Curling skips Brad Gushue and Randy Ferbey made national headlines last April when the pair announced they would team up for the upcoming World Curling Tour (WCT) season.
At the time, pundits were skeptical as to how the almagamation of two elite skips would fare, given reports that the pair had a chilly on- and off-ice relationship.
Three events into the season, those expecting the curling super powers to be at odds will be surprised to learn Gushue says his relationship with Ferbey is, “even better than (he) expected.”
“We are very similar in a lot of ways and we also compliment each other in ways,” Gushue said of Ferbey, the four-time world champion from Edmonton.
“We’ve gelled very well and I’m excited about the rest of the year as we start to learn more about each other and our games.”
One aspect of both their games that Gushue feels will serve them well on Tour is a matched intensity.
“We both want to win really bad and hate losing.
“I think we’re pretty well straight shooters. We call it like it is on the ice, which is good because there’s never any issues that are going to build up.”
Gushue, the 2006 Olympic gold medal-winning skip, admits the only issue that has arose through the early stages of the season is shot calling. Early in an end, Ferbey calls the play but as each end plays out toward the skip stones, Gushue prefers to have more control over the shot.
“It’s been working okay,” the 30-year-old skip says, “but I think once we get into some more pressure games, that’s something that could potentially creep in.”
Gushue says the relationship between the two is different from the one he had with Russ Howard in 2006 when the pair represented Canada at the Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy.
Gushue says while both bring “experience and calmness”, what they asked of Howard is different than what’s expected from Ferbey.
“When Russ joined us, we were much more inexperienced. The experience we’ve gained over the last four or five give years is quite substantial.”
Integrating Ferbey into the foursome hasn’t been the only adjustment the team has had to make. With Ferbey throwing third stones, Gushue’s longtime mate, Mark Nichols, moved to second while Ryan Fry, second stone the past two season, now throws lead, replacing Jamie Korab.
Gushue says while he and Ferbey are comfortable in their new roles, “it may take them more time to get used to it and get to the level where they want to be.”
Ferbey will curl with the team on the Tour, but when it comes to provincial men’s playdowns, alternate Jamie Danbrook will step in. The native of British Columbia, who now calls St. John’s home, threw lead with Prince Edward Island’s 2009 Canadian junior men’s championship rink and second stones for Matthew Blandford in last year’s Labatt Tankard provincial men’s championship.
While confident in Danbrook’s skill, Gushue recognizes the challenge it could present come provincials.
“We’re going in with a team that probably won’t have as many games under our belt as teams we’ve had in the past.”
Danbrook, who will curl lead for the Gushue Rink, had his first taste of WCT action at the AMJ Campbell Shorty Jenkins Classic in Brockville, Ont., last month and will travel with the team to some of the bigger events so he can gain, “some exposure to the top teams and playing on arena ice.”
The team started with a bang at the Baden Masters in Switzerland, going 7-0 before losing to Thomas Lips in the final. They followed it up with a semifinal berth at the Shorty Jenkins Classic and most recently made it to the quarter-finals at the West Coast Curling Classic.
“Even though it’s a good start, it’s probably not as good as some of the ones we’ve had in past years,” Gushue concedes. “But the positive side of this year is that we seem to be winning more games, it’s just that one loss seems to be coming in the playoffs.
“We’re happy with the way we’re playing, but disappointed we haven’t won an event so far.”
Next up for Team Gushue — sponsored this season by World Financial Group, RONA, Kirby Group and Definitions — is a first-time appearance at the Challenge Casino Lac Leamy in Gatineau, Que., next weekend.