He is, to use a hockey point of reference, the Chicago Blackhawks of curling. The man just keeps on winning and winning as if it’s the easiest thing to do. It must be for Glenn Howard.
Watch him curl enough and you can break his game down to three components: He slides rocks, yells a bit, then graciously accepts the other team’s congratulations on a nice win. It’s been the Howard way since he played third for his older brother, Russ, before becoming the skip of an Ontario rink that has won eight consecutive provincial titles.
And with multiple Ontario Tankards has come even more success: Eight consecutive trips to the Canadian curling championship and a record career count of 15 Brier visits; four national titles (two with Russ, two on his own); four world titles (two with Russ, two on his own); and a showing at the 2013 Tim Hortons Brier that looks destined for a berth in Sunday’s championship final.
Late Wednesday, Howard and teammates Wayne Middaugh, Brent Laing and Craig Savill ran their record to 7-0 after humbling New Brunswick 7-3 in seven ends. That set up Draw 13 at Rexall Place and a Thursday meeting with Brad Gushue of Newfoundland and Labrador. Gushue suffered his first loss Wednesday night and was keen to see how his young side would rebound against Howard & Co.
To put it simply, the Blackhawks won again. Howard took out Newfoundland with the last rock in the 10th end for a 6-5 final that improved Ontario’s record to 8-0. The victory was Howard’s 18th in a row dating back to last year’s Brier, which he won before winning the world title in Switzerland.
If he’s going to lose any time soon it may take something spectacular to do it.
Gushue gave it his best in the ninth end, with a double raised takeout that lay two. Howard then responded with a nifty shot of his own, holding Newfoundland to a single point. With the hammer in the final end, Howard drew for the win in a game both skips gushed over.
“It was fun one to play. I think a fun one to watch,” Howard said. “We won by a couple of inches. Wow. What a game.”
“It seemed like every good shot we got they’d just tap it with another good one. The ninth end was a perfect example,” Gushue added. “I make a honey of a shot on my first and he comes down and puts it on that one. It was a great curling game, just unfortunate we were on the wrong side.”
The 2013 Brier opened to much ado about Kevin Martin, the hometown hero looking secure an unprecedented fifth national championship as a skip. Then, it was about Martin inexplicably losing four of his first five games and putting those hopes in danger. Then, it was all about Gushue ripping off seven wins and looking as cool as a curling stone.
Quietly, without a whole lot of fanfare, Howard went about his job, winning games with a team that has proven efficient and unflappable.
“They don’t miss much. They’re not going to hand it to you,” Gushue said of the Ontario crew. “If the game went 12 ends, we might have had a better chance. You’ve got to take advantage of every single chance they give you, and they don’t give you much.”
Ontario finishes its round-robin play with games against Quebec, Prince Edward Island and Alberta. Already, though, Howard understands eight wins “has to get us into something” – meaning a playoff spot, perhaps even a shot at the 1-2 Page playoff game and the quickest route to the gold medal game.
As for his philosophy between now and then, it remains typically Howard, practical, sound and calculated for success.
“We’ve just got to keep the pedal to the metal and build on how we’re playing,” he said. “Hopefully, we have no losses going into [Friday] night and it’ll be an easy one for us just to relax.”
Easy for him, difficult for everyone else.
“We played a good game,” was Gushue’s parting lesson for the rest of the field. “We just came up against a great team that played great.”