Road To The Olympic Games

Mike McEwen, Team Carruthers give tip of the cap for 15-game win streak

There was a time in Mike McEwen’s curling career when he never imagined wearing a baseball hat on the ice for every game. Then, he joined Team Carruthers — and everything changed. When McEwen wears a hat, the team is undefeated.

Curling rink credits headwear for preventing hairy situations on the ice

Since Mike McEwen started wearing a hat, his Manitoba rink has posted a 15-game winning streak. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press)

BRANDON, Man. — There was a time in Mike McEwen's curling career when he never imagined wearing a baseball hat on the ice for every game. Then, he joined Team Carruthers — and everything changed.

When McEwen wears a hat, the team is undefeated.

"Ssssshhhh," said McEwen when asked about it. "Yeah, there's a little streak."

The streak is now at 15 games. The Carruthers rink has not lost a game when McEwen and second Derek Samalgaski have both been wearing hats. 

McEwen doesn't want to talk a lot about it. Superstition is a thing, to be sure. 

But team lead Colin Hodgson is happy to chat about it. 

"Once you're on a heater you can't stop it. So he hasn't taken it off," Hodgson laughed. 

So how did this all start anyway? The team had just purchased a bunch of hats from Dynasty Curling — a show of support for Hodgson's curling apparel company. 

The team was down in Arizona playing in the Ed Werenich Golden Wrench Classic at the end of January and were sitting with a 1-2 record. That's when McEwen and Samalgaski decided to wear hats. 

They didn't lose another game at the bonspiel, finally winning it all with a 6-5 win over Kirk Muyres' Saskatchewan team in the championship game. 

Hats may have proved the difference when McEwen, right, edged Muyres, left, by a hair at the opening day of the Brier. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press)

Hats off

But for whatever reason, the team decided to take the hats off when they entered the Manitoba provincials for the first game. 

They fell 9-5 to the 16th seed Terry McNamee forcing them to take the long road to the championship — they'd have to win three consecutive B-side games just to qualify for the eight-team playoff round.

"I guess we thought we were good enough to win without the hats," Hodgson said. "We fixed it in a hurry."

The rally caps came out after the loss, and the team has won every game since, including their opener at the Brier against Saskatchewan in a wild affair which saw McEwen, donning a black hat with a yellow bison embroidered on the front on his head, draw for two and the win in the tenth end. 

WATCH | McEwen, Manitoba edge Saskatchewan at Brier

The Manitoba skip scored a pair in the 10th end to edge Saskatchewan's Kirk Muyres 7-6 in Draw 1 of the 2019 Brier. 0:55

Having fun and winning

McEwen says he's never had more fun on the ice. But at the same time, he admits that this season with a new team and a lot of adjustments is very difficult. 

They seem to be figuring it out at exactly the right time. 

"It's been a tough year but the personalities on the team make it easy," McEwen said. "Colin is a beauty. Reid is one of my very best friends. Derek is solid. These guys help me be the person I want to be on the ice."

Light-hearted. Not so serious. Easy going. These are the things McEwen says he has to remind himself of on the ice. 

"It's taking me a long time but I think it's where I've learned I operate my best. Little bit of lightness, kick in the step," he said. "I'm very good at focusing. I've always been a player that's a good amount of intensity but that other part of it, being light, is when I operate at a better level. For my teammates too."

Hodgson to wear hat? 

There's one player on the team not wearing a hat — the fashion man himself. Hodgson refuses to wear a hat, mostly because of his eye-catching hairdos. 

Slicked back with enough gel for everyone on the team, Hodgson's hair certainly doesn't lack flair. Coiffed perfectly on the top, and then shaved tight at the sides — with a lightning-bolt looking design etched into the remaining buzzed hair.

While the rest of his rink wears a cap, Colin Hodgon prefers to show off his hair design. (Devin Heroux/CBC Sports)
 

Suffice it to say Hodgson would never want to cover it with a hat. But there's more too it than that. 

"The problem is, if you watch us sweep, Derek's chest drills me in the head a lot. My beak would hit his pec," Hodgson said. "My hair hits it sometimes but I put enough gel in it that it stays solid."

Hodgson won't be wearing a hat. But rest assured, the rest of the team will be. 

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