ST. JOHN’S — This year’s Brier was about so much more than curling.
With Newfoundland and Labrador hosting the Canadian men’s championship for the first time in 45 years, the tournament became a symbol of provincial pride for the people here.
Brad Gushue knew it. And he made sure to send them off with one big party.
After the St. John’s skip captured his first Brier title — and the first for his province since 1976 — with a nailbiting 7-6 win over defending champion Kevin Koe on Sunday night at the Mile One Centre, the celebration in the Brier Patch spilled into Monday morning.
Thousands of people danced wildly, waved Newfoundland and Labrador flags and rewatched Gushue’s final shot — a clutch draw into the eight-foot to score the decisive point — over and over on the big screens. They cheered just as loudly as the first time they saw it.
Finally, just before 2 a.m. local time, Gushue and his teammates — Mark Nichols, Brett Gallant and Geoff Walker — took the stage alongside family and friends.
The teammates raised their beers to the crowd, thanking them for what they called the best Brier ever.
Gushue then picked up the Brier Tankard and passed it to the throng of fans. For the next 15 minutes the trophy crowd-surfed around the Patch.
“I’ve been close so many times,” said Gushue, 36, whose 13 previous Brier appearances had produced a pair of runner-up finishes, including one last year. “To finally win it and win it at home, you couldn’t have asked for a better story.”
The story really began last June, inside the Merchant Tavern on Water Street in downtown St. John’s. Gushue says the team spent 16 hours over the course of two days mapping out the road to capturing their first Brier title at home.
Despite injuries — including a troublesome hip for Gushue — and ups and downs throughout the season, the team was able to write its last chapter in dramatic fashion.
“I’m so proud of the team and so proud of how we stuck to the plan,” said Gushue, who finally has a Brier title to go with his Olympic gold medal from 2006 and will try for his first world championship next month in Edmonton.
Raymond Gushue could barely contain himself after his son won the Brier.
Wearing a t-shirt that proudly proclaimed him “Brad’s Dad,” Raymond was teary-eyed as Brad hoisted the Tankard.
“We’ve been waiting a long time for it,” Raymond said. “Finally it happened at home.”
When his son settled into the hack for the decisive moment of the tournament, Raymond said he felt confident because he’d seen Brad make that draw thousands of times.
“I was thinking to myself, do what you…