Fred Koe will watch his sons square off at the Brier from way, way up in Credit Union Centre.
The patriarch of the curling Koes admits he booked his tickets to the Tim Hortons Brier so late this year, the premium seats were all gone.
He’ll have a bird’s-eye view of what is surprisingly an anticipated matchup at this year’s Canadian men’s curling championship. It’s surprising because Jamie Koe’s Yellowknife team, representing both Yukon and Northwest Territories, wasn’t expected to be anywhere in the running.
Alberta’s Kevin Koe was a pretournament favourite and followed the script Tuesday with a 6-1 record.
With the Territories at 5-1 and a game remaining at night against Prince Edward Island, Koe vs. Koe in Wednesday morning’s draw is important to both brothers and their teams in the standings.
Fred Koe (pronounced COO-ee) says he’ll try to enjoy the moment from his perch.
“For any parent, it’s a real dream to have two sons at this level of curling,” he said. “Of course, you’re on pins and needles the whole week. I’ll cheer for the boys and hope they perform well when they play each other. They’re both competitive and both want to win. They’re both representing their respective provinces and territories.
“The ideal thing is to have them both in the final. It’s a long week and let’s hope they continue their good play and get into the playoffs.”
Because there are so many competitive teams in Alberta, that province is hard to win to get to the Brier, but then is more often than not a favourite to win the Canadian title. It’s the opposite in the Yukon and Northwest Territories. A lack of competition makes it easier for one team to dominate year after year, but the Territories are a long shot at every Brier.
“It’s not fun in that one of us has to lose,” Kevin Koe said. “We really need that win so we’re going to have to come out and play well. They’re playing really good and they’re going to need the win.”
Previous brothers who clashed at the Brier as skips include Ontario’s Glenn Howard vs. New Brunswick’s Russ Howard in 2009 in Calgary. Also, Ontario’s Gord Campbell met B.C.’s Donald Campbell in 1942 in Quebec City.
Jamie, 34, is skipping a Territories team at the Brier for the sixth time, with his best result being a 6-5 record in Hamilton in 2007.
The expense and distance required to play in World Curling Tour events usually puts the Territories at a disadvantage at national championships. They arrive not having played as many competitive games as their counterparts. The Territories’ winning percentage coming into this year’s Brier was 27 per cent compared to 69 for Alberta. The Territories made the playoffs just once in 1975 when Donald Twa’s team was a finalist.
So Jamie understands when people have low expectations of the Territories at the Brier.
“You’ve got to earn it and the Territories haven’t earned it,” Jamie said. “Until we start being competitive year in and year out, people will be surprised.”
Kevin, 37, moved from Yellowknife to Alberta to go to university and remained there, skipping the province at the Canadian mixed championship in 2000.
Since parents Fred and Linda were avid in the sport, the Koe kids grew up rink rats of curling, not hockey.
“They work hard,” Fred said. “They picked up the game and they’ve had good coaching up north and they’ve had a lot of time and a lot of access to the rinks to practise. The effort they put in individually and with their teams, that’s why they’re here.”
The brothers don’t have any side bets on their game Wednesday.
“I don’t think I’m dumb enough to start betting world champions that we’re going to beat them in a game,” Jamie said.
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