Brad Gushue might just be on to something. No, actually, there's no "might" about it.
Upon further review, the ten-time provincial and 2006 Olympic curling champion is most certainly , most definitely, most assuredly on to something.
A groundswell can be created on twitter these days and Gushue may have created the beginnings of a terrestrial wave with his on-line musing about having a Brier held in his hometown of St. John's, Newfoundland.
As you can see, at the posting of this column, Gushue had 371 retweets of a simple idea; bring The Brier back to The Rock for the first time since 1972. The last time Newfoundland and Labrador hosted was long before the modern era of the Canadian Men's Curling Championship. The era where bigger crowds, heartier partying (okay, that's debatable... let's say bigger party rooms) and wall to wall national television coverage have reshaped the event.
(By the way, if you'd like to see some fantastic video of the '72 Brier from the Canadian Curling Association's archives, click here)
Gushue believes curling fans from all over Canada would love to attend a Brier in St. John's. “I know the people here are hungry for it as well,” he said, just hours after returning home from the 2013 edition in Edmonton.
He's had the thought of the national men's championship returning to Newfoundland and Labrador for a while and decided to give the notion a little social media boost. In addition to the one above, another tweet about the idea garnered 172 more retweets. Gushue claims that didn't take him aback.
“I’m not surpised at all," he said of the idea's popularity. “I guarantee every draw would be packed. It’d be sold out.”
Anyone who's been to St. John's - or anywhere in Newfoundland and Labrador, really - and loves the game of curling knows this is a match made in heaven, at least from a hearts and minds point of view.
From that angle, it's an idea who's time has come. The famous friendliness of citizens of the province combined with a terrific arena and a wonderful downtown hospitality district centred around the fabled George Street (along with the excitement of putting on a beloved event that hasn't been staged there in more than forty years) all adds up to a can't miss success.
Forget needing to confine the Brier Patch to the convention centre. The whole of St. John's would almost certainly become the biggest patch in the history of the game.
“Absolutely," agreed Gushue. "It would be the most unique Brier that you could have. There are so many things you could do involving George Street. You could make like an outdoor street patch. Have a couple of nights down there and really involve people in Newfoundland culture and the attractions that we have. Pub crawls and whatnot.”
Bringing The Brier to Newfoundland and Labrador would require more than just the spirit of teamwork and a romantic notion or two. There are bottom lines to spy and numbers to be crunched above them.
It's true that over the last decade and a half, The Brier has become - for the most part - a big arena show and that has been a tremendous spectacle to watch. Beyond that, those venues and markets made sense to the Canadian Curling Association from a monetary standpoint.
However, bringing the show to cities that have not seen the championship in decades seems entirely acceptable (Toronto, anyone?). The CCA's chief executive officer, Greg Stremlaw, made that clear in an email on Monday.
"The plan going forward is to look at major arenas, but also give consideration to selected smaller sites that can meet related capacity requirements, availability, and strong municipal and provincial support," he wrote.
Kamloops, B.C., will host the 2014 championship. It's venue, the Interior Savings Centre boasts a seating capacity of around 5,600 for hockey (a similar number of seats would be available for curling).
"In terms of seats, you can certainly make the argument that its arena capacity could work, if all the other components listed above as a minimum, are in place," he wrote.
The components he listed "above" in the email include:
"...capacity for items such as the arena, entertainment and auxiliary space, hotel space, transportation needs, volunteer leadership, etc. On a similar note, and assuming capacity if workable in the various domains, then we need a proper expression of interest from the City or working group in the communities that are interested. Such an expression of interest needs to guarantee that items like the arena, are actually available for the exclusive use of the event, including set-up, events dates, and tear down."
That's not all. Stremlaw also indicates that the financial numbers need to make sense for the CCA.
"With all these items in place, we also need a sound business model in place, so things such as municipal and provincial support become critical for the CCA to consider a community to be in the running for consideration."
Gushue thinks the politicians of the city and the province would be eager and willing participants. “I really have no doubt that the city and the province would come on board," he began. "I had a couple of councillors who tweeted me back saying ‘we’re on board.’ From a city standpoint, a couple of councillors, just from that little twitter campaign basically said ‘we need to try and make this happen.’
“The spin-offs from the city’s standpoint with all the people coming in from across the country... hotels, bars, restaurants... they’re going to receive huge impact for the ten days or so the Brier’s here. Provincially, I imagine of the thousands of people that are going to come in... (some) people are going to spend extra time in other parts of the province so there’s a spin-off there.”
St. John's has everything you could want or need for a Brier, it seems. The arena capacity is there, the burgeoning tourism and hospitality industries ensure the city has its ducks lined up in that regard as well. A growing city in the middle of a housing market boom, in a province that is seeing a renaissance in the area of financial fortune.
It could all come to pass as long as someone can marshall the requisite municipal and provincial support necessary to make the dollars and cents add up for the CCA. Is Gushue that person?
"That’s ultimately what we need and I don’t know who that person is," he said. "Maybe through this campaign they’ll find a way to contact me and I’m willing to help out in any way possible."
"If it takes me going in there (to meet with politicians or sponsors) and giving a passionate speech, I’m willing to do that," he continued. "I plan on talking about this more and more over the next year or so."
Gushue's twitter call to action is a start but only just that. Can the groundswell grow and give backers of a St. John's Brier more than just pie in the sky supposition?
A Brier in St. John's. Sign me up right now.
And save me a stool on George Street.