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10-15-20 05:15PM
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Front ends whose input are most respected by their skips

Who are some notable front-enders who are notable for having their input respected by their skips?

I noticed first mostly from observations and eventually confirmed by occasional commentator remarks that Brent Laing, for example, is one such person. I'm a new fan, so I know very little of his era with Howard, so most of my observations is from his Koe and then Epping days.

Later I learned that he actually started with Koe as vice skip second thrower in 2014-2015 (i.e. throws stone #3 and #4 of the end, in charge of house for stone #7 and #8). This discovery made perfect sense to me, because I had already deduced that Koe respects Laing's input even after Kennedy replaced Laing as the vice skip.

Another name in this category is perhaps Don Bartlett. He mentioned in an interview with Curling Legends/Kevin Palmer that as notoriously controlling as Kevin Martin was, he respects Bartlett's input, in the very rare occasions that he offered them. One example was discussed where Bartlett suggested moving the broom (i.e. less/more "ice"), and he turned out to be correct. (I don't recall if he ever said that he once successfully challenged the actual call; that may be an impossible task, even for him, given what I know of Kevin's reputation. Full disclosure: I've never actually watched a full Kevin Martin game, ever, so I could very well have a distorted view of their team dynamics).

Anyway, hopefully you get the gist of what I'm looking for. Yes, of course a team can't function unless everyone respects everyone else, but were there notably special front-enders in this category?

Last edited by curlingclips on 10-15-20 at 08:24PM

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10-15-20 06:19PM
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Bob "PeeWee" Pickering leaned on the incredible and lengthy experience of his mentor, Garnet Campbell for many years . . . . Pickering was a curling phenom, The Undertaker of his day - - - a shot-making machine who didn't quite have the polish, strategy & nuances to knock off monsters of his era like Ernie Richardson (in his prime), Alfie Phillips, Jr., Don Duguid & Harvey Mazinke. By the mini-monsters like Pat Ryan, Barry Fry & Al Hackner appeared on the scene Pickering was a spent force.
But I remember watching many of Pee Wee's Big Adventure games during the 1970 Brier in Winnipeg. Pickering had more experience in his front end of Gary Ford & Jack Keyes plus Old Garnet at 3rd than the entire field put together. . . yet Campbell was old and fighting a back injury, Keyes wasn't the curling he was during the 50s and early 60s and Ford was just a decent, slightly above-average lead. Pee Wee, in actuality tried to carry these infirm passengers on his own back. He managed to take Duguid to the last draw where Duguid need to make a half-shot with his final stone on the 12th end - - - so nervous was Duguid that he collapsed 3/4 of the way thru his delivery and monster-sweeper Jim Pettapiece fell by the wayside half way down the sheet with reliable Woody Wood slapping the ice furiously as Duguid won the Brier by nipping about 1/8th of Pickering's shot stone to avoid a playoff with the St. Albert, Alberta potato farmer Hector Gervais.

Only other 3rd in my time I thought helped massively with his skip was Rock 'n Roll Rick Laing who toiled for Al Hackner. Hackner relied heavily on Lang for advice.

Mark Olson on the other hand was not that helpful for his skip Kerry Burtnyk but Burtnyk was a one-man killing machine and Olson was "The Human Scoreboard". . . . you could tell the score in the game just by looking at Mark.
Randy Ferbey was a remarkably underrated strategist - he was his own 3rd + skip put together. Didn't toss the prettiest rocks but he bowled his way to incredible Brier records.
Grant Watson in the old days of modern curling was incredibly helpful to his slightly older brother Ken - as both a strategist and a shot-smith.
3 Briers in 3 trips to the well . . . 2 other Manitoba championships during the war years where Brier was cancelled - else The Watsons would prolly have hoisted 5 Brier titles.

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10-15-20 09:15PM
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Let's expand this category to include alternates. Also, I should clarify that front-enders in this context are the curlers throwing stones #1, #2, #3, #4, which are neither skip nor vice skip.

With this expansion, I should add Scott Pfeifer from my observations of his time with Team Koe during time outs. His best contribution I've found is when he showed Koe how to score 3 in 6th end of 2017 Brier final vs Gushue.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uCDRvoc2ALk

I can't think of many teams that bring out their alternates (as opposed to coaches) during time outs. The only notable one I can think of is Marisa Winkelhausen for Team Tirinzoni, but I don't speak German, so I can't assess the extent of her contribution, but I've noticed that she does talk a lot and they do tend to listen to her during time outs.

