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A look at the top contenders and storylines for the Montana's Brier

Brad Gushue Brad Gushue - Curling Canada

After a memorable stop in Calgary for the Scotties Tournament of Hearts, the Season of Champions rolls on to Regina for the 2024 Montana’s Brier.

Curling is in the blood of many who live in Saskatchewan as the provincial capital will host the Canadian men’s curling championship for a sixth time – and first since 2018 when Brad Gushue won the second of his five Brier Tankards.

Like every year, the 2024 Brier features a slew of top contenders alongside many intriguing storylines that will keep fans in attendance and watching on TV captivated throughout the 10-day event.

ContentId(1.2081457): Top Brier storylines

The granite action will take place at the Brandt Centre – home of the Western Hockey League’s Regina Pats – from March 1-10.

You can watch every draw throughout the week on TSN or stream on and the TSN App.

Let’s take a closer at top storylines and teams for the 2024 Montana’s Brier. 


Which pool is tougher?

Ever since Curling Canada added a pool system to the Scotties Tournament of Hearts and Montana’s Brier a few seasons ago, curling fans have made it an annual tradition to debate which pool is tougher.

And like every year, there is no clear front-runner for the 2024 Brier.

Pool A features three of the top five teams in Canada in Brendan Bottcher (No. 1), Matt Dunstone (No. 4), and Brad Jacobs (No. 5).

Meanwhile, Pool B has four of the top seven rinks in the nation, including defending champion Brad Gushue (No. 2), Kevin Koe (No. 3), Mike McEwen (No. 6), and Aaron Sluchinski (No. 7).

Brier Pool B

Overall, they’re pretty even. Which pool do you think is superior?

Following an eight-game round-robin, the top three teams from each pool will advance to the six-team playoff.

There will be no tiebreakers at this year's Brier, with head-to-head results followed by Last-Shot Draw rankings determining playoff spots if needed.

In the playoffs, the first-place team in Pool A will take on the second-place team in Pool B and vice versa in the page seeding round. The winners of these games will advance to the page playoff 1 vs. 2 game while the losers take on the third-place finishers for a spot in the 3 vs. 4 game.

ContentId(1.2081456): Bob’s Brier Playoff Picks

From there, a standard page playoff is played to determine the national champion.

The last team standing will represent Canada at the World Men’s Curling Championship March 30-April 7 in Schaffhausen, Switzerland and will also nab the first qualification spot for the 2025 Canadian Olympic Curling Trials in Halifax.


Can Team Gushue continue their dynasty?

ContentId(1.2081461): Gushue looking to add another Brier title to resume in Regina

Earlier this month, Patrick Mahomes, Travis Kelce and the Kansas City Chiefs won their third Super Bowl title in five years.

A true dynasty, no doubt, but another dynasty has been brewing on the pebbled ice for nearly a decade.

After losing his second career Brier final in 2016, Brad Gushue skipped the hometown team a year later at the Canadian championship in St. John’s. Gushue’s rink won in memorable fashion for their first Tankard victory, and they haven’t looked back since, becoming the top men’s team in the country. 

Gushue won titles in 2018 in Regina, 2020 in Kingston, 2022 in Lethbridge and last year in London, to surpass curling greats like Ernie Richardson, Randy Ferbey, Kevin Martin and Kevin Koe for the most Briers won as a skip with five.

The 43-year-old, alongside third Mark Nichols and lead Geoff Walker, can tie Ferbey for the most all-time Canadian championships with six if they can find a way to win for a second time in Regina.

Gushue also has won a record 172 career games at the Brier.

Brett Gallant won four Briers with Team Gushue before he was replaced by E.J. Harnden ahead of the 2022-23 season.

Gushue has had some nice results this season but hasn’t dominated the Tour by any means. The rink from The Rock haven’t made a Grand Slam final, with their wins coming at the Pan Continental Curling Championships – highlighted by some strong words towards the World Curling Federation - and at the Karuizawa International against weaker fields.

Still, these results don’t really matter a whole lot at the end of the day when it comes to Team Gushue. They tend to save their best curling for this time of year.

Gushue and company, who are now ranked seventh in the world, will be well rested as they haven’t played since the most recent Slam in mid-January.


Who are the other top contenders?

Team Brendan Bottcher (Alberta)

Brendan Bottcher

The best men’s team in Canada this year has been Brendan Bottcher’s rink from Calgary.

