‘It runs in the blood’: family gives Ben Hebert his curling start
Curling in Saskatchewan is synonymous with drinking large amounts of beer and spending hours upon hours in small-town rinks with family, creating long lines of curlers in the process. The latter holds true for Regina-native Ben Hebert, a product of his curling bloodline.
The 34-year-old throws lead stones for Team Canada, made up of skip Kevin Koe, third Marc Kennedy and second Brent Laing.
Hebert has a long list of championships under his belt, including three Brier titles, two World Men’s Curling Championships and an Olympic gold medal—something he’s looking to duplicate in PyeongChang. He’s curled under the likes of Pat Simmons in Saskatchewan, before moving west to curl with Kevin Martin’s rink and now Kevin Koe’s.
Years of hard work, commitment and a passion for the game have helped pave the way for Hebert to become one of the best leads in the world. But his accomplishments only make up a portion of the countless provincial, national and international titles that belong to the Hebert name.
Hebert’s younger brother Chris won the 2005 World Junior Men’s Curling Championship in Italy, after Hebert influenced him to pick up the game and even scouted out a team for him to play with.
“Curling kind of came naturally to us because we were always here at the rink, watching our dad, uncles and grandpas play,” Chris explained. “It runs in the blood.”
Neither Hebert, nor Chris started curling competitively until high school, but the two were introduced to the sport before they were out of diapers.
“When (Ben) was just a little guy he would come to the rink and as soon as the games were over he wanted to be out on the ice throwing rocks when he could barely even walk,” recalled Hebert’s uncle, Brad.
Hebert didn’t have much of an option other than to let the sport consume him. His family would often skip out on Thanksgiving dinner and instead spend the holiday competing in numerous bonspiels around the city.
“Curling kind of always came first,” said Bruce, Hebert’s dad. “It’s just part of our DNA.”
It wasn’t until the 1992 Labatt Brier Hebert got a glimpse into his future. At nine years old, he watched his Uncle Brad skip Team Saskatchewan to a 5-6 record in Regina.
“I remember him there,” Brad recalled. “He was our biggest cheerleader and I think he quite enjoyed the experience.”
“You could see the glow in his eye,” Bruce said. “I remember his excitement of being part of a brier at that young age and I think that really tweaked him to keep going.”
Hebert has since surpassed his family’s accomplishments. And although they say it’s a bit surreal to watch Hebert compete in his second Olympic games, it’s not hard to see how he got there.
“Ben’s a pretty fiery guy, he’s a real competitor,” Bruce said. “He wants to win. He want’s to be the best in whatever sport he does and that really shines through when you watch him compete.”
Hebert’s dad, brother and wife will be cheering from the stands in South Korea.
Bruce says the competition is a little steeper this time around, but Team Canada is still favoured to win gold. If that happens, Hebert will become one of only four Canadian curlers to reach the top of the Olympic podium twice.
Regardless of the outcome, Hebert’s family is sending him the same message they did for the 2010 Winter Games:
“To go to the Olympics is unbelievable,” Brad said. “Whether you come home with an Olympic medal or not, we’ll be just as proud. Go and try your best.”
Team Canada takes on Italy in the first draw of the Olympic Men’s Curling tournament Feb. 13 at 6:05 p.m. CT.
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