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10-16-20 09:48AM
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No real alternates of note during curling's halcyon days of the 40s, 50s and 60s.
Curling now replete with several 5 person units, the foremost being Jennifer Jones who now deploys twin-nukes at lead in old reliable Dawn McEwen and Ontario import, perennial all-star Lisa Weagle at lead.

Best example of an alternate stepping into the breach and helping their team win a national and world titles is no doubt Shannon Birchard who at only 24 years old stepped into Kaitlyn Lawes' revered 3rd spot when Jones unexpectedly won her 6th scotties title while Lawes was pre-booked for an Olympic team spot w/ Johnny Morris in mixed doubles.

Birchard not only filled the Lawes spot - she exceeded it. And while she never barked at her skip JJ, she didn't retreat into a shell like Kaitlyn was noted for. Truly, a performance for the ages.

When Jones finally hangs it up - which doesn't seem possible for at least 2 more years, I suspect Lawes & Birchard might hook up as the back end for a new Manitoba super team - perhaps keeping one of Weagle and/or McEwen at lead but bringing an emerging super-second into the game - someone like Katherine Doerksen.
I would nominate as their coach/alternate the incomparable Jill Officer.

But barring unexpected circumstances - keep in mind Kaitlyn would be around 34 when this occurs and Birchard 30. Doerksen herself would be nearing 30 while Dawn would be around 43, Weagle around 40.

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10-16-20 08:14PM
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quote:
Originally posted by Manitoba Legend
But barring unexpected circumstances - keep in mind One woman would be around 34 when this occurs and another 30. That woman, herself would be nearing 30 while Firstname would be around 43, Lastname around 40.

Please start citing the ages of the players on your op-eds about mens' teams too, at least as much as you do the women athletes. I sense a drastic imbalance in your reporting.
note: read up to your piece on the Fry's, Olsen, Pickering etc. How old were those athletes?

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10-16-20 08:30PM
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I really don't know what age has to do with curling prowess. Ken Watson was 45 when he won his last Brier in 1949, actually sailed undefeated thru the last Brier of the 1940s. Watson & Co. were just damn powerful, of that there is no question.

Kerry Burtnyk was barely 22 when he toppled Hackner in Halifax nearly 40 years ago.

Glenny Howard is nearly 60, yet a perennial threat out of Ontario and a solid favorite (amongst others) when he slips into a Brier or top cash spiel.

Jones is 46 and despite an obvious decline in her own shot-making percentages she's cobbled together another super-team that can cause havoc when they're on their game.

Donnie Duguid was only 36 when he won his first of 2 straight Briers & Worlds in 1970.

Michelle Englot was well over 50 when she came within a couple hairs of toppling the Ontario monster-machine led by Rachel Homan a few years ago.

So I suspect Kaitlyn at 34 w/ Shannon Birchard (30) at vice would be a fairly young outfit - even if Birchard took over the skipping duties and Kaitlyn remained at her now natural position - 3rd.

btw - Barry Fry was 40 when he won his first and only Brier in 1979 while Bob Pickering was a mere 38 when he was bested by Duguid & Hec Gervais at 1970 Brier.

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10-16-20 08:47PM
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quote:
Originally posted by Manitoba Legend I really don't know what age has to do with curling prowess.
Yes. That is my point. If you insist on presenting age - keep it balanced though. Interesting age range. 22-60 in the winning bracket.
I am interested in the Cargill Classic in Morris this weekend. There are lots of fresh-outta-juniors teams entered. The new wave has hit the big time, in Manitoba.
sorry for hijacking your thread clips... can't think of any leads who offered a lot. But I can see Hebert standing constantly, arms crossed and pouting, as if his opinion mattered a lot.

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10-16-20 09:40PM
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quote:
Originally posted by nelski
can't think of any leads who offered a lot.

I should clarify that loudness/talkativeness does not imply elevated level of respect. In fact, sometimes I hear the opposite: some very special leads are quiet and keep their mouths shut, but they are so respected such that on the very rare occasions that they're saying something, everyone listens to them.

So if there's a lead that only said 10 words in an entire season, but those 10 words proved to be extremely valuable input for the skip in terms of strategy/tactics, that lead belongs in this category.

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10-16-20 10:03PM
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Well, I think we have to include Nancy Delahunt of the infamous Team Jones NS. It may have been more of a chemistry role than a strategy role, but she definitely provided leadership to that team. She threw first, but in later seasons, ended up in the house holding the broom as vice for the fourth thrower, Possibly because of the fiery 3rd/skip relationship between Kelly and Jones but probably because of what she had to offer.
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10-16-20 10:24PM
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quote:
Originally posted by curlingclips

I should clarify that loudness/talkativeness does not imply elevated level of respect. In fact, sometimes I hear the opposite: some very special leads are quiet and keep their mouths shut, but they are so respected such that on the very rare occasions that they're saying something, everyone listens to them.

