The Tim Horton’s Brier is the Canadian Men’s National curling championship. Held annually since 1927, The Brier is often viewed by curling fans in Canada as the premiere event of the season, and is a big draw both for in person attendance and on television. This year the event will take place in Calgary, Alberta, from February 28 to March 8.
As with The Scotties, The Brier field consists of 12 teams, representing their home provinces as the winners of their respective provincial playoffs. In previous years, there was 1 team from the territories, 2 from Ontario, and 9 from the rest. This year, however, the format has changed and is more in line with The Scotties. There are still 12 teams, but for the first time the winning team from the previous year earns an automatic bye and will compete as Team Canada. For the remaining 11 teams, 10 have earned entry based on ranking with the 12th spot being determined by a four game play-in round-robin prior to the start of the main tournament.
After the play-in round-robin, the 12 teams will compete in an 11-game round-robin. At the end of the round-robin, the top 4 teams will advance to the playoffs. If there are any ties, tiebreaker games are played to finalize the playoff field. Teams face off following the page playoff system. The winner of the final game will then go on to represent Canada at The Ford World Men’s Curling Championships.
Now that we’ve covered the format, let’s take a look at the field for this year. We’ll start with the eleven teams that have already qualified.
Team Canada: John Morris, Pat Simmons, Carter Rycroft, Nolan Thiessen
Team Northern Ontario: Brad Jacobs, Ryan Fry, E.J. Harnden, Ryan Harnden
Team Newfoundland and Labrador: Brad Gushue, Mark Nichols, Brett Gallant, Geoff Walker
Team Manitoba: Reid Carruthers, Braeden Moskowy, Derek Samagalski, Colin Hodgson
Team Saskatchewan: Steve Laycock, Kirk Muyres, Colton Flasch, Dallan Muyres
Team Alberta: Kevin Koe, Marc Kennedy, Brent Laing, Ben Hebert
Team Quebec: Jean-Michel Ménard, Martin Crête, Eric Sylvain, Philippe Ménard
Team Ontario: Mark Kean, Mat Camm, David Mathers, Scott Howard
Team British Columbia: Jim Cotter, Ryan Kuhn, Tyrel Griffith, Rick Sawatsky
Team New Brunswick: Jeremy Mallais, Zach Eldridge, Chris Jeffrey, Jared Bezanson
Team NWT: Jamie Koe, Mark Whitehead, Brad Chorostkowski, Bill Merklinger
The following three teams will be battling it out for the twelfth and final spot in the main tournament:
Team PEI: Adam Casey, Josh Barry, Anson Carmody, Robbie Doherty
Team Nova Scotia: Glen MacLeod, Peter Burgess, Colten Steele, Rob McLean
Team Yukon: Bob Smallwood, Wade Scoffin, Steve Fecteau, Clint Ireland
This year the field is stacking up to be one of the most competitive in years.
Team Northern Ontario (Jacobs) won in 2013, but missed last year due to the 2014 Winter Olympics, where they dominantly won gold. Since then, they’ve been playing solid on tour and show no signs of slowing down any time soon.
Team Alberta (Kevin Koe) won the Brier last year, but opted to part ways with his rink after Worlds. The new Team Koe has had some ups-and-downs on tour, but they’re four great players with a lot of experience under their belts.
Team Canada (Morris) hasn’t played all that much this season, but they’ve done pretty well. Consisting of the members of Team Kevin Koe from last year and skip John Morris, this is another team stacked with skill and experience.
Team NL (Gushue) has had an outstanding season on tour. Gushue and Nichols won an Olympic Gold Medal in 2006, so here is yet another team loaded with talent and experience.
Team Saskatchewan (Laycock) have done well on tour, but have yet to make noise in a Brier. This could be their breakout year for sure.
Team Manitoba (Carruthers) beat number-one ranked Team McEwen twice to win their provincial final. They’ve also had a solid tour season, but have never played in a Brier. They could definitely make something happen though.
And those are just the favorites. Getting to The Brier in and of itself is an accomplishment, no easy feat by any means. There is a lot of talent and experience in the rest of the field, and quite frankly you never know what is going to happen.
As with The Scotties, viewers in the US can watch The Brier thanks to a partnership between TSN and ESPN3. There will be a featured game for each draw, and full coverage of the playoffs and finals.
A full draw schedule can be found here: http://www.curling.ca/2015brier-en/draw-schedule/
ESPN3 Streaming: http://espn.go.com/watchespn/
Phil Darin is Windy City’s resident armchair curler and has the TSN Curling music stuck in his head from watching The Scotties. He’s also been known to actually play from time to time. Want to hear more about curling, whisky, or horse racing? Are you Eve Muirhead?
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