OTTAWA — It was a family affair at the Tim Hortons Brier on Wednesday.
Ontario alternate Joey Hart made his national men’s curling championship debut in a 9-4 win over Prince Edward Island’s Adam Casey. The TD Place crowd let out a big cheer when Hart left the bench area to join his father, Richard Hart, and teammates Glenn and Scott Howard on the ice.
"There’s nothing like it," a grinning Joey Hart said after the game. "To play in a Brier is one thing, to get to play with your Dad is pretty cool."
It was the first time that Hart had curled with his father in a competitive setting. With the game well in hand, the 18-year-old opened the eighth and final end by delivering a smooth throw that caught a touch of the button.
Joey said his dad weighed in with some advice before he stepped into the hack.
"’Don’t hog it.’ And then afterwards he said when I was sweeping, ‘Don’t burn it,"’ Joey said, referring to a pair of violations he managed to avoid. "That’s all you’ve got to do. Then just smile pretty for the photos."
Second Adam Spencer, who is filling in for vice-skip Wayne Middaugh while he recovers from a broken leg, took a break so Hart could make his debut.
It was the first time in Brier history that two father-son duos were in the same on-ice lineup, a Curling Canada spokesman said.
"That was the fastest my heart was racing the whole (week) was filling that form out to get Joey in the game and then watching him throw those first two rocks," Middaugh said. "That’s fantastic and to me, that’s the type of thing that Brier memories are made of.
"And for Rich, that’s the treat of a lifetime."
Scott Howard served as the team alternate when his father last won the Brier in 2012. Scott represented Ontario at last year’s playdowns with skip Mark Kean before joining his Dad’s team this season as lead.
Joey Hart, meanwhile, usually plays for the University of Guelph out of the Guelph Curling Club. He has played the occasional men’s league game with his father but nothing quite like this.
"That was simply awesome," Glenn said. "Obviously to have a chance to play with my son is surreal and then to bring out Joey to play with Rich — the father-son act — it was pretty special. Really, really, really cool."
Howard recalled the magical feeling when he first stepped out on Brier ice in 1986 in Waterloo, Ont.
"I can remember standing out there, a 23-year-old and thinking, ‘Oh my God, this is the biggest dream of my life just to get to a Brier,"’ he said. "The feeling is incredible. I felt like that when Joey stepped on the ice today. He’ll never forget that. And believe me, he’s going to be coming to many more on his own merit."
Richard Hart was also thrilled that Joey’s mother, brother and sister arrived at the arena in time to watch a little family curling history.
"I never really thought our curling careers would ever cross," he said. "But they did here this week and it’s freakin’ amazing."
The Ontario team’s playoff chances took a hit later in the day when Howard dropped a 6-4 decision to Northern Ontario’s Brad Jacobs. Howard fell to 4-5 and will need to win his last two round-robin games and hope it’s enough to get into a possible tiebreaker game.
Jacobs, the lone unbeaten skip at 8-0, walloped Jamie Koe of the Northwest Territories 9-2 in the evening to lock up a playoff spot.
Brad Gushue of Newfoundland and Labrador beat Canada’s Pat Simmons 7-3 in the morning before topping Quebec’s Jean-Michel Menard 7-6. Simmons split his games while Alberta’s Kevin Koe and Manitoba’s Mike McEwen won two games apiece to improve their playoff chances.
After 13 draws, Gushue was alone in second place at 7-1. McEwen was third at 6-2 and Koe was fourth at 6-3.
Simmons was fifth at 5-4 while Howard and Saskatchewan’s Steve Laycock shared sixth place at 4-5.
The top four teams at the end of round-robin play Friday morning will make the Page playoffs. The medal games are set for Sunday.
The Brier winner will represent Canada at the world men’s curling championship in Basel, Switzerland.