2016 Tim Hortons Brier attracts longtime curling fans to Ottawa

Many fans watching the 2016 Brier in Ottawa will tell you they love the sport of curling, but for two volunteers the annual championship is a reminder of their love for each other.

About 90,000 people expected to watch

      1 of 0

      Many fans watching the 2016 Brier in Ottawa will tell you they love the sport of curling, but for two volunteers the annual championship is a reminder of their love for each other.

      "We got engaged at the Edmonton Brier about three years ago, we got married the day before we left for Kamloops for that Brier and out first anniversary was last year at Calgary. So it's part of our tradition," said Doug McNulty.

      "She's a nut for curling...It's part of our blood."

      Doug and Sheila McNulty got engaged at the 2012 Brier. (CBC)

      McNulty and his wife Sheila plan their vacations around the annual tournament.

      "Most people go away [where] it's warm, we go to cold places. It's the love of the sport," he said.

      Meeting fans

      Curling Canada says about 90,000 people are expected to watch a part of the Canadian men's curling championship, which kicked off on Saturday at Ottawa's TD Place. It runs until March 13.

      Noreen and John Wills of Pickering, Ont. have been volunteering at the Brier for nine years. They said they love being surrounded by fellow fanatics.

      "No matter who you sit beside you talk about curling with them. We're all here for he same reason," said Noreen . 

      The couple said they've watched the sport change as it attracts younger players. Gone is the stereotype of portly men spending more time at the bar than on the ice.

      "It seems to me that when we first started watching curling it was a bunch of older guys," Loreen said. "Everyone is much more fit."

      The buzz of the game was enough to entice a group teenagers to drive from Quebec City to Ottawa to catch the opening ceremony Saturday.

      "We started young and we just grew up in curling," said 16-year-old Leandra Roberge. "It's pretty cool live. Five hours is not that far for us."

      All the excitement is why mental performance specialist Kyle Paquette is at the tournament.

      "All of these guys likely dreamed of being here at some point in their life and the reality is they finally get to be here," he said. 

      Medal games set for March 13

      Paquette, who is working with about a handful of the teams at the Briers this week, is on hand to help the athletes deal with the stress of high-level competition. 

      "There's going to be different thoughts they have and different feelings they have to manage to be able to perform to their expectations," he said.

      The top four teams will qualify for the Page playoffs starting March 11. The medal games are set for March 13.

      The gold medallist will represent Canada at the April 2-10 world men's curling championship in Basel, Switzerland. Simmons won bronze at last year's world playdowns in Halifax.


      To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

      By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.