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Koe vs. Koe at the Brier has intrigue this time around

The Canadian Press

3/6/2012 10:38:58 PM

SASKATOON -- Fred Koe will watch his sons square off at the Brier from way, way up in Credit Union Centre.

The patriarch of the curling Koes admits he booked his tickets to the Tim Hortons Brier so late this year, the premium seats were all gone.

He'll have a bird's-eye view of what is surprisingly an anticipated matchup at this year's Canadian men's curling championship.

It's surprising because Jamie Koe's Yellowknife team representing both Yukon and Northwest Territories wasn't expected to be anywhere in the running.

Alberta's Kevin Koe was a pre-tournament favourite and followed the script Tuesday with a 6-1 record.

With the Territories at 5-2, Koe versus Koe in Wednesday morning's draw is important to both brothers and their teams in the standings.

Don't miss any of the action, live on TSN at 9:30am et/6:30am pt. Also available on TSN Mobile TV.

Fred Koe says he'll try to enjoy the moment from his perch.

"For any parent, it's a real dream to have two sons at this level of curling," he said. "Of course, you're on pins and needles the whole week. I'll cheer for the boys and hope they perform well when they play each other. They're both competitive and both want to win. They're both representing their respective provinces and territories.

"The ideal thing is to have them both in the final. It's a long week and let's hope they continue their good play and get into the playoffs."

Because there are so many competitive teams in Alberta, it's hard to make it out of the province and to get to the Brier. Once there, though, the Alberta team is more often than not a favourite to win the Canadian title.

It's the opposite in the Yukon and Northwest Territories. A lack of competition makes it easier for one team to dominate year after year, but the Territories are a longshot at every Brier.

Jamie and Kevin made it to the same Brier two years ago in Halifax. They faced each other on the final day of the preliminary round, when Jamie's team had no chance at a playoff spot and Kevin was still in the hunt. Alberta won the game easily 8-3.

The stakes will be higher this time when the Koe siblings meet. The top four teams Thursday advance to playoffs.

"It's not fun in that one of us has to lose," Kevin Koe said. "We really need that win so we're going to have to come out and play well.

"They're playing really good and they're going to need the win. Two years ago, we were the team that really needed to have that win so it will be a different case (Wednesday)."

The Territories went 1-10 in Halifax, while Kevin's team won the Canadian championship and then went on to claim the world title. Jamie says the game against his brother was memorable because Kevin won the championship.

"It's pretty special to play him," Jamie recalled. "He hadn't been there before and we'd been to a few so it was nice to see him finally get there. It was a great experience cheering him on over the week and watching him win. It was by far an epic weekend for sure.

"We were a different team back then. We really, really struggled that week so I think we're a lot better this year and hopefully a little more competitive."

Previous brothers who clashed at the Brier as skips include Ontario's Glenn Howard versus New Brunswick's Russ Howard in 2009 in Calgary. Also, Ontario's Gord Campbell met B.C.'s Donald Campbell in 1942 in Quebec City.

Jamie, 34, is skipping a Territories team at the Brier for the sixth time, with his best result being a 6-5 record in Hamilton in 2007.

The expense and distance required to play in World Curling Tour events usually puts the Territories at a disadvantage at national championships. They arrive not having played as many competitive games as their counterparts.

The Territories' winning percentage coming into this year's Brier was 27 per cent compared to 69 for Alberta. The Territories made the playoffs just once in 1975 when Donald Twa's team was a finalist.

So Jamie understands when people have low expectations of the Territories at the Brier.

"You've got to earn it and the Territories haven't earned it," Jamie said. "Until we start being competitive year in and year out, people will be surprised."

Kevin, 37, moved from Yellowknife to Alberta to go to university and remained there, skipping the province at the Canadian mixed championship back in 2000.

Jamie's twin sister Kerry Koe-Galusha skipped the Territories at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts last month in Red Deer, Alta., for the eighth time.

Jamie and Kerry, born in Yellowknife, both work for the Northwest Territories government. Kevin, born in Edmonton, is employed in the oil and gas industry in Calgary.

Since parents Fred and Linda were avid in the sport, the Koe kids grew up rink rats of curling, not hockey.

"They work hard," Fred said. "They picked up the game and they've had good coaching up north and they've had a lot of time and a lot of access to the rinks to practise. The effort they put in individually and with their teams, that's why they're here."

The brothers don't have any side bets on their game Wednesday.

"I don't think I'm dumb enough to start betting world champions that we're going to beat them in a game," Jamie said.

They did, however, wager on the Ford Hot Shots competition to open the tournament Saturday. Jamie earned more points than Kevin, so to the victor goes the liquid spoils.

"I won four drink tokens off him," Jamie boasted. "That's big currency around the Brier, drink tokens."

 

The brothers don't have any side bets on their game Wednesday.

"I don't think I'm dumb enough to start betting world champions that we're going to beat them in a game," Jamie said.

They did, however, wager on the Ford Hot Shots competition to open the tournament Saturday. Jamie earned more points than Kevin, so to the victor goes the liquid spoils.

"I won four drink tokens off him," Jamie boasted. "That's big currency around the Brier, drink tokens."