(by Jonathan Brazeau)
Brad Gushue doesn’t get to compete in front of his family, friends and fans all that often but when he does he certainly puts on a show.
Brad Gushue in action at the Canadian Beef Masters on Oct. 26, 2018, in Truro, N.S. (Anil Mungal)
The St. John’s, N.L., skip finished runner-up at the 2015 Tour Challenge in nearby Paradise and was flipping out when he scored the winning shot at the 2017 Brier on home ice to secure his first Canadian men’s curling championship in his 14th try.
It’s not really a recent phenomenon either as Gushue was also a finalist at the 2005 Players’ Championship in St. John’s prior to his Olympic Winter Games success the following year.
Gushue will have another opportunity to play in his backyard next week at the Boost National in Conception Bay South, N.L. It’s no question the 11-time Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling title winner enjoys playing in Newfoundland although if you ask Gushue why he’s been able to thrive under such high-pressure situations, even he’s at a bit of a loss for a proper explanation.
“I don’t know how much of an impact it has on the way we play or the way we perform but it certainly makes us a little bit more nervous, that’s for sure,” Gushue said with a laugh. “I think based on the fact we won the Brier and we got to the final in Paradise, you have to think that there’s some positive impact there. Other than that, I’m not too sure.
“I think it’s just fun to play in front of family and friends and know that when you make a good shot the crowd’s going to react. It’s going to be a fun atmosphere I think not only for us but for all of the curlers.”
Gushue cherishes the times his team gets to play at home as travelling far away to events is the norm. Even then, getting around Canada for the crew isn’t all that easy.
Take for example the previous Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling stop, the Tour Challenge in Thunder Bay, Ont., that pretty much required adding a full day ahead to their schedule just to arrive at the event plus another day afterwards getting home and making their long weeks on the road even longer.
“It’s a challenge, it really is,” Gushue said. “With the exception if we have something in Atlantic Canada, it’s pretty good because we’re only a half-hour time difference. Even coming to Ontario it’s an hour-and-a-half in time difference and then you’re looking at a three-and-a-half hour flight just to get to Toronto and for us to come up here [Thunder Bay] it’s another couple hours.
“It takes time, it takes its toll on us physically and also it’s an extra day that we have to travel before an event and after an event that 90 percent of the teams here on tour don’t have to do other than maybe the European teams. We’re in a very similar boat to those guys even though we are in the same country. It’s a lot of travel for us but we love where we’re from and wouldn’t change it.”
That Newfoundland pride is a reason why the team is fired up for the Boost National and they’ve had this one circled on the calendar since it was announced. A debate emerged amongst Gushue, third Mark Nichols, second Brett Gallant and lead Geoff Walker over whether they wanted to win this one more than completing a rare three-peat at the Brier. No team has accomplished the latter since Randy Ferbey’s famed foursome pulled off the feat from 2001-03.
“I think playing at home is special and playing in front of your family and friends and to win in front of them is really special,” Gushue explained. “It’s a good argument. I don’t know if there’s a consensus on our team but certainly it’s a lot of fun and I think if the atmosphere is anything like it was in Paradise or anything like it was at the Brier it’s just going to be a ton of fun and we’re going to enjoy every minute of it. Looking forward to it.”
Gushue is hopeful his team will be able to electrify the crowd once more and hey, if all goes well for them we may see another Jose Bautista-style broom flip.
“If we can make a shot to win or even have a shot to win, I think it’s nice,” Gushue said. “That’s all you look for when you play these big events is just to have a crack at it and see what happens.”
Gushue also believes the event will be a big boost (pardon the pun) for CBS and will help grow the sport in the town.
“They’ve been trying to get a curling club and lobbying to get some more curling in the community,” he said. “They run an event every spring in the arena there, trying to get people around the community, school kids, to try curling. They’ve been pushing really hard and doing a good job over the last couple years and maybe an event like this might be the last little boost to get the city and the province to step up and some private investors or whatever it may take to get an arena there or a curling club.
“I think it’s going to be a positive, I really do. When the whole community sees how many people are coming out and how excited they are for this event, it might be just that little kick in the butt that everybody needs to get a club going in CBS.”
Team Gushue opens the Boost National against Switzerland’s Team Schwaller Tuesday night (7 p.m. NT) at Conception Bay South Arena. Full-event passes are all sold out, however, single draw tickets are available at mileonecentre.com or by calling 709-576-7657.
NOTES: The Boost National is the fourth event and second major of the Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling season and features 15 of the top men’s teams and 15 of the top women’s teams from around the world. … Winners earn $30,000 of the $250,000 total purse plus berths to the season-ending Humpty’s Champions Cup. … Points are also on the line for the Pinty’s Cup, which is awarded to the overall season champions following the conclusion of the Players’ Championship in April. Gushue is the reigning Pinty’s Cup men’s champion.