Brad Gushue is the undisputed king of the Tim Hortons Brier.
The Team Canada skip earned a record fifth Canadian men’s curling title at his position — all in the past seven years — with a 7-5 victory over Matt Dunstone’s powerful Manitoba rink in the title game before 6,562 Sunday night at Budweiser Gardens.
The 42-year-old Newfoundlander celebrated consecutive crowns for the second time (he started this streak with back-to-back wins in 2017 and 2018) and passed fellow legends Kevin Koe, Kevin Martin, Randy Ferbey and Ernie Richardson as the most successful skip at the national championship.
“It’s easier when you win a couple,” he said. “You know you don’t need that for any legacy or any personal reasons or anything that brings out the nerves or any selfish thoughts. At this point, it was just about our team winning, although I did get nervous at the end.”
After all this success, really?
Gushue blanked the first end, the two teams traded single points for the next six before Canada struck for three in the eighth. Dunstone fought back with a pair in the ninth and forced Gushue to make a difficult draw to the button to win it in the 10th.
“I was overthrowing them a little bit that game and I tried not to overthrow it, even with adrenaline,” he said. “When I let go, I threw it a little soft so it would have some extra curl. I just thought ‘don’t pick’ and it stopped on the back of the button. I was more nervous there in the last couple of ends. Losing a bit of that feel is a little unnerving in the championship game.
“Our style of play really needs that. I trusted it, I made it, it’s awesome.”
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He was named Brier MVP after curling 91% in the final. His team, which includes third Mark Nichols, second E.J. Harnden and lead Geoff Walker, will represent Canada at the world men’s championship April 1-9 in Ottawa.
Gushue brought home a silver medal from Las Vegas last year.
Dunstone’s crew, ranked No. 1 in the country this season, beat all the top competition except for Gushue. The Manitoba team was 0-for-3 against them this season and failed to earn the Buffalo’s first title since Jeff Stoughton’s magic at the 2011 event here on the same ice.
“We were down and out after the eighth end,” the 27-year-old Dunstone said. “We didn’t get enough pressure on Brad. Throughout the game, we gave him too many easy shots and he took advantage of them. He put a lot of heat on us. It was just one of those games.
“We made him throw a tough shot to win the Brier. It speaks volumes about this team.”
Gushue felt like he was in a staring contest for three hours. That little blink in the eighth was all he needed.
“They play so strong and make those runbacks, you never feel safe,” Gushue said. “Matt was throwing incredible all weekend. You knew it you left him a double, he was going to make it.
“They’re an incredible team. They’re going to win this very soon.”
Nichols played, and won, in his first Brier final since 2020. He was forced to miss last year’s championship game in Lethbridge, Alta., due to a positive COVID test and Gushue became the first skip to lead a three-man team to Brier glory. Nichols made a terrific takeout on his final stone, and Gushue duplicated it on his second-last shot.
More than anything, they know better than most how to bide its time. They started the event slowly and struggled to find its rhythm.
Once located, they were hard to stop.
“The turnaround this week in large part was Mark and E.J. started making more shots and those big doubles — shots they’re known for,” Gushue said. “It allowed us to play even more aggressive in those first three rocks. If we get in trouble, we can blow it up and get out of it. That was something we struggled with early in the week. We were getting in trouble and missing the run-backs and building more trouble. The last couple of games, my shots have been relatively easy and I have been executing them well.
“That led to how we are playing.”
This was Gushue’s 20th Brier. No one has skipped or won as many games in the history of the event than him.
He is beloved for more than that, though.
“The last 20 years, we’ve done a really good job of building relationships and a fan base,” he said. “We take as much time as anybody with the fans. We love it. This is what I enjoy. I hate curling in curling clubs with nobody around. Playing in arenas with 10,000 people, if me signing an autograph is going to draw more people to the game and make them cheer for our team, I’m happy to do it. I love that engagement, too.”
And, of course, winning and keeping the Brier tankard.
NOTES: Both Harnden brothers were emotional about playing against each other in the final for the first time. E.J,, who became Gushue’s second this year, won his second career title since playing with his brother Ryan, Manitoba’s lead, on Brad Jacobs’ Northern Ontario juggernaut in 2013 … This was the final event in Tim Hortons’ 19-year run as Brier sponsor … The total attendance for 10 days of curling was 95,338 – about 18,000 short of the 2011 event here … Skip Mark Ideson of Ilderton led Canada to a silver medal at the world wheelchair championships at Richmond, B.C. Ideson’s team, including fourth Jon Thurston of Dunsford, Ontario., third Ina Forrest of B.C., second Gil Dash of Regina and fifth Marie Wright of Moose Jaw, Sask., fell 5-2 in the title game to China … There were two perfect games (100% on 20 shots) in this Brier – one by Wild Card 1 lead Ben Hebert against Prince Edward Island and the other by Northern Ontario lead against Hebert’s team in a playoff loss that marked Hodgson’s final competition at the elite men’s level … Alberta second Brad Thiessen had the only hog-line violation in the Brier in the seventh end of his team’s 9-8 loss to Ontario in the Page qualifier Friday … The 2024 Brier will be held in Regina for the sixth time.
(Team Canada’s Brad Gushue won his historic fifth Tim Hortons Brier title as a skip Sunday at Budweiser Gardens. He stands alone above the four skips with four crowns).
Gushue: 2023 (London), 2022 (Lethbridge), 2020 (Kingston), 2018 (Regina), 2017 (St. John’s)
Kevin Koe: 2019 (Brandon), 2016 (Ottawa), 2014 (Kamloops), 2010 (Halifax). Lost final in 2022 (Lethbridge), 2012 (Saskatoon).
Kevin Martin: 2009 (Calgary), 2008 (Winnipeg), 1997 (Calgary), 1991 (Hamilton). Lost final in 1996 (Kamloops)
Randy Ferbey: 2005 (Edmonton), 2003 (Halifax), 2002 (Calgary), 2001 (Ottawa). Lost final in 2004 (Saskatoon)
Ernie Richardson: 1963 (Brandon), 1962 (Kitchener), 1960 (Fort William, Ont.) 1959 (Quebec City)
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