OTTAWA AREA ATHLETES TALK ABOUT THEIR BRIER EXPERIENCES
By Joe Pavia
St. John’s, Newfoundland
Two local curlers raved about their Brier experience in this city.
Team Ontario second Dave Mathers said, “It’s quiet simply the best. Ottawa was special for other reasons obviously but this one just because of what it became is one that I’ll never forget that’s for sure.” That’s high praise coming from a three-time Brier athlete, having curled for Ontario twice and Prince Edward Island.
Team Quebec skip from Gatineau, Jean-Michel Menard has experienced eleven Briers. “If you take the overall package, the ice conditions, the crowd, the city, the area, the people it probably ranks as number one.”
Both “blame” the people for their high praise. “It was very, very special over here. People are super nice. It was nice to see they were behind Brad (Gushue) and company when they played. It was a noisy building but it was amazing to play in that atmosphere,” observed Menard.
Mathers agreed. . “But the whole Brier experience – it was pretty amazing, I‘ve never played in front of a crowd like that. That was so electric, so much energy, out of the three (Briers) that crowd was the loudest and most energetic I’ve played in front of.”
Both players experienced quite different records on the ice however. Team Quebec and Team Ontario sported identical records, just reversed. Quebec, at 7-4, was in contention for a playoff spot right until the last draw. Ontario’s 4-7 record disappointed them. “It was disappointing. I felt we deserved better in some games. By the end of the week you can only have 3 losses to get into the playoffs.”
On the other hand Menard was philosophical. “It was pretty good actually and we had a good time. We played some good curling. We are happy with the results especially with the quality of the field. I don’t think we can be mad at our performances.”
The Quebec skip got a surprise when the players voted him the Ross Harstone award for high ideals of good sportsmanship, observance of the rules, exemplary conduct and curling ability. “It was special, ‘recalls Menard. “ It was not something I was expecting. When it is something that is voted by your peers it’s even more valuable. I take it as a big honour. I still don’t know how I am going to take the painting home though.” The award is in fact a painting.
The noisy crowds that usually don’t come along with a game ironically called the roaring game didn’t bother either player. ”It was exciting when you’re on at the same time as Newfoundland because you know the place is going to be rocking.” enthused Mathers. “You sort of feed off their positive energy towards Newfoundland and I don’t mean that in a negative way. But it was very exciting to be the “road” team to play against a crowd that is that passionate for a team your playing against.”
One wrinkle that had traditionalists up in arms was the crowd booing missed opposition shots. Menard’s take? “Well quite frankly I didn’t really care. I kind of found it funny actually. When we played against them I was pretty mad when I missed a couple of draws. When people started applauding when I missed at least they were looking at me when I was shooting. There’s not a whole lot you can do about it.” And the Ontario second? “It didn’t bother us. It was different. It was something we aren’t used to.”
Both players have positive takeaways. Menard: “You just have to look at the four top teams. They are professional or almost. . I like to think we finished first in the country as an amateur team.” Mr. Mathers: “We had pretty high hopes going in to it. But for me it will be something I will never forget.”
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