The smile was larger than an eight-ender for Scott Pfeifer while soaking up the good vibes as Sturgeon Heights School saluted St. Albert’s Olympic curlers with a bon voyage bash before the PyeongChang Winter Games.
“This reinforces that the whole country is behind all of its Olympians and not that it puts extra pressure on us but we know with all the people cheering at home that we’re really going to have to put in a good effort,” said Pfeifer, who shared centre stage with Marc Kennedy at the Hurry Hard assembly Tuesday.
Pfeifer, 41, is the alternate and the unofficial coach for the Kevin Koe rink with Kennedy the vice-skip at third, Brent Laing at second, Ben Hebert at lead and John Dunn, a sports psychologist at the University of Alberta who is in charge of the mind games for the Team Canada’s gold-medal contenders.
Pfeifer, a four-time Brier winner and three-time world gold medallist with the storied Ferbey Four, is over the moon over his first Olympics.
“It’s definitely another chapter for me because I’ve never been to an Olympics and it was something that escaped us when we were playing with the Ferbey team but I’m super happy and honoured to be a part of this team going into PyeongChang,” said the five-time Brier all-star second.
Pfeifer, a junior world champion in 1994 with the Colin Davidson rink and bronze medallist in 1997 with the Ryan Keane rink, was lured out of retirement from competitive curling when the Koe foursome reached out to the Bellerose Composite High School alumnus to serve as the team’s super sub at the 2016 Brier. He continued on with 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 month’s Roar of the Rings.
The next stop during a hall-of-fame career for Pfeifer is the Olympics.
Are you counting down the days before the Olympics start?
Pfeifer: “Every day you get something new, whether it arrives by email or in the mail. You get new clothing or your airline tickets and every time it’s like, ‘Wow! We’re that much closer.”
Are your duties as an alternate going to change because it is the Olympics?
Pfeifer: “I’ve just been working hard over the last month trying to make sure everything is taken care of before we get over there to minimize the distractions that we might face when we’re competing.
“We are fortunate that Marc and Ben had that experience at the Olympics (as gold medallists with the Kevin Martin rink in 2010 in Vancouver) so it’s not like we’re going to be in there not knowing what to expect. We’re going to lean on their experience.”
How is the team looking after winning the Roar of the Rings, especially in last week’s Grand Slam event in Camrose?
Pfeifer said: “The first couple of games I think were very difficult for them just to get back into the swing of things after coming off such a high of winning the Olympic Trials but in any event your competitive juices get flowing and they definitely wanted to win that one and set a good standard going into the Olympics. We were all very pleased with the semifinal performance (6-5 extra-end loss to Niklas Edin of Sweden who is also going to the Olympics) and over the next few weeks we’ll fine tune a few things and once we’re throwing rocks on the 14th of February in actual games we’ll be ready to go for sure.”
Does this experience with the Koe rink inspire you to ramp up the competitive curling juices instead of the usual Friday night mixed league fun in Sherwood Park or helping out the Hootie and the Old Fish boys in St. Albert?
Pfeifer: “It reinforces to you how much you love the sport and not just being on the ice but all the support that we receive off the ice and the camaraderie between your teammates as well.”
How cool is it that two guys that grew up curling in St. Albert are now together at the Olympics? (Pfeifer and Kennedy, a pair of southpaws, were among the original six inductees into the St. Albert Curling Club wall of fame in 2011).
Pfeifer: “I still remember when we were coming up and competing against each other. You always think you will have an opportunity to play with each other but it never turned out where we could until two years ago when those guys asked me and I jumped at the chance. It’s an honour to play with Marc. He’s one of the best curlers, one of the most accomplished curlers, and an all-around amazing guy as well. I’m very proud to call him a teammate.”