It's been often said that curling's most difficult event to win is the Tim Hortons Brier — an accomplishment, in some circles, even more prestigious than the world championships.
That's because the men's field is always loaded with Olympic, Brier and Grand Slam champions.
And this year is no exception.
As always, familiar faces will take to the ice when the competition begins in London, Ont., from March 5-13.
Alberta's Kevin Martin, Glenn Howard of Ontario and Manitoba's Jeff Stoughton lead a strong class of skips.
It seems Martin makes history whenever he wins a tournament nowadays. In 2010, he capped a memorable campaign by capturing Olympic gold in Vancouver. Martin, a former world champion, can become the first skip to win five Brier titles should he walk away victorious in London. He is currently tied with Randy Ferbey.
The Edmonton veteran qualified for the event after knocking off world champion Kevin Koe, 7-4, at the Alberta championship on Sunday.
Martin couldn't compete in last year's event because of the Olympics, but is focused on reclaiming his Canadian title that he last won in 2009.
"It's really tough to win," Howard told QMI Agency. "All the usual guys are going to be there and we're going to take another run at it."
Howard brings an equally impressive resumé to the Canadian championship. The Midland, Ont., native has won this event three times (1987, 1993 and 2007), and in each of those seasons, he finished off the year by claiming the world title.
A threat anytime he gets into the hack, Stoughton has advanced to a pair of finals this year (World Cup and The National), but hasn't tasted Brier victory since 1999.
Newfoundland and Labrador sends 2006 Olympic gold medallist Brad Gushue, while 2005 Brier finalist Shawn Adams will represent Nova Scotia.
The rest of the field includes:
- Pat Simmons, Saskatchewan.
- François Gagné, Quebec.
- Jim Cotter, B.C.
- Brad Jacobs, Northern Ontario.
- Eddie MacKenzie, Prince Edward Island.
- James Grattan, New Brunswick.
- Jamie Koe, Northwest Territories.