Kevin Koe arrives at this year’s Tim Hortons Brier as the defending champion. Last year, in Brandon Manitoba, the Alberta skip won his fourth national championship, earning him a direct berth into this year’s event.
In Kingston, the 45-year-old skip will swap his familiar Alberta jersey for a Team Canada uniform; one of the many perks that comes with winning a national title.
While there are benefits to winning the Tim Hortons Brier, including the $105,000 payout to the first-place team, there are some downsides as well. While the majority of teams competing this week have made their way through complicated qualifying procedures in their respective provinces, Koe’s team was guaranteed a spot in this year’s field.
While many teams would relish the opportunity to earn some extra rest during a jam-packed curling season, not playing in a provincial championship can make a team feel unprepared.
“It’s different, you just don’t get the competition, especially the way the schedule played out this year,” Koe said regarding the lack of competition he has had since the holiday break.
While some could see Koe as being at a bit of a disadvantage compared to some of the more prepared teams, such a situation didn’t seem to affect the skip back in 2017. After winning the Brier in Ottawa in 2016, Koe was able to lead Team Canada to a silver medal at the 2017 event in St. John’s.
“It’s not new, we were Team Canada in 2017 so I have a pretty good idea of the preparation required,” said Koe. “I think it’s actually worked great for us, we’ve had a ton of practice as a team… I think we’re in good shape.”
If Koe is able to defend his national championship, it would mark the skip’s fifth Brier title in the last ten years. But earning his place in the history books is the last thing on Koe’s mind this week.
“That’s definitely not the motivation this week,” Koe said about the prospect of winning his fifth national title. “The motivation is just to win this year.”
Team Canada will begin their quest for a second-consecutive Brier title on Saturday afternoon when they go up against Team Ontario, skipped by Peterbourgh’s John Epping.