EDMONTON — Sometimes when China curling coach Marcel Rocque strolls on the ice he might swing his broom as if he’s hitting a golf ball.
Other times he might use it to play air guitar as rock music blares throughout the arena. He may ham it up before the pre-game practice, but when the session begins Rocque locks in on getting his team focused on the task at hand.
Rocque is comfortable and loose at this week’s Ford World Men’s Curling Championship at the Northlands Coliseum. He won his final Brier title here as a member of the famed Ferbey Four in 2005.
It’s an arena that feels very much like home.
“The memories are fantastic in this building,” said Rocque, a native of St. Paul, Alta. ”It’s a magical place for me.”
His current team, however, has had mixed results so far. A 9-4 loss to unbeaten Canadian Brad Gushue on Tuesday left skip Rui Liu with a 3-4 record and put him in must-win mode for the rest of the round-robin.
China scored an early deuce but errors led to a three-point fifth end for Canada. That was enough for Gushue to take control.
“They’re the mighty Maple Leaf for a reason,” Rocque said. “You play the big fish and you swim with the big fish in the big pond. You can’t make those mistakes.”
Rocque played lead for the Ferbey Four side that won four Brier titles between 2001 and ‘05.
On the eve of this week’s world championship, he stood by the end boards to look out at the sheet. Memories of his team’s 5-4 win over Nova Scotia’s Shawn Adams in the ’05 final quickly returned.
“It just flooded back,” Rocque said. “It’s a really cool experience to be back here in this setting. Having an opportunity to play here again — even though (I’m) not playing — I feel a part of it.”
Rocque and his former teammates — Scott Pfeifer, Dave Nedohin and skip Randy Ferbey — all got together before the afternoon draw to be welcomed by the crowd.
“I’m not going to lie, I almost had a tear there thinking about it after,” Rocque said. “You miss your teammates and you re-live, reminisce, and feel it all come back.”
Gushue, meanwhile, is the only unbeaten skip in the 12-team field at 6-0. He will play Germany’s Alexander Baumann in the evening draw.
“I think we’re loose, we’re having fun,” Gushue said. “We’re enjoying this experience and this opportunity. We’re playing well, which is good.”
Sweden’s Niklas Edin was alone in second place at 6-1 after a 10-5 victory over Russia’s Alexey Stukalskiy.
In the other afternoon games, Scotland’s David Murdoch defeated Jaap Van Dorp of the Netherlands 9-5 and Japan’s Yusuke Morozumi outscored Norway’s Steffen Walstad 9-7.
After 10 draws, Switzerland’s Peter de Cruz was in third place at 5-1 and Japan was fourth at 4-2. Italy’s Joel Retornaz and American John Shuster were even at 3-3 while China, Norway and Scotland were next at 3-4.
Round-robin play continues through Thursday night. The Page playoffs begin Friday and the medal games are scheduled for Sunday.
Rocque returned to the Chinese program last year and plans to guide the national men’s team through the 2018 Olympics.
He spent a season with the program ahead of the 2014 Sochi Games and helped the team finish fourth.
“Really the decision was simply that we have to give back to this game that’s so good to us,” Rocque said. “So helping the game grow in a market like China is a reward in itself.
“Any positive thing I can do there is good for our game.”