In Calgary’s bubble Brier, Alberta is likely to have the hammer.
That’s because the host province will probably be represented by two rinks — and perhaps a third — when the men’s national curling championship takes to the pebbled ice of WinSport’s Markin MacPhail Centre in March.
Expect both Calgary’s Kevin Koe and Edmonton’s Brendan Bottcher to be part of the field when the country’s top curlers become sequestered amid the coronavirus pandemic in the chase for Canadian glory.
“Between our team and Bottcher’s team, two very deserving teams,” said Koe, a four-time Brier winning skip whose crew curls out of The Glencoe.
Trouble is only one can be named the Alberta representative.
The other would have to be designated a wildcard team. But the chance of that became better last week when Curling Canada — because of provincial playdowns being scrubbed across the country — added three wildcard berths to the March 5-14 Brier field to up the number of squads to 18.
“There hasn’t been any indication,” said Koe, when asked who might get the nod as the Alberta rep.
“Obviously, I hope we are. We were just told it’ll be a Curling Alberta board decision.”
That verdict is likely to come down Monday, along with news of who will rep Alberta among provincial women for the Scotties — likely Edmonton’s Laura Walker, the 2020 Alberta Scotties queen — from Feb. 19-28, which is also ticketed for WinSport’s feature arena as part of the two-month-plus-long Calgary curling bubble.
For his part, 2020 Alberta champ Bottcher, of the Saville sports centre, said the highly decorated Koe should be the one to represent the province.
“I hope we’re both in Calgary, and I think we both deserve to be there,” said Koe, the 2019 Alberta king.
“Of course, we weren’t at provincials last year, because we won the Brier two years ago. But I don’t think we should get punished for winning the Brier — that’s my thought.”
With Curling Canada declaring it’ll usethe 2019-20 Canadian Team Ranking System standings to determine the three wildcards, both Koe and Bottcher should be locks for the men’s finale — one as Alberta rep, and the other as the Brier.
It’s possible, as well, that Curling Alberta could designate Jeremy Harty, curling also out of The Glencoe, as the provincial rep, giving the province a chance to field three teams at the Brier, with Bottcher and Koe capable of earning the wildcard berths — after finishing fourth and sixth on the CTRS leaderboard — set to be decided by the national body. The Nos. 1, 2 and 3 squads on that board are already headed to the Brier as either provincial reps — Brad Jacobs for Northern Ontario, and John Epping for Ontario — or the Team Canada crew — Newfoundland’s Brad Gushue, as the defending Canadian champ.
The Harty rink is deserving of such an honour, too, as the top team just ahead of Koe in Alberta’s points race.
So it could be a crowded house in Alberta’s favour at the Brier.
“Whether it’s as Team Alberta or some kind of wildcard, we just hope we’re there,” Koe added. “We won’t complain — that’s for sure.”