Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Grouchy Russ blows off some steam

Howard defends antics, slams media questions about his tantrum

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CALGARY -- New Brunswick's Russ Howard is famous for his roar on the ice. Tuesday morning, the best he could do was holler at the media off of it.

Howard whimpered his way through a 7-2 drumming at the hands of his brother Glenn Howard of Ontario in what was one of the most highly anticipated games of this event -- the Battle of the Howard Household.

But not content, apparently, to lick his wounds and go quietly, Howard emerged from the ice and promptly lit into reporters when they questioned him about his behaviour at the end of the fifth end, which included breaking a broom and throwing a gripper at the scoreboard.

"You guys shouldn't talk about that (expletive deleted). That's your problem," Howard spat. "We're out here with the best athletes in the world and that's what you worry about? Nobody talks about Glenn curling 98 per cent. So why should I talk about it? That (Glenn) should be your story. I think you guys should be worrying about the betterment of the sport, and that doesn't help."

And then, moments after swearing at the media, Howard defended breaking a broom by saying it was the lesser of two evils.

"The last thing you want to do is swear on TV, so that was the best option," said Howard.

Howard had just missed an in-off attempt and yielded a steal of three to Ontario when he stepped on to a divider between two sheets, used a two-handed swing to smash his broom to the carpet and snapped the broom at the head.

Howard used the shaft to push the broken head to the end of the ice and then followed it down and threw his gripper at the scoreboard.



Advised that some of his fellow curlers felt Howard was just being passionate, Howard went a step further.

"I agree with that," he said of his colleagues' support, "but I don't think you drag it through the mud. It offends a lot of people."

Alberta third John Morris, who famously snapped a broom over his knee during the 2007 Brier in Hamilton, gave Howard a thumbs-up for his performance.

"I heard it, and I saw the aftermath," said Morris. "I'd give it about a nine out of 10."

Canadian Curling Association officials said that Howard will be fined for his conduct.

Manitoba's Jeff Stoughton, who was fined $1,000 at the 2006 Brier in Regina for slamming a broom, kicking some rocks and talking back to an official, later had his fine reduced to $250 when he was able to establish that the fine was handed down without due process.

Stoughton said he doesn't understand what all the fuss is about anyway. "If you're just out there banging a broom, I don't know what the big deal is," Stoughton said.

"You're only mad at yourself and they're going to fine you for it?"

Meanwhile, Howard felt decidedly better later in the day after eking out a 5-4 win over Manitoba.

The win improved New Brunswick to 4-3 heading into today and puts the elder Howard back into what is shaping up to be a three-way race for the final two playoff spots between his team, Manitoba and Newfoundland's Brad Gushue.

"We're 4-3, which isn't great, but we lost to (Alberta's Kevin) Martin and to my brother Glenn (of Ontario) and a lot of people have done that," Howard said of the two tournament leaders.

"So those are the bogey holes anyway," added Howard, who used to be a golf pro. "We've beaten the right teams to get into the playoffs. We've beaten Stoughton and (Nova Scotia's Mark) Dacey. We still might have to catch Gushue though."

Howard has made the playoffs or a playoff tiebreaker in every single one of his last 12 Brier appearances.

The only time he was shut out at the end of the Brier round robin was in 1980.


Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 11, 2009 C5

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