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Coaching (and parental) role for curling legend Kevin Martin and Team Alberta at this year’s Brier in St. John’s, N.L.

Coaching (and parental) role for curling legend Kevin Martin and Team Alberta at this year’s Brier in St. John’s, N.L.
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Legendary skip Kevin Martin is sporting familiar Alberta colours at the national mens curling championship this week at Mile One Centre. The 2010 Olympic champion is back at the Brier to coach his son Karrick and the provincial team skipped by Brendan Bottcher.

Instead of standing at the end of the sheet and throwing last stones, the former skip who retired in 2014 watches the action from his seat on the backbench.

I hadnt been back to a Brier in any way since I retired, Martin said Monday. To have the opportunity, you know coaching my son is a big deal. Its neat. Its good to get back into it.

The event is a reunion of sorts for Martin, who has played with and against many of the curlers in the field. The four-time Brier champion won gold at the Vancouver Games with John Morris (now with B.C.), Ben Hebert and Marc Kennedy (now with Canada skip Kevin Koe).

Longtime opponents like Richard Hart and Glenn Howard of Ontario are also on hand along with veteran skip Brad Gushue of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Martin, who has stayed involved in the game with his curling broadcasting work, started coaching Bottchers rink before the provincial playdowns and helped them earn their first Brier berth.

Hes been working with us quite a bit technically and tactically trying to get a few small tweaks here and there, Bottcher said. I think the biggest thing he brings though is just the experience factor.

Hes the solid ground to come back to.

Bottchers team of Karrick at lead, third Darren Moulding and second Brad Thiessen had the unenviable task of playing local favourite Gushue in the round robin opener Saturday before a rabid capacity crowd.

The Alberta rink played well in a losing effort before dropping two more games Sunday. Bottcher finally got into the win column Monday afternoon with a 7-2 victory over New Brunswicks Mike Kennedy. But they lost to Manitobas Mike McEwen 10-6 in the night draw.

In other early games, Northern Ontarios Brad Jacobs defeated Jamie Koe of the Northwest Territories 9-5, Quebecs Jean-Michel Menard beat Saskatchewans Adam Casey 8-3 and Morris edged Nova Scotias Jamie Murphy 4-3.

McEwen remained unbeaten at 4-0 with his win over Alberta while Jacobs (4-1) moved into second place with a 7-2 win over Howard. Gushue beat Casey 10-5 to move into a third-place tie with Kevin Koe, who dropped a 5-4 decision to Morris (3-2). Menard and Murphy were next at 2-2 after seven draws.

Casey was 2-3, Kennedy and Howard were 1-3 and Bottcher was 1-4. Jamie Koe was the lone winless rink at 0-4.

Martin said most of his coaching work is done before and after Bottchers team is on the ice. During the game, hell chart shots, take notes for the post-game debrief and check stones on other sheets.

Karrick added his father has also helped take the teams practice routine to a higher level.

We put a lot of work in, Karrick said. I think we all felt ready when we came to the provincials and just as ready when we came to the Brier. He gives you a lot of confidence coming into things.

During timeouts, the players also feel comfortable knowing they can draw on Martins many years of elite-level experience.

For the rest of us its a new experience but hes been (there) at every point in the Brier, Bottcher said. He has not qualified, hes qualified, hes obviously won it. I dont think theres anything we can run into this week that will be new for him and I think thats big for us.

Round robin play continues through Friday morning. The medal games are scheduled for Sunday.

Its their first one, Martin said of the young team. So enjoy it and then learn a whole bunch from it because the emotions are different. Its just a different way of looking at it. Theyve played a lot of big games before in front of big crowds, its just a little different.

So its nice to get that first W for sure. Now they can relax and play.

Notes: Longtime Curling Canada chief statistician Brian Cassidy and Reg Caughie who has served as the Brier Bear mascot since 1981 will be inducted into the Canadian Curling Hall of Fame this week. Canada defeated Germany 8-2 on Monday in round robin play at the world wheelchair curling championship in Gangneung, South Korea. Canada (4-1) will play China and South Korea on Tuesday.
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