CALGARY -- It's a shame, to be sure. But there was no shame in it. The bottom line Sunday night on Sheet C at the Saddledome was that Manitoba's Jeff Stoughton simply lost to a superior team.
Alberta's Kevin Martin was a dominant team last year when it went undefeated to win the Brier in Winnipeg. And it was dominant this year in doing the exact same thing, defeating Stoughton 10-4 in the final of the 2009 Tim Hortons Brier to once again run the Brier table at 13-0 and cap off a remarkable week that left no doubt remaining as to who is the best men's curling team in the country.
Stoughton conceded as much Sunday night, but in a backhanded way, suggesting Martin's team had an advantage as professional curlers.
"Our goal is to get to the Olympic Trials and see if we can win there and this was a great experience for us to get to a final. And we know it's probably going to take a full-time curler to beat these guys. I don't know if we have the time to do that, but we'll certainly give it a try.
"I can only play curling a half-hour a day. (Those are) guys who can play more. And once 2010 hits, there will be three or four teams that completely separate because they'll basically be full-time curlers."
Stoughton's father Jack suffered a minor heart attack prior to the game, the Canadian Curling Association reported late Sunday night. The team was unaware during the match of Jack Stoughton's condition and the the CCA reported he was alert and watched the game from the hospital.
Martin curled 97 per cent in the final -- a Brier final record -- and was named the Hec Gervais playoff MVP. Stoughton was battling a cold before the game and was outplayed early.
But the Manitoba skip saved his best for last, letting loose his patented 'Spinarama' with his first rock of the ninth end, bringing the crowd to its feet and then sliding down the sheet to Martin to offer a congratulatory handshake.
"I'm proud of the guys," said Manitoba lead Steve Gould. "We hung in there, we played it out. We're a good team and we'll be back."
"Man, the guys curled well," said Martin. "It was a real fun game, I just loved it."
It wasn't all bad news for Stoughton, however. For one thing, he can take consolation in a remarkable run that saw him win five must-win games in a row to advance to the final.
And for another, he won a pile of loot for finishing second. His team will receive about $57,000 in appearance, cresting and athlete assistance money, plus another $43,000 tax-free worth of Sport Canada funding for the next year for finishing runner-up to Martin, the defending champion.
With his second-place showing at the Brier, Stoughton now also picks up big points towards the chase for a Trials berth and is now very close to securing one of the four automatic berths.
Alberta has now won six Canadian men's curling championships since Manitoba won their last one -- exactly a decade ago when Stoughton won in Edmonton.
With Sunday night's victory, Alberta now has 24 Brier titles -- just two off Manitoba's record of 26.
Martin will now represent Canada at the World Mens Curling Championship in Moncton, N.B., Apr. 4-12.
The 2009 Brier will go down as the third best attended of all time with a total crowd of 246,126, behind Edmonton (2005) and Saskatoon (2000).
Alberta (Martin) 030 302 02x x -- 10
Manitoba (Stoughton) 001 020 10x x -- 4