London Brier: on to the final

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by Kimberly Tuck

Marc Kennedy delivers for Alberta on Saturday

Marc Kennedy delivers for Alberta on Saturday

LONDON – So here is the blogpost I wrote and sent last night. Which never arrived. And which I was not aware of, because my phone died. And which has now been re-sent to the editor just before the championship final gets underwayAAAAAHHHHH!

Yes, it's been a long week.

You can tell it's Brier playoff time – the games and the JLC arena environment have that "do or die" feel to them. Saturday's Ontario versus Alberta playoff was a fantastic game that was made even more enjoyable by the involvement of crowd. Definitely pro-Ontario, of course, but very respectful of both teams on the ice.

There's always a comedian in the crowd and the Page 3 vs. 4 playoff was no exception. I'm not sure how well it was picked up on TV, but during the eighth end Kevin Martin and his team were having a discussion on what shot to play. A fan yelled from the stands: "Listen to your skip, he got you a gold medal" which caused a crowd guffaw. Martin gave a chuckle, and thanked the fan for his input. Very cool.

It wasn't a game of stellar curling; I think both teams made some great shots but they certainly had some misses. Overall, Ontario outplayed their opposition but Glenn Howard needed his team, as he was the low guy on the totem pole (at 76 per cent overall) while each of his mates finished in the mid 90's.

Okay. That WAS close.

Okay. That WAS close.

The game became a ton of fun – and quote tense – when head official Keith Reilly had to arrive in the ninth end to declare which team had scored – by eyeballing two stones! Both were too close to the centre pinhole for the measuring stick, so math and science went out the window and Keith had a tough call to make. He played it pretty cool, but at that moment I wouldn't have wanted to be in his shoes.

That decision went to Alberta, but the final cheer that reupted 15 minutes later gave me goosebumps... the home team had won the game and would be moving on to the semifinal. The only thing better than hearing that was watching the excitement on the faces of Team Ontario; joy that they would be playing in the semi but also joy that maybe, just maybe, they have finally gotten that Martin monkey off their backs.

Martin's team – in fact, all of the playoff teams – were NOT impressed about having to play today's bronze medal game, but both the Albertans and Brad Gushue's NL team mixed things up a lot. Many great shots and the nearly 7,000 people in the stands loved the increased interaction with the players.

Team Ontario whoops it up

Team Ontario whoops it up

With all those thousands of people in the stands – with nothing to do during the TV break between ends – the CCA has enlisted Stuart Brown to emcee the event. His duties include not only between-end entertainment but also the arena introductions of teams and players before the draws and co-host duties at the Keith's Patch after the games.

I first met "Stu" at the 2005 Canada Cup in Kamloops, where he was emceeing and I was competing. Stuart has been working with the CCA since 2002 when he first emceed theSTOH in Brandon. Throughout the Season of Champions event calendar you can find Stuart ca– at the Continental Cup, the Canada Cup, the STOH, the Brier and either the men's or women's world championship (whichever is being held in Canada that year).

Stu has a natural way with the crowd and believe me when I say: This guy is hysterical! When I asked Stuart which event is his favourite, he very politically replied that he "enjoys them all equally"... but he said that each event has its own feel, and "the Brier is more dressed up". It was no surprise to hear him say that his favourite part about his job is the people: "The people make the event, I can't do what I do without the responses I get from them, I feed off them" he chuckled.

Part of Stu's schtick is to poke fun at certain fans, and you might think it hard to embarrass someone who makes his living embarrassing others. But when I asked Stu about his own most embarrassing moment, his answer was a beauty: "During the semifinal of the men's worlds in Moncton, I accidentally called Kevin Martin 'Kevin Howard' in a big WWF voice!"

OOOPS!

Stuart is from Barrie, Ontario and is a freelance announcer... so if anyone out there is looking for a fantastic emcee, you need to look him up: I guarantee you won't be disappointed!

And now, the final. This match will showcase two great veterans in Jeff Stoughton and Glenn Howard... prediction complete! Shall I go on and forecast a winner...? Nope, I'm not sure I'm ready to put myself out there like that (hehehe) but I can tell you – it will be a hell of a game!