Thursday, January 15, 2009

Pat Ryan: Ontario curling champion?

Which is more interesting - news that Pat Ryan is a competitor at next month’s Ontario men’s provincial, or news that Pat Ryan could be Canada’s next country music superstar?

Both newsbits fall within our sphere of interest – and yours – so we shall tell both tales.

Today, his curling.

After winning gold for Canada at the World Seniors in Finland last March (WCF photo above by Bob Cowan) the three-time Brier champion and two-time world champion turned his attention back to his job in Toronto, for which he has maintained a residence in the city for the past couple of years.

He soon discovered the Brampton Curling Club, the west-end facility which doubled for Long Bay in the curling movie Men With Brooms, and the place where Wayne Middaugh and cousin Peter Corner started their curling careers in the early 1980s.

And Ryan was soon discovered by Corner, the man who has won Briers, Worlds and provincial Tankards at both front end and skip positions.

After a few conversations Corner made further contact last fall, and Ryan became the alternate for the latest version of Team Corner... a squad which we revealed in yet another TCN exclusive last summer.

So why would Corner call on Ryan, you might ask?

Corner’s fiancee happens to be expecting a child very soon... specifically, at some point during the 2009 TSC Stores Tankard, for which he and teammates Graeme McCarrel, Ian Tetley and Brad Savage qualified during playdowns earlier this month.

So Ontario Brier hopefuls like Glenn Howard, Mike Harris, Rob Lobel and others may be shocked to see the slick tuck slide of the Alberta (and British Columbia) curling legend barrelling toward them sometime between February 2 and 8 at the Woodstock District Community Complex.

Well, not too shocked... after they read this posting at The Curling News Blog.

So, is this curling Hall of Famer ready to compete in another Brier, this time representing... Ontario?

“I don’t know about that,” Ryan laughed.

“All I know is I’m throwing rocks like crazy. I haven’t done much curling this year.”

Paired with longtime Middaugh third McCarrel at the back end, Ryan isn’t sure what the squad’s no-Corner lineup would be. After all, despite all the pre-planning of Corner’s potential family requirements, Ryan might not end up seeing any action.

“We’ll have to see what the team, and Graeme, think about that,” said Ryan.

“Graeme might want to throw the brick. He might want me to call the game. We’ll have to see if we even get the opportunity.”

In recent years, Ryan called the game with Jim Cotter throwing final stones on a B.C. team which, you may recall, just missed the playoffs at the 2005 Olympic Trials in Halifax. Cotter now throws third stones for Kelowna skip Bob Ursel.

Ryan says he enjoyed his first-ever post-game table talk with Corner last year.

“We really enjoyed each other’s company,” recalled Ryan. “We talked about curling and life, all the time commitments.

“We’d never really had a chance to sit and talk before. We’d always been competitors.”

Longtime curling fans will recall the Brier battles of 1993 and 1994. Corner played lead for Ontario’s Russ and Glenn Howard (plus Middaugh) and Ryan played third for BC’s Rick Folk. The Howards beat Folk/Ryan in the 1993 Brier final in Ottawa and then the Folk/Ryan combo beat the Ontarians in the 1994 final at Red Deer. Both teams went on to capture the world titles.

The team relationships were tense. There were accusations of rock tampering before one Brier playoff game, and another story tells how an enthused B.C. fan – the “Bleacher Creature” – made the mistake of whooping his way into the Ontario dressing room shortly after the ’94 final. He got a cup of water doused over his head.

Ryan said that he and Corner didn’t bother to rehash those days.

“We mostly talked about where we are right now, and it’s really nice to be able to connect with really great players who are of the same mindset,” said Ryan.

“And Pete’s team has world champions on it, and they all want the same things we do. They’re not going crazy with the sport but they still want to keep their hand in it, and they still want to make it to the Brier.”

Ah, the Brier. And this brings us to Pat Ryan: budding country music star.

But more on that coming soon.

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