbox would be great.”
Team Bottcher arrived in Oakville seeded second in the 16-team field, while Team Dobson, who won the Canadian Colleges Athletic Association title last season, was seeded 15th.
So the end result was hardly a surprise. Yet, Team Bottcher, having soaked up a few months of learning from Murdoch and his high performance coaching staff, looked as focused as it might in a Montana’s Brier final. The message from Murdoch has been that September preparation and focus will lead to March success.
“I think he’s came in with the right personality and the right demeanour and attitude,” said Kennedy. “He’s not shoving stuff down anybody’s throat.
“I think, from an older perspective, I love the impact he’s going to have on our younger athletes. He’s just gonna take some of these young athletes and make them into the best that they can possibly be. And that’s exactly what we need as us old guys start to make our way out the door.”
Team Bottcher was at its efficient best, scoring singles in the second and third ends, followed by a stolen deuce in the fourth. Team Dobson got on the board with one in the fifth, but Team Bottcher took a five-point lead with two more in the sixth and never looked back.
Murdoch has been taking in the action at the PointsBet Invitational, and keeping a close eye on the array of talent on display, including the cagey veterans such as Hebert and Kennedy, as well as the youngsters, like Dobson’s college team, and even those somewhere in the middle, such as Bottcher.
“It was a great first game out there for us, but we’re trying to do all the little things right,” said Bottcher, who will play 10th-seeded Team Mike McEwen of Saskatoon, in the Elite 8 Friday at 4:30 p.m. (all times ET). “I think we’re doing a good job of focusing on the process. And when we do that, we win more often than not so I think we’re building like you say towards some big things at the end of the year, and hopefully we can make a few more here this week.”
In other games Thursday, Team McEwen stole three in the sixth end and sailed to an 11-5 win over No. 7 Team Aaron Sluchinski of Airdrie, Alta.; an early three in the second end propelled No. 3 Team Matt Dunstone of Winnipeg to a 10-5 victory over No. 14 Team Sam Mooibroek (Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo, Ont., the 2023 U SPORTS champs); and sixth-seeded Team Karsten Sturmay of Edmonton broke open a tight game with five in the seventh end in an 8-4 win over No. 11 Team Glenn Howard of Penetanguishene, Ont.
The 2023 PointsBet Invitational continues Friday with draws at 11:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.
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This story will be available in French as soon as possible at www.curling.ca/2023pointsbetinvitational/nouvelles/?lang=fr