LANGLEY, B.C. - For years, they have been rivals. Now, for a short time, they are teammates.
Canadian adversaries Jeff Stoughton of Winnipeg and Glenn Howard of Coldwater, Ont., will try to help Team North America beat Team World at the World Financial Group Continental Cup of Curling, which starts Thursday.
"Every time we're on the ice, we want to beat him, and he wants to beat us just as badly," said Stoughton, the defending world champion, who is competing in his first Continental Cup. "So it's a little different that we're going to have to cheer for him."
Stoughton, 48, and Howard, 49, a three-time world champion, have battled against each other in numerous Briers for the right to represent Canada in the world championships. But they have never worn the same colours on the ice until now.
"We've been so-called opponents and enemies for all these years," said Howard. "Now, it's nice to have him on our side. … We're all good friends. But you're never really that close, because you're always playing against each other. But here, we're going to be one big team, and I can't wait."
Stoughton and Howard, a three-time world champion, will also have to get used to wearing American stars and stripes as well as the Canadian maple leaf symbol on their backs. They will join forces with American men's and women's rinks on Team North America in the international competition modelled after golf's Ryder Cup.
"I've never done that," said Stoughton. "I think that's kind of cool. That's what it's all about — Team North America. It's an honour to have both (symbols) on there, so we're pretty proud."
Team North America is looking to repeat as champion after thumping Team World 298-102 in St. Albert, Alta., last year.
Stoughton and Howard said the event offers them more of an opportunity to relax because it does not count for entry into the Brier, world championships or Olympics. However, Team World is taking a much more serious approach. Coach Peja Lindholmhas instituted a no-alcohol policy throughout the competition, even when his team does not have to compete.
Team World also arrived a day early, on Monday, so that it could get in two extra practices Tuesday at a local Langley, B.C., club before practices were held at the event's venue Wednesday.
"Last year, North America, they really kicked our ass, and we'll make sure it won't happen again," said Lindholm , who was also at the helm during the one-sided loss in 2011. "We'll do our best and we'll set up a winning climate for our players and for our teams."
"This, for us, is the equivalent of the world championship," added Team World captain David Hay of Scotland.
Similar to golf's Ryder Cup, the non-traditional event includes men's, women's, mixed doubles, singles and skins competitions. Each team consists of three men's and three women's rinks. The team that earns the majority of 400 possible points is declared the winner.
Defending Canadian women's champion Amber Holland of Kronau, Sask., said the event will be good preparation for her. Since her rink has an automatic berth in the Scotties as Team Canada, this event is one of the few in which she'll compete before nationals.
Despite Team North America's view that the Continental Cup is more relaxing than other championships, the competition will get heated, said Holland.
"Don't kid yourself," she said. "When everybody steps out on that ice, they're competitors and they want to win, and it'll be intense."
Notes: Steve Gould, the lead on Stoughton's rink, will miss the event because of illness. Stoughton has obtained Ben Hebert, the lead on Randy Ferbey's Edmonton rink, on loan. … Stefanie Lawton's Saskatoon rink rounds out the Canadian contingent on Team North America. U.S. national champions Pete Fenson of Bemidji, Minn., and Patti Lank, a Midale, Sask., native who now lives in Lewiston, N.Y., head the American rinks. … On the men's side, Team World comprises rinks skipped by two-time defending European champion Thomas Ulsrud of Norway, Sweden's Niklas Edin and Scotland's Thomas Brewster. … The World women's rinks will be skipped by defending world and two-time reigning Olympic champion Annette Norberg of Sweden, 2010 Olympic bronze medallist Bingyu Wang of China and Scotland's Eve Muirhead, the reigning European champion and a four-time world junior champ. … North America holds a 4-3 overall record. The victors have alternated every year since the first Continental Cup was held in 2002 in Regina. The Continental Cup was not held in 2005, 2009 or 2010.