Howard cements legacy with world title
Canada skip Glenn Howard delivers his stone during play against Scotland in the gold medal game at the World Men's Curling Championship 2012 in Basel on April 8, 2012. (REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann)
Four decades. Four titles.
Glenn Howard established himself as one of Canada's all-time great skips with another gold-medal performance at the world curling championship.
A 8-7 extra-end win over Scotland's Tom Brewster Sunday in Basel, Switzerland, sealed Howard's incredible record at the worlds.
What's more impressive is that every time Howard has made an appearance at a world championship, he has gone home a winner -- in 1987, 1993, 2007 and 2012.
"God, it feels good, it feels sweet," said Howard. "I won my first world title 25 years ago and this one's just as special, maybe more so. It just feels great to win. They get more special because I don't think I'll be getting back (to the world championship)."
Howard has won the world title twice as a third and twice as a skip, joining an elite group of four-time winners, matching Ernie Richardson and Randy Ferbey.
Howard first burst on the scene throwing third rocks for his brother Russ, who skipped the team to its first Brier (and worlds) win in 1987.
Win No. 2 came in 1993 on another Russ-skipped team that featured a spunky young second by the name of Wayne Middaugh.
It was during this period when there had been some concern about the direction of the game. Television had arrived on the scene and the hitting, low-scoring game which had trademarked the traditional approach to curling proved less than appealing.
Although Russ had the higher profile at the time, he pitched an idea that he and Glenn had used during their practise sessions. The idea was to increase the degree of difficulty by placing a couple of rocks in front of the rings.
That's how the free-guard zone came into being and both Howard brothers can take credit tor transforming the game into a more fan-friendly experience.
Time moved on and eventually Russ re-located to New Brunswick.
That forced Glenn to strike out on his own and, 14 years after his last world title, Howard won another championship in 2007 with his current front end of Craig Savill and Brent Laing.
Howard's long-time third, Richard Hart, was also part of that foursome. Hart decide to retire after the 2011 season. He was replaced by Middaugh, whose friendship with Howard dated back to that 1993 world championship team.
Middaugh, who skipped his own world championship team in 1998, proved to be a valuable addition. His rock-steady play during the Brier and the world championship proved to be an indispensable element in this year's march to the top of the podium.
"The guys in front of me were incredible," said Howard. "If anybody missed a shot, somebody else was there to set it right."
Unlike his 2007 win, Howard had to scratch and claw his way several times, including both extra-end wins over Brewster in the final and in the 1-2 game.
"I can't give enough praise to my team," said Howard. "They've been fantastic all year. We hung in there. It wasn't our A game, but we got it done with a B+ game. I'm totally exhausted."
Howard can rest easy, knowing he's now among Canadian curling's all-time greats, not only because of his four titles but because of his role as innovator of the free guard zone.
Canada's top five skips
Randy Ferbey: Won three world championships during his incredible five-year run that started a decade ago. Ferbey, who announced his retirement from competitive curling late last month, added a fourth title with skip Pat Ryan in 1989.
Ernie Richardson: Set the gold standard for skips with an unequalled four world championships as a skip, all in a five-year period. The only top-five skip before the free-guard zone era.
Kevin Martin: An Olympic gold and silver medal winner. Although he's won only one world championship title, in 2008, Martin was instrumental in helping set up the Grand Slam series and has won more of those events than any other curler.
Glenn Howard: Four titles in four decades, the last two as a skip put him in an elite club. Add his role as innovator of the free-guard zone and he's worthy of his status.
Jeff Stoughton: Won two world championships in three tries and has been the most dominant skip out of Manitoba in the past two decades.