Youngest Brier team treated like rock stars despite run of losses

Saskatchewan folks love an underdog story and that was evident at the Brier in Regina this week.

The oldest player on Team Newfoundland and Labrador is only 26 years old

Newfoundland and Labrador skip Greg Smith reacts to a replay of his on-ice behaviour on the overhead TV screen as his team plays the Yukon at the Tim Hortons Brier curling championship at the Brandt Centre in Regina on Monday, March 5, 2018. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan)

Saskatchewan folks love an underdog story and that was evident at the Brier curling championship in Regina this week.

Team Newfoundland and Labrador were eliminated from the tournament on Wednesday after picking up just one win in seven games. However, the team's losses didn't keep curling fans from going crazy for the youngest team at the Brier.

After their final game against Brad Gushue and Team Canada — a 7-2 win for Gushue — the crowd gave the youngsters from St. John's a thunderous applause. Newfoundland and Labrador skip Greg Smith, 21, said the moment was "absolutely incredible."

"Any time you can wear the Newfoundland and Labrador coat of arms is a very special feeling," Smith said. "To do it at the Brier, it's beyond words. It's amazing."

One of the moments Smith will remember forever from his first Brier was playing Newfoundland and Labrador legendary curler Brad Gushue.

"I remember watching him ever since I was a youngster," he said. "Watching him in Torino win Olympic gold when I was, I think, eight or nine. So being here and playing against him 12 years later is incredible. I can't really believe it." 

From 'leftovers' to rock stars

Some of the veteran teams at the Brier have been playing together for years and even decades. For Smith's rink, they've only had a few months.

"We put this team together in late August. Some people would say it was a bunch of leftovers from Newfoundland that didn't have a team. And like most Newfies, we had it over a few drinks and decided we're going to make a team, do an event on tour and then do provincials. Lo and behold, we made it out of Newfoundland and we're here."

After their final game, the crowd at the Brandt Centre in Regina didn't see Smith and his team as a group of leftovers. Rather, they were given loud cheers, congratulations and asked to sign countless autographs.

"I think they're liking us. We're all loud. We're kind of saucy ... we're jumping up and down," Smith said. "I think they're enjoying us and we're enjoying having them watch us too."

Inspiring young curlers

Newfoundland and Labrador skip Greg Smith, 21, signs a curling fan's jacket at the Brier in Regina, Sask. (Peter Mills/CBC)

Many of the people lining up for autographs from Smith and his team were teenagers or younger. 

Smith said he hopes their journey will inspire other younger people to give curling a try.

"Don't ever give up and don't ever not believe in yourself. Even when you lose, get back up, go practice, and even though you don't want to just giv-er all the time." 

While he can't remember how many autographs he signed, Smith won't forget that experience.

"This will be something that I'll take to the grave. This is something that is just one of the better memories that I have of curling and in my life thus far."

About the Author

Peter Mills

Peter Mills is an Associate Producer with the Morning Edition on CBC Radio One in Saskatchewan. Follow him on Twitter @TweeterMillsCBC. Do you have a story idea? Email peter.mills@cbc.ca.