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Gushue came up in an era of greatness

Newfoundland and Labrador skip Brad Gushue (second from left) talks over a shot with teammates Brett Gallant, Mark Nichols and Geoff Walker during a Sunday morning match against Manitoba’s Mike McEwen at the 2016 Tim Hortons Brier Canadian Men’s Curling Championship. Gushue lost the game 8-4, conceding in the ninth end
Newfoundland and Labrador skip Brad Gushue (second from left) talks over a shot with teammates Brett Gallant, Mark Nichols and Geoff Walker during a Sunday morning match against Manitoba’s Mike McEwen at the 2016 Tim Hortons Brier Canadian Men’s Curling Championship. Gushue lost the game 8-4, conceding in the ninth end

The 2017 Tim Hortons Brier marks the 14th Canadian men’s curling championship for Brad Gushue, an indication of his dominance in this province. But Gushue is still looking for his first Brier title, the final jewel in the curling crown. He’s already won a Canadian and world junior championship, an Olympic Trials and an Olympic gold medal in 2006. In addition to that, there are seven career Grand Slam titles.

He’s been to a pair of Brier finals, and hopes the third time is a charm, maybe next weekend.

A pretty good resume, but as of yet, no Brier. Not that he’s overly concerned with being curling’s comparison to the Buffalo Bills, who lost four straight Super Bowls in the early 90s.

“There are a lot of three-time Brier champions who would trade their three Briers for an Olympic gold medal,” Gushue said.

“I’m not worried about that. We’ve had a pretty accomplished career, and having said that, I’m 36-years-old and I grew up in an era with Kevin Martin, Glenn Howard, Randy Ferbey and Jeff Stoughton, four of the greatest skips to ever play the game. It was hard to win in that era.

“I don’t think that’s something to be ashamed of (no Brier championship yet). Playing when you’re 26 or 27 in a sport where skips peak when they’re close to 40, and against Martin, the greatest skip to ever play the game. You’re not going to win too many times.

“I really think if I’m able to continue, and the body holds up, and the motivation is still there over the next five or six years, let’s see where we are at that point. There are a lot of skips who don’t win until they’re 35-plus. I feel I’m entering that window, with a wealth of experience behind me.”

•••

Curling, like golf, is a game of etiquette, where missed shots generally do not draw applause from the audience.

But that’s changing, which has been evident at Mile One Centre. Sunday morning against Manitoba, a couple of missed shots by Bison skip Mike McEwen drew a cheer from the sold-out Mile One crowd who were cheering for Gushue.

“There were a couple in the first end (misses), and we went, ‘Oooh, that feels a bit strange,’” McEwen said of the cheers which were meant to support Gushue and teammates Mark Nichols, Brett Gallant and Geoff Walker.

“But you just have to chuckle. I know that they’re a true sports crowd, and they’re going to cheer for anything that’s good for their team. And we’re totally comfortable with that.

“But it was nice we were able to quiet the crowd for a good part of the game after that,” said McEwen following his 8-4 win over Gushue.

For his part, Gushue appreciates the cheers whenever they come. 

“It’s the Brier. You’re playing a hometown team and I’ve dealt with it 13 times when I’ve played the hometown team (elsewhere) and you miss a big shot,” he said.

“I don’t blame the crowd here. I think it’s the great for the sport. I think one of the best atmosphere in the sport of curling was at the 2010 Olympics (in Vancouver). They cheered for just about anything.

“I want to see them excited. I wasn’t to see them cheer. I think it’s good for the atmosphere, good for the fans … and good for us too,” he added with a smile.

•••

The competition inside Mile One Centre today will be one thing. Outside, it could be even more fierce.

With the start of weekday morning and afternoon draws (although it’s only p.m. games today) at the Brier, comes a different parking dynamic than what existed for the opening draw on the weekend or for American Hockey League games and concerts at Mile One, which are almost always held in the evening and/or Saturdays and Sunday.

Now, vehicle-driving Brier-goers will be looking to fill some of the same parking spaces normally used by 9 to 5 workers downtown. 

It’s one reason the event’s host committee is promoting Metrobus’s Brier Pass. For $30, it provides access to Metrobus routes, including GoBus accessible transport and the Brier Park N' Ride service from Bowring Park and Confederation Building, although Park N' Ride is operating only on the weekend.

It’s good through Sunday, March 12, and is valid for all routes, although the host committee’s Eugene Trickett suggests Route 3 — which runs almost the width of the city, from Stavanger Drive to the Village Mall, with a stop at the Convention Centre adjoining Mile One — may be particularly worthwhile for out-of-towners who want to get some sense of the city.

Brier Passes can be ordered online (metrobustransit.ca) and picked up at the Metrobus customer service centre at 25 Messenger Drive. They also can be delivered, but there will be a waiting period.

•••

Remember that little pocket transistor radio you last used during Dark NL? Or maybe it was even further back, to the ice storms of 1984. Whatever the case, if you are attending the Brier and know where that little device is, dig it out, plug in new batteries and bring it to Mile One. You can use it to follow the action on whichever sheet TSN is covering in a particular draw. That broadcast will be relayed on an FM transmitter inside Mile One and can be found by tuning to 102.1.

No rock music. Just rocks.

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