Team Gushue won the Brier for Newfoundland and Labrador.
On Sunday night in Edmonton, they won the world championship for all of Canada.
“It’s a hell of a team,” skip Brad Gushue said after capping his dream season by defeating Sweden’s Niklas Edin in the final to win his first world title. “Those three guys in front of me were world-class.”
And now Gushue is in a world of his own.
He’s the first skip in history to win a world junior title, an Olympic gold medal, a Brier and a world championship.
True to form, the pride of St. John’s deflected praise after his historic victory.
“I can’t emphasis enough how good those guys in front of me are,” he said. “Everything I ask of them they do beyond. We support each other. We kick each other in the butt and pat each other on the back.”
On their road to granite greatness, Gushue, third Mark Nichols, second Brett Walker and lead Geoff Walker went a perfect 13-0 in Edmonton. They’re the first team to go undefeated at the world championship since the tournament expanded to 12 teams.
Going back to the Brier last month in St. John’s, where they captured their province’s first Canadian title in 41 years, Gushue’s rink has won 21 consecutive games.
“I don’t think we could have ever imagined going on a run like this against the best teams in the world,” Nichols said.
While friends and family rushed onto the ice surface to celebrate with the team, Nichols stood alone at the end of the sheet, sobbing as he talked on the phone with his wife, Colette.
She’s two weeks way from having their second child and couldn’t make it to Edmonton.
“She’s been through it all with me, and for her not to be here hurt,” Nichols said, fighting back tears. “But I know she’s got to look after her health and our second child.”
Nichols had to grapple with the pressure of the Brier and the world championship while his mind strayed to his wife and family back home.
“I’ve been so nervous,” he said. “Every day I wake up and make sure she’s doing good.”
Nichols said he’s going to have one incredible story to tell his child one day, about the time dad won a Brier and a world title just days before the baby arrived.
Walker and Gallant make up arguably the most consistent front end in the game today. Neither grew up in Newfoundland and Labrador.
Walker is from Beaverlodge, Alta., so winning a world championship in the province where he learned how to play the game was a dream come true.
“Unbelievable,” he told reporters with tears in his eyes. “You couldn’t have written a better script. Obviously being in St. John’s for the Brier and here in Edmonton for the worlds and becoming a champion is something special.”
Gallant, who is from Charlottetown, P.E.I., admitted how difficult the past year has been. A hip injury that knocked Gushue out of action for a time threatened to derail the season until just a few months ago.
“It’s been a battle,” Gallant said. “Brad’s injury might have made us stronger in the end. We knew we needed him to do this.”
For as much as Gallant wanted to talk about winning the world championship, he was also quick to mention the upcoming Olympics.
“We’re going to celebrate this, but we’re gunning for that too.”
Body and mind
Gushue openly admits there was a time he didn’t know if he’d be able to play at an elite level again because of the injuries he suffered.
There was, of course, The Fall. Then the nagging hip injury. It made for 18 dark months of doubt.
“It’s hard to believe, seeing where I was in November and December and parts of January to be here right now.”
Gushue says he spent more time on the mental part of his game than at any other time in his career. It may have been the difference-maker.
“For this all to come true shows the power of the mind,” he said.