Kevin Martin inducted in World Curling Hall of Fame
Albertan curler is an Olympic, world and 4-time Canadian champion
LAS VEGAS — In 1984, Kevin Martin walked into the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology office of Jules Owchar and asked him to be his curling coach.
Martin had a full head of blond hair — a lot has changed since then.
On Tuesday afternoon inside the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas, the 51-year-old Martin was inducted into the World Curling Hall of Fame.
He's an Olympic champion, world champion and four-time Canadian champion. He holds too many records to list. Martin has won everything a curler could possibly win in the sport.
"This is a tremendous honour," Martin said. "When you're a kid and you start playing a sport you don't think about days like today."
Owchar, who now coaches Brad Gushue's team, was inside the arena to watch his former student be inducted. Martin credits a lot of his success to one of the greatest coaches ever.
"I wasn't sure if I was going to curl or play hockey," Martin said. "My marks weren't that great. I decided to go to NAIT because of Jules. He was known to be the best curling coach in Canada at that time."
It was the beginning of something magical. For three decades the two were side-by-side in so many curling battles. They won more games than most. They lost their fair share of games, too.
Owchar says he'll never forget the first time he saw Martin throw a rock.
"He was on sheet one and we were on sheet five," Owchar said. "We lost out and he went on and I didn't see him again for a while. Then he showed up in my office."
The coach says Martin was little on "the wild side" back then.
"He liked to party. I remember his dad saying, 'I'm glad you got him, see if you can do something with him.'"
They practised tirelessly. From day one until the end, Martin and Owchar spent hours on the ice perfecting every aspect of the game.
"It was mostly technical. He was so technical," Martin said. "That's why his teams always win. They throw better than anyone else and make more shots."
Big wins and big losses
Nicknamed "The Old Bear", Martin established himself as an elite curler in Alberta almost from the beginning. In 1991, he burst onto the curling scene nationally by winning the first Brier he'd ever competed in.
From there, Martin would go on to play in 11 other Briers, representing the highly competitive curling province of Alberta. He also represented Canada at three Olympics. He holds the Olympic record for most curling wins with 20.
He credits the high level of curling in Canada for a lot of his success.
"All those years of battling when there wasn't a tour is what stands out. You had to beat so many greats," he said.
Martin captured four Brier titles but always seem to struggle when he represented Canada at the world championship. In his four appearances, he was only able to win one world title. He lost in the final twice and the bronze-medal game once.
"Jules and I always talked about those [losses.] We had some losses in finals. I cherish those, too. You learn a lot from losing," Martin said.
Growing the game
Martin was instrumental in the battle to get the Grand Slam Tour going in the late 1990s.
"I think bringing the players together in the late '90s was important," he said. "The Grand Slam started. It brought the average age of the players way down."
That's what Martin was reflecting on during his induction Tuesday. He wanted to talk about what he had done on the ice, but is perhaps a little more proud of what he was able to provide in the development of the sport.
"It's really great [to be inducted] as a curler, but I look at it bigger than that," he said. "It's not a long list. Some are players but a lot are builders, people who have done a lot to propel the sport."
As Martin finished up a series of interviews after his induction ceremony, his former coach Owchar watched on like a proud father — he even missed the first end of his current team's game at the world curling championship to bask in the moment.
Both of them with a little less hair, but with more than 30 years of curling memories.
"It was a miracle ride," Owchar said. "I knew Kevin was good. He just kept getting better. He was special."