You might call it getting the old gang back together.
There are plenty of young and relatively young teams entered in the 2018 Tankard provincial men’s curling championship, being played this week at the Re/Max Centre in St. John’s, but there some entries bringing a veteran presence to their round-robin games.
None more than the Frank O’Driscoll rink, which owns a 2-1 record after three draws and sits behind three undefeated rinks — Adam Boland and Greg Smith, both a 3-0, and Andrew Symonds, at 2-0 — in the Tankard standings.
Between them, O’Driscoll, third Rick Rowsell, second Craig Dowden and lead Ken Peddigrew have 10 Newfoundland and Labrador men’s titles, stretching back to 1994, when O'Driscoll threw third stones for Mark Noseworthy’s Tankard winners.
What’s more, three members of the team have skipped provincial champs — O’Driscoll in 1996 (on a team that included Rowsell and Dowden), Rowsell in 2000 (again with Dowden on board) and Peddigrew in 2006.
The latter also happens to be the last time somebody other than Brad Gushue skipped a Tankard winner. Gushue claimed every provincial men’s crown from 2003 to last year, except for 2006, when he was in Italy winning an Olympic gold medal. He’s again absent this year because he won the 2017 Brier, giving him a direct route as defending champion and Team Canada for this year’s national men’s championship set for early March in Regina.
With Gushue and his ongoing provincial dominance out of the picture, this year’s Tankard has attracted nine entries playing in a round-robin that will end Friday leading into playoffs starting Saturday and finishing with the championship game on Sunday.
O’Driscoll moved to Ottawa a number of years ago, but is back for this Tankard after hooking up again with Dowden and Rowsell 22 years after they combined for a provincial men’s title. The one change is Peddigrew; Peter Hollett was on the team in 1996.
But when it comes to individual Tankard seniority at the Re/Max Centre this week, nobody can top Noseworthy, who has skipped four provincial champions, with his first coming way back in 1982.
Officially, Noseworthy is listed as the spare for Adam Boland’s St. John’s rink, but he’s already seen action during the Tankard round-robin. Boland and his defending Canadian university men’s champions, who are seen as among the favourites to be the new Newfoundland representatives at the Brier, took on O’Driscoll on Tuesday night.
Boland won 8-4, stealing five points, all on singles.
Smith shares first place with Boland after a hard-fought 9-7 win over Colin Thomas (0-3), a game that saw Smith break open a 5-5 tie with a score of three in the seventh end.
Other results Tuesday night saw Symonds defeat Justin Lockyer (0-3) by a 7-2 score, and Paul Harvey (2-1) down Trent Skanes (0-2) by scoring two points with last-rock advantage in the 10th end for a 6-4 decision.
The Dave Thomas rink (0-2) from Port aux Basques the only one of the nine entries that isn’t based out of the Re/Max Centre (St. John’s Curling Club), had a bye in the third draw.