The star-studded 30-team male and female field at the Boost National championship in C.B.S. offers a who’s who of curling stardom, including one legend who continues to sling granite at the game’s top level years after his induction into the Canadian Curling Hall of Fame.
At 56, Glenn Howard is the Gordie Howe of the pebbled ice, a wily veteran who still commands a ton of respect, and can still make shots with the best of them.
“Honest to God,” he was saying this week, “it’s still a ton of fun. I love to play curling, I love to compete.
“For me, it just feels right to be out there. I love to play, I love to practice. I love going to the rink.
“When that’s gone, I’m done. Or,” he smiled, “if the body goes first.”
It’s been almost 50 years since Glenn Howard — or, as he’s known in these parts, Russ’s little brother which is in homage to the other Hall of Famer, Russ Howard, who was part of Brad Gushue’s 2006 Olympic championship team — first picked up a curling rock.
Through the late 1980s and into the early 90s, the Howards were the cornerstones on those great Ontario teams skipped by Russ, with Glenn as his vice.
The duo won the Brier in 1987 and ’93, before Glenn went out on his own, skipping teams which resulted in another two Canadian championships in 2007 and ’12. Brent Laing and Craig Savill were his front end on those squads, with Richard Hart throwing third stones in ’07 and Wayne Middaugh his mate in 2012.
In each of the four years he won the Brier, Glenn Howard went on to win the world championship.
Howard is the current all-time leader for most Brier appearances with 17, three more than Gushue.
“There’s nobody out there close to my age playing at this level,” he said. “It’s literally fun.
“But I’m not kidding myself. If we go out there and I start embarrassing myself, start losing a lot more than we’re winning, I’m not naive not to think the fun will come out of it.
“You still need to win along the way.”
Howard finished the preliminary round at the National at 2-2. With no games Friday, the team was waiting to see how things shake out for this morning’s tie-breakers (if necessary) and quarter-finals.
Howard is quick to admit a large part of the fun he finds in curling comes with playing with Scott Howard, his son away from the rink and voice-skip on the ice.
“I can honestly say I’m not sure I’d still be out there kicking around if he wasn’t playing with me,” said Glenn, who has David Mathers and Tim March on the front end. “He joined me two or three years ago, and we’re having a blast.”
Scott Howard is proving to be a chip off the old block, stepping up to skip the team a few weeks ago in Halifax at the Stu Sells Halifax 1824 bonspiel.
With his father in Europe coaching Eve Muirhead’s Scottish foursome, Team Howard dumped Brad Gushue’s squad from St. John’s 8-4 in the Halifax final.
Muirhead, who skips one of the top teams on the women’s tour, reached out to Glenn Howard three years ago about coaching her team.
It was something that piqued his interest, though he admits it wasn’t at the top of his bucket list of things to do.
“But I thought about it, talked to my family, talked to the Scottish association,” he said. “I love it … love the girls to death. They’re attentive, they listen to what I have to say, they do what they have to do.
“I’m back on at least for this year. It’s just a matter of how much I can commit with my curling and work.
“But it’s great in that I feel like I’m giving back a little bit.”
Howard isn’t looking too far into the future, unless you’re talking about his looming retirement from running The Beer Store in his native Midland, Ont.
It’s a year-to-year thing now, and while he’s not convinced he’ll be curling for a berth in the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, he’s not ruling it out entirely, either.
One thing is certain, however. He’ll remain in the game in some capacity, but it won’t be curling seniors. When he’s done, Howard says, he’s done.
“But I love this sport. I think it’s the best sport in the world, and whether it’s coaching, or at the administrative level or whatever, there will be something I’ll looking at.
“Coaching is really filling a void nicely. Look at Jeff Stoughton (the former Brier winner and world champ who is the national men’s team coach for the 2022 Beijing Games). He’s smart, knows the game and working for Curling Canada.
“I do want to stay in the game. The thing is right now, I still feel I’m good enough to play with the big boys. I don’t want to pack it in and then go, ‘Geez, I wish I’d kept going.’ Because you can’t go back.”