Brier bear

Reg Caughie is the 78-year-old man better known as the Brier Bear. (Alan Neal/CBC)

Reg Caughie has been a fixture at the Tim Hortons Brier for more than 30 years, but you wouldn't know it by looking at him — that is, unless he's wearing his big bear head.

The 78-year-old from St. John's, N.L., is the man inside the Brier Bear suit. The trick to being a good mascot is to "look for occasions" in the stands, he told Alan Neal on CBC Ottawa's All In A Day.

"There might be two ladies there, like there was [Friday] morning, that are so intently involved in the game that they didn't see me coming. So I just fly and leap into their laps. So that sort of wakes them up in a hurry," he said. 

"So far, over the years, it's worked out pretty good. I haven't broken any legs or anything."

He did once pull a muscle in his leg in Halifax, however, causing him to collapse on the floor, he said.

'So far, over the years, it's worked out pretty good. I haven't broken any legs, or anything.' - Reg Caughie, Brier Bear

"But 15 fans jumped on top of me. Thought it was just part of the act," he said. (A few oil massages sorted the injury out, he said.)

His very first Brier in the suit was in Ottawa in 1979 — and he thought that would be the end of it. But Brier Bear returned after a brief interlude, during which a "cumbersome" bison mascot failed to win the hearts of fans.

Hanging up the bear suit?

Caughie is now on his third bear suit. The trick to keeping it fresh? Febreze, he says.

"I still have the original one, which is packed away waiting to go into the museum," he said. A museum in Calgary has already made a request for it, Caughie added.

The annual men's curling tournament is headed to his hometown in 2017, which could be his last year in the role.

"It is wearing," he said. "They say I'm not getting any younger, but I'm 78 going on 20. That's the way I feel."

It's a character he said will be "tough" to give up — but he's willing to act as a coach for the next generation.

"The bear always has a trainer, doesn't he?" Caughie said. 

Listen to the full interview here, as Alan Neal catches up with Reg Caughie in his "bear den" in Ottawa.

with files from Alan Neal