KINGSTON, Ont. — There's no mistaking Team Wild Card lead Colin Hodgson on the ice at the Tim Hortons Brier.
A Grim Reaper tattoo is featured prominently on his ink-loaded right arm. Skull and crossbone symbols run up and down his curling broom. Combined with his hairstyle — a thick mane of dark hair with shaved sides — and it makes for a rather unusual sight at the national men's curling championship.
"I'm getting edgy," Hodgson said. "I'm feeling more comfortable in my skin than I ever have. So this is me. I'm starting to care less what other people think and that's relaxed me and been more fun too."
The 29-year-old Edmonton native is a bit of an outlier in the rather staid environment at the national men's curling championship. The sport is still steeped in tradition with crowds that are perhaps best described as extremely polite.
Hodgson's mission is not necessarily to ramp up the bad-ass quotient on the ice. He's one of the more engaging, good-natured and downright friendly athletes you'll meet.
However, he's quite keen to help provide some colour and personality into the sport.
As director of operations for Winnipeg-based Dynasty Apparel, he literally has the ability to do so.
Hodgson's company is the official uniform partner of Curling Canada. He has helped inject vibrancy and fashion into curler kits, which have become more sleek and attractive in recent seasons.
"I think the Brier is ready for anything," he said. "The new uniform stuff and us going more crazy, I think curling fans are completely changing their tune. Now that things are available, people are all over it.
"We've got the Joker hats, we've got the angry moose sweaters, people are really trying to latch on to something and feel something with their apparel and how they're representing at the Brier."
Subtle touches are sometimes added to provincial/territorial uniforms each season. Symbols are often added on shirt backs — the Newfoundland dog is one example — and all teams this year have an image of Kingston City Hall emblazoned on the side of their shirts and jackets.
"People have been so nice to me and generous," Hodgson said. "They're reaching out and happy that we're doing different things."
Hodgson and his Wild Card teammates are getting results on the ice too.
It took a little while for the foursome of Hodgson, skip Mike McEwen, third Reid Carruthers and second Derek Samagalski to find their footing after teaming up two years ago.
But now they're up to fourth in the Canadian rankings and are off to a great start at the Brier.
McEwen, who edged Glenn Howard in the play-in game to earn the last spot in the 16-team field, beat Yukon's Thomas Scoffin 10-6 on Sunday to improve to 2-0.
"I think this team can win, we're in a great place," Hodgson said. "We still haven't played our best yet and we're comfortable. So that's awesome too. I think we've got a good vibe going.
Alberta's Brendan Bottcher also won his second straight round-robin game with a 9-4 victory over Nunavut's Jake Higgs.
In other early matchups, Northern Ontario's Brad Jacobs defeated Prince Edward Island's Bryan Cochrane 6-2 and Saskatchewan's Matt Dunstone outscored James Grattan of New Brunswick 10-6.
Manitoba's Jason Gunnlaugson stole two points in the 10th end for an 8-6 win over Quebec's Alek Bedard in the afternoon and Brad Gushue of Newfoundland and Labrador topped Nova Scotia's Jamie Murphy 5-2.
Canada's Kevin Koe beat brother Jamie Koe of the Northwest Territories 7-3 and Ontario's John Epping dumped British Columbia's Steve Laycock 11-3.
Kevin Koe downed Grattan 8-4 in draw 5 Sunday night at the Leon's Centre while Epping improved to 3-0 with a 10-6 win over Scoffin. In other late-draw play, Bottcher defeated Gushue 3-2 and Gunnlaugson edged Jacobs 6-5.
The preliminary round continues through Wednesday night.
The Page Playoffs begin Saturday and the final is scheduled for March 8.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 1, 2020.
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Gregory Strong, The Canadian Press