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Team Canada defends Tim Hortons Brier title in London, Ont.

Brad Gushue made Tim Hortons Brier history Sunday night in London, Ont. as he led Team Canada to a 7-5 victory over Matt Dunstone and Team Manitoba at Budweiser Gardens.

By leading his team to a win, Gushue became the first player in Brier history to claim five titles as a skip. Only Alberta’s Randy Ferbey has more Brier’s total, though he won two of them as a third.

“What a finish, what a game,” said Gushue moments after winning the Tankard trophy.

The game was an incredibly tight affair, as the scoring went back and forth between the two best teams at this year’s Brier. After a blanked first, the teams traded singles for the next six ends to have it sit 3-3 entering the eighth end. It was in the eighth end that Team Canada finally broke through.

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With Manitoba controlling shot rock for most of the end, Gushue was able to knock out the opposing rock with his first throw. With his second, Dunstone took shot rock back but left it a little exposed, and two Canada rocks next closest to the button.

While the crowd tensed up a little, sensing the first real opportunity for either team to break things open, Gushue remained poised as he threw a perfect stone to knock out the Manitoba rock and give his team a big three points.

A ninth end full of stones inside the 12-foot only gave Team Manitoba a chance to score two points, giving the hammer back to Team Canada for the tenth end with the score 6-5 for the defending champions.

Team Canada played aggressively in the final end, placing multiple stones inside the 12-foot early. The teams would trade off stones near the button until Dunstone’s last shot shifted the rocks to give his squad shot stone.

With the crowd clapping him on, Gushue drew the final stone inside Manitoba’s, clinching the title for the defending champions.

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“I tried not to over throw it even with the adrenaline,” said Gushue. “I was more nervous there in the last couple of ends.”

When asked what it meant to claim the record for most wins as a skip, Gushue said what mattered most to him was simply getting the win for the team.

Along with Gushue, Team Canada’s third Mark Nichols and lead Geoff Walker also won their fifth career Brier, all played alongside their long-standing skip. Second E.J. Harnden won his second Brier.

“It’s easier when you win a couple,” said Gushue. “You know you don’t need it for any legacy or personal reasons… it was just about our team winning and that made it easier.”

Even though Gushue and company wore Canada apparel all week, the Newfoundland & Labrador flag was well represented in the crowds cheering on the fan favourites out of St. John’s. The attendance for the final – 6562- raised the tournament’s total attendance to over 95,000 across the 26 separate draws.

Peter Inch, a vice-chair of the hosting committee, told Global News ahead of the final he was thrilled with how the Brier unfolded.

“It’s great to see how much the city and the business community have enjoyed it,” said Inch.

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Inch praised the work of the 400 volunteer team, adding they all understood the small details that make an event of the Brier’s size go off without a hitch. Inch also thanked the London Knights, who have been on an extended road trip while Budweiser Gardens was transformed into a curling rink with four sheets.

A big reason Inch and others worked to get the Brier in London was to help inject the downtown core with a boost following the COVID-19 pandemic. Officials from Tourism London estimated the Brier would have a $10 million to $15 million economic impact on the city.

“The (Covent Garden) Market across the street says they have been busier than they were pre-COVID, so that’s what we wanted to do,” Inch said.

As it had been 12 years since London last hosted a curling event on the level of a Brier, Inch teased that the team behind the 2023 Brier is bidding on an event scheduled for November 2025.

“If we win the bid, 965 days from now we’ll be back here,” said Inch.

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