Simmons savouring seventh Brier

Matthew
Matthew Gourlie
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Moose Jaw curler not feeling any extra pressure coming in as one of the favourites

Playing at the Tim Hortons Brier may be routine for Pat Simmons, but it will never get old.

Pat Simmons watches his stone, while Nolan Thiessen, left, and Carter Rycroft sweep at the Capital One Canada Cup of Curling at Mosaic Place in Moose Jaw last year.

The Moose Jaw curler will start play in his seventh Brier today in Kamloops, B.C. He and his Alberta rink are going to draw from all of their experience to try to succeed, but haven't lost an appreciation for the experience of Brier week.

"You know that it's a long week. There's a lot of little things that you gain from the experience of it all. It never gets old though. I enjoy every little part of it," said Simmons. "It's important to make sure you have fun."

Simmons plays third for skip Kevin Koe's Calgary rink that also features second Carter Rycroft and lead Nolan Thiessen. For Simmons, 39, the window to finally win a Brier may be starting to close. He said he's not feeling any more pressure than usual to perform.

"We put enough pressure on ourselves, so that's always there. We're just anxious to get going and looking forward to it," he said. "Our goal is to try to improve as this week goes on and hopefully we're playing our best near the end of the week. If it's been good enough during the week to be in the playoffs then that's all we can ask for."

Simmons made five Brier trips while skipping a Saskatchewan rink. This is his second Brier as the third for Koe's foursome. In that previous trip, they lost the final 7-6 to Glenn Howard in Saskatoon in 2012.

"We want to play as well as we can. That's all we're concerned about. We know that if we're playing up to where we played at provincials or as well as we can we know we're going to have a chance at the end," said Simmons.

Koe is joined by Manitoba's Jeff Stoughton and Quebec's Jean-Michel Ménard as previous champions, while Brad Gushue looks for his first Brier win after winning Olympic gold in Turin in 2006.

While the likes of Howard, Brad Jacobs and Kevin Martin aren't in Kamloops, Simmons said it's still a strong and deep field.

"If you're not playing well — it doesn't matter who you're playing — you're going to get beat. It's as simple as that," said Simmons. "It's pretty easy not to get too far ahead of ourselves.

"Every day and every game you have to go out there and prove to yourself, to the other team and everyone else that you are one of those favourites and play like it."

Alberta opens play Saturday at 1:30 p.m. against John Morris from B.C. in a battle of two of the favourites. They will face 11-time Brier competitor James Grattan from New Brunswick Sunday morning before meeting Gushue and his Newfoundland and Labrador rink Sunday night.

Playing possibly two of their three toughest opponents in their first three games doesn't bother Simmons.

"I don't look at it as a bad thing I guess," he said. "You play everybody and I think our team has enough experience that if we get a loss or two we've proven in provincials that we can hang on and battle and maybe fight through some adversity that way."

He thinks opening against Morris will give them a good early measuring stick of how they're playing coming into the week.

"Either way after Saturday we'll either know that we're on track and let's keep improving on this or we'll have to give ourselves a little kick in the butt and know it has to be better. Simple as that," said Simmons. "I suppose playing a really good team like Morris, it's certainly possible for us to play quite well and still not win."

At the Alberta Boston Pizza Cup, Koe and company lost two of their first three games to Wade White and Matthew Blandford before winning five straight games to claim the title from the C side of the draw.

That was a good reminder that you're never out of it and that there are no easy games.

"We were nearly out after a couple of draws. By day 2 we were hanging on by a thread. How it looks on paper and how it actually is, are two different things sometimes," said Simmons.

Their long layoff between the Olympic trials and the Boston Pizza Cup was one of the reasons for their slow start. It has only been three weeks since provincials. Though there haven't been any spiels to enter, the rink was able to get together in Calgary for a few days to throw some stones.

"The good news is that it's a pretty short turn around this time. The break we had between trials and provincials we had two months off. That's tough," said Simmons. "It's not an event where we can afford to be as rusty as we were at provincials. That's for sure."

Saskatchewan is represented by Steve Laycock who will need to put together a strong week to make sure the province is safely out of the relegation fight under the new format coming up for the 2015 Brier in Calgary.

Organizations: Boston Pizza

Geographic location: Alberta, Moose Jaw, Calgary Kamloops Saskatchewan Saskatoon Manitoba Quebec Turin New Brunswick Newfoundland and Labrador

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