The Tim Hortons Brier bronze-medal playoff game nobody wanted to play turned out to be a crowd-pleaser for 6,685 at the John Labatt Centre on Sunday afternoon.Said winning-skip Brad Gushue of St. John’s:
“It feels a little bit better than I thought it would to win the bronze medal but I think it meant a little bit more because Mark (third Nichols) and I were out there for the last game for at least a couple of years. It was nice for us to go out on a winning note.”
The boys from Newfoundland put an emphatic capper on a fairly aggressive rockfight in the eighth end when Gushue executed a takeout to score four big ones and put the wraps on a 10-5 triumph over Alberta’s gold-medal winning skip Kevin Martin and his slightly revamped Edmonton lineup.
“We had some fun out there and I think it was positive in the end,” said Martin, the pre-Brier favourite who finally, officially, finished fourth.
“We were willing to go out and play this . . . and play this well. A lot of good shots were made out there. Because of the crowd, we tried to put on a really good show. I hope we did. I hope everybody enjoyed it.
“I think everybody had fun but I also think it was important that the players put forward our thoughts. To make sure that they (powers that be) understand how it (playing the bronze game) is for us.
“But, the fans are more important than anybody and to have a proper game and a good game was fine. Both teams were more aggressive than they’d normally be. But that was fun. That’s good for the crowd.”
Alberta was missing all-star second Marc Kennedy who flew home late Saturday to be with his wife who was expecting a baby on Sunday.
The teams traded singles, then deuces, and a lot of wild circus shots but Gushue took control with another deuce in the fifth and the theft of one in the sixth when Martin eschewed a draw and missed runback shot.
“The runback was more fun,” Martin explained the strategy.
The Albertans managed to reply with a deuce in the seventh end before the Rocksters applied the crusher in the eighth.
Gushue shrugged at the suggestion his team was having more fun that the Martin team.
“We’re used to losing a little more than they are,” said the 30-year-old Newfoundland skip whose team was top-ranked after the round robin.
“We just tried to enjoy it. We were pretty upset last night. None of us got much sleep. We were pretty disappointed. We just tried to come out here and make the most of it, play some good curling and put on a show for the people. We tried to get rocks in play and have some fun and I think we did that.”
“I’m not saying this wasn’t meaningful but it wasn’t as meaningful as all the other games we’ve played this week.
“But, yeah, once you see the rock going down the ice the juices get going and you want to make them all. You don’t want to tick a guard or anything like that. I’m far too competitive to go out there and just throw the game. The intensity isn’t what it was last night or Friday night but we wanted to make every shot and we wanted to win.
“This was a good consolation prize.”
The winner of the game received $30,000 in cresting TV exposure funding while the loser took $20,000.
“I’m not motivated by money here,” said Gushue. “At a cashspiel, yes, I’m motivated for $10,000. The Brier? The money has nothing to do with me playing. I’d play in this if we weren’t playing for anything. It’s an honour to represent your province and play in front of crowds like these.
“Hey, it’s great that the money is there. But I’m saying it’s not a motivation for me at a Brier.”
Both skips reiterated the opinion that the new-look bronze-medal game is a questionable addition to the Brier schedule.
“I agree with those who don’t think it’s necessary,” said Gushue. “We finished first in the round robin and if we lose that game we drop all the way to fourth. I don’t think that’s necessarily fair.
“I think there’s another way to get another game here on Sunday afternoon, whether it’s a semi-final or something else. I think you should be able to fill this time with a more meaningful game than a bronze-medal game. If they want a game they should look at the schedule and maybe push things back. I mean, they don’t need to have a draw on Monday morning because there are 10 people here and most of them are family. You could eliminate the Monday and Tuesday mornings and push everything back.”
Martin remained adamant he’s opposed to the concept of a bronze game.
“We have to get rid of that. For us, as competitors, to lose yesterday, it was a real tough one. To come back and play today is really . . (searching for the word) . . . I don’t know if embarrassing is the right word. But it’s not necessary, for sure. You lose out, your chances of losing the Brier are gone, and then you have to go out and play again? I hope it goes away. I did talk to the CCA and TSN about it and I sure hope it does.”