Gushing over Gushue

TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 10:57 AM ET

REGINA -- It was the fifth end break when all of a sudden the crowd jumped to their feet and started applauding.

Brad Gushue was in the house, on ice level, where he was about to be interviewed by TSN. The love-in for the Olympic gold medal rink had begun.

Actually, it began the night before in a corner of the rink when Brad Gushue's rink had arrived trying to keep a low profile for the final few ends of curling in the final games of the Brier's regular round.

"We'd barely set foot in the rink when Sam Richardson spotted me,'' said Mark Nichols of the four-time Brier winner who coached Newfoundland's Jack MacDuff to the province's only Brier here 30 years ago.

'GEEZE BOYS ...'

"Sam shouts at us 'By Geeze boys, you did it!' He was just as excited to see us as we were to see him,'' said Nichols of the Brier honorary chairman who through coach Toby McDonald - a member of that 1997 Brier team - used Richardson via long distance to talk to the team.

Every day has illustrated to them how much their lives had changed since they landed in St. John's but this is the largest love-in since they left The Rock.

"The biggest thing came when we got off the plane at 1:30 a.m. and there were 2,000 people in the airport because they wouldn't let any more in,'' said Gushue.

He said at one point he went to the bathroom at the airport.

"There were about 15 people who followed me in and stood around me,'' he said.

They all said the big thrill is looking in people's faces as they show them the gold medals.

"I showed it to a gate agent at Air Canada and his hand was shaking. He was just mesmerized,'' said Russ Howard, who added the guy recovered in time to bump him up to first class.

McDonald said in a lower case way he'd experienced the same thing 30 years ago. But he says he can see people coming up to the curlers 30 years from now "and tell them where they were and who they were with when they won the gold'' and that didn't happen back then.

Nichols said they expected to come back to a pretty good scene and they knew it would last a while. But they wonder when it's ever going to die down.

"It's way more than I expected. I knew it would be a big deal. But everywhere we go, not just in Newfoundland, but everywhere, you'll be sitting in a restaurant and people come up for an autograph. That's something I'm never going to get used to.''

Gushue says the first time he and his fiance went shopping was an adventure.

"There were people all around me. She ended up doing the shopping and I turned around and went home.''

Gushue says it's going to be a long time before he gets used to being asked to autograph women's breasts.

"I've been asked that a lot,'' he said. "I'm sure I'll be asked that a lot in the Brier Patch.''

The gold medal winners attended a massive press conference here yesterday and then appeared before 2,400 people in the Purple Heart Lounge, getting all sorts of interesting questions from the fans attending an 'Up Close And Personal' session which was so nice they've decided to do it twice and move it to the even bigger Brier Patch room for a do-over this afternoon.

A young woman took the microphone and had a question for Gushue.

"Will you marry me, move to Saskatoon and curl for Saskatchewan?'' she said.

Actually, other than the part about Gushue having a fiance, that might work.

Two members of the rink quietly spent the past few days in small Saskatchewan centres with their girlfriends.

"I was in Eston where the population is about 1,000 people,'' said lead Jamie Korab. "I went to bingo and the older ladies were really happy to see me. Then I won $80 and they booed me.''

Nichols said he met his girlfriend at the Saskatoon Brier two years ago and was visiting her family.

"I was in Outlook for the last four days. I took the gold medal to a high school and an elementary school.''

THEY LIKE MIKEY

One of the biggest cheers at the 'Up Close And Personal' session was for Mike Adam, the member of the team who gave up his starting position at second to allow Russ Howard into the lineup.

"Mike was a bigger man than any of us,'' Gushue told the crowd.

"Everybody else got to play and now I have some serious self-confidence issues,'' Adam joked.

Howard suggested he wouldn't mind joining the guys again, at age 54, for a go at trying to win gold at the Vancouver 2010 Olympics.

"I'd really like to play with these guys again. And the last thing we'd like to see happen is for Mike to get back in a game,'' he joked.

The rink had some fun with Howard during the session with the fans.

"Russ has been to 13 Briers. Ten of them were before we were born,'' said Nichols.

"Having Russ as a teammate at the Olympics really looks like it's really going to pay off for us,'' said Gushue. "Viagra is knocking on our door. Geritol is calling ...''


Videos

Photos