Team Bottcher, with third Marc Kennedy, second Brett Gallant and lead Ben Hebert, is ranked first in Canada and second in the world behind Italy’s Team Joel Retornaz following a very strong bonspiel season in 2023-24.

They’ve qualified in all nine of their events, winning three times and losing in a pair of Grand Slam finals.

Team Retornaz has been their biggest adversary as they’ve dropped all three contests in either the semis or finals of Slam events. Luckily, they won’t have to square off until the World Men’s Curling Championship in April if they can capture the Brier Tankard.

Bottcher’s foursome came close last year in London, Ont., dropping a semifinal clash to Team Matt Dunstone.

With a full season together under their belts and some great results on Tour, Team Bottcher will be a scary opponent in Regina and could be Team Gushue’s toughest competition.

The last time the Brier was held in Regina back in 2018, Gushue defeated a young Bottcher, who was just making his second appearance at the Canadian championship, in the final.

Both have added to their resumes extensively since that game and it should be no surprise if we get a rematch in 2024.

Team Matt Dunstone (Manitoba)

ContentId(1.2081462): Dunstone ready for Brier redemption

Last year’s finalists, Team Matt Dunstone, have redemption on their minds as they arrive in Regina.

Dunstone, 28, just couldn’t figure out Gushue at last year’s Canadian men’s curling championship, losing to the veteran skip in the 1 vs. 2-page playoff and final after posting a perfect 8-0 round robin.

The Winnipeg native, who resides in Kamloops, B.C. with his partner and fellow curler Erin Pincott, now has a silver medal and two bronze medals in five career Brier appearances.

The 2023-24 season hasn’t been dominating for Team Dunstone, but they’ve still put up some nice results.

Dunstone, third B.J. Neufeld, second Colton Lott and lead Ryan Harnden are 34-16 and have qualified in seven of nine events, including two final appearances and a win at the inaugural Soo Curlers Fall Classic in late October.

Team Kevin Koe (Alberta)

It shouldn't be a surprise if 49-year-old Kevin Koe is in the playoff mix at this year’s Montana’s Brier.

On the season, Team Koe has a 43-23 record with five playoff qualifications over a busy 12-event schedule. They won the Red Deer Curling Classic and Astec Safety Challenge.

Koe, alongside third Tyler Tardi, new second Jacques Gauthier and lead Karrick Martin, didn’t make the playoffs at any of the four Grand Slam bonspiels and dropped the Alberta provincial final to Team Aaron Sluchinski.

They qualified for the Brier thanks to their third place ranking on the CTRS.

This is not the first time Koe has had some up-and-down Tour results heading into the Brier as the 2018 Olympian likes to save his best for the Brier.

Koe dropped the playoff opener to Mike McEwen at last year’s Brier, his 12th appearance at the national championship.

The Edmonton native has won four Brier Tankards in his career with the most recent coming in 2019 in Brandon, Man.

Team Reid Carruthers (Manitoba)

Team Reid Carruthers

The Brier is better with Brad Jacobs competing in it.

After a one-season hiatus, the 38-year-old returns to the biggest show in Canadian men’s curling, this time playing with a new team and province.

Jacobs represented Northern Ontario at 15 Briers from 2007 to 2022, playing the vast majority alongside brothers E.J. and Ryan Harnden.

Now with all the long-time teammates going their separate ways, the 2014 Olympic champion is looking to win a second Brier Tankard with Manitoba’s Reid Carruthers, Derek Samagalski and Connor Njegovan.

Carruthers began this season at the team’s skip and won his second straight PointsBet Invitational in September. Following the early win in Oakville, Carruthers’ foursome began to struggle a bit, missing the playoffs in two of their next four events, including an 0-4 showing at the National in November.

Jacobs took over skip duties at the Masters in December and the new look has led to some positive results. They made a finals appearance at the Astec Safety Challenge before winning the Manitoba championship by beating Team Braden Calvert in the final.

Team Carruthers is the third highest-ranked team in Pool A, but will likely be in a fight for a playoff spot with the likes of Ontario’s Team Scott Howard and British Columbia’s Team Catlin Schneider.

Team Mike McEwen (Saskatchewan)

Mike McEwen

For the second straight season, Winnipeg’s Mike McEwen will skip the hometown team at the Montana’s Brier.

McEwen, 43, captained Team Ontario last year in London, the first season playing outside of his home province of Manitoba. They made championship weekend, eventually losing to Team Bottcher in the 3 vs. 4-contest.

