Takin' over the Team

PINEROLO, Italy -- Brad Gushue had tickets lined up to watch Canada in the gold medal hockey game Sunday.

"Buggers," he said.

That's one side of it. The other is that Gushue gets their stage.

Media who had been planning to cover Canada in the semifinal hockey game will be scrambling for press tribune seats at curling today.

Gushue's guys have been wearing Canada on their outfits since the git-go, but today they're taking over for Team Canada.

With Canada not even managing to get in position to win a medal in hockey, suddenly the scene shifts here for a gold medal game in that other sport Canadians like to believe is our game. And unlike winning Olympic gold for the first time in 50 years like Canada did in hockey, we've never won Olympic gold in men's curling.

Somebody yesterday tried to tell Gushue it could now be a life-altering experience if, with the focus on his gold medal game, he manages to do what no one has done before - claim gold for Canada in curling.

He laughed.

"No matter what happens, I think our lives will have changed," he said.

"We're from Newfoundland. In Newfoundland nothing comes close to this. It's going to be different for us when we get home. I think we all know that. Walking around will be different.

"We have a couple of NHL players from Newfoundland and they're gods."

Coach Toby McDonald had the great line earlier in this tournament.

"Half of Newfoundland isn't working - the other half."

And his other one-liner. "There hasn't been a fish caught since the Olympics began."

Gushue and his regular team of Mark Nichols, Jamie Korab and Mike Adam along with ringer Russ Howard, know getting to the gold medal game is going to bring life in the province to a complete standstill for this one and they know it.

"Companies will be giving people the afternoon off," he said, referring to the 5:30 p.m. game here which translates to 1 p.m. back home on the Rock.

Or as McDonald would put it: Those with jobs will take the afternoon off. McDonald was part of Newfoundland's previous biggest story in curling, Jack MacDuff's shocking Brier win, the only one in the history of the province, back in 1975.

"There will either be a lot of sick days or a lot of TVs in offices. In Newfoundland, nothing has ever come close to this," said Gushue.

No Newfie has ever won an Olympic gold medal before.

Dwayne Norris won silver at Lillehammer '94 playing for Tom Rennie's national hockey team. Marie Monder won a silver with a rowing crew in Atlanta '96. And they could claim Gander-born Don Bartlett of Edmonton who won a silver with Martin's Edmonton rink in Salt Lake '02.

"If we win, George Street in St. John's is going to be an extremely fun place," Gushue guaranteed.

And, in a way, they can't lose.

There was plenty of worry we were sending two rinks who couldn't get the job done to the Olympics after Shannon Kleibrink and Gushue's gang came in as longshots to win the Olympic Trials in December in Halifax.

But going into the gold medal game against Markku Uusipaavalniemi of Finland knowing they can't do any worse than any other men's team we've sent to the five ring circus is, in a weird way, somewhat of a comfort zone.

Canada is three for three at getting to the gold-medal game at Olympic curling and 0-2 at in delivering the gold. Toronto's Mike Harris and Edmonton's Kevin Martin have both managed to get to the gold medal game but lost it and settled for silvers in the other Canadian sport in which anything less than gold isn't good enough.

The storyline, of course, also involves Howard - who turned 50 at these Games. By getting to the gold game, Howard beat Max Houben, a Belgian four-man bobsledder who was 49 years, 278 days old when he won a medal at St. Moritz in 1948.

The oldest gold medallist was Jay O'Brien of the U.S.A. when he won four-man bobsled e in 1932.

Howard will hold that honour, too, if he wins gold today.

"Ah, when you get to that age, it's all downhill," said Howard of the bobsledders.