Team New Brunswick (photo: Curling Canada) is finding early success at the 2021 Tim Hortons Brier.
By Dylan Chenier
For New Brunswick's James Grattan, the 2021 Tim Hortons Brier is off to a fairly good start. After five draws, Team New Brunswick currently sits at 4-1, a record that includes wins over Team Wild Card's Mike McEwen, and Brad Jacobs' Northern Ontario rink.
For Grattan, the early success at this year's Brier is in part a reflection of the team's thorough preparations coming into the event.
"We talked about it before the event started that we might be a little bit more prepared than some of the teams here, given the fact that we've had access to ice and a few more games than some of these guys," said Grattan.
Unlike most of the 18 teams competing this week in Calgary, Grattan's rink was able to get in plenty of practice time at their home club in Oromocto prior to leaving for the Bubble.
When COVID-19 forced the New Brunswick Curling Association to cancel their playdowns, Grattan's rink was named Team New Brunswick by default, after winning the event in 2020.
As such, Grattan says the team was able to focus solely on preparations for the Brier, and the unique conditions that come with playing in a national championship.
"For the last two months, we were able to prepare simply just for the Brier, and the conditions that are out there, [which] we don't necessarily have at home," Grattan said.
"We were able to prepare some ice surfaces and that sort of thing, and shift our focus to not just winning a provincial championship, we were able to prepare [specifically] for the Brier."
It's not just the skip who is benefiting from the increased preparations: "We were able to practice a lot coming into the event, so we [feel] pretty comfortable," said second Andy McCann.
While Grattan has already got by some of the highest-ranked teams at this year's Brier, he will need to continue to play strong in the remaining round-robin games, if the team is to advance to the championship round.
"I just think it's really about going out there and playing against yourself mostly," Grattan said, of the team's ability to stay competitive against many of the higher-ranked teams.
If the team does in fact make it to the championship round, it would mark New Brunswick's first appearance in the top-eight, since the format was introduced in 2018.
No matter who they are playing, Team New Brunswick plans to focus not on the opponents, but on their performance as a team. It's that attitude which they are hoping will keep the team competitive all week long.
"We talk a lot about not playing to the team that we're playing against, as everybody does," said lead Jamie Brannen. "That's kind of the main thing for us, just keep doing that over and over again, and trying to get the same results.
New Brunswick hasn't made the playoffs a Brier since 2003, Grattan is the only remaining member of that '03 rink.