Kevin Martin has many things to be thankful for whenever he comes to the Lower Mainland.
He'll always have the memory of 2010 Olympic gold, but each Thanksgiving weekend, he seems to cash a big cheque at the Westcoast Curling Classic.
This year was no different, as Martin won the curling cashspiel for the sixth time - the fourth time with his current superteam of third John Morris, second Marc Kennedy and lead Ben Hebert - with a decisive 5-2 win over Mike McEwen on Monday afternoon at the Royal City Curling Club.
The Martin squad took home a $17,000 cheque while their Winnipeg runners-up took home $11,000.
Martin's team played such a strong game that even though the match went to skip stones in the final end, the result was all but decided in the second end.
After Martin scored with the hammer in the first end on a draw, McEwen threw an almost perfect shot to the four-foot with his first stone of the second end.
But Martin had his draw weight down and with the sweeping of Kennedy and Hebert, he glued his freeze onto the button, leaving McEwen with no alternative but to throw his final stone through the house and limit the damage to only one.
"Unfortunately, it was behind the T-line," said McEwen of his first stone. "We had to brush it to get it by the guard, but we left him the button and he put it right there.
"This week was a hard week for us because we played so many matches. We had to grind and against a team like (Kevin's), you hope for some mistakes but they didn't make any."
With a 3-0 lead, Martin could afford to watch McEwen take some huge risks and Martin capitalized with another steal in the third.
McEwen was facing multiple Martin rocks in the house and had to try an angle raise double takeout that was only successful in limiting Martin to a steal of one.
"He had no shot," said Martin of McEwen's circus shot. "A lot of the credit has to go to John (Morris), who made all his shots, and to Marc and Bennie, who made it really easy for me."
With a 4-0 lead, Martin coasted the rest of the way, giving up two to McEwen in four, but getting the hammer back so that he could blank the fifth and sixth ends before taking his one in seven for the final 5-2 score.
Martin said the victory was also special because he lost to McEwen two weeks ago in Saskatoon.
"He got us a couple of weeks ago," said Martin. "The thing is, with the best teams, you have to get up on them early because it's hard to come back."
And with Martin as perhaps the best frontrunner in the sport, a 2-0 advantage in the first end that becomes four by the third end is an almost-insurmountable deficit.
Martin's victories at the Westcoast Curling Classic include wins with his current squad in 2010, 2008 and 2006, and with his former squad in 2005 and 2002.
"This is our 10th visit to this (cashspiel) and it's always cool to come back to Vancouver," he said. "We enjoy Vancouver and we even got a chance to see the new stadium on Saturday for the (Lions-Stampeders) football game."
The Monday afternoon final was the final course in a five-day curling extravaganza in the Royal City.
In the afternoon semifinals, Martin and his old rival Randy Ferbey exchanged deuces in the first five ends for a 4-4 tie heading into the sixth end.
Ferbey got a nice blank when Dave Nedohin made a runback takeout, but the magic wasn't there in the seventh end when Martin got his winning deuce.
After Ferbey's last rock - Nedohin throws the skip stones - settled in the house just short of Martin's counter, Martin played a deft tap back to score his two and the 6-4 victory.
"Kevin's a hard team to play against," said Ferbey. "He doesn't get down very often so you have to try not to get down."
Ferbey was pretty happy with how his team played this weekend.
"We played pretty well," said Ferbey. "At this level, it's the little things that decide (the winner). We played well, but it is still early in the season."
In the other semifinal, Carl deConinck Smith looked to be in control of the game after stealing two in the first and threatening to steal another in the second.
But McEwen got out of the jam and after the teams were knotted at four after five ends, DeConinck Smith wrecked on a guard in the sixth, leading McEwen to a steal of two and the final 6-4 margin of victory.
"We made some calling mistakes in the sixth," said the affable Saskatchewan native. "Either we should have peeled earlier or gone top four (foot) earlier.
"Overall, I'm pretty happy with how well we curled. ... Mike made some great shots and he's very consistent."
De Coninck Smith was making his first appearance in the Royal City and he hopes to be back in the future.
"The ice was unbelievable and this was a great event," he said. And with $7,500 in his pockets, the flight home to Saskatchewan was just a bit happier.
In the morning quarterfinals, McEwen shut out Kevin Koe 6-0, Martin ran over Steve Laycock 9-1, Ferbey took three in the eighth to beat Jim Cotter 7-4 and deConinck Smith nipped local favourite Brent Pierce 5-4.