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This article was published 13/3/2009 (4273 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

CALGARY -- Ontariooooooo!

Jack Cox is still in good voice as he howls out the name of his native province, waves the provincial flag and, suddenly, charges across one end of the Pengrowth Saddledome.

Ontario supporter Jack Cox runs through the crowd with his Ontario flag.

NATHAN DENETTE / THE CANADIAN PRESS

Ontario supporter Jack Cox runs through the crowd with his Ontario flag.

Failing that, the man simply known as the Ontario Flag Guy turns and charges up an aisle of steps, still howling Ontarioooo and holding his flag at the ready.

The crowd roars its approval. Time and again.

"I've tripped, but never been tripped," smiles Cox. "I've never run into anybody, maybe with the flag but never the pole. When they see me coming, they get out of the way."

Cox will celebrate his 78th birthday in seven days and he hasn't slowed down too much since he first donned his bright green sweater, popped on his pin-laden tam-o'-shanter and agreed to run a flag at the 1993 Brier.

"It was in Ottawa and two or three provinces were running flags," explains the retired civil engineer from Haliburton, Ont. "We were riding on a bus with a young lady from New Brunswick and she was carrying a flag but she wouldn't run it.

"On the Tuesday night, New Brunswick was playing B.C. and they had a flag-runner called The B.C. Creature so the young lady said, 'Jack, we're playing B.C. tonight so you have to cheer our team' and gave me the flag. Every time New Brunswick scored on an end, I ran the whole way around the arena with it.

"The next morning someone had an Ontario flag for me."

Cox would prefer to do the entire loop here, too, but "all those box seats are in the way now so there's not much room to run... and going up those steps is hard."

Which is maybe why he's the only one, outside of a brief appearance by a B.C. woman, continuing the flag-running tradition here after he edges down from his upper-level seats to the lower bowl around the second end of the games.

"My voice doesn't carry throughout the whole arena when I'm sitting up there," he explains of a voice that may, or may not, last until the final rock is thrown this week. "If I keep 'er down at a lower level, it's OK but if I go up a level, it breaks... it's wearing out."

This 80th gathering of the nation's finest male curlers is the 14th trip to a Brier for Cox, the same number as former Ontario, Brier and world champion Russ Howard. In fact, the first time Cox went to a Brier was in 1987 in Edmonton when Howard racked up a 10-2 record for the victory and went on to win the world title in Switzerland.

"That really got me interested," said Cox, who still curls three club games a week when he's not hooting at a Brier. "They brought me a pin back from the worlds... it's on my hat somewhere."

If the Ontario players didn't know Cox before, it's not long before they get to know him. The Howards, of course, have known him for more than 20 years.

"I've known him forever," the elder Howard admitted. "I don't know how old he is but I know he's a lot older than I am and it's pretty impressive what he does and I think it helps Ontario, I really do. That's really cool, it's part of the Brier, neat to have someone that enthusiastic."

While Russ has moved to New Brunswick, there is no split in his allegiance. Cox only has eyes for his home province.

"I'm still Ontario," he smiles.

 

-- Canwest News Service