The Brier is a family affair for the Koes
Brothers battle at Canadian curling championship while clan cheers them on
ST. JOHN'S — A family that curls together, stays together.
At least that's the story one clan from the Northwest Territories is sticking with.
Fred Koe is the patriarch of a family whose three children have found their way to being skips of their own rinks.
"And now we have a granddaughter coming up and she skips too," says Koe.
Fred grew up in the remote northern community of Aklavik, N.W.T. That's where his love of curling began. The sport has been a part of his life since he can remember.
"We played on natural ice," he says. "We used to melt snow on a wood stove to pebble the ice with my dad."
A skip himself, Fred has competed in the national senior and mixed championships. He's also gone through every curling coaching certification program in the country.
"He's the one that got us into curling," says his son Jamie Koe, who is skipping the Northwest Territories rink at the Brier for the 11th time. "He's waving his flags loud and proud out there, which is always great to see. He never misses a big curling event of ours. We wouldn't be here without him."
Under one roof
Fred's oldest son, Kevin Koe, has won three Brier championships and is wearing the red and white for Team Canada at this year's tournament as defending champion.
"It's always fun," Kevin says. "When I get here I always hope my brother is here too. It's good for the family."
It's not just the boys that have made their mark in curling. Jamie's twin sister, Kerry, has skipped the Northwest Territories at the Scotties 14 times and is coming off her best performance ever at the tournament a couple of weeks ago in St. Catharines, Ont.
They're all under the same roof this week at the Mile One Centre.
"It's pretty neat that we all love to do this and are accomplished curlers," says Kerry. "I guess I maybe take it for granted a bit."
Kerry traveled 16 hours from Yellowknife, as did her mom and dad, to be in St. John's this week to watch every game.
She gives a lot of credit to Fred for making this curling magic happen.
"He gets pretty emotional about it," Kerry said. "He's so proud of us."
Battle of the brothers
Wednesday night is going to be a special one for a number of reasons for the entire family.
It's a battle of the Koe brothers as the Northwest Territories takes on Team Canada.
"I don't like playing him in particular because one of us has to lose," says Kevin. "I want to see him do well and us do well."
A sentiment shared by Jamie.
"It's enjoyable to be out there with him, but at the end of the day someone has to lose," he says. "It's a tough game."
It's equally agonizing for mom, dad and sister in the crowd.
"My mom loves watching us but it's pretty stressful for her," says Kerry. "Dad loves the spotlight. He always has his flags."
Fred will be waving both flags on Wednesday night, switching between the two end after end.
"If it's a good game, that's all I ask for," he says. "That they both have a good game. Last year they went down to the last rock and Kevin pulled it off."
And as if the night wasn't special enough, it's Fred's birthday.
"It's unreal. You can't ask for anything more than that," Jamie says.
Who's No. 1?
Ask each of them who the best curler is in the family and it's a bit of a split decision.
"It's hard to say Kevin isn't," laughs Fred. "We always say Kerry is."
Kerry takes the more diplomatic approach.
"Kevin is awesome. So is Jamie. But they're both so different," she says.
"Jamie's pretty funny. People love him. He'll go to the Patch and he'll be the most popular guy there. Kevin is pretty reserved, as we know, doesn't show a lot of emotion. You don't want to mess with Kevin when he's in the zone."
Jamie doesn't even blink when asked who's the best.
While they may never agree on who the best curler is in the family, they can agree that curling has brought them all just a little bit closer.
"It keeps the family together," says Fred.