New-look curling rinks ready to rock at 2023 Tim Hortons Brier
The new Olympic quadrennial is underway and the 2023 Tim Hortons Brier will be one of the first major tests for Canada’s new-look men’s curling rinks.
The Canadian men’s curling championship begins Friday night at 7pm ET/4pm PT across the TSN Network, TSN.ca and the TSN App. Catch every draw from Budweiser Gardens in London, Ont., through Sunday, March 12, on TSN .
Many of the top dogs will be there, but with tweaked or entirely new teams.
Canada’s Brad Gushue returns as the defending champion in search of his fifth Tankard – this time with E.J. Harnden on the squad.
Brendan Bottcher, Kevin Koe, Matt Dunstone, Mike McEwen and Reid Carruthers will all skip in their first national championships with new lineups as well.
Similar to the previous two years, Curling Canada has axed the do-or-die wild-card game and replaced it with three wild-card teams who all have a real shot at making a deep run.
The format has two pools of nine teams competing in a round robin with the top three teams in each pool advancing to the playoffs. The top seed in each pool will earn a bye to the page playoffs while the second- and third-ranked teams will cross over to play each other in a qualifier to complete the final four.
There will be a page seeding round to determine who squares off in the 1 vs. 2-game.
This will be the last year Tim Hortons serves as the title sponsor for the Canadian men’s curling championship, Curling Canada announced earlier this season. Tim Hortons has been the title sponsor since 2005.
Let’s take a closer look at the 18-team field and who has the best shot at hoisting the Brier Tankard by week’s end and advancing to the World Men's Curling Championship in Ottawa April 1-9.
Manitoba (Team Matt Dunstone)
Club: Fort Rouge Curling Club
Skip: Matt Dunstone
Third: B.J. Neufeld
Second: Colton Lott
Lead: Ryan Harnden
Coach: Adam Kingsbury
Brier Seed: 1
World Rank: 6
Events Won: Red Deer Classic, DEKALB Superspiel, Viterra Manitoba Championship
For the first time in his career, Matt Dunstone will wear the Buffalo at the Tim Hortons Brier.
The Winnipeg native, who lives in Kamloops, B.C., has represented Saskatchewan and wild-card rinks in each of his previous four Brier appearances.
Now playing back in Manitoba for the first time since winning two Canadian titles as a junior, the 27-year-old skipper, nicknamed Sheriff, will represent his home province at nationals.
Dunstone and his newly formed rink have had a tremendous season with six final appearances in 10 events. They defeated provincial rival Team Reid Carruthers, 8-7, in the provincial final by scoring three points in the last end.
Their consistent play has earned them the No. 1 ranking in all of Canada.
With Dunstone now well-seasoned on the national stage, and with a mix of youth and experience surrounding him, a new era of men’s curling may emerge in this Olympic quadrennial.
Manitoba hasn’t won the Brier since Jeff Stoughton did it in 2011. Team Dunstone is the province’s best shot in a long time.
Alberta (Team Kevin Koe)
Club: The Glencoe Club
Skip: Kevin Koe
Third: Tyler Tardi
Second: Bradley Thiessen
Lead: Karrick Martin
Alternate: Ted Appelman
Brier Seed: 4
World Rank: 8
Events Won: Alberta Boston Pizza Cup
It took a while, but Kevin Koe’s first win with his new team came at the perfect time.
Team Koe defeated Team Brendan Bottcher, 6-5, in the Alberta final by picking up a deuce with hammer in the 10th end.
The emotional victory was the highlight of an up-and-down season so far for the new-look Team Koe.
Highlights: Alberta Boston Pizza Cup FINAL. pic.twitter.com/2jxlq1x82Q— TeamKevinKoe (@TeamKevinKoe) February 13, 2023
Koe, 48, and company put together a few strong performances on Tour, including reaching – but ultimately – losing three bonspiel finals. At the four Grand Slams, they have a record below .500 at 9-11.
Despite this, we know by now the Canadian championship is where Koe plays his best curling. And if his performance at playdowns is any indication, the four-time Brier champion could be the verge of entering his peak form at the perfect time once again.
