By Andrew Denny
The Brier is a war.
Don’t let the Canadiana of curling’s crown jewel hinder your perception of the event. The Brier is the ultimate battle of attrition where victims of all forms are swallowed up daily. And while The Patch™ may be the final stand for many of the fans of this year’s event, it’s the players who ultimately have to prepare for all out battle.
Indeed, what was projected to be one of the greatest Brier fields ever assembled has not disappointed after three days of competition. Matches have been hotly contested with few surprises in the standings thus far.
But this is the Brier, and anything is possible. Just ask the Pat Simmons’ Team Canada foursome, who had an abysmal start to last year’s event before ultimately winning in grand fashion.
To predict a winner in a field as tough as this would be a fool’s errand – although no less than six curling wizards did so in our March digital edition – however, many performances stand out in the early going as intriguing.
Impressive have been the efforts of the Glenn Howard’s Ontario team, who have played giant-killer in a field where their competitiveness was hotly debated, taking down both the Alberta and Newfoundland heavyweights. Their only loss comes at the hands of Manitoba’s Mike McEwen, who seems to be handling the rookie jitters extremely well.
While there are a few Brier rookies in the field of competition, another Brier rookie is cutting his teeth in the curling scene.
I caught up with Eric Burant, a non-curler and first time curling event attendee, and shadowed him for the duration of his time at the event. What started out as an innocent pilot project, a scoop if you will, turned in to a complete day of non-stop entertainment.
We started the day where any good Brier fan would: the Patch.
“Everyone here is smiling. They look like they’re having a great time and maybe that’s helped along the amount of beer flowing,” quoted Burant, a young professional from Ottawa. “Angus McStone is giving me some weird vibes though.”
Burant was taken aback by the atmosphere, complimented by the amount of individual provincial pride that was on display.
“I really dig the (provincial) jackets. It’s amazing how much individual culture each province offers.”
We quickly enjoyed a refreshing beverage before making our way to the draw, where the focus of our attention was the Ontario vs Alberta match and the final relegation game of NT vs NS. While the majority of our time was spent laughing and explaining the rules, we were treated to some extremely tight matchups, including a wild finish in the relegation final.
“You could hear a pin drop when Nova Scotia missed their final shot. The crowd’s reaction summed it up perfectly,” said Burant. “I thought that curling would be this relaxed attitude affair but in the end, it was high drama and extremely heartbreaking.”
When asked what he would say to the Nova Scotia squad if he had the chance, he offered some warm words: “You made it to the Brier. You made it to the big stage and that’s better than a lot of teams. You’re capable and you’re going to be back in the future.”
I did my letter best to find the Bluenosers in the Patch post game in an effort to introduce Burant, but had no luck. In the end, the spirit of the game became obvious to the Brier newbie, who quickly fell in love with the camaraderie and sportsmanship that curling offers.
“It really is the game of the proletariat. These are all regular guys with families and lives off the ice. I don’t think anyone curls with the objective of being on a Wheaties box.”
And in a few simple hours, a man who had never set foot in a major curling event had the entire culture and hospitable nature of curling figured out.
That’s the power of the game we all love so much.
As the Brier continues throughout the week, we’ll be bringing you more blog updates. Hit me up on twitter @denny_613 if you want to see or hear anything specific. After all, without the reader, we writers have no purpose.
In the meantime, I need to grab a nap after a weekend of fun and excitement with old friends, and especially new ones. Cheers.