He may not be the favourite, but Fitzner-LeBlanc is out to win
Ian Fitzner-LeBlanc will start the week as the baby of the bunch at theBrier. If things go his way, he’ll finish it as the hometown hero.
Ian Fitzner-LeBlanc will start the week as the baby of the bunch at the Brier. If things go his way, he’ll finish it as the hometown hero.
The 25-year-old Haligonian is making his debut at the Canadian men’s curling championship at the Metro Centre starting Saturday. As the youngest skip on the ice, he’s not considered a favourite, nor does he possess the star power of others in the 12-team field.
But with the home crowd behind him, he realizes this is a chance to make a name for himself.
“To be skipping a team at the Brier at age 25 is an opportunity not a lot of people get,” Fitzner-LeBlanc said.
“I’m certainly not going to let that slip through my fingers and say, ‘I’m just happy to be here, I’m a young guy, it’s OK.’ We’re taking this seriously and I hope we can surprise some people.”
Fitzner-LeBlanc’s Mayflower rink, featuring third Stuart MacLean, second Kent Smith and lead Philip Crowell, completed its ascent to the top of the provincial men’s curling circuit in early February when it captured the Molson Tankard on home ice.
Fitzner-LeBlanc does have experience to lean on with MacLean by his side. The 49-year-old went to two Briers with Thomas Hakansson in 1985 and 1988 and has helped prepare his younger teammates for the surprises and pressure they will face.
“It’s nice to have someone who’s done this before,” Fitzner-LeBlanc said. “At the same time, we know there will still be surprises and we know we can’t panic when we get surprised.”
Fitzner-LeBlanc, who said he is already getting recognized on the streets by local fans, was 18 the last time the Brier was at the Metro Centre in 2003. His most prominent memory is the support fellow Mayflower skip Mark Dacey received en route to a near win over Alberta’s Randy Ferbey in the final.
“That’s what I’m looking forward to the most,” he said. “There are a lot of things you could say are shortcomings for us, being our first time and all, but if there’s a little bit of an edge there, to have the fans pump you up, we’ll certainly take that.”
• Nova Scotia champions at the Brier:
2004 - Mark Dacey, Halifax
1951 - Don Oyler, Kentville
1927 - Murray MacNeill, Halifax