Ageless Glenn Howard aims to defend his Ontario Tankard title and earn a Brier berth

Feeling “10 times better” after offseason knee surgery, the ageless Glenn Howard is feeling refreshed and energized as he aims to defend his team’s title at the upcoming Ontario Tankard.

“It’s unbelievable. I’m 60 years old and I’m still on fire,” Howard said. “Every time I lace them up — and I don’t care who we’re playing against — I always think we can win. I intend to win.

“Am I as good as I was? No.

The four-time world champion from Tunny, Ont., is one of the headliners in the 12-team field that will play Monday in Port Elgin, about three hours northwest of Toronto.

Mike McEwen and John Epping are two of the other big names in a field that includes Pat Ferris, Sam Mooibroek and Jason Camm.

“I think it’s more up in the air this year than the last 15,” Howard said. “Anyone can win and I don’t necessarily say it will be Howard, Epping or McEwan.

“It could easily be one of the other nine.”

Rachel Homan and Holly Duncan headline the Ontario Women’s Championship, which runs through Jan. 29 at the same venue. The champion will earn a berth in the Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Kamloops, B.C., February 17-26.

The men’s winner will represent Ontario at the Tim Hortons Brier in London, Ont., March 3-12.

Howard has won the Brier four times over 20 in his career.

“I think technically he’s the best curling rock net thrower that’s ever played the game and he does it over and over again,” said former teammate Brent Lang, now a second on Team McEwen. .

Howard won his first Ontario Tankard in 1986 with his brother Russ third in the skip. Glenn led his team to eight consecutive provincial titles from 2006-13.

“I’ve never met a guy who loves the game more than Glenn,” Lang said. “I know that’s why he plays because he still loves to play, loves to compete and loves the team. Loves being a part of it.”

Despite a regular training routine, injuries have been a challenge for Howard in recent years. A left knee injury kept him from sliding at times last season.

Substitute Adam Spencer replaces last year’s Tankard and Howard’s son Scott moves from vice to fourth. The Penetanguishene Curling Club rink went 4-4 last year at the Brier in Lethbridge, Alta.

Howard had arthroscopic knee surgery last summer to fix meniscus problems and repair tendons. The team has played a lighter schedule this season and is ranked 27th in Canada.

“It hasn’t been our best year by any means but a lot of it is just between the ears,” Howard said. “You can’t worry about it. You just go out and try to make shots.

At No. 7, Epping is the only team in the national top 10 in Ontario’s field. Ferris is ranked 11th in Canada, while Moybrook is 14th, McEwan is 15th and Cam is 20th.

McEwan recently parted ways with lead Jonathan Buick. The team announced this week that Joey Hart – son of coach Richard Hart – will recruit at the provincial level.

The home crowd awaits the Tankard winner at the national championship. Howard won two of his four Brier titles in Ontario, taking the 1993 crown in Ottawa and the 2007 title in Hamilton.

“To me it’s like an extra point on the scoreboard,” Howard said. “You get a few more fans cheering for you. It gets the adrenaline pumping and makes you more excited. If you make a good shot, the cheers are hair-raising.

“I’d love it. There’s nothing I’d be happier than to go to London and play for my home province.

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