Canada's Sports Hall of Fame Canadian History and Society: Through the Lens of Sport Virtual Museum of Canada


Video Transcript

[Footage of people curling from the hack and of curling rocks, Narrator - Greg Stremlaw with images of early curling in Canada in the background, Announcer describes event - Here comes Parker's final stone on the twelfth end. Announcer describes event - Final score is 16 to 9 and the Canadian Champions for 1968, the Ron Northcott rink from the Calgary Curling Club in Alberta, panoramic shot of the Brier team from 1934 and Tankard Trophy.]

The low thrilling rumble of a curling rock sliding down a sheet of pristine white ice has become one of the most iconic symbols of Canadian sport. First brought to North America with Scottish settlers in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, curling has grown more in popularity and prestige as a national sport in Canada than anywhere else in the world. Requiring intense mental concentration, strategy, and physical coordination, curling is admired for its camaraderie and sportsmanship, as well as its competitive challenges.

Perhaps nowhere is the game more celebrated than at the Brier, the Canadian Men's National Curling Championship. First held in 1927, the Brier is a round-robin competition intended to bring together qualifying representatives from all provinces and territories across Canada.

[Image of curling with pop up of McDonald's Brier tobacco tin, 1937 and 1997 Brier patches.]

Originally sponsored by the MacDonald Tobacco Company, the Brier's name was taken from a brand of pipe tobacco that contained a silver heart-shaped plug with a plastic purple heart. This also inspired the purple heart patches Brier competitors later wore as a symbol of being a provincial or territorial men's champion.

[Footage of curlers, curling rocks with blue and red handles.]

Beginning in 1940, the Brier became a truly national sporting event travelling to different host communities across Canada every year. The tournament also became more modern and began to appeal to larger audiences. 1940 marked the first year rocks were supplied for the championship with different colours for each team, making it easier for spectators to follow their shots.

[Image of Al Hackner, footage of Hackner's double take out at the 1985 Brier. Announcer describes takeout - The final rock of the... - Announcer describes play - Is he going to hit it, got a piece of it, he may have it, its..- cheering.]

Nicknamed the "Iceman", Al Hackner skipped the Northern Ontario rink in nine Briers, winning in 1982 and 1985. Hackner defeated Pat Ryan's Alberta rink in 1985 after a remarkable double take-out shot that was deemed nearly impossible to make, becoming a Brier legend.

[Images of Hector Gervais holding two curling rocks above his head, his curling and photo of 1960 team.]

At 270 pounds and standing 6 foot 4, Edmonton curler Hector Gervais was known as the "Friendly Giant". Winning the Brier in 1961 and 1974, Gervais devised innovative strategies, placing corner guard rocks in front of the house and drawing around them to create protection. Gervais passed away in 1997, but today the Hec Gervais Award continues to be given to the Most Valuable Player in the Brier playoffs while a scholarship for young curlers was founded in his name in 1999.

[Images of Kevin Martin curling, Martin's Olympic jacket, Martin's team holding the Tankard Trophy at the 2009 Brier, action shots.]

Also from Edmonton, Kevin Martin won four Brier titles in 1991, 1997, 2008, and 2009. A two-time Olympic medallist, the old bear won countless championship titles and originated events such as the Grand Slam, raising the profile of competitive curling by drawing lucrative sponsors and prizes. Retiring in 2014, he continued to share his skills with young athletes though the Kevin Martin Curling Academy.

[Greg Stremlaw, images of Russ Howard with Olympic gold medal and attending other curling events.]

Just as often as they captivated audiences with remarkable achievements, Brier champions aspire to a high standard of sportsmanship. Russ Howard competed in the Brier fourteen times, wining in 1997 and 1993, yet he continued to claim at the height of his success "You're only as good as your last stone."

[Images of Ken Watson curling, head and shoulder shots and with 1940's team.]

Often, champions credited teamwork, resilience, and sportsmanship for their success on the ice. The first skip to win thee Brier titles, Ken Watson, was one of curling's premier athletes throughout the 1930's and 1940's. Nicknamed "Mr. Curler", Watson believed achieving success in curling was impossible without teamwork built on cooperation, tolerance, and mutual respect.

[Footage of Ron Northcott cleaning curling rock and curling.]

Many other Brier champions also believed true sportsmanship comes from experiencing failure, as well as success. Ron Northcott, who won three Brier titles and World Championships in 1966, 1968, and 1969, playing curling rinks often had to "lose together before you can win together."

[Images of Matt Baldwin curling and with team members.]

Matt Baldwin who represented Alberta five times in the Brier, including three Brier titles and one with an undefeated rink in 1957 also believed losing was in some cases is the best thing that happen to you because it taught resilience, and created valuable opportunities to learn from mistakes.

[Image of recent curlers and people at the Brier patch.]

Throughout the 1980's and 1990's as the tournament audience expanded and new attendance records were set, the Brier continued to promote national unity. In 1982, the social space where curlers and spectators mingled between draws became known at the Brier Patch, a name organizers continue to use today.

[Images of people performing on stage at the Brier patch, Greg Stremlaw with footage of curlers and fans cheering.]

In 1996, the Brier was held in Kamloops, BC and the aftermath of difficult referendums held on the issue of sovereignty in Quebec. At the Brier Patch that year, Quebec's team sang "O Canada" on stage to an emotional audience drawn from across the country to support national solidarity. Celebrating the bonds uniting Canadians from coast to coast, the Brier powerfully demonstrates why curling has become a beloved past time across the nation, uniting fans and athletes in fellowship, as well as competition for over 80 years.

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