Kevin Koe takes aim at historic fifth title at 2020 Tim Hortons Brier in Kingston

Calgary’s Kevin Koe will be in the spotlight when the 2020 Tim Hortons Brier, presented by AGI, gets underway on Saturday at the Leon’s Centre in Kingston, Ont.

The 45-year-old Koe, skipping the defending champions Team Canada from The Glencoe Club in Calgary, will be trying to win his fifth Tim Hortons Brier title as a skip, which would break the record he currently shares with Randy Ferbey, Kevin Martin and Ernie Richardson.

And Team Canada’s lead, Ben Hebert, also has a chance to win his fifth Tim Hortons Brier title (his first two came with Martin), and with a win, he and Koe would move into second place for most Tim Hortons Brier championships, behind only Ferbey, who also won twice as a vice-skip with Pat Ryan.

Team Canada — the team is rounded out by vice-skip B.J. Neufeld, second Colton Flasch, alternate Ted Appelman and coach John Dunn — makes its 2020 Tim Hortons Brier debut on Saturday in the opening draw at 2 p.m. (all times Eastern) with a tantalizing matchup against the host Ontario team from Toronto, skipped by 2018 Tim Hortons Brier bronze-medallist John Epping. It’s a rematch of the 2019 Home Hardware Canada Cup men’s final, in which Epping prevailed 7-4.

But before that opening draw, there is business to be taken care of on Friday night at the Leon’s Centre,  as the Wild Card Game will be played at 7 p.m. (TSN/RDS) between four-time (twice as a skip, twice as a vice-skip) Tim Hortons Brier champion Glenn Howard of Penetanguishene, Ont., and Winnipeg’s Mike McEwen — the top two teams on the Canadian Team Ranking System that didn’t qualify for the Tim Hortons Brier through their provincial/territorial championships.

Admission to the Wild Card Game is free, with donations to the Curling Canada Foundation in support of junior curling being accepted at the door.

While Koe’s (and Hebert’s) drive for five is the main storyline in Kingston, it’s hardly the only one.

Brad Gushue, making his 17th Tim Hortons Brier appearance, and his Newfoundland/Labrador team from St. John’s is seeking a third Tim Hortons Brier title in four years after his wins in 2017 and 2018.

Meanwhile, Brad Jacobs’s Northern Ontario team from Sault Ste. Marie enters the 2020 Tim Hortons Brier as the country’s top team on the Canadian Team Ranking System, with ambitions of winning a second Brier title after winning in 2013. Team Epping is No. 2 on the CTRS, followed by Team Gushue at No. 3.

The No. 5 team is Alberta’s Brendan Bottcher, who is looking to ascend to the top step of the Tim Hortons Brier medal podium after silver medals in 2018 and last year.

Sixteen teams, representing the 14 Curling Canada member associations, Team Canada and the winner of the Wild Card Game, have been seeded based on their CTRS ranking as of Dec. 31, 2019, and separated into two pools. The Wild Card Game winner will automatically go in as the No. 3 seed.

They’ll first play a round robin within their pool, after which the top four in each advance to the Championship Pool for four games against teams from the other pool. Upon completion, the top four teams (best overall won-lost records) proceed to the Page Playoffs on Saturday (1 vs. 2, winner to final, loser to semifinal; 3 vs. 4, winner to semifinal, loser eliminated).

The semifinal is Sunday, March 8, at noon, while the gold-medal game is at 7 p.m.

Saturday’s Opening Ceremony is at 12:30 p.m., with free admission to all.

The winning team will represent Canada at the 2020 LGT World Men’s Curling Championship, presented by BKT Tires, March 28-April 5 in Glasgow, Scotland. The winner will also defend its title as Team Canada in the 2021 Tim Hortons Brier, presented by AGI, in Kelowna, B.C., and earn a direct-entry berth into the 2021 Tim Hortons Roar of the Rings, presented by AGI, in Saskatoon — the event that will decide Canada’s four-player teams for the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.