One of those teams is the Saskatchewan entry skipped by Adam Casey, who won’t be spending his weekend off-time wondering what it would been like if he was still part of Brad Gushue’s Newfoundland and Labrador rink, which went into Friday night guaranteed at least a spot in tonight’s semifinal game.
“I don’t think I’ve been sitting here playing for Saskatchewan fantasizing what it would be like to be playing for Newfoundland,” said Casey this week. “That’s in the past.”
The 27-year-old Casey, who is from Prince Edward Island, hooked up with the Gushue rink as its second in 2012 after Mark Nichols, Gushue’s longtime third, moved to Alberta. A year later, Brett Gallant, who had skipped a P.E.I. team that included Casey to a national junior championship, came on board with Gushue, Casey and Geoff Walker.
That lineup remained in place for another year before Nichols returned from out west. It was Casey who got the bump after three curling seasons and three Brier appearances wearing Newfoundland’s colours.
“I’m still fairy close with them,” said Casey of his relationship with his former teammates. “Through that whole process (after Nichols returned), Brad and I were pretty open with each other, and ultimately, it came down to picking one of us and I just didn’t want to be in a fifth role.”
Casey, an industrial engineer, returned to P.E.I. and “instantly regrouped,” after his departure from the Gushue rink, He formed his own team, skipping that foursome to two provincial titles and Brier berths, but with little success.
But after that team broke up last summer, Casey was once again a curling free agent. That’s when Shaun Meachem, whose team had lost to Steve Laycock in the 2016 Saskatchewan final, phoned. He was looking for a second.
Casey admits he wasn’t quite sure who Meachen was, but after a little research and some contemplation, accepted the offer, even though it meant a lot of travelling. Curling Canada permits teams competing in provincials and nationals to have one out-of-province resident, and Casey commuted from his home in Winsloe, just outside of Charlottetown, to curl with the Saskatchewan rink.
The team actually struggled early, but after a lineup shuffle, with Casey moving to skip and Meachen to third, they found success and ended up whipping Laycock 11-3 in the Saskatchewan men’s final.
In St. John’s, Casey and the team showed themselves willing to play an up-tempo game and to take chances, finishing with a 5-6 record, with losses that included one-point decisions against playoff teams Manitoba and Team Canada.
Saskatchewan has produced seven Brier winners over the years, but none since Rick Folk way back in 1980, and no team from the province has been in a Canadian men’s final since 1995, when Brad Heidt lost to Kelly Burtnyk and Manitoba.
Casey said he doesn’t believe that recent history — or lack of it — puts any additional pressure on his and recent Brier entries from Saskatchewan.
“I think we get extra support, not extra pressure, representing Saskatchewan,” said Casey. “It’s something extra, but I think it’s something good.”
Casey feels his approach to the game “might be a little more mature than it was five years ago,” when he played with Gushue. He also says his old rink has changed, too.
“What’s different is that they’re one of the top teams in the world right now,” said Casey, who lost 10-5 to Newfoundland in the round robin. “That’s why it might have felt different when we faced them, not because I played with them once.
“It’s the same when you face the top teams. It doesn’t feel weird. It feels special.”