It’s a week earlier than they intended, but Glenn Howard and Jeff Stoughton both assure fans they will have their Vancouver Island smiles on this week.
Both big-name curlers were hoping to bypass this week’s Victoria Curling Classic, delaying the flight west a week in favour of competing in the 2013 Ford World Men’s Curling Championship.
But Brad Jacobs saw to it that the two veterans kept their intentions to play in Al Sutherland’s Classic, an annual World Curling Tour stop that remains popular across the country and internationally. This year’s bonspiel will feature eight teams also set to compete in next week’s worlds.
Jacobs, of Northern Ontario, dumped Howard of Ontario 9-7 in the Brier semifinal two weekends ago and then eliminated Stoughton of Manitoba 11-4 in the championship game.
“It would have been great coming out a week later for the worlds, but it just wasn’t meant to be,” Stoughton said prior to boarding a flight to Victoria. “What can you say. Brad Jacobs’ team played great, so you guys can look forward to him [at worlds].
“Those three playoff games they turned in, they were very good. They got off to great starts in all their games,” Stoughton added of the eventual winners, who now represent Canada in Victoria from March 30 to April 7.
“Had we have won the Brier we wouldn’t have been out there, forfeiting the Classic and coming out a week later for the worlds, but it wasn’t meant to be,” said Howard, the 2012 Brier and world champion.
“They [the Jacobs rink] were pretty solid during the week, not probably the best, but come the weekend they did what they had to do. Obviously they played the best of the four [playoff] teams and they deserve to go.”
Both Howard and Stoughton are previous Victoria Curling Classic champs, winning in 2011 and 2007 respectively. They, like most of the field, love to venture west for the event — this is the eighth annual — to compete for Canadian Team Ranking System points (used towards Olympic trials), a top $25,000 prize and just what the area provides in scenery and extracurricular activities. Many competitors also take in the golf tournament, set for this morning at Bear Mountain, and fishing excursions.
“It’ a nice way to kick off spring, that’s for sure, because it certainly hasn’t sprung here in Winnipeg,” Stoughton said before travelling west. “It’ll be nice to get to some plus eight- or nine-degree weather.”
Howard echoed that sentiment.
“It’s always a lot of fun. A fun way to finish up the year,” said Howard, who will be swinging the clubs today. “Obviously, it’s a beautiful part of the country and the guys love the extracurricular stuff, other than the curling. That’s one of the nice things about the ’spiel.”
But, make no mistake, both would have preferred to be here next week.
“A couple of shots here and there ... they basically played the best of all of us,” said Howard. “Jacobs, himself, didn’t miss much and myself, [Brad] Gushue and Stoughty just didn’t bring our A game. You bring your B game and Jacobs brings his A game, you’re going to lose. That’s what happens.”
Jacobs jumped on Stoughton early in the Brier final, stealing two in the first end and another in the second. Stoughton cut it to 3-2 in the third, but then Jacobs picked out a Manitoba stone to count three in the pivotal fourth.
“The steals, obviously, weren’t the way we wanted to get started,” recalled Stoughton. “We didn’t get the point right away. We were chasing the whole game. It wasn’t our best, but you can’t take anything away from them, they played wonderful.
“It would be disappointing for anyone to get to the final and not be able to pull it off,” added Stoughton.
“We took some time off afterward to get the batteries recharged, threw rocks leading up to this event and we look forward to being in Victoria.”
The first draw of the Victoria Curling Classic begins tonight at 7:30 with local Neil Dangerfield taking on Mike McEwen; Rob Fowler facing Oscar Eriksson of Sweden; Swedish worlds representative Niklas Edin against Japan’s worlds rep Yusuke Morozumi; Steve Laycock against Swiss worlds rep Sven Michel; and Gushue taking on Brady Clark, the American rep for the worlds.
The event continues with the likes of Stoughton, Howard, Kevin Martin, Kevin Koe, Thomas Ulsrud of Norway and Tom Brewster of Scotland on the ice at 9:30 a.m. Thursday.
The final is set for Sunday at 2 p.m. with the semifinal that morning at 10 with all games at the Archie Browning Sports Centre. Tickets are available at the door. A full-event pass is $110, single day passes $40 and draws $15 each, except for playoff draws which are $20 on a per game basis.
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