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'I looked right to the chair': Rocque back at rink where heckler chirped in '04 final

SASKATOON — When Team Homan coach Marcel Rocque walked into SaskTel Centre for Canada's Olympic curling trials, the memories from the 2004 men's national championship final came rushing back.

SASKATOON — When Team Homan coach Marcel Rocque walked into SaskTel Centre for Canada's Olympic curling trials, the memories from the 2004 men's national championship final came rushing back. 

It was his first time in the building since Randy Ferbey's showdown that year with Mark Dacey. A memorable championship match had a bit of everything, including a heckler who got under the skin of Rocque's team — known as the Ferbey Four — late in the game. 

The heckler, seated by the side boards, had chirped Ferbey fourth Dave Nedohin on a regular basis. Nedohin was clearly distracted by him in the critical 10th end.  

"As soon as I walked out, I looked right to the chair," Rocque said with a laugh.

Ferbey's Alberta team, which also included Scott Pfeifer, was looking to extend its Brier streak to four straight titles. After Dacey's Nova Scotia side scored three in the eighth end, Ferbey was forced to a single in the ninth.

The heckler was at it again as Alberta tried to hang onto its two-point lead.

"I remember Dave having a little bit of trouble focusing all week in here," Rocque recalled. "It's kind of a hollow sound (in the arena)."

The heckler's voice carried and Nedohin heard him say something on his penultimate shot. He planned to talk to the fan before making his final throw.

"He was going to go and deal with him," Rocque said. "(Since) he had another rock to throw I said, 'Dave, I've got him.'"

Rocque walked between the sheets to the other end of the ice and looked over at the heckler along the way. Some 17 years later, he recalled his message to the spectator verbatim.

"One more word and you're mine," he said that day, complete with a shake of the fist and a glare that would melt ice.

Nedohin was heavy and wide with his final draw, which gave Dacey a chance to draw for three. Dacey made the shot to end the Ferbey Four's streak. 

"That was the way the game was supposed to turn out I guess," Rocque said.

An official talked to the spectator in the 10th end but allowed him to stay in the building.

"Obviously Marcel took it upon himself to make sure his (fourth) was in a good frame of mind," said Nedohin's wife, Heather, who was on hand that day and is coaching Team Einarson at the trials this week. "I love that passion from Marcel. 

"The dynamics of that team were all in, four core, all the time. It was a pretty special moment."

Heckling is a rarity in curling but it does happen from time to time.

"I was told last week I looked like a bag of milk," said Brad Gushue, who lost the 3-4 Page playoff game at the '04 Brier. "So it happens with fans. They try to get under your skin a little bit."

There are also occasions where audiences — Olympic crowds in particular — may not be familiar with the nuances of the game and make themselves heard at the wrong time. 

"We've got different people watching the game and different people reacting and it's all good," Rocque said. "The evolution of the game requires different spectators and smaller venues and different excitement around the game. It's all part of it."

Rocque never met up with the infamous spectator, who smiled at the lead when he balled his fist at him that day.

"The fan probably went over the line and Marcel reacted," said Gushue, who's in the trials field this week. "But I haven't seen that too much to be honest. I think curling fans are pretty kind. 

"You do get the hecklers out there but for the most part you can tune them out."

Rocque said it's all a part of sport.

"The sport has changed since the gentleman's game," he said. "It seems that I guess it's acceptable to be a little more raucous. That's not a bad thing for our game."

The Ferbey Four team won its first Brier in 2001 but missed the podium at that year's world championship in Switzerland. National and world titles would come in 2002, '03 and again in '05.

"Just like our loss in Lausanne in our first world championship fuelled us to be so much better, the ('04 Brier) loss probably gave us enough gas in the tank to take care of winning it (at home) in Edmonton," Rocque said. 

"So I guess when you look at it that way, maybe four in a row would have been nice but we might not have had the fire in the belly to get to the Edmonton Brier, so that was pretty special too." 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 25, 2021. 

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Gregory Strong, The Canadian Press