Nfld. & Labrador

Fans fill the stands at 2017 Brier in St. John's; attendance up over last year

It could be that it's been 45 years since Newfoundland and Labrador last hosted the Brier, or perhaps it's the impressive showing by hometown favourites Team Gushue.

More than 86,000 have walked through stadium gates since regular competition began

A capacity crowd at Mile One Centre Thursday afternoon for the tournament's 15th draw, which featured a game between local favourites Team NL and Team ON. (Geoff Bartlett/CBC)

It could be that it's been 45 years since Newfoundland and Labrador last hosted the Brier, or perhaps it's the impressive showing by hometown favourites Brad Gushue and Team NL — but something is definitely bringing local fans out in droves to this year's event in St. John's.

Compared with last year in Ottawa, it would seem attendance numbers at the 2017 Tim Hortons Brier are doing quite well.

By the time the 16th draw ended Thursday night, 86,542 people had walked through the gates of Mile One Centre in St. John's since the start of regular competition at the Brier.

That's 17,221 more people than had entered TD Place Arena in Ottawa at the stage of the tournament last year.

While any number of variables could be at play here it is, if nothing else, a good sign for the locals who pushed to get the event in St. John's.

The Thursday night game was the most attended to date at Mile One, with 6,281 fans cramming in the building for the 10th draw of the competition, which featured the extra-end thriller between Team NL and Team Canada.

First-time Brier goers 

Since this is the first Brier in the province since 1972, many local curling fans haven't had the chance to see Canada's top event in person.

Newfoundland and Labrador skip Brad Gushue, centre, waves to the crowd after defeating Glenn Howard's Ontario rink 8-7 in Thursday's draw 15 action at the Brier in St. John's. (Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press)

This is especially true of younger fans.

Megan Kearley, of Paradise, has watched the Brier on TV for years, and recently competed herself in the junior nationals.

She said getting to experience her first Brier in person has given her a new appreciation for the sport — especially the role of the crowd.

"The noise is a lot different than on TV, and plus you get to watch all four games whereas on TV you only get to see the feature one," she said.

"Also, sometimes the ones on the sides are better than the ones they show on TV."

The curling fans have been turning out in droves to support Team NL at the 2017 Tim Hortons Brier at Mile One in St. John's. (Devin Heroux/Twitter)

Matthew Rogers, a Torbay curling fan who was collecting club pins in the halls of Mile One on Thursday, said he was happy he decided to get off the couch and check out the Brier live.

"You get to feel the emotion in the crowd," he said.

"It's a little different from TV because you don't get the overhead views over the crowd and stuff like that."

Rude crowd?

Questions have been raised during this year's Brier as to whether the St. John's crowd has been too loud or unruly during games that feature Gushue and second Brett Gallant, third Mark Nichols and lead Geoff Walker.

More than 75,000 people have come through the doors of Mile One Centre in St. John's so far this week for the 2017 Tim Hortons Brier. (Geoff Bartlett/CBC)

Ontario skip Glenn Howard told reporters after Wednesday's draws that in his 17 Brier appearances he's never seen a crowd cheer for missed shots like he has this year in St. John's.

Despite that, at least for those fans at the Brier for the first time, the fuss doesn't matter — because it's all about supporting the home team.

"I don't think they're being too rambunctious," Rogers said. "They've got to put their confidence in Brad and get him going."

"I think it's good for the sport, and I think you're going to get it no matter where you are," added Kearly.

"You're going to get cheers for misses against the hometown team, it always happens."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Geoff Bartlett

Contributor

Geoff Bartlett is an educator and journalist in Corner Brook.

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