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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Thoughts from The Tim Hortons Brier 2012

The view from Section A, Row 12, Seat 7
I've just come home from Saskatoon, where I spent the weekend enjoying the big party that is The Brier. And what a party - not just in the Patch, but in the hotel, at the rink, and around town as well. Saskatoon put on an amazing show.

Some thoughts:

1. Volunteers make the world go round. That is never more true than at an event like this. Those bright green (we were in Saskatchewan, after all) jackets were everywhere, worn by friendly, helpful, busy, smiling and ever-present volunteers who could not do enough to make us feel welcome and looked after.

2. Saskatoon is a beauty. The river, the bridges, the architecture, the trails, the trees forming a canopy over Spadina Crescent... what a gorgeous city.

3. Glenn Howard deserved this win. Watching Glenn lose over the past few years has been, well, painful. This is an incredibly talented and skilled team, but too many times they have come up short. Howard was not to be denied this year, especially with MVP Wayne Middaugh setting him up. Maybe it wasn't a strongly pro-Ontario crowd, but Glenn earned that win, and I think the fans knew that.

4. The Koe story. This was one of the highlights of the week - the brothers facing each other in the Page 3-4 game. It was fraught with emotion (which isn't exactly something you think of when you see those boys on the ice). Clearly, it wasn't fun for either of them. But what was fun, was watching Jamie and his YT/NWT team work their way up, hold on to that playoff spot, prove that they are able to play with the big kids. The team from the north had a lot of supporters - and most of them from south of 60. Both Koes came out on the short side of their playoff games, but what a couple of classy curlers - and what a great story.

5. Annoying fans. I mean, really, people. Heckling Glenn Howard when he got into the hack to throw? Really?

Nice trophy....

7. Relegation and the Team Canada issue. I heard lots of conversation about whether there should be changes to the Brier eligibility format. Relegation games. Ditching Northern Ontario. Bringing in a Team Canada model as they do at the Scotties. Some fans from Alberta, who we spoke to while hanging out the Patch between games, were vehemently opposed to the Team Canada idea. Their view: all curlers should have the chance to represent their province or territory at a national championship, and no one should be given a free ticket. The consensus? There's no right answer.

8. Curlers are awesome. Travelling back and forth to the arena in the vans arranged for VIPs (yes! I was a VIP, thanks to my writing/editing work with the CCA), I had the chance for conversations with all sorts of people - Peter Waugh, the CCA Volunteer of the Year; Michael Burns, the photographer who captures all those CCA photos you see on the website; Brian Mudryk, the TSN broadcaster; and curlers from the teams competing on the ice. Easy conversation, lots of laughs, inside info (which stays inside!) and a fascinating glimpse into the experience of being a high-performance athlete at a national championship. Awesome.

Can't wait for Edmonton in 2013...!