Picture: Curling Canada
Calgary’s Kevin Koe will be in the spotlight when the 2020 Tim Hortons Brier, presented by AGI, gets underway on Saturday at the Leon’s Centre in Kingston, Ont.
The 45-year-old Koe, skipping the defending champions Team Canada from The Glencoe Club in Calgary, will be trying to win his fifth Tim Hortons Brier title as a skip, which would break the record he currently shares with Randy Ferbey, Kevin Martin and Ernie Richardson.
And Team Canada’s lead, Ben Hebert, also has a chance to win his fifth Tim Hortons Brier title (his first two came with Martin), and with a win, he and Koe would move into second place for most Tim Hortons Brier championships, behind only Ferbey, who also won twice as a vice-skip.
Team Canada — the team is rounded out by vice-skip B.J. Neufeld, second Colton Flasch, alternate Ted Appelman and coach John Dunn — makes its 2020 Tim Hortons Brier debut on Saturday in the opening draw at 2 p.m. (all times Eastern) with a tantalizing matchup against the host Ontario team from Toronto, skipped by 2018 Tim Hortons Brier bronze-medallist John Epping. It’s a rematch of the 2019 Home Hardware Canada Cup men’s final, in which Epping prevailed 7-4.
While Koe’s (and Hebert’s) drive for five is the main storyline in Kingston, it’s hardly the only one.
Brad Gushue, making his 17th Tim Hortons Brier appearance, and his Newfoundland/Labrador team from St. John’s is seeking a third Tim Hortons Brier title in four years after his wins in 2017 and 2018.
Meanwhile, Brad Jacobs’s Northern Ontario team from Sault Ste. Marie enters the 2020 Tim Hortons Brier as the country’s top team on the Canadian Team Ranking System, with ambitions of winning a second Brier title after winning in 2013. Team Epping is No. 2 on the CTRS, followed by Team Gushue at No. 3.
The No. 5 team is Alberta’s Brendan Bottcher, who is looking to ascend to the top step of the Tim Hortons Brier medal podium after silver medals in 2018 and last year.
Sixteen teams, representing the 14 Curling Canada member associations, Team Canada and the winner of the Wild Card Game, have been seeded based on their CTRS ranking as of Dec. 31, 2019, and separated into two pools. The Wild Card Game winner will automatically go in as the No. 3 seed.
They’ll first play a round robin within their pool, after which the top four in each advance to the Championship Pool for four games against teams from the other pool. Upon completion, the top four teams (best overall won-lost records) proceed to the Page Playoffs on Saturday (1 vs. 2, winner to final, loser to semifinal; 3 vs. 4, winner to semifinal, loser eliminated).
The semifinal is Sunday, March 8, at noon, while the gold-medal game is at 7 p.m.
The winning team will represent Canada at the 2020 LGT World Men’s Curling Championship, presented by BKT Tires, March 28-April 5 in Glasgow, Scotland. The winner will also defend its title as Team Canada in the 2021 Tim Hortons Brier, presented by AGI, in Kelowna, B.C., and earn a direct-entry berth into the 2021 Tim Hortons Roar of the Rings, presented by AGI, in Saskatoon — the event that will decide Canada’s four-player teams for the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.
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; hometown)
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. Newfoundland/Labrador, Brad Gushue (Mark Nichols, Brett Gallant, Geoff Walker, Jeff Thomas, Jules Owchar; St. John’s)
8. Manitoba, Jason Gunnlaugson (Adam Casey [throws second], Alex Forrest [throws third], Connor Njegovan, Garry Van Den Berghe; Morris)
9. Nova Scotia, Jamie Murphy (Paul Flemming, Scott Saccary, Phil Crowell, Kevin Ouellette, Bruce Lohnes; Halifax)
12. Quebec, Alek Bedard (Louis Quevillon, Émile Asselin, Bradley Lequin, Daniel Bedard; Lacolle/Boucherville/Glenmore)
13. Prince Edward Island, Bryan Cochrane (Ian MacAulay, Morgan Currie, Mark O’Rourke, Ken Sullivan; Cornwall)
16. Nunavut, Jake Higgs (Dale Kohlenberg, Christian Smitheram, Ed MacDonald, Sheldon Wettig, Quentin Vanderschaaf; Iqaluit)
2. Ontario, John Epping (Ryan Fry, Mat Camm, Brent Laing, John Morris, Jim Wilson; Toronto)
3. Team Wild Card: Mike McEwen (Reid Carruthers, Derek Samagalski, Colin Hodgson; Winnipeg)
6. Team Canada, Kevin Koe (B.J. Neufeld, Colton Flasch, Ben Hebert, Ted Appelman, John Dunn; Calgary)
7. Saskatchewan, Matt Dunstone (Braeden Moskowy, Catlin Schneider, Dustin Kidby, Adam Kingsbury; Regina)
10. British Columbia, Steve Laycock [throws third] (Jim Cotter [throws last], Andrew Nerpin, Rick Sawatsky, Brad Wood; Vernon/Kelowna)
11. New Brunswick, James Grattan (Paul Dobson, Andy McCann, Jamie Brannen, Chris Jeffrey; Oromocto)
14. Yukon, Thomas Scoffin (Trygg Jensen, Brett Winfield, Joe Wallingham, Wade Scoffin; Whitehorse)
15. Northwest Territories, Jamie Koe (David Aho, Shadrach Mcleod, Cole Parsons, Matthew Ng; Yellowknife)