Brier Bits #1

Posted: March 7, 2011 in Curling, Sports
Tags: , , , ,

Welcome one and all to my first post on the Tim Hortons’ Brier.

Over the coming week I will be attending a number of games and naturally my thoughts on those games will find their way to this blog.

Yesterday I got my first taste of Brier action after missing out on Saturday’s opening games.  Glenn Howard is probably thankful for that after gifting New Brunswick’s James Grattan – whose team features Glenn’s nephew Steven Howard at second – victory by coming up short on a draw to the eight-foot.

On Sunday morning I was following the game between the aforementioned Grattan and the powerhouse Alberta team led by Kevin Martin.  Despite being extremely sleep-deprived after a late night with fellow members of the Kappa Alpha Society, the game was rather interesting.  Then again, it wasn’t hard to stay awake with Steven Howard channeling the spirit of his father (the Canadian legend and current TSN analyst Russ Howard) with ear-shattering shouts of “hurry hard” and the like.  Martin eventually went on to win 8-6.

After a quick nap I was back in action watching Team Ontario take on Nova Scotia’s Shaun Adams.  But I must have still been half asleep as I didn’t realize just how well Ontario’s third Richard Hart was playing.  From what I saw he was making just about everything.  However, that usually translate to a shooting percentage in the high 80s or low 90s.  According to the official CCA (Canadian Curling Association) statistics Hart shot a remarkable 99%.  Now, Richard Hart is a good curler, no one will question that, but shooting 99% is beyond remarkable – it is almost miraculous.  And with those kind of numbers, it’s no surprise that Hart was this year’s winner of the Ford Hot Shots Competition.

To understand why such a performance is miraculous, we need to look at exactly how the shooting percentage number is calculated.  Each shot that a player throws is given a score out of 4.  If the shot is exactly what is called, then the player gets a 4 for the shot.  If the shot is missed completely, then the player gets a 0.  As such 1, 2, and 3 are reserved for anything between perfect and missed completely.

What this means for Hart’s percentage of 99% is that of all the shots Hart threw throughout the game, only one was anything less than perfect.  Only one rock rolled just a little too far or curled a little too much.  Every other shot was inch-perfect with what was called.  At the third postion, after both front-ends have thrown and left any number of rocks in play, only missing one shot – and that shot by only a fraction – is one of the most amazing feats I have ever witnessed on a curling rink.  It was also probably one of the main reasons why Howard’s Ontario rink won the game 7-4.

Another highlight of the Ontario-Nova Scotia game was the vocal crowd support spearheaded by a couple of crazy flag-waving fans.  Since the tournament is being held in London, Ontario, Glenn Howard’s rink has been getting great support as the de-facto home team.  The Ontario supporters were rivaled by a loud section of Nova Scotians (who happened to be sitting in the same section of the arena as I was) wearing bright yellow boating hats and chanting songs.  Whenever Ontario would score, an old man (he must have been nearing 80) would run around the rink waving a giant Ontario flag.  At one point a young Nova Scotian (around 8-10) also got up and ran around with a flag.  Eventually, both flag-wavers wound up chasing each other about the rink, which had the rest of the crowd up and cheering.

The afternoon draw also featured two games that went into extra ends: Quebec-Saskatchewan and Newfoundland-Northern Ontario.  Oddly enough, I didn’t stick around to watch the end of either of them.  Newfoundland and Saskatchewan ended up winning, but I was off the the Purple Heart Lounge at the London Convention Center to get in line for the autographs of Kevin Martin’s Alberta rink.

I’d been waiting to get Kevin Martin’s signature for a while, about a year in fact.  After Martin, John Morris, Mark Kennedy, and Ben Hebert won Olympic Gold in Vancouver Morris, Kennedy, and Hebert made a brief stop in London, signing autographs at the White Oaks mall.  So for almost a year I was missing Martin’s signature and when the opportunity arose to get the signature, I wasn’t going to miss it.  Now my hat is complete and I have a Team Martin autographed t-shirt to boot.

The evening draw was fairly uneventful, although Ontario flattened Saskatchewan, Manitoba beat P.E.I., and British Columbia squeaked past Newfoundland.  Yukon/Northwest Territories’ Jamie Koe, the brother of last year’s Brier champion Kevin Koe, overcame New Brunswick in an extra end.

Sunday’s games gave us a good idea of who the teams to beat are, but it is still early on in the tournament and a team cannot truly be considered to be out of the running until they lose five games.  Four losses will be cutting it close and will probably require you to play a tiebreaker to qualify for the playoffs, but five losses will require a miracle for you to even get a tiebreaker game.

All in all, Sunday’s games have got me extremely excited about the Brier (as anyone who as seen me recently can attest to) and I can’t wait for next Sunday afternoon’s Final…

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