It’s arguably one of the best and deepest fields in Brier history.
And Kelowna’s Tyrel Griffith couldn’t be more excited to see his rink right in the thick of the battle.
Griffith will be playing second for Jim Cotter’s Vernon/Kelowna foursome when the Canadian men’s curling championship begins on Saturday at TD Place in Ottawa.
In addition to Mike McEwen and his world No. 1-ranked team from Winnipeg, the 12-rink field includes a handful of former world, Canadian or Olympic champions.
Namely, Kevin Koe, Brad Jacobs, Pat Simmons, Glenn Howard, Brad Gushue and Jean-Michel Menard. Add in the always competitive Steve Laycock from Saskatchewan and there will be no free passes at this year’s event.
Still, Cotter’s B.C. champs have played each and every rink at this year’s Brier multiple times and has beaten the majority of them at one time or another.
In addition to making for a great atmosphere for spectators, Griffith expects the field to bring out the best in his teammates.
“I think it sets up well for our team and our style of play,” said Griffith. “We’re not overly flashy or aggressive, we’re more of a patient team, just keep it close and try and grind out the W.”
In addition, the B.C. team heads to Ottawa with a solid body of work behind them—a 37-9 overall record this season, including a 6-0 effort last month at the B.C. men’s finals in Nelson.
“I love the way our team is playing right now and our mindset,” he added. “I think our gritty style works out well for this field.”
The Cotter rink carries plenty of experience into the 2016 Brier. Cotter and lead Rick Sawatsky from Kelowna will both be playing in their sixth national finals, Griffith is making his fourth appearance, while Ryan Kuhn from Vernon will be Cotter’s third for the second straight year.
Last March in Calgary, in Kuhn’s first Brier, the Okanagan foursome posted a 5-6 record to miss the playoffs.
Now in their second full season as a unit, Cotter said his team should be better prepared to take on the challenge against Canada’s top curlers.
“It takes some time when you change players, but in our second year we know each other a lot better and have really come together as a team,” said skip Jim Cotter. “Ryan has done an excellent job, he’s huge asset to us and has worked really hard. I think we feel like we’ve come a long way this season and will be ready to go.”
As for playing in his fourth Brier in just a five-year span, Griffith said the novelty has yet to wear off.
“It’s the best event, by far, I’ve ever played in, so no, it never gets old. It’s just an amazing week, you get to represent your province and you kind of feel like a rock star. Every year, you look forward to it and consider yourself lucky to be part of it.”
Team B.C. will open the Brier Saturday night against Prince Edward Island’s Adam Casey.
On Sunday, the Cotter team will face Saskatchewan’s Steven Laycock and Brad Jacobs from Northern Ontario.
The Brier final is set for Sunday, March 13 at 4:30 p.m. Pacific time.