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NO’s Team Bonot using Iceman’s calming nature to their advantage in first Brier

Jordan Potts, Kurtis Byrd and Mike McCarville Jordan Potts, Kurtis Byrd and Mike McCarville - Curling Canada

REGINA – Team Trevor Bonot is hoping a Canadian curling legend known for his calming presence will make a difference at this year’s Montana’s Brier.

Two-time Brier and world champion Al Hackner, affectionally known as the Iceman, is making his first appearance at the Canadian men’s curling championship since 2001 this week in Regina as coach of Northern Ontario.  

“Al Hackner can bring the party to this team. He always has a fun time,” quipped Team Bonot second Jordan Potts, still perspiring after a convincing 9-4 win over New Brunswick in their Brier opener on Saturday. “The wealth of knowledge that he has, and even just a presence for our skipper to bounce ideas off of because us front ends, we got heads like rocks. We're just there to sweep.”

Potts, skip Bonot, and lead Kurtis Byrd are all making their Brier debuts this week while third Mike McCarville has a lone appearance from 2014.

They didn’t look like Brier rookies on Saturday afternoon at Brandt Centre as the team shot a collective 88 per cent in the win, including a 91 per cent showing from both Bonot and McCarville.

“It was a pretty great day out there for us,” said the 38-year-old Bonot.

Hackner has been with Team Bonot for the past few years serving as a part-time coach, helping them train a few times a month and travelling to the odd bonspiel.

“Well, they can play exceptionally well at times, but then there's also times where they falter a little bit, so I'm hoping they can stay focused and stay sharp,” Hackner told “Obviously, you saw them, they played very well that game [against New Brunswick] and hopefully they can keep going.”

A member of the Curling Canada Hall of Fame, Hackner was one of the best curlers on the planet during the 1980s, capturing his second and final Tankard against Pat Ryan at the 1985 Brier in Moncton with one of the most memorable shots of time.

But it was at his first Brier in 1980 in Calgary when the curling world became aware of the nickname “Iceman” after Hackner made a pistol against hometown favourite Paul Gowsell to score three points.

“The Calgary crowd, even though it was against their hometown team, it was such a good shot that the crowd actually gave me a pretty good cheer for that shot,” explained Hacker. “So, when the crowd died down, my goofball buddy, yells as loud so the whole crowd could hear just when they came down to a murmur, he says ‘you have just met the Iceman!’

“I come off the ice and every reporter is all over me. What's this Iceman?”

The name stuck thanks to Hackner’s stoic and emotionless demeanour on the ice.

“I was pretty reserved and calm back there,” said the 69-year-old. “That was just my nature. I never got too excited, up or down. People used to say you can never tell if I was winning or losing.”

Hackner needed to insert some of that calmness into Team Bonot during January’s provincial final.

“In about the seventh or eighth end, I had to go out there and give them a little chat about playing too fast and too excited…and it worked,” he said. “They played pretty well the last couple ends and it was the other team that faltered. “

Bonot says Hackner’s presence can only help them this week at Brandt Centre.

“It's so amazing that we get to hear stories of how curling used to be and we know different things. It also keeps us really calm. We really needed that calmness in our provincial final and he brought that and he needs to help us in many ways.”

With the likes of Alberta’s Team Brendan Bottcher, Manitoba’s Team Matt Dunstone and Team Reid Carruthers as well as Ontario’s Team Scott Howard viewed as the favourites in a loaded Pool A, not many are picking the foursome out of the Fort William Curling Club in Thunder Bay to be in the playoff mix.  

“If we play well, we never know what will happen. We believe that if we play our best, we'll give good teams, good games,” said Bonot. “So we'll see. You know, we're not putting any pressure on ourselves.”

Regardless of how the week turns out, count on Team Bonot making the most of their time in Regina.

“I would describe this team as we're best buddies,” said Potts. “We go out there, win or lose, we're going to have a fun time, on-and-off the ice. We always set the tone in one way or another.”

Familiar Names, New Faces

Curling fans have become very familiar with names like McCarville and Potts representing Northern Ontario on the national stage as Krista [McCarville] and Sarah [Potts] have become regulars at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts over the past few years.

Now the same can be said for the Brier as their husbands are repping the association’s colours under the bright lights of prime-time curling.

Was it inspiring watching your significant others compete with the best in Canada?

“Well it inspires us because then the shoe can be on the other foot for childcare and getting away,” joked Potts, 35. “They [Team Krista McCarville] work really hard at the game. We work really hard at the game as well because we do have commitments back home and because Northern Ontario is a little farther to get everywhere, we focus a lot on practice even if we can't play quite as much as these top teams.”

“They love watching mom on TV and we always really cheer for her,” McCarville added. “It's cool because I know that my kids are home watching me this time.”

McCarville, who like his wife is a schoolteacher in Thunder Bay, is thrilled to be back at the Brier after making his first appearance a decade ago in Kamloops.

“When I went in 2014, I thought, ‘OK, well, you know what, plug away here and I hope to get back in the next few years.’ Then 10 years went by,” said the 42-year-old. “So, it's super cool that we were able to do it this year. But we played a lot more this year. We put a little more time in. This is our goal all year to get here and now we're going to do the best with the opportunity.”

Both McCarville and Potts are part of a small collection of curlers at this year’s Brier who like to wear backwards baseball caps during games.

It’s not for the style, says Potts, but rather out of necessity.

“We sweat a lot. So, it's more to keep the hair out of the face and the sweat out of the face,” he said.

“I'm definitely going to bring a towel from the hotel next time. We're used to a little bit of a colder atmosphere out there.”

Northern Ontario will look to improve to 2-0 on Sunday morning when they take on Newfoundland and Labrador.