July 19th, 2024

Brad Gushue wins 2024 Canadian men’s curling championship for sixth Brier title

By Donna Spencer, The Canadian Press on March 10, 2024.

Canada skip Brad Gushue celebrates after scoring two against Saskatchewan with his final rock in the seventh end during the final at the Brier, in Regina, Sunday, March 10, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

REGINA – Brad Gushue further cemented his place in Canadian curling history Sunday.

He became the first man to skip teams to six national men’s championships with a 9-5 win over Saskatchewan’s Mike McEwen in Regina.

Gushue, third Mark Nichols and lead Geoff Walker won the sixth Briers of their careers and third straight to match records held by Randy Ferbey of Edmonton.

Ferbey also claimed six crowns, including four as a skip when Ferbey also three-peated between 2001 and 2003.

“This is why I play. This is why I love the game. I love this moment. To see it all come to fruition after the hard work this week is so cool,” Gushue said. “It isn’t about how many. It’s about this moment here and I’m going to enjoy the next couple hours. We’ve got an early flight so hopefully we make it.”

Gushue of St. John’s, N.L., said he felt “a little pop” in his leg late in the game.

“I think it’s just me being 43, to be honest,” the skip said. “I don’t think it’s anything serious.”

E.J. Harnden in his second season with Gushue collected his third national title. His first was in 2013 with Brad Jacobs.

Gushue will represent Canada at the men’s world championship March 30 to April 7 in Schaffhausen, Switzerland and return to the 2025 Montana’s Brier in Kelowna, B.C., as defending champion.

His team collected $108,000 in prize money Sunday. An Olympic berth in the 2025 trials was also theirs pending a top-six ranking in Switzerland.

Gushue, Nichols and Walker played in their eighth Brier final together and Harnden his fourth.

The four men brought that big-game experience to prevail over Saskatchewan, which came agonizingly close to ending the province’s 44-year Brier drought.

Urged on by the roars of Sunday’s full houses at the Brandt Centre, McEwen ousted top-seeded Brendan Bottcher of Alberta 7-3 in the afternoon’s semifinal before battling back against Gushue to pull within a point in the sixth end.

Gushue scored two in the second end and three in the fourth, while holding McEwen to singles in the third and the fifth for a 5-2 lead.

But missed peels on guards by the defending champions in the sixth allowed Saskatchewan to put two stones on the button and another at the top of the four-foot rings to cut off Gushue’s access

McEwen drew to nibble the button to count three. Gushue’s tap was slightly heavy. A measurement determined a steal of two for the hosts to trail 5-4 while a tournament-high 5,734 attending chanted “three, three.”

Saskatchewan had the opposition under pressure in the seventh when McEwen drew to the top edge of the button under partial cover. But Gushue’s thin double takeout for the deuce and a 7-4 lead drew fist pumps from the skip.

Momentum continued to swing to Gushue in the eighth when Saskatchewan third Colton Flasch left all three opposing stones in the rings on an attempted triple hit. McEwen drew against four stones for a point.

McEwen’s attempt at a high guard with his first stone of the ninth didn’t reach the hog line and was pulled, which gave Gushue the chance at a game-sealing deuce for the win.

“We beat him (last) Saturday night. Unfortunately, he’s defending champion, he’s hard to put away on Sunday night,” McEwen said. “We have everything to be proud of what we did in six months. This is a great team, and we’re not done yet.”

A Saskatchewan team reached a Brier final for the first time since 1995.

“Despite the result today, this was a hell of an accomplishment,” McEwen said.

Gushue won Canada’s first Olympic gold medal in men’s curling in 2006, but it took more than a decade to claim his first Brier.

He has said winning his first in his hometown was stressful because of the pressure to produce a mythical curling moment.

But the Brier ice was broken for Gushue after that. His teams have since played with the confidence that makes them perennial contenders. Sunday’s victory in Regina was Gushue’s second in that city after a dominating performance there in 2018.

International gold medals have been harder to get. Gushue’s lone world title was in 2017 in Edmonton.

He was second to Scotland’s Bruce Mouat in 2023 and Niklas Edin in both 2022 and 2018. Gushue was the Olympic bronze medallist in Beijing in 2022. The 2020 world championship was cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic

Fuelled by the fortunes of the host team, Regina’s Brier drew 101,401 to the building over 11 days.

Rachel Homan won February’s Canadian women’s curling championship in Calgary. Homan, Tracy Fleury, Emma Miskew and Sarah Wilkes will wear the Maple Leaf at the women’s world championship March 16-24 in Sydney, N.S.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 10, 2024.

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