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The Eh Game

Tim Hortons Brier: Talent only one consideration when building a curling team

Jim Morris
Eh Game

It sounds rather simple really.

Find four curlers, but them on the ice together, and you should have a winning combination.

If only.

Ask curlers at this week's Tim Hortons Brier how to build a winning team and they list commitment, personality and temperament. Talent almost seems an after thought.

"You could have the best curler on the planet (and) if he's not a great guy, or somebody I'm going to get along with, I'm not going to play with him," said Ontario skip Glenn Howard, the defending champion who is appearing in a record 15th Brier.

"If I have a player on my team I don't get along with, I won't enjoy it. If I don't enjoy it, I won't play as well"

Sometimes geographic and economic circumstances impact how a team is formed. Alberta, Manitoba and Ontario grow curlers like dandelions in a lawn. The pickings were a little leaner for Brad Gushue of Newfoundland & Labrador.

"There's not a whole lot of players in Newfoundland," said Gushue. "It's hard to get experienced guys with families and careers to up and move to Newfoundland.

Some team have rocky starts.

Saskatchewan's Brock Virtue thought he had built a Ferrari when he put third Braeden Moskowy, 22, a 2001 Canadian junior champion, together with lead D. J. Kidby, 25, a 2005 world junior champion and second Chris Schille, 30, who played in two Briers with Gushue. Instead the team sputtered like a Toyota Echo on the ice.

"We didn't fully become a cohesive team until after the new year," said Virtue. "It took a lot of work and a lot of effort to make sure we finally are playing together well and gel as a unit."

The process was harder than Virtue imagined.

"It really should be that simple," Virtue agreed. "It should be (I) put the broom down, you throw it at the broom with the right weight and the right turn.

"In reality there's always slight little tendencies that everyone has and you have to work on it and understand them. It's not that simple."

Competitive curling can be a business. In any work environment there sometimes is friction and frayed nerves.

Men's rinks seem be able to cope with internal disputes better than women's teams.

"Women need to get along," said Heather Nedohin, who skipped Team Canada at the recent Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Kingston, Ont.

"We can be catty and bitchy. It only goes so long before something breaks. Guys can swear at each other, punch each other in the locker room, and have a beer in five minutes. Women, we hold grudges."

Schille agreed men can be thicker skinned.

"I know for a fact lots of things we say to each other out there would break up a women's team in less than two ends," he said. "You don't necessarily have to sugar coat it as much with men's teams. We can take a little more."

Talent is important, but sometimes the right mix is more important than the quantity.

"If you take the four best players in this event it probably wouldn't make a very good team," said Jamie Korab, the alternative on Gushue's team and a member the Olympic champion rink.

"You have to have guys that want to play the position they are in, that are going to support the other guys. It's a challenge to get that."

Randy Ferbey's three-time world championship rink of David Nedohin, Scott Pfeifer and Marcel Rocque are a perfect example of harmony and function.

"I believe that team, more than any team, the sum of their parts was better than each individual piece," said Korab.

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