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A low down view of a curling stone sitting on the four foot circle in a curling house

The Iceman Cometh: A look at the Brier

In Canada, when February slides into March that can only mean one thing: The (now called) Montana’s Brier. The Brier has been held annually, with exceptions for war time, since 1927 and for much of that time was made up of the men’s provincial champion curling teams, facing off to be crowned the Canadian Champion.

While the latter is still true, there are currently more than just the provincial (and territorial) champions. The defending champions return as Team Canada, and there are several wild card teams as well. This is because of the depth of curling talent in the country.

Also, while teams still represent a province or territory, residency requirements are looser than they once were and it’s common to see players from a totally different province on another’s champion.

Before curling was an Olympic event, most of the rest of the world, excluding Nordic countries, and of course the birthplace, Scotland, pretty much ignored it. The allure of Olympic medals has changed all that. In those days, winning the Brier pretty much guaranteed a medal at the worlds, with a better than average chance of gold. Today, the top-ranked men’s team in the world is from Italy, with young phenom Bruce Mouat of Scotland, and, arguably, the GOAT, Niklas Edin of Sweden always strong contenders. In fact, currently three of the top 10 men’s teams are from Scotland, and four are from Canada. Add on strong teams from Switzerland, Japan, China, and so on and medals are no longer guaranteed.

Curling has long been known as a social sport, and to some degree at the club and recreational level it still is. But the inclusion of the sport in the Olympics has led to great leaps in fitness, coaching, and all-round athleticism. From a talent perspective though, that remains unchanged, and the skill with which these guys can throw a stone, 140 feet down a pebbled ice surface to within millimeters of their intended target, always has been, and continues to be, amazing.

In those pre-Olympic days you were likely to have cigarette ashes dangling, beer bottles clinking, and the loud flop-flopping of a corn broom to sweep the ice – likely adding as much debris as they cleaned. Amazing how they were able to make the shots they did.

And did they! To this day, barring the Niklas Edin (wizard if there ever was one) spinorama shot from last season, Al “The Iceman” Hackner’s double takeout from the 1985 Brier final can still make you buzz!

Hackner, playing the legendary Pat Ryan team, was down two in the tenth and, typically, final end. Pat Ryan was sitting with two stones in the house, at an apparently impossible angle. Hackner, throwing the last stone, made a desperate attempt, which barely skimmed the first Ryan stone, proceeded to eliminate it and the second Ryan stone, and somehow, amazingly stopped in the rings to tie the game.

Hackner went on to win the championship when Ryan was heavy with his last stone in the extra end.

Simply known as “The Shot”, for curling fans it was one of those, “where were you when” moments, and to this day can bring back thrilling memories for fans and the current crop of elite curlers as well.

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Peter, with over 20 years navigating the dynamic world of sports websites, brings not only experience but an insatiable passion for the games. An avid NHL and curling fan, his heart beats for all things sports, from the roar of the crowd to the quiet intensity of strategic plays. At Attiq, Peter strives to curate an attic of hidden stories, insightful analysis, and forgotten legends, inviting you to explore the depths of the sports world beyond the headlines. Click here for Peter's posts.