Three years ago Mike McCarville was one shot away from his first Brier appearance.
On that fateful February afternoon, McCarville, playing third for Joe Scharf’s rink, could only watch as his skip, facing a draw to the eight-foot to knock off defending champion Brad Jacobs in the Northern Ontario final, succumbed to nerves and sailed his final shot through the rings.
Jacobs scored three and stole the victory from the Thunder Bay foursome, then went on to win two more provincial titles, the 2013 Brier and most recently, Olympic gold.
McCarville, whose wife Krista has skipped four teams to the Scotties Tournament of Hearts, was left to wonder the proverbial "what if" ever since.
He said the heartbreaking loss wasn’t weighing on his mind at all during their Northern Ontario championship 9-4 win over Thunder Bay’s Brian Adams Jr.
But it’s never truly left his thoughts, despite the three-year distance.
“I’ve thought about that game many, many times since. For a long time it was like, that was our time to go,” McCarville said.
“But maybe it wasn’t our time to go. Maybe this is our time to go. This feels so much better now, especially with that bad loss.”
In 2011, Currie was an afterthought, finishing 5-6 and out of the playoffs at the Fort William Curling Club, where Tuesday night he and his teammates McCarville, Colin Koivula and Jamie Childs received the traditional royal send-off ahead of Saturday’s Brier opener in Kamloops, B.C.
A Canadian junior champion in 1996, Currie’s an almost perennial contender for the Northern Ontario crown, but just couldn’t seem to clamor over the top.
Whether it was Jacobs or others in the way, he and his teammates just didn’t click at the right time. A year ago his current squad finished 3-5, the fifth-place finish a couple wins shy of advancing to a tiebreaker. He's not sure why he's never advanced to nationals before.
“We’ve always had some great skill in this city. Pre-Jacobs, there were lots of other teams there. There’s no real explanation. That’s just the way it goes and in that final game or in provincials it’s not an easy feat to do,” Currie noted.
That said, he thinks his foursome – which in a fitting touch includes Scharf as their alternate – is ready to take that next step on the national stage.
It’s a big one, the first time Thunder Bay has been represented at the Brier in 11 years, a far cry from Al Hackner’s heyday when the city produced 12 provincial champions in 17 years – but just three since 1995.
Currie’s not worried about the pressure of a curling-crazy city looking for its first national champion in three decades.
“We put the pressure on ourselves to perform well. We don’t worry about the outside influences. It’s more that we’re doing it for ourselves and that’s about it,” he said.
Not that he and his teammates don’t have high-reaching goals.
“Winning is a successful week. But we haven’t talked about what we’d like to see our record. Obviously we’d like to be in the playoffs at the end of it. I think that’s our goal from now and we’ll take it from there.”
Hackner, the eight-time provincial and two-time national and world curling champion, said it’s just good to see the city back at the Brier.
It’s been far too long, he said.
“We almost got accustomed to somebody from Thunder Bay is going to go to the Brier. From the mid-‘70s to almost the 2000s we had many reps. And then we’ve gone on a 10-year drought,” Hackner said.
“It’s not as easy as it used to be. To have Jeff and his team go out there and finally get a Thunder Bay win is great. And they even acknowledged that in their speech. It is a win for everybody and that’s why this place is full and everybody’s excited.”
Currie and company open Brier play on Saturday against New Brunswick’s James Grattan and B.C.’s John Morris.
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