With the Tim Hortons Brier only days away from kicking off at Budweiser Gardens, here is everything you need to know before the rocks hit the ice.
The 10-day tournament running from Friday to March 12 is the 94th edition of the national men’s curling championship.
The 18 teams representing Canada, the 13 provinces and territories (Ontario has two teams) and three wild card teams are split into two pools of nine teams. Following eight round-robin games, the top three teams from each pool will move on to the playoff round.
The winner of the Brier earns the opportunity to represent Canada at the 2023 World Men’s Championship in Ottawa in April.
Gameplay times at Budweiser Gardens will be 9 a.m., 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Friday only has games at 7 p.m., with Saturday at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. before the full slate of games run at all three times from Sunday to Thursday. The playoff round will begin March 10, with the championship game at 7 p.m. March 12.
Team Canada will be represented by defending champions Brad Gushue and his team from Newfoundland and Labrador. Team Ontario will be skipped by Mike McEwen, with Northern Ontario led by Tanner Horgan.
Former champions of the Brier playing this year include Kevin Koe, who skips Team Alberta, and Brendan Bottcher, leading Team Wild Card #1, also from Alberta.
A local connection is Jake Higgs, the skip for Team Nunavut. While Higgs leads Team Nunavut out of the Iqaluit Curling Club, he is a native of Strathroy and teaches in St. Thomas.
Higgs is allowed to skip for Team Nunavut due to a rule allowing each team to have one player living outside their respective province or territory.
“This is my second Brier with them and it’s super exciting,” added Higgs, who represented Nunavut in 2020 but could not compete in provincial showdowns for the last two years due to COVID-19 travel restrictions.
While lots of attention will be given to the rocks thrown at the Bud throughout the tournament, organizers have lined up lots to do at The Patch, a fan zone at RBC Place.
There will be autograph sessions with teams, daily games and live entertainment each night. Sunday will have an artisan market from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Wednesday is university pub night, and Saturday is Canadiana Day.
It is also not uncommon to find players from different teams mulling around The Patch throughout the festivities, offering attendees a good chance to see the players up close.
Impact on London
Organizers are estimating the Brier will bring in an economic boost between $8 million and $10 million for the city of London.
This will be the third time London has hosted the Brier. The Forest City first hosted the Brier at the old London Gardens in 1974, and Budweiser Gardens (then named the John Labatt Centre) welcomed Canada’s best men’s curlers in 2011.
Tickets for the Brier are still available for purchase at https://www.curling.ca/2023brier/tickets/.