Once we arrived, however, there was no time to rest because it was time to go see our first game of the Brier! For the uninitiated, The Brier is the big event in Canadian men's curling, with the best team from each province competing for the chance to represent Canada in The World's - an event that Canada wins quit often, unsurprisingly. Every year the tournament is held in a different location across the country, but had only been hosted once before in Newfoundland in 1972. Naturally, as soon as we heard it would be hosted in St. John's in 2017 we had the tickets booked, not least because Team Newfoundland and Labrador (led by 2006 Winter Olympic Gold medalist, Brad Gushue) were among the favourites to win. With B-Rad (our own personal nickname for the skip) yet to win a single Brier after years of being on top of the game, this was sure to be one for the books.
In addition to the high stakes of the event, further drama was added to the weekend due to the storms that hit Newfoundland bringing with them winds of 100+ km/h and gusts as high as 180 km/h! Traffic lights were left dangling, or completely detached, from their posts, siding and shingles were torn off roofs, and the entire city of St. John's experienced power outages. The winds were so strong as to blow people off the sidewalk into the middle of the road. None of this, however, stopped the week long party that is The Brier - except when there was a blackout at Mile One during one of the games...
Led by skip Kevin Koe, Team Canada (a title that is passed on to each Brier champion) already had 3 Brier wins under their belt in the last 7 years so the final was sure to be a close one. Settling into our seats on Sunday evening, the atmosphere was buzzing and the stadium was packed to the rafters. A bit of the tension was relieved early on, as it was clear this wouldn't be a repeat of last year's performance where Team Newfoundland and Labrador had trailed from the start. This time, they scored some good early ends to be up 5-1 in the first half, and you could feel the crowd relaxing, anticipating the long awaited Newfoundland victory.
We've never witnessed such a quiet crowd of Newfoundlanders as we did during that end, watching with bated breath as each team took turns throwing their rocks. All Team Newfoundland and Labrador had to do was to score one single point to win, and it all came down to the very last rock of the game. Kevin Koe had two rocks in the house and Gushue had none, meaning that if Brad missed his last shot, Koe would score two points and win. All he needed to do was to throw a rock that would end up closer to the centre of the house than either of Koe's, and Newfoundland would score that precious single point to win. No pressure.
Here are a few (lots) more photos from our weekend.