Brad Gushue is hoping the effects of what will be a short turnaround and significant time difference will be countered by what is seen as home-ice advantage as he begins play this evening in the Boost National, a Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling event at the Conception Bay South Arena.
Gushue and his St. John’s-based rink that also includes Mark Nichols, Brett Gallant and Geoff Walker, were runners-up at the 2015 Tour Challenge, a Grand Slam event held in nearby Paradise. And of course, there was the rink’s 2017 Brier Canadian men’s championship win at a jam-packed, raucous Mile One Centre in St. John’s.
Gushue may be wishing for some boost at the Boost, given it’s being in his home province and that full-event passes have already been sold out, but he isn’t absolutely counting on it.
“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 recently told Jonathan Brazeau of the Grand Slam’s website (thegrandslamofcurling.com). “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.
Whatever the case, Gushue is looking forward to The National, which sees him taking on Yannick Schwaller of Switzerland in today’s opening draw (7 p.m.).
“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.” he said. “It’s going to be a fun atmosphere I think, not only for us but for all of the curlers.”
In fact, Gushue said, that when it came with the team’s goals for the current season, there might be something to the suggestion that winning in C.B.S. rates up there with the team trying to win three straight Briers.
“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,” he said. “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 … 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.”
Gushue and his two-time defending Canadian champions are coming off a third-place finish at the Canada Cup, a Curling Canada event that concluded Sunday in Estevan, Sask., making the transfer to Newfoundland part of the “challenge” of the team’s travel schedule.
At least they won’t be alone in dealing with a two-and-a-half hour time change, the travel involved and just a couple of few days off between events.
Canada Cup winner Brad Jacobs and runner-up Kevin Koe, and Reid Carruthers and John Epping, who also competed in Estevan, are part of the 15-team men’s field in C.B.S. And Schwaller and defending world men’s champion Niklas Edin of Sweden (he beat Gushue in the 2018 world final) are among five teams entered in The National who are from Europe.
There are also 15 top women’s teams entered in women’s division of The National, which features a total prize purse of $250,000, with $30,000 going to each of the winners of Sunday’s finals.
The 15 teams on each side are divided into three pools of five for preliminary play, with the top eight finishers in each gender division moving on to the playoffs, which begin with quarter-finals Saturday.
This week’s competition also provides points towards the Pinty’s Cup, given to the overall Grand Slam season champion, and Gushue leads those standings, two points up on Epping and three on Jacobs and Koe.
But an even longer-term goal for Gushue is for The National, which will be televised beginning Thursday (mainly on Sportsnet, but also on CBC) to promote curling in C.B.S.
“They’ve been trying to get a curling club and lobbying to get some more curling in the community,” he told Brazeau. “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 C.B.S.”
With files from the Grand Slam of Curling