Brier fans watching next generation of curling greats

CALGARY – It’s one of the prevailing themes of the 2015 Tim Horton’s Brier: A youth movement at curling’s highest level. Exactly half the field, still in their 20s, while just five players are 40 years of age or older.

“Even if you look at the teams you guys are probably saying are the older experienced teams, Jacobs’ teams is not that old, and Gushue’s team is young as well,” said Adam Casey of Prince Edward Island, the youngest skip in the field.

“Guys like our age, and younger, are really working hard at the sport, really working hard off the ice, and they’re hungry,” explained reigning Olympic Champion Brad Jacobs.

“I think the new Martins, Howards and Stoughtons for the next 10 years are going to be Jacobs, Koe, Gushue, Morris,” said Brad Gushue, Newfoundland and Labrador skip.

Many point to the 2013 Brier in Edmonton as the beginning of this changing of the tide. An upstart foursome from Northern Ontario, relatively unknown, out-curling the old guard to become the first skip under the age of 30 to win the tankard since Kevin Martin did it 1991.

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“They broke through at the Brier, and really opened the floodgates,” said Gushue.

“Now that you look back on it, when we did win that Brier and you still had those big three names—Howard, Stoughton and Martin playing—it probably gave a lot of the younger teams confidence that they could do it as well,” said Jacobs.

But this younger generation has certainly paid its dues. There’s no better example of that then Gushue, now in his twelfth Brier appearance, still looking for his first title.

“Unfortunately I grew up in an age where I played against three of the best skips in Brier history,” said Gushue. “There’s not many guys that have won three Briers, all three of those (Martin, Howard and Stoughton) have won three or more.”

“Bit of bad timing, I kind of get mad at my mom and dad for having me when they did,” Gushue joked.

“Especially guys our age, you’re watching the guys in their mid-40s win year after year, it gets a little disheartening,” said Saskatchewan skip, Steve Laycock, 31.

Disheartening? Sure. Frustrating? Absolutely. But that’s not to say all those losses didn’t have their benefits.

“All the younger guys that are here owe it to Kevin Martin, to Jeff Stoughton, to Glenn Howard, for basically bringing us up and beating us down, and making us come back and continue to play,” said Jacobs.

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And now, playing well.

At the top of the 2015 standings are names like Jacobs, Gushue, and Morris. Lessons well learned.

“The top teams who have been here before might make it to the playoffs or they’ll be the top teams, but we’re not far behind,” said Brier rookie Jeremy Mallais, New Brunswick skip.

And you only have to look at this year’s field, to prove it.

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