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CurlingBig 3 hitting stride for BDO Canadian Open

Posted: Monday, December 12, 2011 | 11:45 AM

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Glenn Howard, left, and Wayne Middaugh are looking to lead their rink to a second straight Grand Slam victory to open the season. (Anil Mungal/Capital One) Glenn Howard, left, and Wayne Middaugh are looking to lead their rink to a second straight Grand Slam victory to open the season. (Anil Mungal/Capital One)

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With the young guns starting off so quickly this season, there was some anticipation that we would see a changing of the guard in curling. John Epping had a great run at the Capital One Grand Slam season opener in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., making it to the finals of the GP Car and Home World Cup of Curling - his first Grand Slam as a skip - before falling to Glenn Howard.

Having said that, heading into this week's BDO Canadian Open in Kingston, Ont., I believe that all things old are new again. Back on the top of the list of favourites are Howard, Kevin Martin and Jeff Stoughton.
Before previewing the upcoming Capital One Grand Slam event - the BDO Canadian Open in Kingston, Ont., which starts on Wednesday - we need to revisit the most recent major event on the road to the 2014 Olympics.

The first berth in the Canadian Olympic Trials was at stake earlier this month at the Canada Cup, where the winner would be guaranteed a spot among the eight teams vying to represent Canada in Sochi.

The Canada Cup final, played on Dec. 4 in Cranbrook B.C., featured a familiar rivalry and result. Kevin Martin, appearing focused and sharp, defeated Glenn Howard to take the first step towards defending his Olympic gold medal. Martin defeating Howard in a big game sounds oh so familiar.

Big 3 finding form


With the young guns starting off so quickly this season, there was some anticipation that we would see a changing of the guard in curling. John Epping had a great run at the Grand Slam season opener in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., making it to the finals of the GP Car and Home World Cup of Curling - his first Grand Slam as a skip - before falling to Howard.

Mike McEwen was the favourite heading into that event and still sits in the No. 1 spot on the World Curling Tour money list with $83,500. He also enjoys a 30-point lead in the CTRS standings.

Having said all that, heading into the Kingston event I believe that all things old are new again. Back on the top of the list of favourites are Martin, Howard and Jeff Stoughton, who was the other skip to make the playoffs at the Canada Cup.

The Big 3, with apologies to McEwen, seem to be able to come up big when the games become more important. Martin, Howard and Stoughton are beginning to find their form, and as we get deeper into the season and closer to more major events, it's not unexpected to see these teams peaking. I would be shocked if all three of them were not in the quarter-finals of the BDO Canadian Open, and I expect to see at least two of them in the semifinals.

Europeans rising

Prior to the Canada Cup, a big cash event took place in Brantford, Ont., where an important moment in bonspiel history took place.

At the Sun Life Classic, three of the four teams in the semifinals were European. This is the first time this has ever happened in a Canadian World Curling Tour event. Niklas Edin of Sweden defeated Sven Michel of Switzerland in the championship final, and Rasmus Stjerne of Denmark also made the semis along with defending champion McEwen. This is proof that the sport is growing globally, and that Canadian teams will continue to be challenged for many years to come.

Edin, coming off this major bonspiel win, will be confident and prepared to make a run for the title in Kingston. We are also going to get a look at world championship runner-up Tom Brewster of Scotland.

Brad Gushue is also coming in strong after making it to a final in Charlevoix, Que., last week, defeating McEwen in the semifinals.

New rule in play?

Many players have shown support for the implementation of the new "five rock rule" that will have a big impact on how the game is played.

While implementing the rule was thought to be a foregone conclusion, the Canadian Curling Association has a requirement for all 16 teams to unanimously support the rule with a signed waiver before they will allocate any CTRS points to the event.

As of this writing, not all teams had signed the document, so we'll see if the rule comes into play at BDO Canadian Open.

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