Glenn Howard and John Morris have a lot in common.
They're both skipping contending teams - Howard at 3-0 and Morris at 2-1 - through five draws at the Canadian Open in Kelowna. Both have been on top of the world, with Morris helping Kevin Martin to the 2010 Olympic title in Vancouver and Howard having captured his fourth world championship in Basel, Switzerland, in April.
And, perhaps less known, both are diehard Toronto Maple Leafs fans growing tired of the NHL's ongoing lockout.
"I'm just disappointed with both sides, like 'c'mon guys, get your act together. We're billionaires and millionaires, so let's just figure this thing out,'" said Howard, 50. "It's frustrating for the average guy who just sits there and wants to watch their product. But I guess they both have their issues and they're stuck on some things that they're not giving in on. It's unfortunate for the fans and everybody else who enjoys the game."
Morris, who is throwing last rocks here for Team Martin due to the regular skip's recent hernia operation, admitted to missing Canada's other ice sport. Being Edmonton based, his teammates naturally cheer for the hometown Oilers and also train with Jordan Eberle in the off-season.
"If we play an afternoon game, we like to go back to our hotel room and sip on a beer and watch some hockey," said Morris, 33. "We're as Canadian as it gets and it's unfortunate we don't get to do that right now. Instead, we've got to watch more poker and the dog shows, so we're getting a little sick of that."
On the flip side, there's also more curling on TV this winter, a fact Howard alluded to as "the silver lining of the hockey lockout."
This 18-team men's Grand Slam of Curling tournament, for example, is being broadcast live on Sportsnet from Prospera Place where a sparse but educated and appreciative crowd took in Thursday's nightcap to see Howard beat William Lyburn 8-2 in six ends, while Morris/Martin fell 7-4 to Rob Fowler.
"People are always looking for something to watch on television or something to put their two cents behind . . . curling's always had a decent following, but now without the hockey being there, you're going to get a little more viewing audience and that's great for our sport," Howard said. "If we ever have a curling match that is on TV conflicting with a hockey game, it's a split audience. Now I think a lot of those people are going to tune in and hopefully enjoy it."
Morris agreed that curling is reaping the benefits of hockey's absence, adding some casual fans might be converted.
"It'd be nice to watch some NHL again, so I just hope they get it resolved. I know it's left a sour taste in a lot of fans' mouths," Morris said. "That's the difference between hockey players and curlers: if we were holding out, it'd be for $20 or $30 whereas they're holding out for $20-30 million or more.
"We're still the working-man's sport and we'll be playing no matter what. And there's a heckuva lot of curling fans in Canada, so at least we can put on a good show for them and try to fill that void when we can."
Play continues today with four draws - 9 a.m., 12:30, 4 and 8 p.m.
"The boys have come out real strong and we've got a couple wins under our belts, so we're real happy so far," said Morris, who is maintaining an underdog mentality despite his team's strong start. "We're definitely not the favourite coming in. We just went 1-5 in the Canada Cup and we lost our skip (to injury), so I'd say for us to qualify would be a real good accomplishment and then we'll see what happens from there."
Among the late results, local Jim Cotter of Vernon improved to 2-1 with a 7-6 victory over Jake Higgs, while Brent Pierce's New Westminster rink (2-1), which features Kelowna product Jeff Richard as third, beat Peter de Cruz of Switzerland 6-3.