Team Knapp excited to represent Saskatchewan at 2023 Brier
“To do it with that group of guys just makes it as special as it could be,” newly minted Team Saskatchewan skip Kelly Knapp said of earning his place at the 2023 Tim Hortons Brier.
The long-time lead-turned-skip had been through a whirlwind afternoon of curling ahead of a hasty interview Sunday, throwing a takeout on the final stone that led his team to a 5-4 victory over Steve Laycock.
“Skipper and the team made the right shots at the right time,” twin brother and team lead Trent Knapp added. “(The) stars have to align and we’re very thankful they have, (we) can’t wait for what’s ahead.”
In just his second year skipping, Kelly was able to lead his tight-knit team to an undefeated 5-0 record at the Saskatchewan men’s curling championship.
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“My twin brother Trent and two of my best friends in Mike (Armstrong) and Brennan (Jones), and (alternate) Dustin (Kidby) who’s become such a close friend through this year and coach Brian who’s stuck with Trent and me for a number of years, I can’t envision doing it with anyone else.”
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“To share this with my brother, it’s insane,” Trent added. “We were (in) Grade 5 when we started together, (we’re) very fortunate with all of the coaches we’ve had through the years. We parted ways for a few years, but to come back, with him at the helm at skip, it’s literally a storybook.”
It may be the first Brier appearance for both of the Knapp brothers, but second Mike Armstrong and third Brennan Jones have both previously won green jackets – Armstrong in 2012 and Jones a year earlier, playing with the man they beat in the tankard finale Steve Laycock.
“It was a little more of an important game because he’s a past teammate,” Jones said. “Steve’s wily, he’s always been a great player and we knew that he was going to come out firing even though we beat him twice already; we knew that we had the tools, we just had to use them.”
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It’s been a long 12 years for the 35-year-old who is eager to return to the Brier, with an opportunity to represent both the province and country at the World Curling Championship.
“I didn’t think I’d ever be here again. I kind of took a few years off, had a bit of a back injury and didn’t think I’d ever be in this position,” Jones explained. “Kelly asked me last year if I wanted to play and it was too good of a chance to pass up, just being really good friends with these guys.”
A sense of both community and provincial pride were worn on the sleeves of team Knapp at the tankard, something this group will take with them to the Brier.
“I’m proud to be from Regina and represent that city, but just on the bigger whole, our province,” Kelly said. “I was born and raised here, I’ve never lived elsewhere, it’s always been a dream to wear the green and white.”
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The team hopes to end a 43-year Brier drought for Saskatchewan. The championship runs March 3-12 in London, Ont.
“We’ve all had exposure against the teams that were there and we know we can beat them, it’s just about putting that all together, which I think we can do.”
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