When Brad Gushue looks across Rexall Place, the Newfoundland and Labrador skip sees familiar faces playing for opposing teams at the Canadian men’s curling championship.
Three former teammates are wearing the colours of other provinces at the Tim Hortons Brier.
“My goal is to come here and play every team with an ex-teammate,” Gushue says dryly.
Manitoba lead Mark Nichols was Gushue’s third at eight previous Canadian championships and at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin where together they won Canada’s first gold medal in men’s curling.
Gushue, who opened the Brier with five straight wins, meets his long-time teammate today when Newfoundland takes on Manitoba’s Jeff Stoughton.
Northern Ontario third Ryan Fry played both second and vice for Gushue four times at the Brier, most recently last year in Saskatoon. Saskatchewan second Chris Schille was Gushue’s teammate at the 2007 and 2008 Canadian championships.
It’s becoming common for players to move across the country to join a team they believe will advance their curling careers.
Fry, from Winnipeg, is representing his third different province at the Canadian championship. He was also Manitoba’s third in 2007. Schille, from Barrhead, Alta., is a former Alberta provincial junior champion.
Gushue is philosophical about the coming and going of teammates. He expects a relocation to the extreme eastern end of the country isn’t necessarily permanent.
“I have the rap of going through a lot of teammates, but I’m trying to bring guys down from across the country,” Gushue says.
“They’re uprooting and moving away from family and friends. They enjoy it down there, but they’re away from their families. It’s not something that’s going to be long term. It might be, but in realistic terms, it’s probably only something they’re willing to do for a few years.”
Gushue has already played against Fry and Schille in Edmonton, with Newfoundland beating both Northern Ontario and Saskatchewan.
Given their long history together, Gushue indicated playing against Nichols today may feel uncomfortable.
“It’s going to be awkward, probably, with Mark because we played together so long and not expecting him really to come out of retirement,” he says.
“We’ve had an opportunity to play Chris last year and we’ve played Ryan quite a few times this year and Ryan and I are still good buddies.”
Gushue has a reputation as a demanding skip.
“We never had an issue, myself and him through the years,” Nichols says. “Brad is a guy who is very competitive. He wants to win and if you’re putting in the same amount of effort as he is, he’s got no issues with you.”
But Fry says it’s true that Gushue is more boss than consensus-builder.
“He’s more of a ’this is my show,’ which is fine,” Fry says.
“It works for him. He’s been successful doing it that way. It just got to the point where I wanted something a little bit different. I think we kind of realized — at the Brier last year it kind of came to a head — we knew we didn’t have the same chemistry we had.”
Fry doesn’t regret his time with Gushue, however.
“I think it probably made both of us, down the line, better curlers and better teammates because of it,” Fry says.
“Some of me probably rubbed off on him. Hopefully the good parts. Some of him definitely rubbed off on me. I take nothing but good things away. Brad’s still a really good friend of mine.”