Cotter stoked for Kamloops Brier

Tyrell Griffith, left, and Jim Cotter tend to a rock in the provincial men’s curling finals Sunday in Vancouver. - Rebecca Connop Price Photo
Tyrell Griffith, left, and Jim Cotter tend to a rock in the provincial men’s curling finals Sunday in Vancouver.
— image credit: Rebecca Connop Price Photo


Jim Cotter vividly remembers being in the seats at the Interior Savings Centre in Kamloops in 1996, cheering on hometown favourite Barry McPhee in the Tim Hortons Brier Canadian men’s curling championship.

In two weeks, fans from Cotter’s hometown will be cheering him on in the same rink in the same event.

Cotter, 39, who has lived in Vernon with his wife and kids for the past 12 years, won his fourth Canadian Direct Insurance B.C. men’s curling title in Vancouver Sunday, downing Jason Montgomery of Duncan 11-2 in the championship game at the Vancouver Curling Club.

The win gives Cotter and his teammates – skip John Morris, second Tyrel Griffith and lead Rick Sawatsky – the right to represent the province at the Tim Hortons Brier March 1-9 at the Interior Savings Centre.

“I was 20 or 21, watching Barry and those guys, I was a huge fan of that team and I remember cheering for them and being envious and extremely excited,” said Cotter, a health information systems programmer/analyst. “I thought, ‘What a wonderful opportunity to participate in a Brier in their hometown.’

“When it was announced a couple of years ago that the Brier was coming back to Kamloops, well that was huge motivation to make it happen. I’m extremely excited.”

The Cotter/Morris quartet went undefeated in securing the provincial crown (Morris, in fact, won Olympic gold at the same venue in 2010 with Edmonton’s Kevin Martin. Their rink went 11-0, so Morris has never lost at the Hillcrest Centre facility), capping things off with the romp in the final.

The Vernon-Kelowna foursome scored three in the first end against Montgomery, who advanced to the final Saturday night with an 8-7, extra-end win over Brent Pearce of New Westminster.

After Montgomery picked up one in the second, the Morris rink scored a deuce in three and stole one more in four for a commanding 6-1 lead.

A four-spot in seven made it a 10-2 match and when Montgomery missed his final shot in the eighth end for a steal of one, he shook hands.

“It was a good start with lots of rocks in play and we capitalized on one of their misses,” said Cotter, a Class of 1993 Norkam Secondary graduate who began curling at the age of seven. “We wanted to keep the pressure on. It’s a 10-end game and anything can happen.”

Which is exactly how things played out in the one-two page playoff game for Team Morris against Pearce.

The New Westminster skip had an 8-5 lead heading into the final end without hammer.

After a series of misses by the coast rink, Cotter had a draw for four, which he nailed for a stunning 9-8 come-from-behind win and a berth in the final.

“That was probably our weakest game of the week and we were definitely outplayed, probably at every position,” said Cotter, adding there was “absolutely no consideration” in shaking hands after nine ends.

“We stayed calm and collected and put some shots together in the last end. We were fortunate to get the four-ender to bring it home but we’ll take it any way we can get it. It’s curling. You never have a game in the bag.”

It will be a strong field in Kamloops.

Jeff Stoughton of Manitoba – who won his first of three Brier titles in 1996 in Kamloops – will make his 11th appearance at the Canadian championship, as will Newfoundland and Labrador’s Brad Gushue (his ninth straight appearance).

Former Canadian and world champion Kevin Koe will represent Alberta, while his brother Jamie represents the Territories for a sixth straight year.

Hamilton’s Greg Balsdon ended Glenn Howard’s eight-year reign as Ontario champion.

Morris will be making his seventh Brier appearance (with a third different team), Griffith will be in his second Brier and it will be the fourth for the Vernon pair of Cotter and Sawatsky – the two have curled with each other for 11 years.

“The field is another great one, it’s Canada’s best from each province,” said Cotter. “We know we have to be at the top of our game, do all the preparation and things we need to do leading up to it so we’ll be 100 per cent ready.

“Hopefully we’ll put some wins on the board, sneak into the playoffs, then you never know what can happen from there.”

Vernon club manager Dave Merklinger has organized two fans buses for Wednesday, March 5 Brier draws. The buses leave Vernon at 10:30 and return at 10:30 p.m.

Price is $70, which includes seven draws. Call 542-6713.



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