But Ive basically chalked it up to ignorance. They dont know me. They dont know what Im like, says Newfoundland skip
Newfoundland and Labrador sweepers Dave Noftall (left) and Chris Schille follow skip Brad Gushues rock during a game against Manitoba at the Brier Canadian mens curling championship in Winnipeg on Wednesday. Gushue and his rink beat Manitoba 9-4, but lost
By Robin Short
Telegram Sports Editor - Winnipeg
Brad Gushue is more than a curler with the steely glare champions exhibit. He's a 27-year-old who, like most young men his age, cares what others think.
And so Gushue admits he's been stung by the flood of criticism - often outrageous and contemptible - from the online chat rooms, much of it unfolding from this newspaper's web site.
The backlash began when Gushue added Chris Schille - from Red Deer, Alta. - to the team to replace Russ Howard following their Olympic gold medal, overlooking Mike Adam of Labrador City. It was Adam who had stepped back to fifth - or alternate - paving the way for the addition of Howard.
Then came the much ballyhooed dumping of lead Jamie Korab following the Hamilton Brier last year. Gushue, and long-time third Mark Nichols, maintained it was a "chemistry" thing, but it didn't stop the wave of venom aimed at the skip.
Korab was replaced by Dave Noftall, a 20-year veteran of the St. John's curling scene.
"It did last year, when there were some harsh personal comments," Gushue admitted when asked if the criticism stung him.
"But I've basically chalked it up to ignorance. They don't know me. They don't know what I'm like. They don't know what happened within our team. It's just pure aesthetics (that) they're judging me on.
"It's just people being ignorant and I'm not going to worry about those people."
Korab, who curled with Mark Noseworthy this year and spent some time slinging rocks with Guy Hemmings on the World Curling Tour, is in Winnipeg for the Tim Hortons Brier.
Almost a year since the move, many curling fans have still not forgotten.
It's perplexing since curling teams have been known to switch players as often as hockey players change sticks. Alberta's Kevin Martin, who beat Gushue 8-7 Wednesday afternoon, changed his entire team in 2006, breaking apart from long-time mates Don Walchuk, Carter Rycroft and good buddy Don Bartlett of Gander to hook up with John Morris, Marc Kennedy and Ben Hebert.
Jean-Michel Menard dumped his long-time friend and third, Francois Roberge, after that team struggled since winning the Brier in 205. Jason and Colin Mitchell left/were pushed out as Glenn Howard's front end a couple of years ago, replaced by Craig Savill and Brent Laing.
"Kerry (Burtnyk) made the same change we did last year and I didn't hear about it until September," said Gushue, who today calls Paradise home. "It's a little strange, but I can understand because we were the Olympics champions and so-called Newfoundland's team.
"But I was disappointed that people didn't think there was a little bit more to it than what came out in the papers."
Caught in the middle was Schille, who skipped Alberta at the '04 national juniors. Coming from a province where curling ranks up there - but not quite as high - with hockey and football, the 25-year-old second understood the dynamics of sliding players in and out of the lineup.
"And if people in the province can't appreciate someone trying to win with Newfoundland on their back, then they're stupid," he told the Calgary Herald. "I don't understand the people from Newfoundland that don't like what Brad does. If it weren't for him, the province isn't even on the map. If they can't appreciate that, then they're not the right fans."
Schille compared Gushue's moves to the Detroit Red Wings and that NHL team's heavy employment of European players.
"They look 90 per cent Russian and you don't see the Wings' fans crapping on them for that. They love it when they get a guy with a last name ending in V," he said.
Nichols admits the team is aware of what's said and written about it. This being a free country and all, he understands people are entitled to their opinion.
But, added the Labrador City product now living in St. John's, is it's disappointing when it's coming from fellow Newfoundlanders.
"We do nothing but try to represent our province with pride and dignity," he said. "We don't do anything to piss people off. We do this because we love it.
"As for the questionable moves we've made, we did them because we weren't enjoying curling at the time. Why do something when you're not enjoying it? People can think what they want, but it's really disappointing to hear it coming from your own, so to speak.
"They trash Brad and it's a sin because Brad has done nothing wrong. He just wants to win and he wants to put the best possible team together and sometimes you're going to make moves people won't like, but that's the sign of a great competitor.
"If we didn't do it because we were worried about what others would think, we would just as well be sitting at home watching this thing and not playing."