2014 Brier: Rink-by-rink outlook
Absence of defending champion Jacobs opens up field
Defending Brier champion Brad Jacobs and his Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., rink, won't be in Kamloops, B.C., this weekend for the start of the Canadian men’s curling championship.
Also, perennial favourites like Glenn Howard and Kevin Martin are also absent from this year's bonspiel.
A more wide-open field will include past champions like Jeff Stoughton, Kevin Koe and Jean-Michel Menard, with others like Brad Gushue looking for their first title.
Below is a capsulized look at the field, which starts play Saturday.
Getting out of Alberta past skips like Kevin Martin isn't easy, but Kevin Koe has done it three times. He won at his first Brier appearance in 2010 and went on to win a world championship. He goes into this year's championship as one of the favourites with Pat Simmons, Carter Rycroft and Nolan Thiessen.
Skip John Morris leads another strong rink as he throws third stones for B.C., his third home after curling out of Ontario and Alberta. Former skip Jim Cotter still throws last and recruited the former world junior champ and Olympic gold medallist last year. After losing in the final of the Olympic trials, he now gets to play for the national title in his hometown with second Tyrel Griffith and lead Rick Sawatsky.
Veteran Jeff Stoughton is making his 11th trip to the Brier and is another favourite with last year's Brier runner-up crew of John Mead, Reid Caruthers and Mark Nichols. He won his first of his three men's championships in Kamloops in 1996. Look for a changeup with Nichols, third on Brad Gushue's 2006 Olympic gold-medal team, moving to second from lead to take advantage of his hitting skills.
James Grattan is making his 11th Brier appearance. His first was in 1997 when he finished a personal best third. But this time he's adding another former junior star in Josh Barry to brothers Jason and Darren Roach who joined him last year.
NEWFOUNDLAND & LABRADOR
Former Olympic gold medallist Brad Gushue is back for his 11th appearance. His rink has seen a lot of changes over the last few years but he returns in 2014 with last year's lineup of Brett Gallant, Adam Casey and Geoff Walker.
With Brad Jacobs out of the mix winning Olympic gold, 1996 Canadian junior champ Jeff Currie was able to move the Northern Ontario title from Sault Ste. Marie to Thunder Bay with his team of Mike McCarville, Colin Koivula and Jamie Childs.
Skip Jamie Koe is making his eighth appearance and this is the third time he'll be there along with brother Kevin skipping Alberta. Jamie's third is Kevin Whitehead, his second is Brad Chorostkowski and his lead is Robert Borden. Koe and Koe will square off Monday afternoon in Kamloops.
Jamie Murphy also represented Nova Scotia at the 2012 Tim Hortons Brier with his team of Jordan Pinder, Mike Bardsley and Donald McDermaid but they finished out of the playoffs at 4-7.
Greg Balsdon is a new face at the Canadian men's championship after he managed to cap veteran Glenn Howard's most recent string of consecutive Brier appearances at eight. Balsdon was on the 2013 Canadian mixed championship team and brings Mark Bice, Tyler Morgan, Jamie Farnell and Steve Bice to the Brier.
PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND
Eddie MacKenzie threw third stones for Mike Gaudet at the Canadian men's championship in 1994 but he's led his own team there three of the last four years, with his best finish a 2-9 last year. He brings back Anson Carmody and Sean Ledgerwood and has added Tyler MacKenzie.
After skipping to a world junior title in 2003, Steve Laycock made two appearances at the Brier as lead for Pat Simmons, then returned in 2011 as skip with Simmons at third. They missed the playoffs and this time he brings Kirk Muyres, Colton Flasch and Dallan Muryes.
Jean-Michel Menard is back for his eighth try after becoming just the second skip from Quebec to win the championship in 2006. He's back with last year's lineup of Martin Crete, Eric Sylvain and brother Philippe Menard.