Team Newfoundland and Labrador skip Brad Gushue poses with the Brier Tankard trophy after defeating Team Alberta in the Brier curling final in Kingston, Ont., on Sunday, March 8, 2020. Gushue experienced mixed emotions as he prepared to throw practice stones for the first time this season. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Team Newfoundland and Labrador skip Brad Gushue poses with the Brier Tankard trophy after defeating Team Alberta in the Brier curling final in Kingston, Ont., on Sunday, March 8, 2020. Gushue experienced mixed emotions as he prepared to throw practice stones for the first time this season. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Reigning Brier champions Team Brad Gushue making season debut this week in Halifax

Gushue, Nichols and Gallant practising together again

Brad Gushue experienced mixed emotions as he prepared to throw practice stones for the first time this season.

He opened his curling bag and found the gold medal, crest and Newfoundland and Labrador jacket as he left them after winning the Brier last March before the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic. While excited to be back on the ice ahead of a new season, Gushue felt a tinge of sadness too.

“I was like, ‘Whoa, this is starting to hit me now.’ The last rock I threw was to win the Brier,” he recalled. “It was an odd feeling because usually you win a big event like that and you get to go to worlds.

“You play a couple Slams and you probably play a little fun bonspiel here and there, get to celebrate and enjoy that win. But we never had that opportunity.”

Gushue, vice Mark Nichols and second Brett Gallant started practising together again a couple weeks ago. They’ll make their season debut this week at a bonspiel at Halifax’s Mayflower Curling Club.

Geoff Walker, a new father who’s based in Edmonton, will miss the first few bonspiels of the season. Joel Krats, a Labrador City native who won Canadian junior silver last season, will fill in at lead.

“The competition part is what I miss the most,” Gushue said from St. John’s. “I am looking forward to this weekend and having to draw the four-foot against a couple shots and hopefully having some shots to win some games.

“That’s the fun part for me. I am looking forward to that more than the grind of the practices and the workouts.”

Gushue delivered a clinical 7-3 victory over Alberta’s Brendan Bottcher in the Brier final at Kingston, Ont., for his third national title in four years. The win also gave him a berth in the Olympic Trials next fall and a spot in the 2021 Brier as Team Canada.

The 2006 Olympic champion missed out on wearing national colours again at the world championship in Glasgow, Scotland, when it was cancelled due to the pandemic.

When the off-season started early, Gushue focused on family and non-curling pursuits, including his work as an Orangetheory Fitness franchisee. He has two locations in St. John’s and is partners with Mark Dacey – a 2004 Brier winner – at two locations in Nova Scotia, including a studio that recently opened.

That meant 60- to 80-hour work weeks over the summer.

“We’d (love) to get our capacity up and actually get to operating at a normal level,” Gushue said. “But the fact that we’re at 50 per cent (due to restrictions), we’re doing extremely well.”

Gushue’s team is planning to stay in the Atlantic bubble this fall, with bonspiel appearances planned for next month in Halifax and possibly around the holiday season in December.

With Brier and Trials spots locked in, the foursome can play a reduced schedule that works for them without the pressure or urgency that other teams may face.

“We want to make sure that we’re doing the right things for us and our families and our supporters,” Gushue said. “We’ve got the full support of our sponsors, which is awesome. We’re taking it as it comes.”

The first four Grand Slams of the season were cancelled and the Canada Cup has been indefinitely postponed. A hub or bubble-type setup is being considered for national championships but there is no word on when Curling Canada might unveil details.

Gushue admits his excitement level is somewhat lower than normal given the ambiguity surrounding the 2020-21 campaign. The veteran skip expects that will change as soon as confirmed details are released.

“I think the engagement and that focus kind of goes up a notch or two when you know what’s going to happen,” he said. “There’s just so much uncertainty right now where you can grind it out for a year, train and practise and nothing can happen.

“Now obviously that’s going to help you for next year. But when when you get to be 40 years old you don’t really want to grind when you don’t need to.”

In the meantime, Gushue and his teammates will build up with regional bonspiel appearances. After a long break of almost eight months, they’re excited to get going.

“This is an opportunity for us to go out and do something that’s a little bit closer to normal for us, even though there’s some rule changes and things that we’re not used to doing,” he said.

