Pat Simmons knows what it's like to get close at the Tim Hortons' Brier.
© Andrew Vaughn/The Canadian Press
Alberta's Nolan Thiessen, right, lifts teammate Pat Simmons after defeating British Columbia to win gold at the Tim Hortons Brier in Kamloops, B.C. Sunday.
Even as he and Kevin Koe's Alberta rink were so close to winning that it looked like a foregone conclusion, Simmons never allowed himself to feel secure that the elusive victory was finally coming.
"It looked like it should be (comfortable) and I'll probably look back and think 'what was I thinking?' but it wasn't even a little bit comfortable out there until the hand shakes came out," said Simmons. "It's funny how that is; you get some rocks in play and you never know. You've seen and heard stories of the odd complete disaster and blown lead. You try not to let those thoughts come in your mind. You're only really comfortable when it's over.
"As funny as that seems since we did have good control at the end of that game, the end couldn't come quick enough."
In the end he need not have worried. Koe, Simmons, second Carter Rycroft and lead Nolan Thiessen beat B.C.'s John Morris 10-5 in the Brier final Sunday night. It was Simmons' first Brier win in his seventh trip to the national men's curling championship.
Simmons was sick in the 2012 final as he and the Koe rink lost to Glenn Howard. In one of his five trips representing Saskatchewan, he had a shocking loss in the 2008 one-two Page playoff game against Kevin Martin when his final shot picked and Martin stole the game.
The other members of the Koe rink had already won the 2010 Brier which made Simmons the sentimental story of the final.
"It's a nice reward for years and years of hard work. It's been a grind, but it's not like I had to win the Brier to make it all worthwhile either. I've enjoyed it," said the 39-year-old Simmons. "This year I took some extra time to enjoy the little nuances of it a little more. Maybe that helped too.
"It's nice to know that you can be good enough to do that under the most pressure a person can be under. It's nice to be able to come through in that situation. That's a good feeling."
The Koe rink came through with an outstanding game in the final. They scored three points with the hammer three times to win comfortably. Morris scored twice in the first end, but Koe responded with their first three in the second end.
"We had a bit of a sloppy first end, but the turning point was that big three in the second end," said Simmons. "It was important because we had to rebound after that first end. Nothing went to our game plan in that first end. Also just to dull the noise in the there a little bit. The atmosphere was unbelievable in there and the crowd was deafening when B.C. was making shots. They fed off that in the one-two game as well."
After dropping their opening game 7-6 to Morris, the Koe rink rolled to nine straight wins before losing their final round robin game to Quebec. They lost 9-5 to in the Page playoff one-two game to Morris before beating Quebec 9-8 in an extra end in the semifinal.
"We were a little sloppy in our first game. I felt we let that one slip away. Right until Friday morning we were extremely good," said Simmons who felt that Saskatchewan gave them the best game of that run. "Friday we were a little off. We were a little indecisive and not as sharp. They were small things, but at that level it's enough to be noticeable. In the (Page playoff) it might not have mattered because B.C. played so well anyway. They were an unstoppable force in the one-two game. That was an easy one to shake off.
"We were better against Quebec. We had a great practice Sunday morning before the final and we really felt comfortable out there."
After finishing 2-5 at the Roar of the Rings Olympic Curling trials, Simmons said maybe this was meant to be the year that they won the Brier. Those words proved prophetic as their hard work over the last couple of years paid off — though not quite as they hoped.
"There was a lot of hard work put into this. It was a nice consolation after the trials week that we prepared so hard for to not have it go our way," said Simmons.
He returned home to Moose Jaw Monday, but has little time to celebrate. He and the Koe rink are headed The National — the third grand slam stop of the year — in Fort McMurray, Alta. on Wednesday. A week after that they will head to Beijing, China for the start of the World Men's Curling Championship which runs from Mar. 29-Apr. 6.
"That's going to lead us into a week out (from worlds) and so the preparation is really going to take care of itself," said Simmons. "There's lots of things to take care of to get our ducks in a row so we can go to worlds. It's not like travelling in Canada, we're going halfway around the world so there's a lot of consider."
The Koe rink will also be the first Team Canada at a Brier as they receive and automatic spot next year in Calgary as the defending champions. They are expected to do so without Rycroft and Simmons said that is still too far off to think about too much.
"It's kind of a novel to be the first men's Team Canada. That's kind of cool," said Simmons. "Next year's Brier is a long ways off and it's not high on the list of priorities at this point."