Brier a roaring success

RYAN PYETTE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:34 PM ET

LONDON — Peter Inch will never forget the roar.

One of the biggest challenges facing the chairman of the 2011 Tim Hortons Brier was the 9,000-seat John Labatt Centre’s nine-year reputation as a quiet building. But this past week, the men’s curling national championship produced some genuine sonic boom moments.

“That sound will never leave me,” Inch said. “That’s what I envisioned when we started this thing. Everyone says this can be a quiet building, but it just takes something special to make it loud.

“It’s quiet if you just make a routine shot, but make a triple, make something extraordinary like some of the shots we’ve seen here, and the people responded.”

In Sunday night’s final, Manitoba’s Jeff Stoughton snapped a personal — and provincial — 12-year championship drought with his third career Brier title in an 8-6 victory over Ontario’s Glenn Howard.

This London Brier drew 113,626 spectators — a pretty good number for a national curling championship held east of Winnipeg.

But one-off successes don’t get Canadian cities into the Brier rotation.

“We’ve had a great Brier here but we’ve still got to prove ourselves over and over again,” Inch said. “We’re on the (Canadian Curling Association’s) radar but you can’t stop. Hold three or four successful (events) and then they’ll look at coming back here on a regular basis.”

There were challenges and lessons learned along the way.

“The dehumidifiers (that needed to be installed to keep the ice from getting frosty), that was a problem,” Inch said, “and we had a volunteer pass away this week (74-year-old Stuart Gallagher in an auto accident), which you never want to see happen.

“When you’re back here (in the arena bowels), you hear all the problems like the rocks are too light or heavy. That stuff needs to be fixed. But I loved going outside to talk to the people getting on the buses to go to the (Brier) Patch.

“I had one guy visiting here tell me he’s been to 22 Briers and this is the best one. That’s what I was hoping to hear from people.”

That’s what Inch and Co. were shooting for this past week.

That roar has been restored.

The sounds of the Brier reached up towards the level of the Knights’ Memorial Cup win over Sidney Crosby’s Rimouski Oceanic in 2005 and the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge gold medal game.

In London, there will be no longer the familiar shouts of “Hurry Hard.”

But it’s hard not to feel that the Brier will hurry back again quite soon.


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