Northern Ontario rink leads facial hair charge – and standings too

If the bulging biceps don’t do it, the mountain man beards might do the trick. The glowing resumes of Brad Jacobs and his Northern Ontario crew are intimidating enough. Tack on some top-flight facial hair to go with their imposing physiques and the visual battle is over before the first rock is thrown.

OTTAWA — If the bulging biceps don’t do it, the mountain man beards might do the trick.

The glowing resumes of Brad Jacobs and his Northern Ontario crew are intimidating enough. Tack on some top-flight facial hair to go with their imposing physiques and the visual battle is over before the first rock is thrown.

Fear the Beard is a buzz term at the Tim Hortons Brier and with good reason. Jacobs is sporting a thick beard and teammates Ryan Fry and Ryan Harnden aren’t far behind for the unbeaten rink.

“The hairline is not getting any better so I figure if I can’t grow it on top, maybe I’ll grow it on my face,” Jacobs said Tuesday after picking up his fifth round-robin win.

He had never grown a full beard until giving it a try last year. Jacobs got past the “itchy stage” over the holiday season and admits he likes it now.

“It was pretty big before we came here — as big as I’ve ever had it,” Jacobs said. “I had to trim it because it was getting on my nerves a little bit.”

Second E.J. Harnden is the only clean-shaven one of the bunch. Brother Ryan handles lead duties while Fry throws third stones for the reigning Olympic champions.

They all look like they’ve come to TD Place straight from the gym. Jacobs sets the tone with a fierce steely gaze on the ice and it’s usually matched by his teammates.

The addition of a thick ginger-coloured beard on the skip’s face offers a fresh wrinkle to a team loaded with intensity.

“He’s definitely an A-type personality and he goes full into it,” Fry said. “You’ve got to give the guy credit. He wanted to grow a playoff beard for the Brier and he did it. He doesn’t do anything half-assed.

“When he says he’s growing a beard, he’s growing a frigging beard.”

The fans have been showing them love this week. Moose calls rang out through the 8,200-seat venue when they completed a 6-2 win over Prince Edward Island’s Adam Casey 6-2 on Tuesday morning.

The 2013 Brier champs improved to 6-0 later in the day with an 8-3 rout of Alberta’s Kevin Koe.

“We’re making sure that every time that we step on the ice — from the first rock to the last rock — we’re giving it everything we have and trying to leave it all on the ice,” Jacobs said. “That’s what we’re doing.”

Their camaraderie is evident on and off the ice and they’re quick to joke around when they get the chance.

Fry seemed to thoroughly enjoy talking about the beard hype. He said he essentially let his stubble grow out for a week longer than normal to give Jacobs some facial hair company.

“I was trying to take a little bit of the heat off of Brad because he looks so horrible,” Fry said with a laugh. “That’s what best friends do. When your buddy is in the trenches, the good buddies jump on that grenade for him.

“I just wanted to make sure to take some of the onus off of him so that he wasn’t too embarrassed, so that’s what I did.”

In afternoon play Tuesday, Saskatchewan’s Steve Laycock held off Casey 8-5, Brad Gushue of Newfoundland and Labrador topped Koe 4-3 and Team Canada’s Pat Simmons doubled B.C.’s Jim Cotter 8-4.

Koe’s brother Jamie and his Northwest Territories teammates recorded their first win with an 8-5 victory over Ontario’s Glenn Howard.

In the evening, Manitoba’s Mike McEwen beat Simmons 6-4, New Brunswick’s Mike Kennedy edged Laycock 7-6 and Quebec’s Jean-Michel Menard defeated Howard 9-5.

Jacobs led the standings at 6-0 after 10 draws and Gushue was in second place at 5-1. McEwen was alone in third place at 4-2.

Simmons and Kevin Koe were next at 4-3. They were followed by Menard at 3-3 and Howard and Laycock at 3-4.

Round-robin play continues through Friday and the medal games are scheduled for Sunday. The Brier champion will represent Canada at the world men’s curling championship next month in Basel, Switzerland.

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