Griffith excited for first Brier experience
After playing in his first Canadian junior men's championship with Ryan Kuhn in 2002, it all became pretty clear to Tyrel Griffith.
Curling was a sport well worth putting his passion, energy and time into.
"That opened my eyes to how much I loved the game, and from then on I knew I was going to work hard at it, and give it my best shot," said Griffith, 26. "I didn't know when I'd get to a Brier, but right about then I think it became a big dream of mine. So, to do it at my age and see it come true is pretty surreal."
A decade later, all the work is about to pay off as Griffith makes his first appearance at the Tim Hortons Brier early next month in Saskatoon as a member of Jim Cotter's Vernon/Kelowna foursome.
Cotter is coming off his second straight B.C. men's title earlier this month in Parksville.
With Kevin Folk making the move up to the vacant third position this season, the Cotter team was in the market for a new second.
Griffith, a three-time B.C. junior champ, turned out to be an ideal fit for the older, more experienced crew.
"It's no secret he's a great kid, but he's a great athlete, too," said Cotter. "He fits in personality-wise with all of us. He's young and full of energy and really brings a new excitement to our team. He played extremely well at provincials and has been a really great addition for us."
Even though he's played in three Canadian junior championships, Griffith knows the hype, stakes and atmosphere at a Brier will be a whole new ball game.
Still, Griffith intends on doing his utmost to keep his nerves and emotions in check.
"I've been lucky enough to have some great coaching throughout my life, so I'll lean on that and try and stay in the moment," he said. "I've already played it out in my mind, what to do to relax, to take those few extra seconds to prepare for each shot. Come out nice and smooth, take my time…that'll be the key for me. I know I'll be pretty jacked up for my first Brier, so I'll need to control that.
"You can thrive on it or let it freak you out, so I'm going to trust my instincts and enjoy it. "
Growing up in a fertile curling environment in Kelowna, Griffith had a number of mentors and idols to look up to, including former world champs Rick Folk, Pat Ryan and Bert Gretzinger.
Folk, a Saskatoon native and curling legend in Saskatchewan, will be making the trip as the coach of the Cotter team.
Griffith couldn't be happier to have the 1980 and 1994 world champ at his rink's side during his first Brier experience.
"It's great to have him with us, he's been there and done that so many times, he really has a calming effect on our team," Griffith said of Folk. "He has that amazing knack to say the right thing at the right time, and he really helps us go the most out of ourselves. For me, he's been great in keeping me calm and preparing for what's to come."
Another calming notion for Griffith is that fact that he'll have plenty of support from family members throughout the Brier.
Many of his relatives still reside in Saskatchewan, including two aunts and two uncles in Saskatoon, and no fewer than 10 of them should be in the stands on opening weekend.
His father John, who was born in Saskatchewan, and mom, Nancy, will also be making the trip from Kelowna to Saskatoon.
"I'm really excited that so many of my family will be there, it's something you want to share with the people you love the most," said Griffith, who will have to take a break from his classes at Okanagan College to attend the national championship.
"I think all of them are almost more excited than me."
As for his own and his rink's expectations at the Brier, Griffith believes anything his possible.
"I'm really fortunate that Jim and the guys have brought me on board and I just want to make the most of it. It's going to be an amazing experience, but we're not going to settle for just being there. We'll go there and try to do everything we can to win it."
The B.C. champs, who also include lead Rick Sawatsky and alternate Kan Maskiewich, will open play Saturday, March 3 against Alberta's Kevin Koe.