ST. JOHN’S, N.L. â€” The Tim Hortons Brier begins Thursday night with the qualification round opener at Mile One Centre in St. John’s. The 12-team main draw kicks off Saturday afternoon.
Here’s a look at the teams who will try to raise the Brier tankard on March 12 (with skip name):
KEVIN KOE, TEAM CANADA
It has been a so-so season for the reigning Canadian and world champions. Koe’s rink struggled at the Canada Cup and has not impressed on the Slam circuit so far this season.
However, this lineup is still in its prime and all four team members have glowing resumes. Another Brier victory would give them an opportunity to play for a world title in their home province as Edmonton will host the 2017 world playdowns next month.
BRAD GUSHUE, NEWFOUNDLAND AND LABRADOR
Home ice should be a big advantage for Gushue, who lobbied to have the national competition return to St. John’s for the first time since 1972. He would love nothing more than to win his first Brier title in his home province.
Newfoundland and Labrador essentially shut down in 2006 to watch Gushue win Olympic gold at the Turin Games. Interest will be booming if Gushue continues his recent run of strong play and goes deep into the week.
CRAIG KOCHAN, YUKON
Kochan, a Brier rookie, handles skip duties for the Yukon entry although he throws third stones. Ray Mikkelsen serves as vice-skip and throws second stones and Jon Solberg is the third but throws fourth rocks.
Yukon is one of four teams entered in the qualification round for the last remaining berth in the main draw.
JOHN MORRIS, BRITISH COLUMBIA
Morris, who won the 2015 Brier with Pat Simmons, Carter Rycroft and Nolan Thiessen, rejoined the B.C. team with vice-skip Jim Cotter â€” who throws last stones â€” before this season.
The rink finished second at the 2013 Olympic Trials and at the 2014 Brier.
BRAD JACOBS, NORTHERN ONTARIO
The reigning Olympic champions were perfect in the Brier round-robin last year but faltered in the playoffs.
They have had an up-and-down season so far but they won the National in December and enjoyed an undefeated run in the Northern Ontario playdowns.
BRENDAN BOTTCHER, ALBERTA
Bottcher locked up a berth in his first Brier with a 6-5 extra-end win over fellow Edmonton skip Ted Appelman.
Lead Karrick Martin is the son of legendary skip Kevin Martin, who will serve as coach of the young Alberta rink.
GLENN HOWARD, ONTARIO
Howard will lead a rink with a mix of experience and youth in this year’s national playdowns.
He has four Canadian titles and four world titles on his resume. Howard’s team should be fresh after playing a reduced schedule this season.
JAMIE MURPHY, NOVA SCOTIA
Murphy will be looking to reach the main draw this year after falling to Jamie Koe in last year’s qualification round final.
Murphy needed a two-point extra end to get by Dartmouthâ€™s Stu Thompson 9-7 in the provincial final.
ADAM CASEY, SASKATCHEWAN
Casey upset Steve Laycock in the provincial championship to become the fifth player in Brier history to win titles with three different provinces or territories.
The 27-year-old skip joined his new team last spring after representing Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador in the past. Casey leads a young rink that will be guided by coach Pat Simmons.
MIKE McEWEN, MANITOBA
McEwen reached the Brier playoffs in his first appearance last year but fell to Jacobs in the bronze-medal game.
McEwen defended his Manitoba title this year by edging fellow Winnipeg skip Reid Carruthers 8-7.
JAMIE KOE, NORTHWEST TERRITORIES
Koe will make his 11th career appearance at the national playdowns.
He won the qualification final last year and completed round-robin play with a 3-8 mark. Koe finished tied for ninth place to avoid relegation.
JEAN-MICHEL MENARD, QUEBEC
Menard, who won the Brier in 2006, returns to the national championship after winning his 11th provincial title.
His team has played well at lower-level events this season so it will be interesting to see how they fare against the country’s best. Menard has shown he can get to the playoff round in the past and should not be taken lightly.
EDDIE MacKENZIE, PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND
Prince Edward Island was relegated to the qualification round after Casey skipped the team to a 2-9 record last year. MacKenzie defeated Phil Gorveatt in this year’s provincial final.
Gorveatt, who also plays out of the Charlottetown Curling Complex, is joining MacKenzie’s team as an alternate. MacKenzie made his Brier debut in 1994 as a third for skip Mike Gaudet.
MIKE KENNEDY, NEW BRUNSWICK
Kennedy, who won the Canadian senior men’s title in 2013, returns to the Brier this year after posting a 3-8 mark last year.
The veteran skip will be making his sixth Brier appearance.
JIM NIX, NUNAVUT
Nix is an import from New Glasgow, N.S., who will lead a Nunavut team that will compete in the qualification round.
The territory was winless in its debut last year.
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Gregory Strong, The Canadian Press