Siblings of Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., won the Brier title and world silver in 2013 by passing Brad Jacobs before capping a memorable year-long streak by winning gold at the Sochi Olympics.
Like many of Canada’s top teams, Jacobs’ squad disbanded in the off-season last year. Ryan would then join Matt Dunstone’s fresh-faced squad from Manitoba while EJ filled the vacancy at the Gushue arena from St. Louis. John’s, NL
The teams met in the recent national finals in London, Ont., with Gushue outscoring Dunstone 7-5. It is believed to be the first time the two brothers have played against each other in a Brier championship game.
A few days later, Ryan accepted an offer to join the Gushue team as the fifth world champion. He checked with his team and they fully supported the one-off move.
“This is a great and unique thing about our sport and shows the respect we have for wearing the Maple Leaf and representing our country,” said EJ.
“It’s about the bigger team, which is Team Canada, and wanting to position themselves well to win.”
Dressed in Canadian black, the brothers were joined by Gushue, leading Geoff Walker, deputy Mark Nichols and coaches Caleb Flaxey and Jeff Stoughton for a one-hour practice session.
Canada opens Saturday afternoon’s round-robin play against Switzerland’s Yannick Schwaller before taking on Italy’s Joel Retornaz in the evening. The top six of the 13 teams will qualify for the playoffs.
Gushue, who won a world gold medal in 2017, earned silver last year in Las Vegas when he lost to four-time defending champion Niklas Edin of Sweden.
“They are a great team and they have gotten better over the last few years,” said Gushue.
Other expected contenders include Scotland’s Bruce Mouat, America’s John Shuster and Norway’s Magnus Ramsjfell. The medal match is scheduled for April 9.
EJ actually served as Gushue’s fifth in last year’s world championships. He had to wear Canadian colors again in the Brier as the team automatically entered as defending champions.
“It feels great to wear the Maple Leaf in the Brier but it’s a little different because I wasn’t part of that (2022) victory,” he said. “Now I can wear it as part of a winning team, so that’s pretty cool.”
Barring injury, Ryan will likely only see ice time this week during practice sessions or if he comes on as a substitute in a blowout.
He will have to stay on guard and will be tasked with rock matching and various off-ice tasks.
“These are just little things to make sure the team feels comfortable and ready,” said EJ. “Basically taking away the things that we as athletes have to think about and worry about.
“Ryan could do it easily and he’s done a good job.”
After losing to Gushue in the 2017 world finals in Edmonton, Edin won the rematch a year later in Las Vegas and beat the Canadian again at the same Orleans Arena last spring.
The Harnden brothers, meanwhile, were desperate for another crack at the world title after losing to Edin in the 2013 final in BC.
“We had the luxury of playing in front of a Canadian crowd in Victoria,” said Ryan. “Great to have a full barn behind you with everyone cheering for you. It’s fun and an honor.
“I am grateful to be here with these people.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published on March 31, 2023.
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Gregory Strong, Canadian Press
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