Howard rink on top rung at Brier
`Russ has always been in limelight’
Mar. 15, 2006. 01:00 AM
REGINA—Glenn Howard has always curled in the shadow of his big brother Russ, but he doesn’t mind standing in the shade.
Even now that the younger Howard, 43, has made it to the national men’s curling championship as a skip, he’s already been upstaged by 50-year-old Russ Howard’s gold-medal performance at the Olympics with Brad Gushue. And the attention will turn away from the front-running Howard rink here at the Brier when the Gushue team arrives tomorrow night in advance of Friday’s day-long adulation and autograph sessions.
Glenn Howard doesn’t need reminding he’s relegated forever to the role of second banana (the preferred snack of curlers here during the fifth-end break). That came yesterday from a fan sitting at ice level.
“Russ would have got that out of there,” the critic called wryly as Howard furiously swept an opposition stone that halted at the back edge of the rings during a 7-4 win over Newfoundland’s Ken Peddigrew.
“I said to them: `Ten years ago I’d get that rock out, but I’m older now and I can’t drag it,’” Howard recalled. “The crowd is wonderful. They’re always kibitzing with me. I like that. It’s a lot of fun.”
Howard remained upbeat even after his first loss, 7-4 to Alberta’s Kevin Martin. Howard and Martin were tied for first place at 6-1 followed by Jean-Michel Menard at 5-2. Manitoba’s Jeff Stoughton fell to 4-3 after losing to Menard and Jamie Koe of Northwest Territories/Yukon.
“Kevin was on fire. I thought it was a fun game. I enjoyed it,” said Howard, who was never able to mount an attack against Martin. The two-time Brier champion countered every opportunity Howard had to score more than a single point in any end after the Albertans snatched three in the second.
“Our guys were solid. They played well and we lost to one of the best teams in the world. No harm,” Howard added.
Martin was relieved by the way his team of third Don Walchuk, second Carter Rycroft and lead Don Bartlett took command for their first well-played game.
“That was better,” Martin said. “That was our first good game as a team. … That was a different team to show up on the ice today and it was good to see.”
Howard described his style of game — like his brother’s — as one of finesse compared to some former “bang-bang” teams that specialized in running rocks out of play — like Martin at one time — that have adapted to a game that requires both sets of skills.
That happened because of Russ Howard. Without the innovations he brought to the sport, there might never have been the chance for him to win the Olympic gold medal.
International rules based on a game played by the Howard brothers while practising in the mid-1980s created a new and exciting version of curling compared with the predictably dull and low-scoring takeout games of the past.
It was that new style of play that caught the attention of the International Olympic Committee and brought curling to the Winter Games.
Russ Howard went full circle from practising with his brother in small-town Midland to standing on the Olympic podium. And that’s why Glenn Howard has never felt threatened by his brother’s success.
“I figure that’s just the way it is,” he said. “Russ has always been in the limelight. There’s nobody more deserving. He’s won 13 purple hearts (provincial titles); he’s got two Canadian and two world championships. It was his idea for the rule (changes), so he virtually revolutionized the game.
“The only question I find bizarre now is, `Do I face more pressure because he’s won the gold?’ Absolutely not. I’m here to try and win this for Ontario and it has nothing to do with Russ winning.”
Copyright Toronto Star Newspapers Limited. All rights reserved.