Oh baby, this will be a most interesting Tim Hortons Brier for Team BC’s Sean Geall.
With not one, but two team members expecting the arrival of babies next week, the chances are very high that curling fans will see fifth man Brad Wood get into some action when the Canadian Men’s Curling Championship, presented by Mosaic, begins on Saturday in Regina.
“We’re waiting on two babies, so we’ll be a full team until we get phone calls on those,” Geall told Curl BC on Thursday night, following a team supper on the eve of a first practice session on Friday. “You’re either going to see a full Team BC all week long because the babies are holding off or, in a worst-case scenario, it’ll be myself Andrew Nerpin and Woody playing as a three-man team.
“It’s family first for us and we knew that going in and that’s what we’ll deal with. I’m quite positive that with two babies expected, we might see a lot of Woody.”
Geall’s third Jeff Richard and wife Brooklyn Leitch are expecting their first child later next week and lead David Harper and wife Jessica are awaiting the arrival of their second child earlier in the week. Geall, second Nerpin, Wood and coach Gerry Richard are patiently awaiting to light their cigars.
In the meantime, the group will focus on the opposition during one of the most popular curling events of the season which, actually, commences Friday night at the Brandt Centre with the wild-card play-in game between Mike McEwen and Jason Gunnlaugson, both of Manitoba.
The event features 16 teams divided into two pools of eight in the new format, which was also featured at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts. The top four teams in each pool advance to the Championship round where teams will compete against the opposing pool’s four remaining teams.
The top four teams (records will carry from the original pools to the championship round) will then advance to the Page playoffs.
It’ll be no picnic for Geall, who will play defending champion Brad Gushue (Team Canada) in Game 1, which is expected to be the TSN game on Saturday night. Team BC then faces the wild-card winner on Sunday before challenging Alberta’s Brendan Bottcher on Monday morning – three tough matchups.
“There’s no easy ones, that’s for sure,” said Geall. “We get Gushue right off the bat and the rumour is that’s the TSN game, so we might be starting right under the lights against the national champion.
“I couldn’t ask for more, especially with a front end that hasn’t played in the Brier before. As far as I’m concerned, you may as well get right at it, it could only get easier, right?”
Joining Geall in Pool A is Nova Scotia’s Jamie Murphy, Yukon’s Thomas Scoffin, Greg Smith of Newfoundland/Labrador and Jamie Koe of the Northwest Territories.
Pool B is composed of Manitoba’s Reid Carruthers, Northern Ontario’s Brad Jacobs, Ontario’s John Epping, Saskatchewan’s Steve Laycock, Quebec’s Mike Fournier, New Brunswick’s James Grattan, Prince Edward Island’s Eddie MacKenzie and Nunavut’s David St. Louis.
Geall and Richard both have previous experience at Briers in 2009 and 2010, respectively. Harper was the fifth man for Jim Cotter and Co. last year, but saw limited action.
“I’m actually really optimistic. I think it’s a good block,” Geall said of his pool. “It may look bad on Monday, with those first three games, but to be honest, even if we lost those first three we still think we can be squarely in the hunt. If we can win one or two of those first three games we’d be in a heck of a good spot.
“Our goal is to get into that Championship pool and then you see what happens after that. We have to be there and if you get a couple of wins there, maybe we can sneak into that Page 3-4 game,” Geall added. “Sure, with a front end that hasn’t played at the Brier it would be unrealistic to think we could find our way into the Page 1-2 game, but hey, stranger thing shave happened.
“Hey, John Shuster just won an Olympic gold medal. Nothing against Shuster, but it opens it up for people in comparison.”
On Thursday, Geall and Co., which represent the Kelowna Curling Club at the 2018 national event, were soaking it in.
“It’s been a while, to be honest,” Geall said, referring to his first time around at The Brier back in 2009 in Calgary. “It’s completely different than the first time I was here. It’s nice to be back in this atmosphere.”
Upon arrival, at about noon on Thursday, the team then performed its media duties, meeting with TV broadcaster TSN, including those comedic power poses, shown during introductions.
“That’s not really my forte,” Gerall chuckled of the power pose TSN asks the teams to perform, where team members ham it up for cameras.
Team BC also has to adjust to the Regina weather, which dipped down to -9C (but felt more like -17C with the wind chill) on Thursday night.
“It’s cold, anything below 10 is cold to me though.” Geall said with a laugh.
Team BC will compete in the Hot Shots event Friday afternoon following practice in the morning.
The competition continues until the gold-medal event on Sunday, March 11 at 4 p.m. Pacific time.