Edin caps Glencoe curling invitational with win over Koe

Canada's Kevin Koe reacts to a shot in the final of the ATB Glencoe Invitational Bonspiel against Sweden’s Niklas Edin at the Glencoe Club in Calgary on Sunday, February 16, 2020. Gavin Young/Postmedia

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Kevin Koe’s crew needed the practice.

So, too, did Team Niklas Edin.

The Glencoe Club was only happy to oblige the two world-class curling rinks, along with two others, for four days of fun in its rink over the Family Day weekend.

“It was great for them to do it for us,” said Koe of the inaugural ATB Glencoe Invitational Bonspiel that wrapped up Sunday afternoon at the Calgary facility.

“We’re looking at a five-week break before the Brier, so this was perfect to get in some competitive games,” continued Koe, whose rink calls The Glencoe home. “We’re a pretty experienced team, so for us, it’s about getting the reps. It’s nice to get competition against good teams.”

Indeed, four top-shelf teams were on hand for what was a rather impromptu spiel after learning the annual TSN All-Star Curling Skins Game — usually played around this time — had been cancelled. Norway’s Thomas Ulsrud and an all-star lineup consisting of Glenn Howard, John Morris, Kirk Muyres, Brent Laing and Don Bartlett joined Teams Edin and Koe, last year’s world champion and runner-up respectively, for the $40,000 event.

Edin, like Ulsrud, is headed to the world championships in five weeks time and needed the training with no competitive spiels on the calendar until then.

“Most of all, we were here for good practice games,” Edin said. “We needed this week. Good timing, great event … and we played really well this event, too. That filled the purpose.

“And the money is a huge bonus, as well.”

Swedish skip Niklas Edin watches his shot as he competes against Canada’s Kevin Koe in the final of the ATB Glencoe Invitational Bonspiel at the Glencoe Club in Calgary on Sunday, February 16, 2020. Gavin Young/Postmedia Gavin Young/Postmedia

Meanwhile, Koe, third B.J. Neufeld, second Colton Flasch and lead Ben Hebert — being the reigning national champs and owning a bye to the Brier — also find themselves in a soft part of the schedule.

“We were a little rusty coming in, so a few loose shots,” Koe said. “But pretty happy with the way we played. So overall, a great week.”

It was made even better by the uniqueness of the format and atmosphere at the Glencoe.

Each team was guaranteed three games during what was essentially a semi-private event.

The Glencoe curtained off half the curling area and used two sheets of ice for the four days of fun. The club lined the sheets with bleachers, comfy chairs and tables for fans to get up-close-and-personal with the curling. Top-40 tunes were pumped in at a low volume, and refreshments were made available to those on hand.

It was akin to having a curling rink in your basement.

“A very nice basement … yeah,” said Paul Webster, The Glencoe’s curling director who helped spearhead the event with the help of the four teams. “The idea was to make it feel like the skins game and make it a really intimate setting not only for the teams but for the people to watch it.

“You can hear everything the players are saying, and I think the fans have enjoyed that intimacy of the event and just being so close to the action. And the players get it, too — they’re joking with the fans and asking for curling advice.”

A cozy scene, to be sure.

“A little more relaxed atmosphere being this close to the fans … yeah,” said Koe, who also praised the ice crew for the rink conditions. “I think everybody’s pretty happy with how the whole event went.”

Edin, especially, since his team took home the biggest slice of the pie up for grabs.

After identical 4-2 records put up by each of Koe, Edin and Howard in the round-robin part of the spiel that gave out $1,500 per win, they determined Sunday afternoon’s two finalists with a four-rock draw-off.

That set up Koe and Edin head-to-head in an $8,000 finale that the Swedish rink won 7-5 on a draw to the button with the hammer in the eighth and final end for a $14,000 total cut of the kitty.

“I think we came out hotter to start the game,” said Edin, whose crew of third Oskar Eriksson, second Rasmus Wrana and lead Christoffer Sundgren counted two in each of the first, fourth and sixth ends. “We won the hammer and got a good start. We always had a lead and always had the advantage, it felt like.”

Despite earning two in each of the second and seventh ends, the difference arguably came when Koe counted only one in the fifth and surrendered the hammer.

Canada’s Kevin Koe reacts to a shot in the final of the ATB Glencoe Invitational Bonspiel at the Glencoe Club in Calgary on Sunday, February 16, 2020. Gavin Young/Postmedia Gavin Young/Postmedia

“Edin is one of the best in the world,” Koe said. “I’d like to think we’re up there as well.

“It’s always fun to play them. There’s a lot of rocks in play and usually a lot of good shots. And that’s who you’re going to run into in big events down the road.”

Perhaps again next year in an encore of the ATB Glencoe Invitational Bonspiel.

“If there’s a break like there was this year in the calendar again, we’d love to run it again,” said Webster, who was pleasantly surprised that the 190 seats reserved for club members and sponsors were nearly full for each and every draw. “But it’s key having four of the best teams in the world.”

The teams certainly seem game.

“It’s perfect,” added two-time defending world champ Edin. “It’s pretty similar to the skins game they have in Banff, but we only played one game there — lost to Koe on a tough angle run-back and we were out.

“Here, everyone is super happy with it.”