Which means even Brad Gushue is having a hard time wrapping his head around the idea of competitive curling in August.
“It’s too early to be starting curling, I can tell you that,” said Gushue, who nevertheless is playing this weekend at the Everest Challenge in Fredericton, N.B., a new event on curling’s ever-expanding schedule.
It doesn’t seem that long ago Gushue and teammates Mark Nichols, Brett Gallant and Geoff Walker were raising the championship trophies for the 2017 Brier in St. John’s and world men’s curling championship in Edmonton.
With their final World Curling event of the 2016-17 season finishing up on the last day of April, it’s been less than four months of down time for Gushue and Co. in a sport that has become one of fall, winter, spring and, now, summer.
“This has been the shortest off-season we’ve ever had. I can honestly say I am not ready as I should be at the start, but that’s only because it’s so early,” said Gushue, who won’t be competing with his regular rinkmates this weekend.
That’s because a unique format is being used for the event being held at Willie O’Ree Place in Fredericton,
On Thursday night, Gushue and the seven other competing skips drafted teams consisting of two men and two women, with a prohibition on regular teammates hooking up.
Gushue’s team, which consists of third Cathy Overton, second E.J. Harnden and lead Lisa Weagle, plays its first game Saturday evening (8 p.m. NT) against a foursome skipped by three-time Scotties champion Rachel Homan, whose lead happens to be Walker. Gallant is part of Brad Jacobs’ team, while Nichols is with Val Sweeting’s entry.
It’s a single-knockout event consisting of four quarter-finals, two semis and a winner-take all championship game on Sunday.
At stake is $200,000 in prize money, making it curling’s richest event.
With that much on the line, Gushue figures things could start getting pretty serious as they go deeper into the competition, but acknowledges the time of year and the mix-and-match make-up of teams could make it sort of a “fun” event, at least at the start.
“I think a little bit. The only thing I don’t like about it is that it’s on TV,” he said with a laugh as he noted TSN is broadcasting all seven games, beginning with Jacobs versus Jennifer Jones tonight.
“We haven’t played in months and all of sudden, we’re on on TV. There’s a good chance we’ll make fools of ourselves at some point, but hopefully, we’ll have had enough practice time to get comfortable and shake off the rust pretty quickly and make a few shots for the people watching.”
The other competing skips are Kevin Koe, John Epping and Chelsea Carey.