SASKATOON — The sport could not be any simpler — throw the rock, sweep the rock, yell at the rock. Repeat.
So it’s probably a bit of a stretch to suggest something as grandiose as destiny might be in play at the 2012 Tim Hortons Brier this weekend as Brandon’s Rob Fowler attempts to author what would truly be one of the great Brier Cinderella stories of all time.
I’ll just throw some interesting facts out for your consideration and you can decide for yourself whether it’s destiny or happenstance at play here this weekend as Fowler attempts to win Manitoba a record 28th Canadian men’s curling championship.
Let’s begin with the 25th anniversary thing. Exactly 25 years ago this week, another rookie Brier skip named Fowler led another unlikely Brandon foursome at the Canadian men’s curling championship.
Brian Fowler went 6-5 at the 1987 Brier and missed the playoffs that week. Twenty-five years later, he is back at the Brier this week coaching his son Rob and hoping to finally bury a Brier skeleton he admits haunts him to this very day.
What if a much younger Brian Fowler hadn’t been so nervous on opening weekend back in 1987? What if, instead of losing to P.E.I. and New Brunswick that opening day, he had won? What if, instead of emerging from the first two days of action at 1-3, he had been 3-1?
"I’ve often wondered how things might have worked out differently for us that week," Brian Fowler said the other day.
He need wonder no more, because exactly 25 years later, son Rob also played P.E.I. and New Brunswick on opening weekend at the Brier. This time, the younger Fowler won those games over lightweight Maritimes opponents to emerge from his first four games not at 1-3, as his father did, but at 3-1 — as his father wished he had.
Destiny? Or fluke?
Then there’s the Ontario thing. The 1987 Brier featured an Ontario team with a third who was little-known to Canadians at the start of the week, but who would have his coming-out party by week’s end.
Glenn Howard, along with his brother and skip, Russ, finished first in the round-robin in 1987, then won the Brier final that year to capture their first Canadian men’s curling championship.
Twenty-five years later, Glenn Howard is still playing for Ontario, he still finished first in the round-robin and the only things that have really changed this week are Howard is now the Ontario skip instead of the third, and instead of having his coming-out party this week, he put the exclamation mark on a hall-of-fame career by setting the all-time record for career games at the Brier.
Destiny? Or fluke?
Then there’s this:
Howard beat Brian Fowler in the 1987 Brier round-robin by a margin of four points, 9-5. Twenty-five years later, he beat Rob Fowler in the round robin by four points, 8-4. Except this time, the big difference is Fowler — who, like Howard in 1987, was little-known to Canadians coming into the week — did make the playoffs. And after finishing second to Howard in the round-robin to advance to face him again in the playoffs in Friday night’s Page playoff 1 vs. 2 game, Fowler has established a name for himself at week’s end, too.
Destiny? Or fluke?
And finally, there’s this: The prize for winning the Brier this week is the right to represent Canada at the World Men’s Curling Championship in Basel, Switzerland, March 31 to April 8. Team Canada will be escorted to Switzerland by a coach appointed by the Canadian Curling Association. This year, the national coach is former world champion Rick Lang of Thunder Bay, Ont.
That would be the same Rick Lang who represented northern Ontario at the Canadian juniors back in 1971. Care to guess who the Manitoba representative was that year? A very young Brian Fowler, of course.
Care to guess where Lang later won his first Brier in 1982? Brandon, of course.
So yeah, maybe it’s all just a fluke. Or maybe, just maybe, Rob Fowler has forces working for him this weekend much larger than his team’s ability to throw, sweep and yell.