It’s interesting that on the same night that Jamie Koe led his Territories team to the playoffs, there’s a fine piece in the Globe by Darrell Davis about the disappointment of Brad Gushue’s Brier.
For most of their history in the championship, the Territories and Newfoundland and Labrador have been the doormats of the competition (followed closely by PEI and NB). N+L, have had some blips of success including what is perhaps the greatest underdog tale in the championship, the Jack MacDuff story. And Don Twa almost did the same in 1975 when he tied for first in the days before playoffs. There were three teams at 8-1 and he and his rink eventually lost a playoff that served as a semi-final.
But more often than not, these teams have had trouble getting wins. Heck, the Territories has only had winning round-robin records in four years, including this year.
The Globe story does a good job at pointing out how difficult it is for Gushue to build a strong team, being so far removed from the mainstream curling centres. He has to try to entice people to move to his fair province, which is definitely a commitment.
Same can be said for Koe, whose provincial playdowns against the gang from Whitehorse are 1,100 kms apart. A flight to almost anywhere runs roughly $1,000 so playing the Tour out of Yellowknife is next to impossible.
And if the CCA brings in relegation to the men’s and women’s national finals, it could be even more difficult for the teams that are perennial bottom feeders. Who wants to move to an area where there’s yet another level required to reach the Brier?
Yet when one of these teams does perform, it proves why the Brier is something special in Canadian sport. When MacDuff won the Brier, he had his curling shoes bronzed. When Gushue won Olympic gold, he shut down a province. When Jamie Koe won last night to secure a playoff spot, the folks in Saskatoon shook the building to its foundation.
There will always be haves and have-nots in curling and there’s no really good way to avoid that. Better to just revel in the possibilities of what can happen and enjoy the spectacle when it does.
Brad Gushue has delivered that in the past. Jamie Koe is providing it now.