Drinnan: Patience virtue for champs

Brown and Co. finding success playing as team

Gregg Drinnan / Kamloops Daily News
February 13, 2013 01:00 AM

The Canadian junior women's curling champions: Corryn Brown (left), Erin Pincott, Sam Fisher and Sydney Fraser, after winning it all in Fort McMurray, Alta., on Sunday.

Ken Brown has no idea where his daughter, Corryn, acquired the tools necessary to have this kind of success on a sheet of curling ice.

She's only 17 years of age but the Kamloops curler already is the skip of the Canadian junior women's championship rink, a team that includes fellow 17-year-olds Erin Pincott, Sam Fisher and Sydney Fraser.

In the world of curling, the skip is like a hockey team's goaltender or a baseball team's starting pitcher. In other words, if the skip doesn't make the shots, there won't be success.

That doesn't seem to happen often with Corryn Brown, whose rink also has a 2011 Canada Winter Games title to its credit.

She showed a national TV audience on Sunday that she's got the guts of a burglar, the impassiveness of a Dolly Brunson, the patience of the grandest of grandmasters, the killer instinct of a Bobby Clarke.

"I don't know what it is with her," says Ken, who is also the team's coach. "I never had it as a player. I had that killer instinct, like, I wanted to win, and the desire.

"But being the skip is totally different than being the third or (another player on the team) . . . because there's always somebody behind you. But when she misses, they put it on the board. I, personally, could not handle that.

"I would love it if Corryn was playing for somebody else. There sure would be a lot more pressure off her dad."

If you missed Sunday's championship final from the M&M Canadian junior women's championship in Fort McMurray, Alta., you should know that Brown won a waiting game.

Brown and her mates constituted the youngest team in the competition. But their skip was the most patient - she really did let the game come to here - and it paid off in a Canadian title.

"She is patient," her father says. "We talk about that. 'Corryn, be a little bit patient. Don't get into it too much as long as we have the hammer. As soon as you're down, then it's time to go.'

"As long as you have control, patience is a virtue."

Corryn, locked up in a duel with Winnipeg's Shannon Birchard, an 18-year-old university student, was content to blank and then exchange singletons and wait for a mistake. And when Birchard messed up, Brown was on her like a lioness on the hunt.

Brown, with the hammer, had blanked the first three ends before an open hit against three gave her one in the fourth. Birchard drew for a pair in the sixth end for what would be her only lead of the game.

In the seventh, with the ice lightning quick, Birchard came in heavy with a guard and set up a triple hit for Brown, whose facial expression never changed when she realized that the opportunity she had awaited finally had arrived.

"She had determination. I could see it in her eyes," Ken says. "I've seen that before. I'm so lucky that she has that and she is able to calm herself down. She has it in her mind that 'I'm not going to miss this.' "

Brown made the hit. The scorekeeper put a big three on the board.

Bang! Just like that, it was over. Sure, there were three ends left to play, but the decisive blow had been struck.

"It looks a lot easier on TV . . . it wasn't as easy as what it looked," Ken says of the triple spill. "I'm just glad they saw it. I think Erin saw it. Once Erin pointed it out to her, Corryn talked about how they were going to do it."

In the eighth, Birchard, drawing against five B.C. stones, counted one, but Brown got that one back in the ninth, and it was all over when Birchard jammed an attempted runback double in the 10th.

The game was over and as Brown shook hands with the losing side, her expression never changed. It wasn't until she and her rinkmates came together, arms extended, for a group hug that all of the emotion began to leak out.

"She was a babbling fool then," Dad says.

The young women on this rink have forged an incredible bond. Sure, Corryn is the skip, but it's likely that any of the other three could hold the brush and throw last rocks.

Ken was proud of his daughter after the last rock had been thrown on Sunday, but not nearly as proud as prior to the Canada Winter Games. Prior to the Games, the rink, according to Ken, "had an option to bolster the team."

Corryn, though, would have none of it.

"I remember Corryn's words to me: She said, 'Dad, I want to win with this team'," Ken recalls. "She didn't care about winning with another team; she wanted to win with this team. You can't buy that. It's a special bond that they have."

Brown has been the skip since the first time she threw a stone.

"From the get-go . . . when they started as little kids she was the skip in Little Rocks," Ken remembers. "I've got footage of them when they were like six years old . . . and she's always been the skip. Sydney and Corryn started with their older sisters, but the older sisters didn't want to play with the little kids. So they formed their own little team. That's how they started out."

The four of them have been together for seven years now and the key is that each has accepted her role. If you examine any successful team, be it in hockey or football or tiddly-winks, you will find players who accept and are comfortable in their roles.

"They're all content playing where they are," adds Ken, who cut his curling teeth in Flin Flon, Man. "That's what makes a team."

He looks back to his competitive curling days when he played second for Barry McPhee and they made it to the 1996 and 1997 Briers as B.C.'s men's champions.

"I could have skipped, (lead) Bert Hinch could have skipped," Ken says. But the success the rink had was due to each of them accepting their role and playing that position to the best of his ability. The same thing is happening with Corryn's rink.

And now the preparations are underway to get everyone to Russia for the world junior championships that are to open in Sochi on Feb. 28. In fact, after winning the title, everyone was at the rink in Fort McMurray until after midnight dealing with the necessary paperwork.

"Russia's next," Ken says, more than a twinge of wonderment in his voice. "Isn't that something?"

(Gregg Drinnan is sports editor of The Daily News. He is at gdrinnan@kamloopsnews.ca, gdrinnan.blogspot.ca, and twitter.com/gdrinnan.)

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