The 2016 Tim Hortons Brier begins Saturday with arguably the strongest field in the history of the tournament. Of the 15 team field (reduced to 12 after a March Madness like play-in round consisting of non-ranking Nova Scotia, Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut), nine are in the Top 20 World Curling Tour Order of Merit rankings, with five in the top 10.
At online sportsbook Sportsbook, Kevin Koe’s Alberta rink is the favorite to win the championship at +300, with Brad Gushue (+350) and Mike McEwen (+400) just slightly behind. Glenn Howard and Brad Jacobs round out the top five — sitting at +500 each. The fact that the defending champion Team Canada (Pat Simmons of Saskatchewan) sits at +1200 shows the strength of this field.
In such a short tournament, with so many strong teams, any loss could be devastating to a team’s chances of making it to the playoff round, and any of the teams has a shot to be there next weekend, however, a few notables should separate themselves from the pack.
Mike McEwen’s rink from Manitoba has been arguably the best team in the world the past few years, with bad timing and luck preventing them from making it out of their home province in the past. Despite being Brier rookies, their chances to win it all this season are very strong.
2006 Olympic champion and now 13-time Brier participant, Brad Gushue’s rink has had their best year ever on tour, ranked 2nd overall, and 1st on the money list. They look to finally complete their resume with the Canadian Championship title.
Kevin Koe started the season a little slow, but has won twice on tour recently and seems to be peaking at the right time, and could win the Brier for a third time this year.
Glenn Howard, now 53-years-old, always looks strong, but with an injury to Wayne Middaugh, and what has looked to be some questionable calls at times this season, one wonders if perhaps age and stamina may be a factor.
Factor in strong tour teams like BC’s Jim Cotter, Saskatchewan’s Steve Haycock, and of course, 2014 Olympic champs Brad Jabobs and defending Canadian Champs Pat Simmons, this Brier could be the most unpredictable, and exciting of all-time.