2012 Canadian Men's Curling Championship: Brier Roadtrip!

I had an awesome weekend - I went to the Brier!!

That's right, we drove 5 hrs, and a province/timezone away to go to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan to watch the first three draws of the event on opening weekend!

I was up bright and early Saturday morning, and I mean really early, like 5am early. We picked up all of our Brier roadtrip friends, hit the McDonalds drivethru and were on the highway by 7am. The next stop was 2.5ish hrs down the highway in Lloydminster for second breakfast at McDonalds. It was afterall only 9:30am! Lloyd straddles the provincial line, and I got my first look at the Saskatchewan countryside in twenty years. It looks a lot like Alberta. Maybe a bit flatter. And the road signs are in a bigger font - so much easier for my old eyes to read!! It never did seem like a 5 hr drive - the company was good and the conversation interesting with doses of highlarity - can't ask for much more!

We arrived at the arena, which is right on the highway before you actually get to the centre of Saskatoon, at about 12:45pm, just in time to park (for free!!) and pick up and distribute all of our tickets before the draw started. At this point our party of 4 grew to 6 and then split up to watch the first draw, some in the corner, some in the balcony on the home end, some in a box on the away end. And, for the fourth weekend in a row, I ate arena food for lunch while I watched live curling.

And wow, it was awesome - I was at the Brier! I've seen a number of big events by now, but never a Brier. It was big and loud and exciting and full of good curling.

Pretty good view of synchronized skipping.

The Ontario Flag Man (I think his name is Jack?) - a Brier tradition. When he stood up to wave his flag, and then run up the stairs, only then did I really realize I was at the Brier.

The Green Men, trying to get the crowd to do the wave. There were a lot of people dressed up. And loud. I believe there was even some duelling cowbells. Fun times at the Brier.

After the first draw, we checked into our respective hotels etc. The only room I could find on such short notice (this scheme was only cooked up a week and a half before the Brier started - while sitting in the stands at the Scotties) that wasn't booked up or super expensive was at a clean, cheap and cheerful hostel/guest house near the university. It turned out to be perfect - in terms of location and simplicity and price. I was only there for like 9 hours so didn't need much, and appreciated the friendly owner and quiet atmosphere. I'd stay at the Inn on College again if I was passing through for sure!

After a group dinner at the super nice hotel where everyone else was staying (one day I will be a real adult and agree to pay for accommodation like that), we headed back to the arena for the evening draw. I watched a lot of games at the Scotties, so can say the Brier is bigger - size, crowd, noise, excitement. It was fun to take it all in (even if I did have a wee nap during the 4th end! Something about being awake at 5am...). Eventually I moved from my corner away end seat to my favourite viewing position - high centre.

It was weird watching and not volunteering. I missed volunteering actually. There's something to be said for being part of a big team. Everyone at curling events is super friendly, but moreso I think if you're a volunteer. I was so lucky to be able to attend this event, and I'll likely go to more opening weekends of events nearby in the future - but I'll always volunteer when curling comes closer to home.

More synchronized skipping.

And now for some synchronized delivering.

I moved to the home end for a bit, and managed to catch more skip consistency.

Eventually I ended up high centre, my favourite spot. Object in frame are closer than they appear. I like being able to see both houses. You miss seeing the curl this way, but I like seeing the scoring better.

I got a bit of a burst of action on twitter when I tweet about how PEI swept lead stones from the same side (seriously, this is the Brier!) with their shirts untucked - in fact Scott Howard even send me a message! And that folks, is why twitter is awesome.

It was back to the hostel for the night - and then, bright and early, we were back at McDonalds for our third egg mcmuffin meal in 24 hrs (I love egg mcmuffins by the way, so it was a treat for sure!). We all sat together in the box one couple had seats in, as it was mostly empty of actual occupants, and settled in for another draw.

My favourite parts about watching live curling? First, the "choose your own seat" ability. Yes, you buy a ticket for wherever, but since the arena is never full no one really minds if you move around to whatever view you want. I'm sure this wont be the case final weekend, but opening weekend had real estate for any view. Second, I love listening to the commentary - via the FM signal on my phone from the TSN crew, and from whoever is sitting around me. I either learn lots or laugh lots so either way it's all good. Third is the ability to choose which of the four games on the ice you want to watch. I really miss this watching it on tv. Sure, it can be distracting, but once you pick your game and alternates and figure out the timing - well there's nothing better than watching four games of good shot making!

Morning box view. Comfy seats, but too much interference to get the FM signal working. Good thing the box was full of people with curling knowledge, and opinions.

We kept an eye on the Alberta boys - Team Koe. Let's hope they make it to the final!

This view was captioned as "An Alberta Conference Call."

After the draw we were back on the road - this time stopping for lunch in North Battleford, and for a snack in Lloydminster. Again, it was a long drive and we were a full and cramped car, but it went by quickly. Good company goes a long way!! The roads got snowy just outside of Edmonton, which was fortunate. I arrived back at my place at about 6pm, turned on the tv, and started watching the evening draw. Most of the way home I wanted to turn around and head back to Saskatoon to watch more live Brier.

I'll have to wait until 2013 when it comes to Edmonton I guess!

I actually ended up going out to spare in the evening, and then spent a good bit of time upstairs in the lounge afterwards enjoying more good company and highlarity.

Curling curling curling curling.