Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Hooray for ignominious failure

Ineptitude of Yukon's Brier team saved skip a bundle of cash

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He was the darling of the 1999 Brier in Edmonton, despite the fact -- or, rather, entirely because of the fact -- he skipped his team to one of just a tiny handful of winless records in the long and glorious history of the Canadian Men's Curling Championship.

The fans adopted him as the week's lovable loser, the media loved his aw-shucks manner and Russ Howard's New Brunswick foursome almost got eliminated from the playoffs because of him on the last round-robin draw.

But in the end, almost everyone forgot about Whitehorse's Orest Peech and he's gone into the history books as just another losing skip from the north, distinguishable only because his 0-11 record was the epitome of failure.

So what is an 0-11 record in your one and only trip to the Brier worth after all the lights go dark? More than you'd think, it turns out.

"I still get recognized all the time. It still surprises me how often," Peech said Saturday during a break between games at the MCA Bonspiel.

"And there was one time it worked out very well for me."

It was the summer of 2003, as he recalls, and Peech found himself on a lonely stretch of road in Saskatchewan, not a curve for miles and the horizon in every direction.

Peech hit the gas. "I probably shouldn't say this, but I was doing 180 (km/h)."

Peech was going so fast, in fact, that he never spotted the Mountie who spotted him. And at those speeds, it took awhile for the two to meet.

"By the time he finally caught up to me, it was 50 kilometres later," Peech said. "I was filling up with gas and he pulled up right behind me and all I thought was, 'Uh-oh.' "

Peech thought right. "The cop said, 'This is not good, you're in serious trouble, this isn't just a ticket.' And the whole time he's looking at my name on my driver's license, then looking at my picture, then looking at me. And I'm thinking, 'He thinks I'm some serious criminal.'

"And finally he says, 'Where do I know you from?' And I said, 'Geez, I don't know. I guess there was this one time that I curled in the Brier...

"And he says, all excited, 'That's it! Exactly!' And he let me off."

Only in Saskatchewan.

Peech, 56, who moved to Winnipeg last year, would like to make a run next year in the Manitoba seniors.

In the meantime, he'll always have Edmonton.

"It was just an amazing week. We knew we wouldn't do well. But we had some close games," he said.

None closer than the last one, when Peech played Howard. The stakes were huge for both men -- Peech needed the win to avoid an 0-11 record, Howard needed the win to make the playoffs.

The game went into an extra end and Peech still regards it as his Brier final.

"We were the only sheet still playing and the crowd stayed. We were on TV. There was 14,000-15,000 people standing and cheering us on.

"That," says Peech, "was wild."

 

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 1, 2009 C1

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