Gushue fever running high as hometown team guns for first Brier title

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Gushue fever running high as hometown team guns for first Brier title

As a fairy-tale ending draws nearer at the Tim Hortons Brier, one thing has become clear — Newfoundland and Labrador has a special love for Team Gushue.

A hometown crowd of 7,000 fans has stood and cheered 10 times now, for each of Brad Gushue's wins at the national men's curling tournament. They've cheered him all the way to the final.

The stage is now set for a fairy-tale ending — a win tonight would be Gushue's first Brier championship.

In front of his friends, his family and his city.

For all the fans and curlers who made the trip from elsewhere in Canada, the Gushue-mania has been an eye-opener.

"It's likely the most exuberant crowd I've ever seen at a curling bonspiel," said Reg Gardiner, a curling fan from Northern Ontario.

"There's so many fans here behind Gushue … It's very much like a hockey crowd."

Olympic memories

It's nothing new for Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.

On Feb. 24, 2006, traffic on city streets was sparse and schools province-wide shut down for the afternoon so the entire population could witness history.

On that day, Team Gushue became the first Canadian men's team to win curling gold at the Olympics.

Eleven years later, the attention is again focused on Gushue and longtime teammate Mark Nichols, as well as Geoff Walker and Brett Gallant.

"I think it's the Newfoundland spirit," said St. John's curling fan Lillian Dingwell, while nursing a drink at the Brier Patch. 

"When someone from Newfoundland does something remarkable, everyone is behind them. Maybe it's because we're the most Eastern province, or for a long time, the have-not province. But we're all a little bit one-for-all, all-for-one."

Despite living in the city, Dingwell and her daughter booked themselves into the Delta St. John's Hotel, steps from the Mile One Centre. Come hell or high water, they won't miss a moment of the action.

As 160 km/hr gusts ripped through the city on Saturday, their hotel camping method paid off.

Wind not knocking down Brier spirit

Bob Noxious wasn't so lucky.

The Nova Scotian was walking to the Patch — the Brier's famous bar venue — when a gust of wind took the glasses off his face and smashed them in a snowbank.

Despite his vision being blurred, Noxious foresees a victory for his favourite curling team on Sunday.

"I've been a fan of [Gushue's] for pretty much all his curling career," he said. 

"I go to the Brier every year. Always cheer for Newfoundland. And this is the year we're going to see them win."

The hometown crowd drew some criticism earlier in the tournament when Ontario skip Glenn Howard took them to task for cheering the opposing team's missed shots.

"This is the loudest I've ever seen in my career, for an opposition missing," said the veteran skip. 

"I've never actually witnessed that before, so this is new to me."

Several other curlers, Gushue included, defended and encouraged the crowd's excitement.

Fan enthusiasm

As a bartender at the Patch, Roy Locke has a front row view of the fans' enthusiasm.

Many fans are new to the sport and are used to cheering for the city's hockey teams, he said. As a result, the arena can be a little more boisterous than the typical curling crowd.

"In Newfoundland, curling is kind of new at this level," Locke said with a smile. 

"So everybody gets in that cheering mode and that's where it's coming from. They don't know the etiquette of the game yet."

One more for the glory

After defeating Manitoba's Mike McEwen on Friday night, Gushue bypassed the semifinal and earned his spot in tonight's championship game.

It's his third crack at a Brier final, after coming up silver in 2007 and 2016.

Team Gushue's shot at a fairytale ending kicks off tonight, 8 p.m. NT when they'll be playing against Team Canada.