The 2018 provincial Tankard gets underway today at the Re/Max Centre-St. John’s Curling Club, but unlike past years, the stakes will be much higher at this year’s all-Newfoundland men’s curling championship.
That’s because for the first time in a long time there’s no Brad Gushue in this year’s Tankard field.
As the reigning Tim Hortons Brier champions, Gushue, Mark Nichols, Brett Gallant and Geoff Walker have a free pass into this year’s Brier, set for March 3-11 in Regina, Sask., as Team Canada.
Which means there will be another team wearing Newfoundland and Labrador’s colours at the Brier for the first time in 11 years.
That’s how many consecutive Tankard titles a Gushue-skipped team has won. In fact, Gushue has represented the province at the Brier 15 of the past 16 years, the only break coming in 2006 when he was curling in the Olympic Games in Torino, Italy.
As a result, nine teams have registered for the Tankard, eight of them from the Re/Max Centre. The other team, skipped by Dave Thomas, travels in from Port aux Basques.
Among the favourites are Adam Boland’s foursome. Boland, Stephen Trickett and Zach Young were part of the U Sports Canadian University championship team last season. Andrew Symonds’s team placed fourth in the national Travellers championship in November, losing the bronze-medal game to Alberta. Colin Thomas, a former three-time provincial junior champ and ex-Canadian university champion, figures to be in the mix.
And there's an entry with Frank O'Driscoll throwing last rocks and whose lineup also includes 200 Tankard winner Rick Rowsell and lead Ken Peddigrew, who actually skipped N.L.'s last Tankard winner that diudn't include Gushue back in 2006
The first draw is scheduled for 7:30 tonight. After that, it’s two draws per day up and including Friday, at 2:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.
Tie-breakers are scheduled for Saturday morning, with playoffs slated for Saturday afternoon and Saturday night.
The final is set for 8 a.m. Sunday. If an undefeated team has to be beaten twice, and a second championship game is required, it will be played at 1 p.m.
Teams entered in the 2018 provincial Tankard men’s curling championship, beginning today at the Re/Max Centre in St. John’s (skips names in bold):
Adam Boland, Stephen Trickett, Zach Young, John Sheppard, fifth Mark Noseworthy, coach Gary Ryan
Paul Harvey, Steve Bragg, Andrew Manuel, Mike Day
Justin Lockyer, Stephen Spratt, Matthew Walsh, Jason Noel
Frank O’Driscoll, Rick Rowsell, Craig Dowden, Ken Peddigrew
Trent Skanes, Nick Lane, Jeff Rose, Mike Mosher
Greg Smith, Matthew Hunt, Andrew Taylor, Ian Withycombe, coach Joe Murphy
Andrew Symonds, Mark Healy, Dave Noftall, Keith Jewer, coach Craig Jewer
Colin Thomas, Cory Schuh, Chris Ford, Spencer Wicks, coach Jeff Thomas
Dave Thomas, David Power, Cody Parsons, Travis Cormier