Russell curlers head to the Brier in Kingston
Bryan Cochrane, Ian MacAulay, Morgan Currie and Ken Sullivan show last year prior to their world championship win. For the 2020 Brier, Sullivan will coach his three former teammates. The competition takes place Feb. 29 to Mar. 8. File photo

RUSSELL – That Bryan Cochrane: He’ll always find a way to curl at the top of the scale even if it means doing it for…Prince Edward Island?

How can a Russell lad, born and raised here, president of the Russell Curling Club, be representing PEI in the Tim Hortons Brier, the most well-known men’s curling event in Canada?

It’s all about a free agent rule implemented by Curling Canada permitting the use by a province of an import ringer. This certainly defines Cochrane, who’s been curling at a peak level for as long as anyone can remember, including at the 2003 Brier where he did well while not making the playoffs.

After racking up several big wins last year, Cochrane’s team won the World Senior Curling Championship in Norway with an undefeated nine games. On that team were fellow Russell Club members Morgan Currie, a native of Summerside, PEI, and Ian MacAulay of Souris, PEI. Under a new Curling Canada birthright status eligibility rule, competitors can play for the province in which they were born.

Rounding out the PEI Brier foursome is a champion who originates from and resides on PEI, Mark O’Rourke, a provincial Curling Hall of Fame inductee who has played in 10 Briers and other national competitions. The new addition has meshed well with the three Russell members who know each other’s every move.

And overseeing the PEI entry in the 2020 Brier will be none other than Russell’s Ken Sullivan, the fourth member of Team Cochrane that won in Norway, who has been certified as a coach.

Cochrane’s team won three qualifying competitions to claim the PEI curling title undefeated. While it’s not the norm to have three non-residents claim the title, Currie said the island organization was supportive and always refers to himself and MacAulay as island natives. Some resident curlers, he said, were instrumental in him learning the sport as a youngster.

Cochrane observed that a few PEI players were less than excited that an outsider would be taking a spot on the island team, but for the most part, curlers there have accepted the composition. There’s no precedent involved, the Russell Club president stated, with plenty of other national-level curlers having played for teams other than that of their resident province. 

As a result of the team composition and results posted by Team Cochrane in the Tankard showdown at Montague, PEI will have a strong contingent of fans from Ontario at Kingston, when the Brier begins on Feb. 29. Win or lose, Cochrane expects some solid play.