Jim Cotter knows very well mediocrity won’t get it done this week at Prospera Place.
With 18 of the country’s best rinks taking to the ice in Kelowna for the second Grand Slam event of the curling season, only the finest and most consistent shotmaking will be enough to challenge for the top prize of $20,000.
Cotter and his Vernon/Kelowna foursome will be put to the test right from the get-go on Wednesday night at the Canadian Open of Curling when they take on 2010 Canadian champion Kevin Koe of Calgary in the opening draw.
“They’re all world-class teams, they’re the best there are, so you’re not going to have any easy games this week,” said Cotter. “You have to play well and go out and execute your shots and if you don’t, it’s going to be a pretty tough week.”
The line-up in Kelowna reads like a who’s-who of Canadian men’s curling with the likes of Koe, Glenn Howard, Jeff Stoughton, Brad Gushue and Mike McEwen all chasing $100,000 in total prize money.
Edmonton’s Kevin Martin has been forced to withdraw from the event due to hernia surgery. In his absence, third John Morris will skip the Martin foursome.
The Cotter team, featuring third Jason Gunnlaugson, second Tyrel Griffith and lead Rick Sawatsky, has enjoyed some success of its own this season, including a berth in the final of the first Grand Slam event of the season, the Rogers Masters, last month in Brantford.
Coincidentally, it was Koe who defeated Cotter 7-5 in the final as the Vernon/Kelowna crew picked up $11,000 for its effort.
As much as the cash is nice, Cotter said his team’s primary objective in the Slam events is to earn valuable points towards a berth in the Canadian Olympic pre-trials next November in Kitchener.
“The Olympics, that’s the ultimate goal so every time we play we want to get points and there’s a lot of this riding on this one,” Cotter said. “You play for points, you play to win, and the money is the bonus.”
In addition to Ty Griffith and Rick Sawatzky, both from Kelowna, there will be some other local flavour at this Grand Slam event. Kelowna’s Jeff Richard will be playing third for New Westminster’s Brent Pierce rink
“It’s a unique feeling to be playing at home,” said Richard, the 2010 B.C. men’s champion “It’s the first curling event ever in Kelowna’s big arena, so we are excited to compete with the top teams in the world.
“It’s been a highly successful season so far and this Grand Slam event will be a great tune-up before provincials in February.”
The Pierce rink will play its first game at 9 a.m. Thursday against Manitoba’s Rob Fowler.
Tickets for the Canadian Open are available at the Prospera Place box office, or online at www.selectyourtickets.com
For more information on the Grand Slam of Curling, visit worldcurl.com
John Morris (Kevin Martin)
Draw times @ Prospera Place:
Wednesday, Dec. 12—7 p.m.
Thursday, Dec. 13—9 a.m., 12:30 p.m., 4:30 p.m., 8 p.m.
Friday, Dec. 14—9 a.m., 12:30 p.m., 4:30 p.m., 8 p.m.
Saturday, Dec. 15—9 a.m., 12:30 p.m. (1/4 finals), 4:30 p.m. (semifinals)
Sunday, Dec. 16—10 a.m. (Final)