The Tim Hortons Brier is probably the truest of any Canadian sporting championship. Fifteen teams, representing each of Curling Canada’s 14 Member Associations as well as the defending champion Team Canada, compete for the Brier Tankard, the refurbished silver trophy that was presented to the winners of the Brier during Macdonald Tobacco’s 50-year sponsorship. The trophy was re-introduced in 2001 in Ottawa at the first Nokia Brier, when the famed Labatt Brier Tankard was retired after the 2000 Brier in Saskatoon.
The Canadian men’s curling championship began in 1927 in Toronto and has been contested each year since, with the exception of the war years (1943, 1944 and 1945). After being held in Toronto from 1927-1939, the Brier went ‘national’ in 1940, staged in Winnipeg.
It has been held in every province at least once and in 31 cities from coast-to-coast.
Manitoba has won a leading 27 Briers, the last by skip Jeff Stoughton in 2011 in London; Alberta is next with 26 victories.
Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick and the three Territories have yet to win.
In 1927, all games at the inaugural Canadian men’s curling championship were 14 ends. Two games actually went to a 15th end. Nova Scotia (skip Murray Macneill) won that first Brier in Toronto, in which eight teams competed, including ones from Toronto and Montreal.
From 1928-76, games where shortened to 12 ends and beginning in 1977, games were reduced to 10 ends.
Thousands of curlers attempt to qualify each year for the Brier through zone, district and eventually provincial championships, the latter taking place from late January through mid-February.
The Brier format was altered for the 2015 championship in Calgary, allowing for the first time the inclusion of the defending champion team — known as Team Canada, following the format used by the Scotties Tournament of Hearts — and giving each of the three Territories the right to enter separate teams. Prior to 2014, the Northwest Territories and Yukon Territory combined for a single team, while Nunavut did not have access to the championship. The change meant, for the first time, players from every Member Association in Canada had equitable access to the Brier.
The traditional 12-team round robin is preceded by a four-team pre-qualifying round to determine the 12th and final entry into the main round robin.
The round robin concludes on Friday morning. The playoff format is the Page System, whereby, after any tiebreakers are required to determine the first four teams, the first- and second-place teams meet in one playoff game, while the third-and-fourth place teams meet in another game.
The winner of the 1 vs. 2 match goes directly to Sunday’s final. The loser meets the winner of 3 vs. 4 in the semifinal for the right to compete in the championship final. The semifinal loser plays the 3 vs. 4 loser for the bronze medal.
From 1927-79, there was no playoff format. The Brier winner was the leader at the conclusion of the round robin, unless there was a tie for top spot, in which case a playoff game ensued.
Beginning with the first Labatt Brier in 1980, a playoff format was instituted, whereby the first-place finisher at the conclusion of the round robin advanced to the final, while the second- and third-place finishers met in a semifinal, with the winner also advancing to the final.
This format was in place from 1980-1994, before the Page Playoff system was adopted in 1995.
The Brier champion represents Canada at the World Men’s Curling Championship.
The Labatt Brewing Company announced its sponsorship of the Brier in 1978, taking over from Macdonald Tobacco, which had sponsored the first 50 Canadian men’s curling championships. The first Labatt Brier was held in Calgary in 1980 and was won by Rick Folk of Saskatoon.
In 1982 in Brandon, Labatt’s extended its Brier sponsorship through 1989 and in Kitchener in 1986, the company announced a further extension of that agreement with the Canadian Curling Association for Brier and Tankard sponsorships through 1994. In November of 1993, Labatt signed a new Brier sponsorship agreement with the Canadian Curling Association, a three-year deal through 1997.
At the 1997 Labatt Brier in Calgary, the brewery announced a further three-year commitment to the Canadian Men’s Curling Championship, which guaranteed title sponsorship through the year 2000.
At the 2000 Brier in Saskatoon, the Canadian Curling Association announced that Nokia, the world’s largest manufacturer of mobile communications, had signed a four-year deal to become the new title sponsor of the Canadian Men’s Curling Championship, beginning with the first Nokia Brier in Ottawa, March 3-11. Labatt became an official supplier to the Season of Champions.
The winning team was also presented (beginning in 2001) with the refurbished Brier Tankard, the original solid silver trophy first unveiled in 1927 at the inaugural Macdonald Brier.
