Veteran skip Glenn Howard begins final push to get to Winter Olympics

Team Ontario skip Glenn Howard reacts to his shot entering the house during round robin competition against Team PEI at the Brier curling championship, Wednesday, March 9, 2016 in Ottawa.
Team Ontario skip Glenn Howard reacts to his shot entering the house during round robin competition against Team PEI at the Brier curling championship, Wednesday, March 9, 2016 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

The one thing missing from Glenn Howard’s impressive curling resume is an Olympic title. He’ll need to win the upcoming Home Hardware Road to the Roar Pre-Trials to have a chance of getting to the 2018 Winter Games.

Howard, a four-time Brier and world champion, is one of the headliners in a 14-team men’s field that includes former Brier champs Pat Simmons of Winnipeg, Jean-Michel Menard of Saint-Romuald, Que., and 2010 Olympic champion John Morris of Chestermere, Alta.

Shannon Kleibrink of Okotoks, Alta., who won bronze at the 2006 Turin Games, is in the 14-team women’s field along with Sherry Middaugh of Coldwater, Ont., Krista McCarville of Thunder Bay, Ont., and Edmonton’s Kelsey Rocque.

Play begins Monday afternoon at Credit Union Place in Summerside, P.E.I., and continues through Nov. 12.

READ MORE: Canada’s top female curlers set sights on December Olympic trials in Ottawa 

This will be the final Olympic cycle for Howard, who turned 55 over the summer. He plans to use alternate Adam Spencer at third after vice-skip Richard Hart pulled out with a knee injury.

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Hart will handle coaching duties for the team instead.

“We’re totally capable,” Howard said from his hometown of Tiny, Ont. “Are we the best team in the world right now? No. But can we beat anybody? Absolutely. I’m a firm believer of that.”

Two men’s teams and two women’s rinks from the Pre-Trials will qualify for the Dec. 2-10 Tim Hortons Roar of the Rings — the Olympic Trials — in Ottawa. The winning teams from the Trials will represent Canada at the Pyeongchang Olympics in February.

“As much pressure as it is, that’s why we play the game,” Morris said in a recent interview. “It’s what you want to get to.”

Other entries in the Pre-Trials men’s field include Charlottetown resident Adam Casey, Edmonton’s Brendan Bottcher, Halifax’s Jamie Murphy, Greg Balsdon of Kingston, Ont., Winnipeg’s William Lyburn, Mark Bice of Sarnia, Ont., Dayna Deruelle of Brampton, Ont., Jason Gunnlaugson of Winnipeg, Colton Flasch of Saskatoon and Charley Thomas of Edmonton.

The women’s field includes Winnipeg’s Darcy Robertson, Theresa Breen of Halifax, Julie Tippin of Woodstock, Ont., Winnipeg’s Shannon Birchand, Jacqueline Harrison of Mississauga, Ont., Tracy Fleury of Sudbury, Ont., Briane Meilleur of Winnipeg, Kerri Einarson of East St. Paul, Man., Karla Thompson of Kamloops, B.C., and Calgary’s Nadine Scotland.

READ MORE: Rachel Homan wins gold for Canada at World Women’s Curling Championship 2017

Teams will be seeded and split into two pools of seven for the round-robin competition. The top three teams from each pool will advance to the playoffs.

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The first- and second-place teams will cross over to meet each other in the first round of the A-side. The winners will meet for the first Roar of the Rings berth.

The first-round losers will drop to meet the third-place teams in each pool in the first round of the B-side. The winners of the two games will then meet, with the winner taking on the A-side final loser for the second berth.

READ MORE: Canada’s Brad Jacobs wins curling gold in Sochi 

Canada is the reigning Olympic champion in both the men’s and women’s events.

Brad Jacobs of Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., won gold at the 2014 Sochi Games and Winnipeg’s Jennifer Jones took the women’s crown. Jacobs advanced through the 2013 Pre-Trials before winning the main Trials.

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