Brad Gushue has never been shy with his opinions.
He figures that’s why no one ever asks him what it is.
The Olympic gold medalist is attending his 15th Brier in Regina this week and has not been shy about his thoughts on the new format.
“I think my place in the game right now – myself and Mike (McEwen) and Brad (Jacobs) and Kevin Koe are kind of the people, the athletes people look to get their opinion,” Gushue said in an interview on the Green Zone. “Certainly I’ve been around the sport and seen enough of these Briers that I don’t want to see it get ruined or saturated.”
According to Curling Canada, the new format was chosen to all fourteen of its member associations – which include all 10 provinces, three territories and Northern Ontario – got the chance to compete in the main tournament. The format also included Team Canada and a wild card team who earned its way into the Brier in a winner takes all game the day before the event start.
The 16 teams are then seeded and broken into two pools and play a round robin. The top four teams from each pool move on to the championship pool and another round robin where they play the four teams they haven’t played earlier in the week. Their record follows them throughout.
The top four teams after both round robins qualify for the page playoff.
However, the format leads to some very lopsided games and doesn’t allow for every team to play each other.
Gushue for example, didn’t play Northern Ontario, Ontario, Manitoba or Saskatchewan until the championship pool and didn’t play any games against Quebec, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island or Nunavut because they didn’t make it to the championship round.
Gushue worries that in this format, some of the country’s best rivalry games could be lost in the seeding process making the experience less satisfying for fans.
“We had a 50/50 chance of coming here and not playing Newfoundland which would have been really disappointing for us. So it’s eventually going to happen when a rivalry of Manitoba/Alberta or Manitoba/Saskatchewan or something like that aren’t going to get to play each other.”
“That’s part of the atmosphere is having provinces playing provinces and the fans cheering against each other and all that stuff. That’s the fun part.”
Which is why Gushue is speaking out.
“If we came in here and said, ‘oh this is great,’ we’d be lying but then nothing would get done. So if you want change and you think it’s worthy of change you have to speak up,” he said. “That goes for something as simple as the format in a Brier all the way to politics, if you want change you can’t sit on your hands and wait for someone else to do it.”
And while the format at the Brier has changed – one thing hasn’t. Brad Gushue is at the top of the leader board.
At 10-1 he’ll play Ontario in the 1 vs 2 page playoff Saturday night, while Alberta will play Northern Ontario in the 3 vs 4 starting at 2 p.m.