Nokia decided not to renew its Brier sponsorship agreement at the conclusion of the 2004 championship. A new title sponsor, Tim Hortons, the largest quick service restaurant chain in Canada, was welcomed in a three-year agreement, beginning in 2005, with a three-year option. The first Tim Hortons Brier was staged at Rexall Place in Edmonton and produced a record attendance of 281,985. Tim Hortons’ current sponsorship of the Brier and the Roar of the Rings Canadian Curling Trials will run through the 2017-18 season.
Edmonton’s Randy Ferbey entered the record books in 2003 by winning his fifth Brier, the only player to do so.
He won in 1988 and 1989, as third for Pat Ryan, then skipped Alberta to a record three consecutive Brier triumphs in 2001, 2002 and 2003. He added another in 2005 to join Saskatchewan’s Ernie Richardson of Regina (1959, 1960, 1962, 1963) as the only skips to win four Briers – at the same time notching a record sixth Canadian men’s curling championship title.
In 2009, another Edmonton skip joined this elite group when Kevin Martin defended his 2008 title to add to previous championships in 1991 and 1997.
Four players have won the Brier three times as skip: Ken Watson of Winnipeg, in 1936, 1942 and 1949; Matt Baldwin of Edmonton, in 1954, 1957 and 1958; Ron Northcott of Calgary in 1966, 1968 and 1969; and, Winnipeg’s Jeff Stoughton in 1996, 1999 and 2011.
Russ Howard, formerly of Midland, Ont. – now residing in Moncton, N.B. Brunswick – holds the record for most games won at the skip position with 113 victories to his credit.
Howard’s former third, brother Glenn, established a record in 2013, competing in 196 games at the national championship, more than any other curler in the history of the game. He also set two new standards in 2013, representing Ontario for an eighth consecutive year and appearing in an unprecedented 15 Briers.
Fifteen teams have gone undefeated in the Brier, the last to do so being Kevin Martin of Alberta who accomplished the feat back-to-back in 2008 and 2009. On the other hand, 20 teams have failed to win a game during Brier week, the latest being the Northwest Territories (Jamie Koe) in 2015 in Calgary.
The Brier attendance record is 281,985, set in Edmonton in 2005, eclipsing the 248,793 mark established in Saskatoon in 2000. Those numbers are followed by Calgary (245,296 in 2002) and Edmonton (242,887 in 1999).
Among Brier records, the highest score for one team is 30, established in 1957, when Saskatchewan’s Garnet Campbell defeated New Brunswick’s Ken Everett, 30-3.
That game is also among three games with the highest total score, joining Ontario’s 17-16 win over New Brunswick in 1932 and Prince Edward Island’s 17-16 victory over Newfoundland in 1968.
Five games in Brier history have resulted in one team being shut out, the last in 1998, when Manitoba’s Dale Duguid defeated Prince Edward Island (Garth Mitchell), 8-0.
The lowest combined score for both teams is 3, all resulting in 2-1 victories. It has happened three times, the latest in 2000 when Manitoba (Jeff Stoughton) edged Prince Edward Island (Andrew Robinson).
The highest end score (count or steal) is seven. It’s happened on five occasions, the last being in 2000, when Prince Edward Island (Andrew Robinson) stole seven against Nova Scotia (Shawn Adams) en route to a 12-2 win.
There’s been one four-way tie for first (at the conclusion of the round robin), in 1993 in Ottawa, when Manitoba, British Columbia, Northern Ontario and Ontario finished on top with 8-3 records, prior to the playoffs.
Manitoba’s Kerry Burtnyk is the youngest winning skip, when his team took the 1981 Labatt Brier in Halifax. Burtnyk was 22 years (and four months) old. His team is also the youngest to win the Brier, averaging 22 years of age.
At the first Brier in 1927, six provinces were represented — New Brunswick, Northern Ontario, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Quebec and Saskatchewan, along with teams from Toronto and Montreal. In 1928, Alberta and Manitoba joined the championship. In 1932, city representation was dropped, but in 1936, Prince Edward Island and British Columbia were added, followed by Newfoundland in 1951 and Yukon/Northwest Territories in 1975.
The Humpty’s Champions Cup is the newest Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling tournament and showcases all of the top winners on tour over the course of the season in one final showdown.
