Jamie Danbrook admits he was a little nervous before his first match as part of Brad Gushue’s rink at the 2011 Labatt Tankard provincial men’s curling championship, being played this week at the Re/Max Centre in St. John’s.
But the 22-year-old likens it to his experience curling lead for Prince Edward Island’s Brett Gallant at the 2009 Canadian junior curling championships Gallant, the favourite to claim the crown after having made the finals at the 2007 event and finishing third in 2008, won the title in his fifth trip to nationals. (The team would go on to finish second at the world championships.)
“Last year, we went in with the expectation that we wanted to win, but you know playing Brad and the guys that it’s not going to be easy,” Danbrook said of his first Tankard in 2010, when he threw lead stones for Matt Blanford’s rink.
“Playing with Brad, anything but winning (the) provincials is a complete failure.”
The Blandford unit was the only foursome to collect a victory from Gushue, who went on to claim a fourth straight provincial title and seventh overall. Danbrook feels his play at the Tankard played a part in his being added to a lineup that, to this point, has mostly included Mark Nichols, Ryan Fry and Alberta’s Randy Ferbey, who joined the team for the World Curling Tour season.
“I knew that would have put me on their radar,” said Danbrook.
And he was right — his play hadn’t gone unnoticed by Gushue.
“We had a really in-depth search and a bit of tryout for a few guys. We took our time with it,” Gushue explained.
“We had played against Jamie in the provincials and he played very well and during the tryout, he impressed us again.”
Danbrook hails from Vernon, B.C., but moved to St. John’s to study marketing at Memorial University and be closer to his girlfriend, Julie Devereaux. The two met when she represented the province at the junior nationals in 2007 and 2008 when he was still curling with B.C.’s junior men’s team. (Devereaux is the sister of Stacie Devereaux, provincial Scotties champ).
Danbrook hasn’t seen a lot of action with Gushue this season, having curled in two of the three events he attended with the team; the Bally Haly Cashspiel and a couple of ends at a the Swiss Chalet National, one of four Capital One Grand Slam of Curling events, in his hometown of Vernon in December. He also travelled with the team to the Shorty Jenkins Classic in Brockville, Ont.
“That was really cool,” Danbrook said of playing with the world’s best curlers in front of hometown fans. “We didn’t have the success we wanted, but I had a good time.”
Danbrook has stayed sharp this season by skipping a team in Bally Haly’s Major League and “spared every week but two in the SuperLeague” in addition, to throwing stones on a daily basis with Nichols.
“I made a point to make sure he was included, even in my individual practices,” Nichols said.
“We wanted to make to make him feel like he was part of the whole team for the whole year. We really tried to make sure he didn’t feel like he was outside the team and include him in everything.”
Nichols says the young curler’s zeal for the game has actually helped stoke the rest of the rest of team’s passion for the game in some ways.
“We’ve been doing this day in and day out for the last 10 or 12 years, but you can see the excitement in his eyes when he’s getting ready to play. It reminds us why we’re doing this and brings that little bit of excitement back to our game.”
Gushue said Danbrook has been a good fit, and looks forward to seeing him develop as he gains more confidence curling with the team.
“I think there’s a little bit of doubt in there playing with guys who have the amount of experience we have, but he can contribute to the team and once he believes that, he’ll perform very well.”