Kevin Martin has won everything there is to win in curling, several times over in some cases.
The 46-year-old skip from Edmonton has Olympic gold and silver medals, four Canadian championships and a world championship on his resume, plus 17 Grand Slam victories on the World Curling Tour.
So what drives him in the sport now?
“I still really enjoy a good tough game, win or lose,” Martin said. “It’s tough in games that don’t mean a lot, but the big ones . . . those are the games that are fun for me still.
“As long as I really enjoy it, deep down really can’t wait to play, I’ll play. Once you don’t feel like that, your days are done. I haven’t got that yet.”
The 2013 Tim Hortons Brier opens Saturday at Rexall Place. Martin’s team out of Edmonton’s Saville Centre represents the host province.
What’s new for Martin is the opportunity to win a Canadian title in his hometown, having never played before at a Brier in Edmonton.
He did win the Olympic trials at Rexall Place in 2009 for the right to represent Canada at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver and Whistler, B.C. Martin, third John Morris, second Marc Kennedy and lead Ben Hebert won gold Vancouver. They’ll be the darlings of this Brier as both the host team and the reigning Olympic champions.
Martin can also become the first skip to win five Canadian titles, surpassing Saskatchewan’s Ernie Richardson and fellow Albertan Randy Ferbey at four. Two of Martin’s four previous Brier titles were won in Alberta, but both in Calgary.
“I think the Brier is going to be loud, a lot of fun and I think the crowd is going to be really into it,” Martin said. “It’s Canada’s biggest party if the Grey Cup’s not. The two biggest parties in Canada are the Grey Cup and the Brier.”
Alberta’s Martin, defending champion Glenn Howard of Ontario and three-time winner Jeff Stoughton of Manitoba are the headliners of the 12-team field.
They also happen to be the first three men’s teams to secure berths in December’s Olympic trials in Winnipeg. The winner there represents Canada at the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.
At this Brier, Glenn Howard will pass older brother Russ for the most appearances at 15. Glenn Howard was Russ’s third at his first Canadian championship in 1987, which coincidentally was in Edmonton.
“I really can’t quite fathom that this will be my 15th trip,” Howard said.
Other teams of note include 2006 Canadian champion Jean-Michel Menard of Quebec, the first Francophone from Quebec to win the title, and 2006 Olympic gold medallist Brad Gushue of Newfoundland and Labrador.
Jamie Koe’s Yellowknife squad became the first Territories team to ever make the Brier playoffs last year in Saskatoon. Koe and his teammates are back to prove they remain contenders.
“You’ve got a strong field,” Howard said. “It’s one of the best.”
The top four teams at the conclusion of the round robin advance to the Page playoff.
The winner of the final March 10 represents Canada at the Ford Men’s World Championship in Victoria from March 30 to April 7.
Brier finalists each receive $40,000 in prize money, the bronze medallist gets $30,000 and the $20,000 goes to the fourth-place team.
The victor is eligible for $144,000 in Sport Canada funding over a two-year period and another $40,000 for training and competition expenses from Own The Podium.
The Brier winner also receives $10,000 for wearing the Tim Hortons crest at the world championship.
Howard and Stoughton have won major events in Edmonton during their careers.