The Olympic Winter Games is the latest milestone moment for Scott Pfeifer during a hall of fame curling career.
The four-time Brier winner and three-time world gold medallist with the legendary Ferbey Four is the alternate for the Kevin Koe rink as the winner of the Roar of the Rings Olympic Trials.
“I would say it’s the cherry on top of the cake,” said Pfeifer, a highly-decorated product of the St. Albert Curling Club. “I had a great run with Team Ferbey and ultimately we wanted to make it to the Olympics as that team but being able to join these guys over the last two years has been a phenomenal experience and I’m glad I get to continue it in PyeongChang in 2018.”
Pfeifer, 40, initially hung up his competitive curling shoes after the 2010 Players’ Championship with the Ferbey Four, the Alberta Curling Federation’s Team of the Century, and had curled in fun spiels in Beijing, China and Bratislava, Slovakia before joining his buddies on the Jamie King rink for the 2013 provincials in Leduc.
The five-time Brier all-star second also made cameo appearances with Hootie and the Old Fish, a prolific St. Albert men’s league rink, and was rocking the ice in the Friday mixed league in Sherwood Park when he was recruited for the 2016 Brier by Koe, third Marc Kennedy of St. Albert, second Brent Laing and lead Ben Hebert.
Pfeifer continued on with the Brier champions to worlds as Team Canada won gold in Basel, Switzerland and remained with the Glencoe Club of Calgary affiliate for the 2017 Brier, a 7-6 loss to Brad Gushue, of Newfoundland/Labrador, and last week’s Roar of the Rings.
“Actually at first I didn’t think I was going to be able to do it because of work commitments but then I was able to do so thank God or else I probably wouldn’t be sitting here talking to you on the phone right now,” Pfeifer told the Gazette on Thursday.
“It was pretty tough kind of retiring from Team Ferbey because 100 per cent we wanted to go as a team to the Olympics so you kind of do, I guess put it out of your mind but it never really is out of your mind so when the guys asked me two years ago to be their fifth I knew they would be one of the favourites to be there,” Pfeifer added. “I also knew it was a great opportunity for me obviously to play with Marc, who is also out of St. Albert. We competed against each other for probably 14 or 15 years but never got the opportunity to play together so that was another motivating factor for me to join the guys.”
Pfeifer and Kennedy, a pair of southpaws, were among the original six inductees into the St. Albert Curling Club wall of fame in 2011.
Fifth man duties at the Olympics are different than at a Brier or worlds but the objective remains the same for Pfeifer.
“My ultimate goal off the ice is to make sure those guys have the least amount of distractions that way and make sure that they’re ready to play when they step onto the ice,” said the Bellerose Composite High School alumnus. “Logistically the Olympics are a totally different experience. You’re housed in the Olympic village with all the other athletes. You’re on foreign soil. The draw is totally different. Transportation is different. There are a few wrinkles added into it.”
At the Roar of the Rings, Pfeifer had the best seat in the house at the Canadian Tire Centre in Kanata, Ont. while watching the Koe foursome weave their magic in Sunday’s 7-6 barn-burner against Mike McEwen of Winnipeg to finish 8-1 overall.
“They started off the week with a few breaks early to win a few games but there was just a real sense of calm over the team and confidence that they were going to do it. The trials can be an absolute pressure cooker so usually the teams that stay in a positive frame of mind and don’t let the pressure get to them are the ones that win and obviously that last game was a shining example of that,” said Pfeifer, who competed in three Roar of the Rings with the Ferbey Four but the team unsuccessful reaching the playoff round.
“It’s one of those things where you need to put things together throughout the week and unfortunately we weren’t able to do that as Team Ferbey.”
The cliffhanger with McEwen (“both teams came out and played absolutely fantastic”) was decided on the last rock, or team shot, as Koe’s draw against two counters was dragged into the four-foot by Hebert, Laing and Kennedy, who joined the front-end sweepers to bring it to towards the button.
“As the rock was coming in my view was kind of blocked by Marc at first so I couldn’t tell how line was,” said Pfeifer of the defining moment of the Olympic trials that ended with an emotional outburst by the winners. “But I knew if Kevin gave it to those guys they were going to get it there and they did.
“I jumped up, shook (their coach’s) hand, and then I gave John (Dunn, the coach for Koe) a big bear hug and lifted him up. I was excited to get out there and celebrate with the guys,” said the U20 world champion in 1994 and bronze medallist in 1997. “I knew how much work those guys had put in over the last four years to ultimately get to that final game and ultimately get to that final shot. Last year I would say by the guys’ standards they had a sub-par season so to go in and make it to the final it was a great accomplishment and quite honestly I told the guys at the end of the year that probably the best thing that happened was not winning the (Brier) final last year because it makes you that hungrier to get back and obviously win this event.
“If you ask the guys, they got together four years ago to win the Olympic trials and any Briers that you can win on top of that is great.”