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Thursday, 15 January 2015

Time for a RUN...BACK into Playdowns
Provincial/Territorial Playdowns Under Way

Crunch time has come for some of the best men's Canadian curling teams.  After long road trips, hotel stays, too close for comfort with the boys sometimes, practices, numerous ends played and endless nights of no sleep due to your snoring skip, the season comes down to the next few weeks for many teams across our country.  That's right....the dreaded P word...Playdowns!  

Many provinces/territories have already begun their playdowns with either Northern/Southern playdowns (AB & SK) or all out provincial championships (QC).  So with all the action going on, how does one keep up?  Well, the easiest way is to slide over to www.curlingzone.com to keep up to date with linescores and see how the teams are doing.

But need a quick preview of the action currently going?  That's when you come to #TwineTime curling fans.  Get ready for a heater here....

Sidenote: For a preview of the women's playdowns taking place this weekend, visit HERE


The AB Boston Pizza Cup field will be finalized after the weekend.  The Northern Playdowns get under way today in Camrose and conclude on Sunday.  The Southern's will kick off Friday in Okotoks.  In both regional playdowns, 16 teams will compete for 3 berths to the AB Boston Pizza Cup.  The format is simple: Triple knockout with an A, B, C side winner advancing.  32 teams, 6 spots, 4 days.  Brier dreams will end this weekend for many teams.  Who are the teams to watch?

Northern Playdowns 

If you are looking for favorites, look no further than Team Jamie King.  This team has lots of experience and should easily advance.  The other big contenders should come from Team Kevin Park and Team James Pahl.  Darkhorse teams of Scott Manners, Shawn Donnelly and Wade White could surprise. 

Picks: Team King, Team Park, Team Pahl

Southern Playdowns

The Southern's really are a two-team favorite with the final spot being up for grabs.  Team Matthew Blandford is back hoping to build on last year's 3rd place finish at the BP Cup.  Team Brock Virtue is also a strong contender.  Skip Virtue returns to Alberta and has joined forced with vice Charley Thomas.  Thomas led his team to a 4th place finish at last year's BP Cup in Lacombe.  These two teams should easily qualify.  As for that final spot...take a guess.  

Picks:  Team Blandford, Team Virtue, Team Bawel


Similar to their neighbors to the west, Saskatchewan will fill out the remainder spots for their upcoming provincial championship.  The Northern playdowns take place in Prince Albert while the Southerns will be played in Regina.  Familiar format here with 16 teams in a triple knockout event.  However, differing from Alberta, there are 5 spots in PA and Regina up for grabs with the A winner, two B winners and two C winners advancing.  Odds are a bit better here for these teams.

Northern Playdowns

Curling fans will be very familiar with one name competing in PA: Bruce Korte.  A past SK champ, Bruce has a different line-up behind him but the goal is the same, to reclaim the SK title.  He should be able to qualify.  Another favorite has to be Team Jeff Hartung.  This team has had a successful year on both the World Curling Tour and the SK tour.  I would be very surprised to not see them advance.  The other three spots could be up for grabs with perhaps an upset team coming from nowhere and finding their season continue towards the green jacket march.

Picks:  Team Korte, Team Hartung, Team Heidt, Team Craig, Team Marteniuk

Southern Playdowns

There are some very familiar names playing in Regina this weekend.  Past SK champions Brad Heidt, Joel Jordison and Jamie Schneider are trying to turn back the clock and find success once again.  All three have a good chance to qualify this weekend.  A team to really watch for though would be Heidt...nope not Brad...but rather son Josh.  Don't be surprised if Josh Heidt qualifies on the A side over his pops.  Does father know best or is it time to officially pass the Heidt curling torch over to son Josh?

Picks:  Team J. Heidt, Team B. Heidt, Team Jordison, Team Schneider, Team Gedak


The final two spots are up for grabs with the Ontario Tankard Challenge Round.  This would normally not yield too much media except for one very high profile team: Team Glenn Howard.  Team Howard infamously failed to qualify out of their region and have their backs up against the wall this weekend.  Even more news worthy, Team Howard was scheduled to be in Banff this weekend for the TSN Skins.  They passed up the opportunity (lucky break for #1 team in the world Mike McEwen as they took their place) and will try to continue their drive to the Brier.  It is really hard to bet against Team Howard...but then again didn't we say that at last year's provincial tankard (loss) and then again in this year's regional qualifying (loss).  This won't be a walk in the park for the favorites either.  A few teams could present some challenges in the form of Team Bowser and Team Rumfeldt.  Bowser's Boys have had an excellent season on the World Curling Tour and should be the main challenge for Howard and attempt to steal one of the coveted berths.  Interesting challenge could come from Wayne Middaugh.  Middaugh will be competing with familiar names Graeme McCarrell and Peter Corner.  One of two things will happen:  Team Howard pulls it together and completely dominates this challenge round or the upset happens (again!) and Team Howard finds their Brier dreams end in January!

Picks:  Team Howard, Team Bowser


While most provinces are still qualifying for provincial spots, Quebec is firmly in the battle for the Quebec Tankard.  The provincial championship kicked off in Victoria last weekend and concludes with the crowing of the provincial champ on Sunday.  There are 10 teams competing with a round robin format leading to a Page Playoff system on the weekend.

The favorites are very familiar names:  Team Jean-Michel Menard and Team Martin Ferland.  These two should easily find themselves in the 1vs2 page playoff game.  The question is which of the other 8 can land the final 2 playoff berths.  Looking for a dark horse?  Go with Team Steven Munroe.  Munroe has played with many previous Quebec champions but this is his first year at skip and could surprise a few teams.

Playoff Picks:  Team Menard, Team Ferland, Team Munroe, Team Fournier

Champion:  Team Menard over Team Ferland

So there you have it, the beginning stage of the Run for the Brier.  Enjoy the action this weekend and come back next week as I preview more provincial/territorial results.