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Fit to Curl: Building up for the Brier

I’m putting this entry together as my team gets ready to depart for the Tim Hortons Brier. The days before the Brier are always exciting times — it’s such a great event and an incredible Canadian tradition.

John Morris (Photo: Michael Burns Photography)

John Morris (Photo: Michael Burns Photography)

That said, it’s been a different season for our team this year. It’s no secret that our off-ice commitments have kept us from following our typical practice, training and Tour schedule. That’s meant our play has been less consistent than we’d like and while we’ve managed to win our fair share this year, none of us have been all that satisfied with our on-ice performance.

It’s not like we shouldn’t have expected a dip in our play — after all, you get out what you put in. But heading into the Brier, we wanted to step it up again. It’s the Canadian championship and we know what an honour and thrill it is to earn the right to wear the Maple Leaf.

So we’ve gone into training camp mode. It started with the run-up to the Alberta provincials and we ramped it up again for the Brier. To feel fully prepared, we practice on the ice from 10 AM-12 PM, take a break for a light lunch and then hit the ice again from 1 PM-3 PM. Once we wrap up our time on the ice, we hit the gym for an hour-and-a-half. It’s a full day that’s focused on mechanics on the ice with Coach Owch and making sure that our work in the gym leaves us physically prepared for the long week that is the Brier. Anyone who tells you a week of curling in a Tim Hortons Brier isn’t a test of your fitness either hasn’t done it or is completely clueless. When the event wraps, every team in the Brier is really crispy.

Going into this year’s event, we’re convinced this is the toughest field we’ve seen. Every province has a strong representative and teams like Stoughton and Howard have been playing very well coming in. Of course, we also won’t be the home team at this Tim Hortons Brier since we’re playing in Ontario and Team Howard will be a big fan favourite.

Being the away team, however, doesn’t bother us too much. Energized crowds, whether they’re cheering for us or against us, bring extra focus to our game. I also expect the crowds in London to better than they were in 2007 in Hamilton. I went to university — Laurier — in southwestern Ontario and I know the curling community is sizeable and knowledgeable. I’m sure the atmosphere inside the John Labatt Centre will make this Brier a memorable one.

We play in a lot of outstanding events throughout the year but playing in the Brier never gets old. Recently, I was chatting with Dean Gemmell, my co-author on Fit to Curl, about his team’s run at the U.S. Men’s Nationals — they lost in the 3-4 Game — and we discussed the difference between that championship and the Brier. Let’s just say it’s apples and oranges. Here in Canada, we have an event that gets the attention of the entire country, packs fans into buildings and enjoys hours of coverage on TSN. In the United States, Dean tells me they’ve moved to playing the national championship in arenas but the event still doesn’t garner much attention outside of the curling community. There are no media scrums and it’s not on national television for nine hours every day. Dean still loves to play in the U.S. championship and would really love to win it but, like curlers around the world, he marvels at the spectacle that is the Brier.

So enjoy the week, whether you’re in London or watching on TSN. The Brier is something else.