by Kimberly Tuck
LONDON – I made my way over to the JLC yesterday and today to check out the Ford Hot Shots skills competition taking place before the start of the Brier.
There were a few fans dotted about the seats on Friday and quite a few more for today's finals. For those of you who might not be familiar with the hot shots format, each of the players throw six shots – the hit n' stay, the draw to the button, a draw through a port, the raise, the hit n' roll, and the grand finale – the double takeout. The result of each shot is then scored (out of five) with a total point value of 30.
At the top of the pile at the end of the first round were Alberta's Kevin Martin and Ontario's Richard Hart with 27 points and Quebec front-ender Christian Bouchard with 26 points. You might think that the fellow who wins the Hot Shots is likely on the same team that also won the Brier that year... but when I looked back (over the 17 years of Hot Shots) this has happened only once. In 1999, Steve Gould of Manitoba won the car and then went onto to win the Brier with Jeff Stoughton and Co. (Steve is still cooking with Stoughton, all these years later).
So it makes you wonder – do you really want that car?
As I sat on the media bench behind the sheets today, I wondered if that thought had crossed the minds of either Hart or Martin, arguably the top favourites to win this event. And the winner? It was Richard Hart, who finished off rival Martin with an exciting hit and roll to the button. This win now gives three out of the four Ontario players a Hot Shots victory, with only Brent Laing left to honk the horn of that Ford vehicle. Craig Savill won in 2009 and skipper Glenn Howard was the winner at last year's Brier.
After yesterday's Hot Shots I made my way over to the Keith's Patch for the volunteer appreciation and kick-off party. If last night's attendance was a sign of things to come, the Patch will be the place to be. Some 850 people attended last night which included a great performance by local country musician Shelly Rastin. The teams were introduced, along with their honourary hosts, and then stayed to mingle with volunteers, Big Ticket holders and fans.
Great improvements have been made from London's 2005 Tournament of Hearts – there are four designated bar areas in the room so you pretty much can't walk anywhere and not pass a bar – but if for some reason you miss it they also have these big carts full of ice and beer and atop the cart is a flashing red light... so all you have to do is look up and follow that light to find your Alexander Keiths. The Patch has a great feel to it, and a very good time should be had by all.