Reid Carruthers captured the inaugural men’s Humpty’s Champions Cup title in 2016 in Sherwood Park, Alta., edging John Epping in a thrilling double extra end. Jennifer Jones claimed the first women’s title defeating Rachel Homan.
Brad Jacobs took home the men’s Humpty’s Champions Cup title in 2017 defeating hometown hero Kevin Koe of Calgary at WinSport Arena. Homan sought redemption to claim the women’s trophy and cap a world championship season by defeating breakout star Anna Hasselborg.
Brad Gushue made history at the Humpty’s Champions Cup in 2018 by becoming the first skip to capture all seven main titles in the series. It was deja vu for Homan, who successfully defended the women’s title in Calgary.
Champions Cup men’s winners
Champions Cup women’s winners
The Canadian Open ushered in the Grand Slam of Curling era in 2001 with the introduction of the series. Wayne Middaugh defeated Jeff Stoughton in the final to win the inaugural title in Wainwright, Alta.
Kevin Martin won back-to-back championships in January and December 2007, the latter helping the Edmonton skip achieve his fourth consecutive Grand Slam title. Martin stretched the streak to five by winning the National later that month.
Glenn Howard denied Martin a third straight Canadian Open title at the 2009 event with an 8-4 victory in the final. Howard, third Richard Hart, second Brent Laing and lead Craig Savill all won their first Canadian Open title, completing a career Grand Slam for Howard, Hart, and Laing (Savill had yet to win the National at that point). Martin turned the tables the following year, defeating Howard 6-4 in the final to win his record fifth Canadian Open title and third in four years.
Mike McEwen won his second Grand Slam of 2010-11 at the Canadian Open that season by running the table with a perfect 8-0 record, including a 5-4 win over Howard in the final. The game went into an extra end — holding up the start of CBC’s pre-game coverage of the NHL All-Star Game — with McEwen following Howard’s path through a narrow port to hit and stick.
A change implementing the five-rock rule didn’t stop McEwen from breezing through the Canadian Open again the following season posting another perfect 8-0 record to successfully defend the title.
The tournament switched from round robin to triple knockout format for 2014. Brad Gushue dropped to the C-side in the preliminary round, but score three big wins on the penultimate day of the tournament and clinched the title defeating Steve Laycock in the final. It was also the first year the Canadian Open expanded to include a women’s division and Eve Muirhead was crowned the first champion with a 5-3 win over Rachel Homan.
Homan made history in 2015 at the Canadian Open by becoming the first women’s skip to win three consecutive Grand Slam titles in a single season. Meanwhile, John Epping threw a perfect game in the final against Gushue to win the men’s title.
It seems you have to be perfect to win here on the men’s side as Gushue replicated the feat shooting a perfect 100 percent against Niklas Edin in an 8-3 win during the 2017 final. Casey Scheidegger made her elite-level series debut and shocked the field capturing the women’s title stealing in the eighth to edge Silvana Tirinzoni 5-4.
The first National tournament was held during 2001-02, the first season of the Grand Slam of Curling series. Glenn Howard skipped his team to the inaugural championship in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., defeating Greg McAulay in the final.
Howard defeated Jeff Stoughton in the 2004 final to capture his second National title in three seasons. Team Howard were finalists at the event in 2003 but fell to Pierre Charette’s team.
Kevin Martin came to dominate the event as the Edmonton skip won three of four National tournaments. The first one in late 2004 was particularly special for Martin as he became the first skip to complete a career Grand Slam.
Brad Gushue earned his first career Grand Slam title at the 2010 National defeating Randy Ferbey 6-4 in the final.
For Stoughton the fourth time proved to be the charm. The Winnipeg skip was runner-up at the tournament three previous times before he finally broke through and captured the National in 2013. With the win Stoughton became just the fourth skip to complete a career Grand Slam.
Mike McEwen’s team was white-hot to start 2014-15 and picked up their first career National title that season after defeating reigning Olympic champions Team Brad Jacobs in their own backyard of Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.
The 2015 National expanded to include a women’s division and Rachel Homan was crowned the champion after beating Tracy Fleury in the women’s final. Gushue scored the men’s title with a win over Reid Carruthers.
