by Colin Hodgson
The Great and Powerful Oz. Oh, what a magical place.
Emerald City (Edmonton) and their warm-hearted townsfolk welcome both their own – Kevin Martin’s Team Alberta – and many others from faraway lands great and wide. Every player from across Canada has endured his own trials and tribulations to get to Oz, or so I call it. Provincial kings have trekked down the yellow brick road (playdowns) leaving broken brooms of frustration in their wake, and hoisting cups in celebration.
The Edmonton Brier is what even the most accomplished players dream of and live for. Take, for example, the level of intensity in the epic Boston Pizza Cup final in Alberta’s battle of the Kevins, Martin and Koe. A pin drop could be heard in far corners of the Leduc building at the quietest of times, followed by eye-shaking explosions of cheers. Alberta fans do it right.
Sold-out crowds sweating out curling knowledge and experience, Edmonton fans are no n00bs (pardon my inner nerd) to huge curling events. This Brier seems to be no exception given, perhaps, the strongest field of all-time. Household names of past champions litter the field alongside young and budding All-Stars. It’s no surprise the most wily and seasoned veterans get a little giddy at the opportunity to play in the Great Gretzky’s house.
When talking to the defending Olympic champion about the hometown crowd, it’s hard to miss the excitement on his face. “Curling in the Brier in front of so many family and friends,” said Martin, “(and) the always enthusiastic Edmonton crowd (is) a blast.”
Saskatchewan “Bad Boy” Braeden Moskowy – who displays glimpses of Alberta’s own beloved Bad Boy Paul Gowsell – lavishes praise on Edmonton: “It’s the pinnacle of the sport and pretty much the sole reason I got into curling. It’s everything that’s great about the sport packed into one week. The competition, camaraderie and partying, as well as the chance to represent your province on the national stage to compete against Canada’s best.”
More words of praise come from all-star second Reid Carruthers of the 2011 Brier champion Team Jeff Stoughton: “Playing in the Edmonton Brier means a lot to me. The field is as strong as I’ve ever seen and the fans are amazing. It’s the perfect tune up for the trials next year in Winnipeg.”
(Yes, of course Reidarama had to mention Winnipeg, too. It’s in the Manitoba Charter of Curling Requirements, didn’t you know?)
Quebec’s heart-and-soul lead Phillipe Menard welcomes the challenge in Edmonton and embraces it with a very simple statement: “Biggest curling event, in the best curling city in the word. Do the math!”
Again and again, I ask the players competing at Rexall Place – until there’s no longer a point, the answers are all repetitive. It’s obviously very simple.
Edmonton Brier fans: the yellow brick road these teams have travelled provided them with extra drive and motivation for one reason – you make they payoff great in every way. Keep it up, folks.
[The Curling News photos ® by Anil Mungal. Click on images to increase viewing size]
VN:F [1.9.20_1166]Brier 2013: Yellow brick road,