With the eyes of Canadian curling fans collectively focused on Jeff Stoughton’s World Championship run in Regina the past few weeks, a slightly lower profile curling event was playing out in Calgary with some high profile curlers waging battle.
Swift Current’s Chris Haichert helped Team Saskatchewan to a second place finish at the 52nd Canadian Firefighters Curling Championship in Calgary as he joined Gregg Tarasoff’s rink out of Saskatoon, which also included Carmen Koch and Vern Harrison.
“We are pretty happy with that I guess,” said Haichert. “We played pretty solid all week. From top to bottom the whole team played well. You always like to win that final game and get the gold, but we have to be pretty proud of what we did.” Saskatchewan won 10 of their 12 games in the 11-team event but eventually ran into a talented Alberta foursome skipped by 2010 Olympic gold medalist John Morris. Alberta scored three in the second, three more in the fifth, and four in the final end for an 11-5 win in seven ends as they avenged a tournament-opening loss to their prairie rivals.
Haichert is a former Canadian Junior and World Junior champion and also won the 2008 Canadian Firefighters Championships in Richmond, BC on Steve Moss’ rink out of the Northwest Territories. He played second on Pat Simmons’ team at the 2005 and 2006 Briers.
“It is a pretty competitive tournament from top to bottom with all the teams from across Canada. There are quite a few notable curlers in the past that have won this with former and past world champions and whatnot… It is excellent competition from all the teams from across the country,” said Haichert.
Saskatchewan opened the tournament with a spectacular win over Morris and Team Alberta when they stole points in the ninth and 10th ends to top the host squad 8-7 on Saturday afternoon.
It certainly wasn’t Haichert’s first run-in with Morris, who plays third for Kevin Martin’s Alberta rink.
“I have played him half a dozen or a dozen times when I was doing a lot of my really competitive curling. He normally gets the better of me, he has in the past. He is an excellent curler and an excellent shot maker. You just try and come out and play your best when you play a guy or teams like that. When it came down to that final game we just didn’t quite bring our final game.”
I know that I still have the drive and the love and the passion for the game and I like competing at that top level against some of the best curlers and the best teams - Chris Haichert
The Tarasoff rink topped the Saskatchewan Provincial Firefighters Championships in Swift Current in November of 2010 as they finished 5-0 while out-scoring their opponents 43-16 to advance to Nationals.
They reeled off six wins in their first seven games to open the round robin. Wednesday evening, Saskatchewan surrendered five points in the first end but scraped back with points in six of the next eight ends for an incredible 9-6 come-from-behind win over Northern Ontario to move to 8-1.
Thursday afternoon, Saskatchewan scored two points in the ninth and final end for an 8-6 win over the North West Territories to finish the round robin in top spot with a 9-1 record.
Friday afternoon, Saskatchewan took on second seeded British Columbia (8-2) in the Page 1 vs 2 game for a spot in the championship final. A steal of two in the seventh end lifted Saskatchewan to a 7-4 win.
Haichert said this past season may have gotten his competitive juices flowing again.
“This year was the most that I have curled in the last three or four years. I started playing a little bit more and started getting a little bit of that drive back.”
Just as his passion for curling was being renewed, an opening on Saskatchewan’s top team became available when skip Pat Simmons bolted to play third for Kevin Koe’s Alberta rink.
Simmons was throwing the team’s last rocks, but Steve Laycock was calling the games and will likely move to skip with second Brennen Jones and lead Dallan Muyres expected to remain in the fold.
Haichert played third for Laycock back in 2003 when they won Canadian and World Junior Championships together.
“Those guys are going to be looking for a shooter,” said Haichert. “Steve Laycock and I have a successful past in what we did in juniors. Who knows, you never say never. Steve is a great guy. He is an excellent skip. Who knows, we will definitely see how things play out in the off-season.”
Haichert and his wife just gave birth to a baby girl in the past few weeks, which may affect his future in the sport.
“We will see how it goes, but I know that I still have the drive and the love and the passion for the game and I like competing at that top level against some of the best curlers and the best teams.”