Howard calls on familiar replacement for Middaugh at Ontario Tankard

The Canadian Press
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Veteran skip Glenn Howard called on Adam Spencer as a substitute early in the curling season when regular teammate Wayne Middaugh was unavailable due to work commitments.

Spencer is needed once again, and this time he'll be asked to help get Howard's team back to the Tim Hortons Brier.

With Middaugh out indefinitely after breaking his leg on the ski slopes, Spencer filled in for the vice-skip Monday at the Ontario Tankard. He threw second stones in a 7-5 victory over Michael McLean at the Wayne Gretzky Sports Centre.

“My approach is just keep my mouth shut, speak when spoken to and hopefully make a pile of shots,” Spencer said with a chuckle.

He slotted into the lineup nicely in the opener of the provincial championship on a team that includes Richard Hart and Howard's son, Scott, at lead.

Spencer, who normally plays with skip Brent Ross in nearby Guelph, Ont., wore Middaugh's white and red No. 2 jersey. He's one of five substitute players available this week in the event a player is injured or unavailable.

“I thought we all played great and I thought Adam played terrific,” Howard said. “It was almost like it was seamless and that's what you're hoping for.”

The 53-year-old skip from Penetanguishene, Ont., is not guaranteed to have Spencer in the lineup for the rest of the competition. In fact, he has to formally apply to use him before each game.

Technically, Spencer goes back into the players pool after each draw and any other team could put in a bid for his services if needed. But chances are good that he'll be wearing the Middaugh jersey throughout the week.

Spencer played two bonspiels with the Howard team in September as Middaugh wrapped up his duties as general manager of the Port Carling Golf & Country Club. He also played a full season with Scott Howard on a different team a few years ago.

“We know him, terrific guy, great curler and the perfect fit for our team,” Glenn Howard said. “It couldn't have worked out any better.”

Middaugh needed surgery to repair a broken left tibia and is out for the season. Howard said he thought his longtime friend and teammate was joking around when he got the phone call in early January.

“He sent a picture and said, 'Hey skipper, look at my leg,' Howard recalled. ”He actually had the X-ray. I started laughing and said, 'Ha ha, funny guy.' He said, 'No, no, that's my leg.'

“Oh my God. It was unfortunate.”

Toronto skips John Epping and Mike Harris are two of the other contenders in the 11-team field at the Feb. 1-7 event. Epping opened with an 8-1 rout of Ian Dickie and Harris pulled out a 5-4 victory over Dayna Deruelle.

The Tankard winner will represent Team Ontario at the Mar. 5-13 Tim Hortons Brier in Ottawa. Howard is a four-time Brier champion and is itching to get back for the first time since 2013.

“I've been to 15, I've had so much fun at all of them,” Howard said. “I know I'm running out of time, I know I don't have a lot of years left but I love it.

“I love to play, I love to compete and I just want to go back.”

Organizations: Ontario Tankard, Wayne Gretzky Sports Centre, Port Carling Golf Country Club

Geographic location: Guelph, Penetanguishene, Toronto Ottawa

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