The Tour Challenge was one of two new events added to the Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling schedule during the 2015-16 season and features the largest field in the series.
The goal of the Tour Challenge is to broaden the field and kick off the curling season with the opportunity for 60 teams on the World Curling Tour to participate in a Pinty’s GSOC event on arena ice. Two ice pads are converted for a total of 10 curling sheets, one of which will host Tier 1 and the second will feature Tier 2 right next door.
Paradise, N.L., hosted the inaugural Tour Challenge in September 2015. Calgary’s Kevin Koe clipped local favourite Brad Gushue of St. John’s, N.L., in an extra end during the men’s final. Silvana Tirinzoni of Switzerland stunned Ottawa’s Rachel Homan by stealing the eighth end of the women’s final for her first career GSOC title.
The Tour Challenge travelled to the opposite coast the following season landing in Cranbrook, B.C. Sweden’s Niklas Edin picked up his second GSOC title in as many weeks defeating Scotland’s Kyle Smith in the first-ever all-European men’s final in the series. Edmonton’s Val Sweeting captured the women’s title beating Winnipeg’s Michelle Englot.
The winners of the Tier 1 event receive invitations to the Champions Cup, the final event of the Pinty’s GSOC season that showcases all of the winners from major events in curling.
The winners of the Tier 2 event receive a promotion earning invitations to a future top-tier Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling tournament.
The inaugural Masters tournament was held in Gander, N.L., in January 2002, the first season of the Grand Slam of Curling series. Saskatchewan’s Bruce Korte skipped his team to their first and only Grand Slam title defeating Jeff Stoughton in the final.
Brent Laing, Glenn Howard and Craig Savill have won the tournament a record six times including four in a row (with Richard Hart) from 2006 to 2009.
Team Howard’s “drive for five” consecutive Masters titles came to an halt during the 2010 semifinals with a 6-4 loss to Stoughton. Mike McEwen defeated Stoughton in the final to capture his first career Grand Slam title.
Calgary’s Kevin Koe had been a finalist at the tournament on three consecutive occasions and finally clinched the title in 2012 with a 7-5 win over Jim Cotter to also earn his first GSOC title as a skip. That year also saw the addition of a women’s division to the tournament. Ottawa’s Rachel Homan ran the table with a perfect 8-0 record to win the championship and her team successfully defended the title the following year.
The 2014 Masters saw Edmonton’s Val Sweeting overcome the sudden departure of third Andrea Crawford on the eve of the event to capture her first career Grand Slam title with super spare Cathy Overton-Clapham as vice skip. Brad Gushue claimed his second career Grand Slam title, and first since 2010, with an 8-6 win over Mike McEwen in the men’s final, although it was McEwen’s sizzling shot to score four in the sixth end that stole the show and went viral online as the shot of the year.
McEwen came out on top in the 2015 event defeating Cotter for the men’s title. Homan won her third Masters title in four seasons with a win over Sweeting in the women’s final.
Our 2016 WFG Masters had not one but two first-time GSOC winners. Team Edin stole in an extra end to stun Team Jacobs for the men’s title. Team Flaxey battled out of the tiebreaker stage and completed the miracle run upsetting defending champ Team Homan on the women’s side.
The inaugural Elite 10 was held in Fort McMurray, Alta., in March 2015, and was the first new Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling tournament since the series started in 2001-02. Winnipeg’s Mike McEwen defeated Niklas Edin of Sweden in the final to become the first champion.
Victoria hosted the 2016 Elite 10 with Brad Gushue of St. John’s, N.L., edging Winnipeg’s Reid Carruthers for the title in an extra-end shootout. Rachel Homan’s Ottawa-based team made history becoming the first women’s team to compete in a Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling men’s tournament and score a victory over a men’s team since Sportsnet acquired the series in 2012.
The Princess Auto Elite 10 travelled from the west coast to Atlantic Canada in 2017 heading to Port Hawkesbury, N.S. John Morris earned his 11th title in the series with fourth Jim Cotter delivering the winning slash takeout in the final end to defeat Brad Jacobs 1-up. GSOC legends Jeff Stoughton, David Nedohin, Nolan Thiessen and Jamie Korab came out of retirement for one tournament only as the special Elite 10 Selects. The team still had it as they qualified for the playoffs.