But if there is anyone who still has that status attached to Geoff Walker and Brett Gallant, Newfoundland and Labrador skip Brad Gushue figures it may be time to unhitch it.
Walker who is originally from Alberta, moved here to join Gushue’s team as the lead in 2011. Gallant came from Prince Edward island in 2012, first as the third to replace Mark Nichols when the latter moved to Manitoba, then slid back to second when Nichols returned.
“It’s a mix,” answered Gushue when asked how this province’s perception of his team’s front end. “There are a lot of people — the majority — who’ve fully embraced them as Newfoundlanders. They live here, they pay their taxes here and they represent this province well and proudly.
“Most people recognize that and appreciate them for what they’ve contributed to here. But there are still some people who think because they weren’t born and raised here that they’re not true Newfoundlanders, which is unfortunate.
“The way the world is working now — and people here maybe know it as well as anywhere — people are always moving for work, for family, whatever.”
And moving for work purposes is how Walker describes his decision to accept Gushue’s offer to come east six years ago.
“That’s exactly it, it was a career move,” he said. “I love curling and I want to go as far as I can in it, so when I got the opportunity to come and play with arguably the top player in the world, it didn’t take long for me to make up my mind.”
Walker laughed when it is suggested he has providing some balance to the Newfoundlanders who moved to the Alberta — many of them to Grande Prairie, near his hometown of Beaverlodge.
“I don’t know about that,” he replied, “but I do have a better understanding of what it meant for them to be moving out west.”
Gallant also didn’t take much time mulling over Gushue’s job pitch, but says his decision was made easier by the support of his parents — Peter, who represented P.E.I. in nine Briers, and Kathie, who played for the island province in three Scotties Tournament of Hearts national women’s championships.
“They knew what it meant to me,” he said. “For me growing up, the Brier was huge. A lot of kids grew up wanting to play hockey and win Stanley Cups, but for me it was the Brier Tankard. I had my first curling broom when I was four and I started curling competitively when I was five or six.
“They understood the opportunity I had with Brad.”
Walker and Gallant says they hear — and feel — nothing but support when they are around the two St. John’s curling clubs they use, the Re/Max Centre and Bally Haly.
“The first year or two, they might be asking your (background) story,” said Gallant, “but with the curling season around 220 or so days long, we’re there a lot. They know us and so many have them have become our friends.
“It’s our home. We call St. John’s home.”