“But it does bring us a step or two closer to some normalcy and we’re certainly excited about that.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 29, 2020.

curling

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, announced the province surpasses one million COVID-19 tests Friday. (Photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
COVID-19: Red Deer at 141 active cases

Central zone active cases up by 100 in last 24 hours

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
Red Deer area seniors facility pauses visits after staff tests positive for COVID

A Red Deer County seniors facility has put the breaks on visitors… Continue reading

.
Alberta confirmed more than 1,500 COVID-19 cases Sunday

Alberta confirmed 1,584 COVID-19 cases Sunday afternoon. The total active cases went… Continue reading

Hockey Canada logo at an event in Toronto on November 1, 2017. A “non-core member” of Hockey Canada’s National Junior Team staff has tested positive for COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Hockey Canada staff member tests positive for COVID-19 in Red Deer

A “non-core member” of Hockey Canada’s National Junior Team staff has tested… Continue reading

Lynn Van Laar, chair of this year’s Christmas Wish Breakfast, said the event was planned outdoors to minimize the risk of COVID. Photo by Mamta Lulla/Advocate staff
Outdoor Christmas Wish Breakfast helps central Alberta families this holiday season

The coronavirus pandemic isn’t going to stop children from having a merry… Continue reading

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pauses after responding to a question about the holidays during a news conference outside Rideau Cottage in Ottawa, Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau joins G20 in promising COVID-19 aid to poor nations, rejecting protectionism

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau joined leaders from the world’s 20… Continue reading

Justice Minister David Lametti responds to a question during Question Period in the House of Commons, in Ottawa, Thursday, Nov. 19, 2020. The federal bill revising the rules on medically assisted death in Canada has raised the ire of the Canadian Psychiatric Association over the proposed law’s explicit rejection of mental illness as grounds for ending a patient’s life. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Exclusion of mental illness in assisted dying-bill slammed by psychiatrists

OTTAWA — The federal bill revising the rules on medically assisted death… Continue reading

The Quebec flag is seen on the podium as Bloc leader Yves-François Blanchet responds to a question during a news conference Wednesday June 3, 2020 in Ottawa. Perennial anxieties around the state of the French language in Quebec have boiled over in the past week, with politicians seizing on a Liberal MP’s initial brush-off of the issue as evidence of indifference to a crisis. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Angst around French language boils over in Quebec, as politicians warn of ‘decline’

MONTREAL — Perennial anxieties around the state of the French language in… Continue reading

Numuch Keitlah, left, and Jake Thomas, centre, participate in a Coastal Nations search and rescue exercise off the coast of Vancouver Island in this undated handout photo. The recently operational Coastal Nations Coast Guard Auxiliary has more than 50 members from five Indigenous territories who are trained in marine search and rescue. They are on call day and night to respond to emergencies along some of B.C.’s most rugged and remote coastal areas. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Jordan Wilson *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Canada’s first Indigenous-led coast guard auxiliary patrols B.C.’s rugged coast

VICTORIA — The winds were gusting at 110 kilometres per hour and… Continue reading

Toronto Raptors guard Fred VanVleet has sponsored the VanVleet Court at the BMO Harris Bank Center in Rockford, Ill. (Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Fred VanVleet signs four-year, US$85-million deal with Toronto Raptors

TORONTO — Fred VanVleet, one of the most coveted players in free… Continue reading

This undated electron microscope image made available by the U.S. National Institutes of Health in February 2020 shows the Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, yellow, emerging from the surface of cells, blue/pink, cultured in the lab. Also known as 2019-nCoV, the virus causes COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, NIAID-RML
‘Hardship is not a new thing:’ Nunavut fights COVID-19 as cases continue to rise

IQALUIT — It has been just over two weeks since Nunavut declared… Continue reading

Pedestrians walk past Pfizer world headquarters in New York on Monday Nov. 9, 2020. Despite recent optimism over reported results from COVID-19 vaccine trials,<br>Two companies, Pfizer and Moderna, have recently announced they're developed COVID-19 vaccines that are 95 per cent effective. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Bebeto Matthews
A long way from lab bench to bedside: Virus experts urge COVID-19 vaccine caution

Despite recent optimism over reported results from COVID-19 vaccine trials, virologists say… Continue reading

Alberta has 1,910 active cases of COVID-19 as of Wednesday. Red Deer is reporting five active cases, with 108 recovered. (File photo)
After COVID-related transplant delays, 16-year-old N.S. girl gets lung transplant

‘This is the difficult time now of seeing Tahlia in ICU hooked up to 15 IVs and sedated’

Most Read