Kevin Koe wants the big prize
3-time Brier, 2-time world champ is one win away from representing Canada at the Olympics
OTTAWA — One of the greatest shot makers in the history of curling is one win away from representing Canada at the Olympics for the first time.
Just don't expect Kevin Koe to get too worked up about it.
Watching the skip, you wouldn't know whether he's playing in the first game of a bonspiel or a championship final. He's unflappable, usually expressionless and rarely shows his emotions on the ice.
Even after Koe's team (7-0) clinched first place in the round robin at the Canadian Olympic curling trials on Thursday, earning a direct berth in the final, he barely cracked a smile.
He was asked, somewhat jokingly, if he would be excited if he won it all on Sunday night.
"Oh yeah," he said, finally smiling. "I would think so. Hopefully you all find out."
Going into this week, many of the headlines around the men's tournament were dominated by the likes of reigning world champion Brad Gushue and reigning Olympic champ Brad Jacobs.
Jacobs has been eliminated from playoff contention, while Gushue was in second place at 5-2 with one game remaining.
But Koe and his teammates — third Marc Kennedy, second Brent Laing and lead Ben Hebert — have been brilliant all week. And now everyone is talking about a team that doesn't mind flying under the radar.
Playing great and catching breaks
They've also caught a number of breaks at key times this week, including Jacobs sailing a last-rock attempt for the win through the house in an extra end.
In a lot of ways, Koe and company were escape artists in the early part of the bonspiel. But now they're leaving nothing to chance and have raised their game to a new level heading into the final.
"There's no magic," Koe said at the beginning of the week. "I've been close [at the trials] before, as has Brent. And Marc and Ben have won it. You have to play good and get some breaks."
They also have a ton of experience to lean on. There are 36 Brier appearances between the foursome, and Kennedy and Hebert have won Olympic gold. They captured it with Kevin Martin and John Morris in Vancouver in 2010.
"I really want to get my two other teammates there because they have been two of the best curlers in Canada for a really long time," Hebert said.
Koe, 42, comes from a family of curlers. He essentially grew up in a curling rink in Yellowknife, with his brother Jamie Koe and sister Kerry Koe (now Galusha) throwing rocks by his side. Jamie has played in 10 Briers. He's in Ottawa this week watching every game. Kerry has played in 14 Scotties.
Kevin, who has spent most of his career skipping out of Alberta and is currently based in Calgary, is making his fourth attempt at earning the right to wear the maple leaf at the Olympics. He's only made it to the playoffs at the trials once, when he was playing third for Morris in 2005.
But despite his lack of success at the trials, Koe has been consistently at or near the top of the curling world for years.
"The last couple years at the big events we've been at there at the end, and obviously this is the biggest," he said.
Koe's team is currently ranked fifth in the world. They've played in the past two Brier finals, both against Gushue. They won the title in 2016 in Ottawa and lost the final this past March in St. John's.
Koe has won the Brier Tankard three different times and has also captured two world championships. Now all that's left is getting to the Olympics.
"Whenever I step away from this game I'll have had a pretty good career," he said. "A few Briers, couple worlds, but I'm not quitting anytime soon."
They have one more game left in the round robin, against Gushue on Friday night. While there's nothing at stake for his team, Koe wants to make the point that they're ready for their moment.
"It's big for us to play a good game," Koe said. "Obviously, Brad looks like he's playing well and getting better."
Koe also says he wants to make sure his team stays sharp because, after the Gushue game, they won't be on the ice again until Sunday night's final. But, in typical Koe fashion, he doesn't seem concerned about the two-day break.
"Have we played our best game yet? Hopefully not. Hopefully our best game is Sunday," Koe said. "And if we can win on Sunday and go get a medal at the Olympics, that would be pretty special."