Brier Bits #4 – MVP

Posted: March 13, 2011 in Curling, Sports
Tags: , , , ,

Richard Hart is the best curler at this year’s Tim Hortons Brier.

He’s a man who often stands in the shadow of his skip Glenn Howard, but this week has been Hart’s coming out party.  His performances throughout the whole tournament have brought him from a supporting actor to the star billing.

Hart has all the shots in the book, evidenced by his capture of this year’s Ford Hot Shots skills competition title and the car that goes with the victory.

In Saturday’s 3v4 Page Playoff and Semi-Final, Hart was outstanding, whether it be tight draws, massive run-backs, or even the more mundane tasks of controlled takeouts or peeling guards.  Such were the skill and execution of his shots that when Howard came up to throw the shots on the table were fairly straightforward and the end was almost already decided.

Through the round robin, Hart threw an incredible 87% with the only players better than that mark being leads and seconds.  That percentage was brought down by an uncharacteristic sloppy game (74%) against Kevin Martin in the final draw.  However, Hart atoned for those mistakes with a 95% game against Martin in the 3v4 playoff and a 94% game against Brad Gushue in the Semi-Final.

Hart’s game is characterized by a kind of efficient reliability.  He’s not an out-and-out banger like Mark Nichols.  He doesn’t necessarily combine awesome power with mesmerizing touch like John Morris.  Hart brings an understated game to the table.  He can make the big weight shots or cozy up a perfect freeze without fuss, preferring to simply make his shots and then slip back into obscurity.  Hart is the kind of player that you simply need to put the broom down for and he’ll hit it.  There are no qualms about whether or not he can play this kind of shot or that kind of shot.  Just put the broom down, tell him what to do, and it shalt be done.  Simply put, he is a skip’s dream.

For those of you who follow curling, none of this is new to you.  You have seen Richard Hart’s skills first hand.

But players like Hart often get overshadowed by their bigger name skips.  To most people, Richard Hart is just another cog in the machine that is Team Howard.  In that machine, Glenn Howard is the shot-maker, the finisher, the glory-getter.  Howard makes the scoring shots, the shots that you see cozying up to the button right before TSN flashes the final score at the bottom of the screen.

This happens across all the teams at the Brier and other teams across Canada: extremely skilled curlers are overshadowed by the skip whose name is on the scoreboard.  Take Steve Gould for instance.  Gould is a former Hot Shots Champion, but by day he plays lead for Jeff Stoughton’s rink.  Gould has all the skills and all the shots – as well as some massive sweeping strength – that would enable him to play vice or even skip, but, and this might be down to his ability to manage a game, he plays lead.  Not many people expect a lead to do much more than draw, guard, and occasionally pick.  Not many people expect a lead to be a top-notch curler.

Mark my words, Richard Hart will skip his own team someday.  And when that happens stay tuned for him to be celebrated as one of the greatest curlers of our generation.  Once he’s out from Howard’s shadow, possibly with a few more Brier titles to show for it, there is no limit to how far Hart’s star can rise.

Of course, don’t expect him to be flashy about it, he’ll just carry on being one of the most efficient and reliable curlers we have ever seen.

  1. I never thought of it that way, well put!

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