Hello December! The temperatures are dropping. The snow is falling. The hours of sunlight are declining. Christmas anticipation is rising. The holiday season excitement is increasing. And the time to crown curling's #TeamCanada representatives for PyeongChang is happening!
The past 3 years have built up to this moment. When the first competitive rock slides out of the hack on Saturday afternoon, all the anticipation, hard work, dedication, commitment and drive from the athletes competing in Ottawa will become a reality. Butterfly's will swell and swarm in each athlete's stomach, especially leading up to that first game of the event. There will be moments of pressure. There will be moments of disappointment. There will be moments of pure joy and exhilaration.
Welcome to the Roar of the Rings 2017!
We do not have to spend much time discussing what is at stake in Ottawa this week. The team who survives a gruelling round robin and playoff will don the red maple leaf and punch their ticket to the 2018 Winter Olympics this upcoming February in PyeongChang, South Korea.
The team who does survive will not only have their dreams become a reality but they will also throw on their shoulders the weight of a nation heading towards a gold medal rush at the Olympics. Canadian sport fans, especially Canadian curling fans, have high hopes at any international competition but especially the Olympic Games.
Canada will arrive in PyeongChang as the three-time defending Olympic men's champion and will be looking to continue re-writing the history books with a historic 4th straight gold medal finish. Talk about pressure!! Brad Gushue (2006), Kevin Martin (2010) and Brad Jacobs (2014) all successfully navigated the Roar of the Rings trials and continued their winning ways towards Olympic glory. Whomever leaves #YOW as the champion will have some big shoes to fill.
Besides the big three listed above, past #ROTR winners include: Ed Lukowich (Olympic Bronze, 1988), Mike Harris (Silver, 1998) and Kevin Martin (Silver, 2002). As you can see, Kevin Martin is the only two-time ROTR champion.
It will not be easy for either of the Brad's though as this men's field is STACKED with strong competition. Joining B-squared in Ottawa will be: Team Bottcher, Team Carruthers, Team Epping, Team Koe, Team Laycock, Team McEwen and Team Morris. Quite a daunting field right?
Team Morris will be chasing a bit of history as well as they qualified for these trials the same way they qualified four years ago, surviving the Road to the Roar pre-trials event a few weeks back. As we all remember, back in 2013 both pre-trials teams would end up reaching the championship final with Jacobs getting the best of Morris. Can Morris take the long road for the second time and reach another Olympic trials final? Remember he is also a former Olympian and gold medal winner playing third for Kevin Martin in 2010. He has a shot at becoming a two-time Olympic gold medal winner as well.
With the strong line-up coming to Ottawa and the huge importance being placed on the event there was simply no way #TwineTime could preview the competition solo. This event just needed the special addition of a player who has competed against these teams and has been to the trials in the past. A man who could shed some insight into the competition from the ice-level to counterbalance the perspective of a fan in the stands.
After referencing the #GunnerRunback for a few years now, we finally welcome the man himself Jason Gunnlaugson to the #TwineTime family:
As you heard, Gunner and #TwineTime referenced some stats of a few of the teams competing in Ottawa. Are you a numbers kind of curling fan? Interested in seeing the comparison of a few key stats in making your predictions? #TwineTime has you covered rock heads and stoners:
Quite a few interesting stats right? The big wildcard may be game play on the ice this week. Do teams go all in and play with a more offensive game plan? If so, teams like Gushue, Bottcher and Carruthers could have an advantage as they play big ends, look for a few big scores and hold on to their leads down the stretch. If teams end up playing more defensive and we see more blank ends, as Gunner alluded to, teams like McEwen, Jacobs and Koe could have an advantage here where they are comfortable playing a few open ends and blanks to retain last rock and bring down the hammer late in the game with big scores.
The style of play and game plans will probably evolve as the week progresses. Teams who start off strong could decide to play a more safe, defensive strategy down the line while teams who may struggle early could find themselves needing to take bigger risks in games to fight and keep their Olympic flame from being extinguished early.
To summarize the predictions, as both #TwineTime and #Gunner seemed to be on the same page:
Favourite: Team Gushue
Watch Out For: Team McEwen
Dark Horse: Team Morris
Qualifiers: Team Gushue, Team McEwen, Team Koe
#ROTR2017 Final: Team Gushue def. Team McEwen
The real winners (ok outside the team left standing Sunday evening) will be the sport itself and curling fans. We are in for an outstanding week of curling action folks. In the end we may have our favourite team(s) but we can all agree on one thing: best of luck to all the athletes competing in Ottawa and great curling!
Agree or disagree, share your thoughts in the comment section below and/or on twitter. Don't forget to key an eye on Super 5th man Jason Gunnlaugson! #TwineTime would like to thank #Gunner for taking the time to join the family and help preview the #ROTR2017 as he was preparing to join Team Bottcher for the event. Welcome to the fam and best of luck man!
Don't forget to have YOUR say on whether history will reign supreme in Ottawa with a repeat champion. Head over to the #TwineTime blog home page and cast YOUR vote NOW!! #VOTEToday
And don't worry folks, the women's #ROTR2017 preview will be sliding into your house soon. #TwineTime called in another all-star to discuss the field and offer up a few predictions.