(Besides Team PEI, PEI’s Adam Casey is in this event playing third for Team Manitoba, while Brett Gallant is second on Team Canada)
Two skips chasing history will be on the ice when the 2021 Tim Hortons Brier, presented by AGI, gets underway on March 5 inside a strictly enforced, no-fans bubble in Calgary.
Brad Gushue, left, and Kevin Koe will both be on the ice for the opening draw of the 2021 Tim Hortons Brier, presented by AGI. (Photos, Curling Canada/Michael Burns)
Between them, Kevin Koe (Calgary) and Brad Gushue (St. John’s) have captured the past five Canadian men’s curling championships, with Gushue prevailing last year as well as back to back in 2017 and 2018, while Koe claimed gold in 2019 and 2016.
And both have historic goals in sight during the 10-day championship at the Markin MacPhail Centre at WinSport’s Canada Olympic Park in Calgary.
Koe will skip Team Wild Card #2, backed up by third B.J. Neufeld, second John Morris, lead Ben Hebert and alternate Mike Caione, and will be attempting to win his record fifth Tim Hortons Brier as a skip; he currently shares the record with Ernie Richardson, Randy Ferbey and Kevin Martin.
Team Canada’s Gushue, meanwhile, will be looking to join that elite group with a fourth Tim Hortons Brier victory as a skip. Gushue’s team is rounded out by vice-skip Mark Nichols, second Brett Gallant, lead Geoff Walker, alternate Ryan McNeil Lamswood and coach Jules Owchar.
The opening draw on March 5, set for 8:30 p.m. (all times Eastern; TSN/RDS2) will feature Gushue’s defending champs playing Ontario’s John Epping, while Koe’s Wild Card #2 will be up against Jamie Murphy’s Nova Scotia team from Halifax; Murphy could not participate in the 2021 Tim Hortons Brier, so Scott McDonald will be skipping the Bluenosers.
The field was expanded to 18 teams for this year only to accommodate teams that didn’t get an opportunity to compete for their provincial or territorial championship due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The teams will be separated into two pools of nine, seeded based on their final standing in the 2019-20 Canadian Team Ranking System.
They will play a full round robin within their respective pools, and then the top four teams in each pool will move on to the Championship Pool, and play four more games against the teams from the other pool. Their preliminary pool records will be carried forward.
From there, the top three teams will make the playoffs; the first-place team after the Championship Pool will go straight to the gold-medal game (March 14, 8:30 p.m.), while the second- and third-place teams will meet in the semifinal (March 14, 2:30 p.m.)
The familiar four-team Page Playoff format couldn’t be used because it takes two extra draws, and with the field expansion, there wasn’t time available in the schedule, and it would have forced teams to play more games in a limited amount of time.
Here’s a look at how the two pools set up:
(teams listed according to seeding, and listed in order of skip, vice-skip, second, lead, alternate, coach/High Performance Consultant)
1. Northern Ontario, Brad Jacobs (Marc Kennedy, E.J. Harnden, Ryan Harnden, Lee Toner, Rick Lang; Sault Ste. Marie)
4. Alberta, Brendan Bottcher (Darren Moulding, Brad Thiessen, Karrick Martin, Patrick Janssen, Don Bartlett; Edmonton)
5. Wild Card #1, Mike McEwen (Reid Carruthers, Derek Samagalski, Colin Hodgson, Rob Meakin; West St. Paul, Man.)
8. Manitoba, Jason Gunnlaugson (Adam Casey, Matt Wozniak, Connor Njegovan, Jacques Gauthier; Morris)
9. Wild Card #3, Glenn Howard (Scott Howard, David Mathers, Tim March, Wayne Middaugh; Penetanguishene, Ont.)
12. British Columbia, Steve Laycock (Jim Cotter, Andrew Nerpin, Rick Sawatsky, Tyler Tardi, Gerry Adam; Vernon)
13. New Brunswick, James Grattan (Paul Dobson; NOTE – Paul Dobson will not be participating; Jonathan Beuk to play vice-skip; Andy McCann, Jamie Brannen, Kevin Keefe; Oromocto)
16. Northwest Territories, Greg Skauge (Tom Naugler, Brad Patzer, Robert Borden, David Aho; Yellowknife)
17. Yukon, Dustin Mikkelsen (Alexx Peech, Brandon Hagen, Robert Mckinnon, Ray Mikkelsen; Whitehorse)
2. Ontario, John Epping (Ryan Fry, Mat Camm, Brent Laing, Jim Wilson; Toronto)
3. Team Canada, Brad Gushue (Mark Nichols, Brett Gallant, Geoff Walker, Ryan McNeil Lamswood, Jules Owchar; St. John’s)
6. Wild Card #2, Kevin Koe (B.J. Neufeld, John Morris, Ben Hebert, Mike Caione; Calgary)
7. Saskatchewan, Matt Dunstone (Braeden Moskowy, Kirk Muyres, Dustin Kidby, Adam Kingsbury; Wadena)
10. Nova Scotia, Jamie Murphy (NOTE – Jamie Murphy will not be participating; Scott McDonald to skip; Paul Flemming, Scott Saccary, Phil Crowell, Kevin Ouellette; Halifax)
11. Quebec, Mike Fournier (Martin Crête, Félix Asselin, Jean-François Trépanier, William Dion, Benoit Forget; Glenmore/Etchemin/Valleyfield)
14. Newfoundland/Labrador, Greg Smith (Greg Blyde, Alex McDonah, Evan McDonah, Adam Boland, Leslie Anne Walsh; St. John’s)
15. Prince Edward Island, Eddie MacKenzie (Tyler Smith, Sean Ledgerwood, Ryan Lowery, Aaron Bartling; Crapaud/Montague)
18. Nunavut, Peter Mackey (Jeff Nadeau, Greg Howard, Jeff Chown, Brady St. Louis; Iqaluit)
CLICK HERE to check the schedule for the 2021 Tim Hortons Brier.
TSN/RDS2 will provide complete coverage of every draw at the 2021 Tim Hortons Brier. CLICK HERE for the broadcast schedule.