Mark Nichols isn’t the only curler on Brad Gushue’s Brier-championship team who is going through a difficult time in the days leading up the world men’s curling championship which opens Saturday in Las Vegas.
Three days after Nichols’s mother, Helen, passed away at age 63, Brett Gallant’s grandfather, Lorn “Luker” Burke, died Tuesday in Charlottetown, P.E.I. He was 86.
Gallant, second stone on Gushue’s foursome, grew up in a curling family in Charlottetown. His father, Peter, is one of the finest curlers to hail from Prince Edward Island, with nine Brier appearances, winning four provincial mixed and one provincial senior championships over a 28-year career as a player.
His mom, Kathie Gallant, is no curling slouch, either, winner of a P.E.I, junior championship and three provincial women's championships, one as skip. She also won six provincial mixed championships.
But it was Brett’s grandfather who introduced him to the game. Burke, too, was part of P.E.I. curling royalty, a Hall of Famer who was actually inducted with his daughter, Kathie, in 2011.
His lengthy career includes a berth in the 1970 McDonald Brier in Winnipeg, three years after he curled for P.E.I. at the first Canada Winter Games held in Quebec City.
“He was the one I practised with mainly for the first 10 years I was curling, from the time I was four right through my teens,” Gallant told The Telegram back in December at the Olympic Trials in Ottawa.
“I used to love to go to the rink with him, just to throw rocks.”
Lorn Burke was in the advanced stages of Alzheimer's disease when he passed away.
Gushue, Nichols, Gallant, Geoff Walker fifth man Tom Sallows and coach Jules Owchar open the world championship Saturday with two games, against Russia and Scotland. Sunday, Gushue and Co. take on the Swiss. The bonspiel continues all week with semifinals Saturday, April 7 and the bronze- and gold-medal games on Sunday, April 8.
The team from the Bally Haly Curling Club and Re/Max Centre is seeking its second straight world men’s championship. It will try to become just the fifth team, all of them Canadian, to successfully defend a world men’s championship after claiming gold in 2017 in Edmonton.