There will be a collective 16 previous Brier winners (with 30 titles in total), 13 former world champions, nine Olympic gold-medallists and a stunning 304 Tim Hortons Brier Purple Hearts on display in the world’s most famous curling championship, which will celebrate its 87th edition in the nation’s capital.
Leading the pack will be the two-time defending champion Pat Simmons team from Calgary, which claimed gold at last year’s Tim Hortons Brier in Calgary before winning bronze at the Ford World Men’s Championship in Halifax.
But the reigning champs — Simmons, vice-skip John Morris, second Carter Rycroft, lead Nolan Thiessen, alternate Tom Sallows and coach Earle Morris will be adorned in Team Canada colours — will be pushed extremely hard in its bid for a three-peat (for Simmons, Rycroft and Thiessen; Morris joined the team last season).
The list of contenders includes the home-province favourite Glenn Howard (Toronto), who is in pursuit of his fifth Tim Hortons Brier championship; the 2014 Olympic gold-medallists and 2013 Tim Hortons Brier champs from Northern Ontario, skipped by Brad Jacobs (Sault Ste. Marie); two-time Tim Hortons Brier champ Kevin Koe of Alberta (Calgary); 2006 Olympic gold-medallist Brad Gushue (St. John’s), currently the leader on the Canadian Team Ranking System; and 2006 Tim Hortons Brier champ Jean-Michel Ménard of Quebec, who hails just across the Ottawa River in Gatineau and will be a hometown favourite.
But some of the Tim Hortons Brier rookies are just as impressive. After years of frustration in his attempts to win a Tim Hortons Brier Purple Heart, Manitoba’s Mike McEwen finally broke through to win his first provincial title. His Winnipeg team has been dominant on the World Curling Tour in the past few seasons, and currently sits third on the Canadian Team Ranking System, behind Gushue and Koe.
Still, it’s the experience of the field that should stand out — for instance, 2014 Tim Hortons Brier silver-medallist Jim Cotter of B.C. (Vernon/Kelowna) and 2015 Tim Hortons Brier bronze-medallist Steve Laycock of Saskatchewan (Saskatoon).
The field is rounded out by 2014 world senior men’s champ Mike Kennedy of New Brunswick (Grand Falls); Nova Scotia’s Jamie Murphy (Halifax); Prince Edward Island’s Adam Casey (Charlottetown/Summerside) and Jamie Koe of the Northwest Territories (Yellowknife)
Teams will play a 12-team round-robin draw leading to the Page playoff round, which sees the top two teams meeting in the Page 1-2 game, with the winner advancing to the gold-medal game on Sunday, March 13 at 7:30 p.m. (all times EST) while the loser goes to the semifinal. The third- and fourth-place teams meet in the Page 3-4 game, with the winner advancing to the semifinal on Saturday night (March 12). The loser plays in the bronze-medal game Sunday afternoon (March 13) against the semifinal loser.