After changing teams once again, McEwen will look to nab his first Brier Tankard alongside third Colton Flasch, second Kevin Marsh and lead Daniel Marsh as Team Saskatchewan.

Team McEwen is 48-24 in 2023-24, qualifying in eight of 13 events with their lone win coming at the Saskatchewan Tankard earlier this month. The bonspiel titles haven’t necessarily been there this season, but the Saskatoon foursome have made six semifinals.

As we saw in Calgary for the Scotties, the hometown crowd can be a factor as Alberta, led by their rookie skip Selena Sturmay, made the page playoffs.

We’ll have to wait and see if Team McEwen, coached by long-time curler Brent Laing, can use the Brandt Centre’s energy as a positive.

Saskatchewan hasn’t won the Brier Tankard since 1980 when Rick Folk accomplished the feat.


Who are the dark horses?

David Mathers and Scott Howard

So, we know the five or six top contenders who are likely to be the favourites to battle for the Canadian championship, but there’s still a handful of other teams that could be in the mix for the playoffs or even more if the rocks slide their way.

In Pool A, Bottcher, Dunstone and Jacobs are the favourites to qualify for the playoffs as the highest-ranked teams. However, don’t sleep on Ontario’s Scott Howard, who will be making his Brier debut as a skip in Regina.

Scott’s 61-year-old father, four-time Brier champion Glenn Howard, was the captain of this team until he went down with a nagging knee injury at the Penticton Curling Classic in early December. Scott took over skip duties and led a three-man team to an impressive win at the West coast bonspiel featuring a stacked field.

A month later, Team Howard, playing with just three players once again, ran the table at the Ontario Tankard to punch their ticket to Regina. 

They’ve since added Mathew Camm to fill out the lineup. We'll have to see if the elder Howard is able to play and how the lineup might be tweaked throughout the week.

Catlin Schneider

Other teams that could make some noise in Pool A include British Columbia, skipped by Regina native Catlin Schneider, and a veteran New Brunswick rink led by James Grattan. Northern Ontario’s Team Trevor Bonot will be making their Brier debut and are coached by the legend Al Hacker, winner of two Canadian and world championships.

What about Pool B?

Aaron Sluchinski

Aside from Gushue, McEwen and Koe, Alberta champion Team Aaron Sluchinski has to be considered a major threat to advance to the final six.

The Airdrie, Alta., foursome, led by their 36-year-old Brier rookie skip, are putting together a breakout season in 2023-24, highlighted by a provincial final win over Team Koe.

Team Sluchinski won twice on Tour in early season events and are ranked seventh in Canada coming into Regina. 

Sluchinski defeated Koe twice at playdowns and the two rivals will kick off the Montana’s Brier against each other on the opening night. That game could go a long way in determining the final playoff spot in Pool B.

Quebec’s Team Julien Tremblay are Brier rookies as well while Nova Scotia’s Team Matthew Manuel are back for a second straight year.


A New Name

A new era of the Canadian men’s curling championship has arrived.

For the past the 19 years, the annual bonspiel has been called the Tim Hortons Brier as the Canadian coffeehouse chain has served as the title sponsor for nearly two decades.

Now, for just the just the fifth time in history, the Brier has a new title sponsor and will be called the Montana’s Brier for the foreseeable future.

From the Brier’s inception in 1927 to 1979, the Brier was sponsored by Macdonald Tobacco, the longest title sponsor by far. The Labatt Brewing Company took over for two decades from 1980 to 2000 before Nokia had a short reign from 2001 to 2004. Tim Hortons then took control from 2005 all the way to last year’s Brier in London when Gushue and his St. John’s foursome stood atop the podium for the fifth time in the past seven years.

ContentId(1.2081460): Mudryk, Weeks break down the Montana’s Brier field

We’ll have to see this if this year’s version of the Canadian championship has a different feel or vibe to it with a fresh name.

This year’s Brier will be the first for new Curling Canada CEO Nolan Thiessen as well. 

Thiessen was thrown a curling curveball during his first Scotties earlier this month when Curling Canada “became aware” that Brianne Harris, lead for Canada’s Team Kerri Einarson, was ineligible to compete at the event due to unspecified reasons just hours before the opening game. Harris missed the entire Scotties as Curling Canada and Team Einarson were unable to comment on the situation.