John Morris is believed to be the man credited for Kevin Martin's nickname, "The Old Bear". As the story goes, Morris tossed the reference into a media quote some six or seven years ago after KMart had made an incredible shot to beat Morris at a World Curling Tour event.
A few years later, Martin, Morris, ex-Morris second Marc Kennedy and ex-Saskatchewan curler Ben Hebert are good as gold, following a 6-3 Olympic curling championship victory over Norway's Fancy Pants, skipped by Thomas Ulsrud.
If you read our women's recap, you know that we are solid believers in the concept of Olympic curling pressure. We submit to you, dear reader, that the men's final provided further proof.
Neither team played "great". Canada blew a deuce in the very first end which, for this powerhouse team, is almost unheard of. Then they were held to a single in the second end. As we wrote on our Twitter feed: Kevin Martin is grouchy. Front-enders and Johnny Mo apologize. Don't miss feeding time for the Old Bear, little cubs!
Even worse, the front end was blowing sweeping calls. That. Definitely. Never. Happens.
As today's Toronto Star quoted the Canadians:
"Come on, guys. Geez," Martin scolded. "Don't need to jump on that thing."
Kennedy shot back: "Well, you say hurry right away, it's not our fault."
Replied Martin: "Sorry."
After a Norwegian blank, Canada made up for the snafus with a steal in the fourth end... and another steal in the fifth for a 3-0 lead. Looking at Martin's demeanour, however, you'd think he was losing. Again, we Tweeted: Canada leads 3-0 at the break, but all is not well with the home team. Coaches must calm the Old Bear and unwind his young cubs.
Things improved after that. KMart practically ran off the field of play – presumably to hit the washroom – so perhaps that helped.
The Pants came alive after the break, scoring the first deuce of the match, but Team Canada – led by a fiery Morris – began to leverage their lead. Down 3-2 would be as close as the Norwegians got, and despite one late-game shriek from Martin (WHOA, Morris!) feeding time finished without incident.
Gold for Canada. Gold for Kevin Martin, the most stubborn mule in curling, who takes a licking and keeps on ticking. Gold for the Golden Bear, who has finally vanquished his demons... and those demons were stubborn mules, too.
Forget Salt Lake silver. The demons go well back to the Winnipeg Worlds in 1991, and Martin's silver-gilded loss to Scotland, in the event known as Broomgate. And before that, the World Juniors in 1986... Martin's first-ever global defeat in the final, again to Scotland, again for silver.
The Bear now has two golds – 2010 Olympic and 2008 World – to go with an impressive pile of silver, bronze and nearly $2 million in career Tour winnings. Is he the greatest of all time? Is he really, as U.S. skip John Shuster declared, "the Michael Jordan of curling"?
We shall not answer, because Martin is not yet done. Afterward, he declared that his team will carry on for a couple of years at least, but Sochi 2014 – when Martin would be 47 years old – is not at all a certainty.
"I'm not retiring yet, but we'll see. We're definitely going to be playing for a few more years with this exact same team. I know I will be the first guy off this team. I just don't know when that'll be.”
As for Norway, oh Wonderful Pants? There was more to this team than met the... er, eye. It's yet another silver for Ulsrud and Co. but this one is Olympic, scored against one of the greatest teams of all time, and it shines brightly. The only downside for Norway is that they, too, did not play their best in the final, meaning it could have been closer... and Canada could have become more frazzled... and then... who knows?
Stay on top of our Twitter page, in the days and weeks to come, for more on the post-Olympic curling haze. We will be watching the athletes upon their return home; the epic Canadian men's championship, the Brier, beginning March 6; the women's and men's Worlds to follow; and also to Vancouver's effect on curling around the world, including the enraptured U.S. market.
You'll also want to check our Facebook Group page (The Curling News) for some fantastic Olympic photos coming soon, and you will want to subscribe to our 53-year-old newspaper, The Curling News, as the March issue – being rushed to press in two days' time – will contain even more stories and images from Vancouver 2010.
And, of course, there will be more on this here Curling News Blog... coming soon!
[Photos copyright The Curling News by Anil Mungal. Click each image to increase size]