So if there's a lead that only said 10 words in an entire season, but those 10 words proved to be extremely valuable input for the skip in terms of strategy/tactics, that lead belongs in this category.




Agree Hebert way to chatty from the far end for a guy that threw 95% out turn guards. Funny TSN just showed earlier tonight where Gushue beat Koe in NL Brier final. If you watched, how many times did the team yell at Benny for early sweeping and ruining the shot. I counted 10. Koe counts them in his sleep. Don't make me regale the story of the world's in .Moncton again from years past.

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10-16-20 11:42PM
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quote:
Originally posted by nelski
Yes. That is my point. If you insist on presenting age - keep it balanced though. Interesting age range. 22-60 in the winning bracket.
I am interested in the Cargill Classic in Morris this weekend. There are lots of fresh-outta-juniors teams entered. The new wave has hit the big time, in Manitoba.
sorry for hijacking your thread clips... can't think of any leads who offered a lot. But I can see Hebert standing constantly, arms crossed and pouting, as if his opinion mattered a lot.



Benjamin Button (Hebert) knows the game. He just can't make nuanced shots that most 3rds and skips are expected to make. But he's a superb front-ender for life and an above average strategist who always appears to be imposing his way into his skip's thought process.

Pettapiece and Wood were prolly the best front end in curling history, just on the basis of pounding the crap out of the ice for Donnie Duguid. . . but both were exceptionally mute as Rod Hunter was the only one permitted to double check Duguid's rapid-fire strategy.

Jonathan Mead was another 3rd who comes to mind. Major help to get Jeff Stoughton a 3rd Brier and world championship - totally under-rated shotsmith belied his exceptional curling mind.

The Howards (Glenn, Russ) might have been the most synergistic back end in the game since the halcyon days of Grant & Ken, the Watson boys!

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10-16-20 11:48PM
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quote:
Originally posted by nelski
Well, I think we have to include Nancy Delahunt of the infamous Team Jones NS. It may have been more of a chemistry role than a strategy role, but she definitely provided leadership to that team. She threw first, but in later seasons, ended up in the house holding the broom as vice for the fourth thrower, Possibly because of the fiery 3rd/skip relationship between Kelly and Jones but probably because of what she had to offer.
5 Scott Hearts championships. 2 World golds and 1 silver.



If you're gonna serve up the excellent and highly-regarded Nancy Delahunt I must present for analysis the equally excellent 2nd player, notorious for her front rock clearing mega-weight, Jill Officer.
Officer was not a nuanced curler but she was prolly the strongest female physique before Joanne Courtney & Sarah Wilkes arrived on the scene. Those 2 are easily #1-#2 in the physical prowess/strength/power equation. Shannon Birchard and Bree Meilleur are a relatively close #3-#4.
Officer had two distinct roles on Team JJ. #1 she developed into the foremost 2nd player of her time, #2 She was an incredibly physical brusher who also could read running stones & #3 She was undoubtedly even more valuable as Jones' on-ice lieutenant, a gentle presence to prevent Jones from emotionally blowing up and someone who was fully capable of physically intimidating anyone who tried bullying Team Jones or even Jones herself. She was as intimidating an on-ice force (without getting mean) as Jeanna Schroeder was for Kelly Scott in BC.

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Last edited by Manitoba Legend on 10-17-20 at 12:04AM

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10-20-20 01:22AM
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I don't know enough about curling strategy to be able to form an informed opinion on this for sure, but 2 Girls and a Game believed that in 2018 Women's World final, CAN dropped a 3-ender to SWE primarily because they followed Jill Officer's advice to hit the stones in the house instead of peeling the corner guard ("an amateur move"/"strategy booboo" according to them).

https://2girlsandagame.libsyn.com/w...rling-interview
"Discussions about Jill's retirement and leaving the game at the top of the world, Jennifer's ability to be on her game for all the biggest moments, and how even the best teams make strategy errors (there's hope for us all!)."

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H7UX7MQEyzY&t=1h00m40s

But back on topic, at one of the games at Banff, Bottcher and Moulding summoned Brad "Angleman" Thiessen into the house to analyze the angles. This is the first time I've heard them refer to Brad as such, but it does seem to imply that they really respect Brad's ability to read angles.

Last edited by curlingclips on 10-20-20 at 11:52AM

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