Sports Curling

Howard’s legacy continues to grow 0

Terry Jones, QMI Agency

The Coldwater and District Curling Club foursome of, from left to right, lead Craig Savill, second Brent Laing, third Wayne Middaugh and skip Glenn Howard will begin defence of their Canadian Men’s Curling Championship title Saturday, when the Tim Hortons Brier opens at Rexall Place in Edmonton. (DAVID STOBBE, Reuters)

The Coldwater and District Curling Club foursome of, from left to right, lead Craig Savill, second Brent Laing, third Wayne Middaugh and skip Glenn Howard will begin defence of their Canadian Men’s Curling Championship title Saturday, when the Tim Hortons Brier opens at Rexall Place in Edmonton. (DAVID STOBBE, Reuters)

When you’re the defending Brier champion and have just won Ontario for the eighth straight time to win your 15th purple heart and make it to a record 15th Brier, what record do you treasure most?

“Between the two, I’d probably say the 15,” said Midland’s Glenn Howard. “Winning eight straight in Ontario is pretty impressive to me, too, but the stat I like the most isn’t actually either of them. The one that’s my favourite is winning a Brier in four different decades, 25 years apart.”

The first one was in Edmonton in 1987.

“It was my second Brier,” said Howard, who was playing third for brother Russ on a team that featured Tim Belcourt at second and Kent Carstairs throwing lead rocks.

In 1986 in Kitchener-Waterloo, the Ontario foursome lost the final to Alberta’s Ed Luokowich.

“But we were right back at it next year and we beat Bernie Sparkes, who was a legend back then,” added Howard. “Edmonton has been pretty good to me.”

Edmonton will once again host the Brier beginning Saturday and Howard, along with his Coldwater and District Curling Club foursome of third Wayne Middaugh, second Brent Laing and lead Craig Savill are considered one of the favourites in the 12-team field. Glenn’s son, Scott, is the fifth man on the team and they’re coached by Scott Taylor.

While he wasn’t the biggest fan of the so-called “redneck Brier” in Red Deer, Alta., in 1994, Howard has more than enjoyed his Edmonton experiences including his first world championship as a skip here in 2007 before an all-time-record crowd of 184,000.

“I figured that having an Ontario team representing Canada for that event might not have been the first choice of the fans there, but it was incredible how Edmonton adopted us,” said Howard. “It was way better than I expected. They cheered us and supported us as if we were an Edmonton team. We were representing Canada and it didn’t matter that we were from Ontario. I have some unreal memories from that one.”

It’s been an incredible career, which includes his second world title as a skip last year.

As a third for Russ, he was 10-3 in Kitchener-Waterloo in his first Brier in 1986 before following with a 10-2 record to win Edmonton in 1987.

They went 8-4 and finished in third place at Saskatoon (1989), 6-5 at Hamilton (1991) and 9-4, ending up runners-up in Regina (1994) before getting his title for the ’90s in Ottawa (1994) with an 11-3 record curling with Middaugh and Peter Corner.

Glenn’s last Brier curling with his brother was Red Deer (1994), where they finished with a 9-4 record and another runner-up role.

Glenn won his first as a skip at Hamilton in 2007 with Richard Hart, Laing and Savill going 12-2.

Then he got into a real bridesmaid routine.

A runner-up in Regina 2006 (11-3), he was back to runner-up (11-3) in Winnipeg 2008, third in Calgary 2009 (9-4), runner-up in Halifax 2010 (12-1) and again in London 2011 (10-4) before winning it again at Saskatoon in 2012 with a 12-1 record.

It was quite a scene in Saskatoon last year as Howard finally won again, beating Alberta’s Kevin Koe in the final.

Howard, despite playing a record five extra-end games and losing only one game all week, wanted nothing to do with drama, excitement, action or theatrics. All he wanted to do was win.

Howard had been to the final and lost it so many times, relief was part of that feeling.

“It’s a little monkey off our back,” he said following the win. “The guys made everything and, oh, thank God.”

Getting to the Brier this year has been a little different for Howard than usual.

“It’s been a funny year,” he said of heading to Edmonton sitting sixth in the World Curling Tour money-winning charts with $41,000, far behind leader Koe’s $100,200 earned so far.

“We didn’t qualify for the money in two of the three Slams held so far,” he said. “We won one and didn’t make the eight-team playoffs for the prize money in the other two. That’s just not normal. We pride ourselves on the number of those we qualify for. That’s $30,000, $40,000 or even $50,000 left on the table. We just came out flat twice.

“And in the provincials, we lost three games. Last year, we went undefeated. We lost our second game and our last two games of the round robin. But then we jumped back in the playoffs and we played phenomenal.

“Getting to the Brier is always special. Every one after the first one is just icing on the cake. It never gets old. It’s my 15th time and I still feel like I’m a kid in a candy store because I’m going to the Brier again. I’m coming to Edmonton with a goofy grin on my face because I get to go to the Brier again. I’ve got a giddy feeling like, ‘Hey, this is really cool.’ It’s no less special.”

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