N.L. skip can tie Ferbey for most consecutive Brier wins, but what’s first and foremost on his mind is simply capturing this year’s championship
Brad Gushue and his teammates from St. John’s have a chance to write their own little piece of curling history next week, and while the possibility of winning another Tim Hortons Brier excites Gushue, he’s not exactly jumping up and down with thoughts tying a record for consecutive wins.
When Gushue, Mark Nichols, Brett Gallant and Geoff Walker beat Alberta’s Brendan Bottcher in last year’s Brier final in Regina, Sask., Gushue joined Randy Ferbey, Ernie Richardson, Kevin Martin, Pat Ryan, Don Duguid, Ron Northcott, Matt Baldwin and Gordon Hudson as the only skips to win consecutive Briers since 1927.
Ferbey and his team of Dave Nedohin, Scott Pfeifer and Marcel Rocque are the only winners of three straight Briers, accomplishing that feat from 2001-03.
The team from Newfoundland and Labrador, wearing Team Canada’s colours, can make it three in a row next week in Brandon, Man., at the 2019 Brier, which officially opens tonight with the wild card game between Bottcher and Ontario’s John Epping.
Gushue’s first game is 9:30 Saturday night (NL time) against Ontario’s Scott McDonald.
“The three in a row doesn’t really motivate me that much,” Gushue said earlier this week before heading out to Brandon. “It’s not something I have on my list, and you know that I made pretty precise goals.
“That was never on there. I just want to win the Brier. I want to get back to the worlds and have another crack at that.”
Gushue lost his world championship reign last spring to Sweden’s Niklas Edin in Las Vegas, after winning the 2017 world crown in Edmonton.
"I just want to win the Brier. I want to get back to the worlds and have another crack at that.” — Brad Gushue
There’s no denying, however, should Gushue and Co. win the Brier again, they’d be rubbing shoulders with some big-time curling royalty.
Not only would they join the Ferbey team as the only foursome to win three straight Canadian championships, they’d be mentioned in the same sentence with the great Richardson team that won four times in five years between 1959-63.
“They’re legends of the game,” Nichols says of Saskatchewan’s famous curling Richardsons. “I mean, it gives me goosebumps just thinking about being mentioned in the same sentence as those guys.
“To be honest, I’m not sure if we should be even talked about with them. They’re legendary.”
“I know the history of the game,” said Gushue. “I study curling’s history because I enjoy it. And I enjoy talking to Ernie every time I get to see him. To be talked about in the same breath with a guy like that, well, that would be pretty awesome.”
Gushue won his first event this season, the Grand Slam Princess Auto Elite 10 back in September.
Since then, it’s been a bunch of quarter-final and semifinal losses.
So the team hasn’t been setting the world on fire in 2018-19 — on a scale of 1-10, Gushue gives his squad a 6 — although they lead the Pinty’s Cup Grand Slam points race, and are seventh on the World Curling Tour rankings.
“We’re not that far off. We’ve made the playoffs in every event,” he says, before adding with a grin, “we just have not been as good in the playoffs.
“I wouldn’t say we’re not curling as good as we did going into last year’s Brier,” he said. “Going into last year’s Brier, we had a couple of the guys who were having some struggles technically, and we were concerned about it. We worked hard on it in the month leading up to the Brier, and were able to overcome it.
“We haven’t had those dramatic struggles this year. As for results, yeah, you could say they have not been as good leading into this one as last year, but I won’t say it’s been a disappointment because 99.9 per cent of the teams out there would die to have the year we’ve had. But certainly, if you look at the past two to three years, this has probably hasn’t been as good.”
“We’re not that far off. We’ve made the playoffs in every event, we just have not been as good in the playoffs." — Gushue
Gushue acknowledges, given the fact only one team has ever won three in a row, the law of averages is against his team winning a third Brier in Brandon. It’s for that reason, he says, he’s feeling the least amount of pressure he’s ever felt going in Brier week.
“Streaks eventually have to be broken,” he said. “Look at an NBA team with 15 wins in a row. Everybody expects them to lose the 16th game, right?
“I’ve been asked a lot about the three in a row and the pressure. If we do it, yeah, we tie a record and it will be talked about for a long time. To me, it’s house money at this point, so it’s kind of like, ‘let’s just free-wheel it and play.’
“I know we’re going to be there at the end of the week, whether we’re in the final or the semifinal or quarter-final. We’ll be there kicking around to give ourselves a chance, and then it’s just a matter of playing well at the right time, and getting a little break here and there.”
Curling in the Brier is enough to make you sick
Brad Gushue’s been in enough Tim Hortons Brier championships — this is his 15th — to know not to book anything for a week or so after he gets home from the Canadian championship.
“In all my years going to the Brier, I can only remember a handful of times when I didn’t get sick,” he said. “Flu or whatever … it could be anything. You grind so hard for a week, you’re so mentally into it, it’s very rare that I don’t get sick afterwards because we are so physically and mentally run down.”
Granted, it’s not like they’re playing 10 or 12 games of hockey, soccer or basketball in a week, but the combination of mental and physical strain stemming from the Brier can be taxing on the curlers.
“Mental fatigue has an impact, a bigger impact than physical fatigue,” he said.
Gushue usually finds the middle of the week the hardest, with four or five games under the curlers’ belts, but still a ways to go to the end.
“Those are the dog days of the week,” he said. “If you can get through those unscathed, (then) adrenaline and momentum kicks in after that.”