A player to watch on this squad will be 24-year-old third Tyler Tardi. The three-time Canadian junior champion will make his Brier debut in London and is one of the more highly-touted young players in the men’s game today.
Wild Card 2 (Team Reid Carruthers)
Club: Morris Curling Club
Skip: Reid Carruthers
Third: Derek Samagalski
Second: Connor Njegovan
Lead: Rob Gordon
Alternate: Matt Lorenz
Coach: Rob Meakin
Brier Seed: 5
World Rank: 10
Events Won: PointsBet Invitational
It’s been an interesting season to say the least for Team Reid Carruthers.
The new foursome won September’s PointsBet Invitational against a stacked field, showing signs of a squad that could do some damage in 2022-23.
But after failing to qualify for the playoffs in four of their next six events, Carruthers and third Jason Gunnlaugson made the difficult decision to mutually part ways a week before Christmas.
The move came as a surprise to many, given the team had only been together for a few months.
Alas, a new direction was taken with the squad announcing that Brad Jacobs would fill in at the remaining Grand Slams. However, Carruthers did not add a player for the other Tour events nor provincial playdowns.
Brad Gushue proved at last year’s Brier that winning with three people isn’t a task too tall and Carruthers showed flashes of something similar.
Team Carruthers reached the final of the Ed Werenich Golden Wrench Classic in late January before reaching the Manitoba final a few weeks later. Carruthers, Derek Samagalski and Connor Njegovan weren’t able to come through with a win either time, but definitely proved a three-man team can be competitive.
The team announced that Rob Gordon will serve as their lead at nationals.
Ranked fifth in Canada, Team Carruthers is most definitely in the playoff mix and maybe the No. 1 dark horse to reach the top of the podium by week's end.
Saskatchewan (Team Kelly Knapp)
Club: Highland Curling Club
Skip: Kelly Knapp
Third: Brennen Jones
Second: Mike Armstrong
Lead: Trent Knapp
Alternate: Dustin Kidby
Coach: Brian McCusker
Brier Seed: 7
World Rank: 27
Events Won: Prairie Wheel Nutana SCT Spiel, Curling Stadium SaskTour Series, Scott Comfort Re/Max Blue Chip Reality, SCT Players Championship, SaskTel Tankard
Kelly Knapp – a former front-end player turned skip – will wear Saskatchewan green at the Tim Hortons Brier in London.
The 33-year-old edged veteran skip Steve Laycock, 5-4, in the SaskTel Tankard to finish off a perfect 5-0 week.
After many years as a front-end player, Knapp started skipping his own squad last season and has found plenty of success in 2022-23. Team Knapp, which also features twin brother Trent Knapp at lead, have won five Saskatchewan-based bonspiels this season and have won 33 of 39 games.
Kelly Knapp was an alternate for Pat Simmons at the 2011 Brier while Brennen Jones played second on that team.
The competition will definitely ramp up at the Brier so we’ll see if Knapp and company can keep the Ws rolling against a stronger field.
Northern Ontario (Team Tanner Horgan)
Club: Northern Credit Union Curling Club
Fourth: Tanner Horgan
Skip: Darren Moulding
Second: Jake Horgan
Lead: Colin Hodgson
Coach: Mike Harris
Brier Seed: 9
World Rank: 24
Events Won: Northern Ontario Tankard
After dropping two of their first three matches at the Northern Ontario Tankard, Team Tanner Horgan needed to reel off five straight victories in the triple-elimination tournament in order to punch their ticket to the London Brier.
They did just that, picking up wins against 14-time Northern Ontario champion Brad Jacobs to advance to the playoffs and eventually topping Sandy MacEwan in the final.
Team Horgan assembled this summer during an off-season of drastic change. The new foursome haven’t won an event outside of the Tankard, making two semi-final appearances on Tour. They own a 2-7 Grand Slam record.
Horgan, 24, qualified for last year’s Tim Horton Curling Trials with a different rink and posted a 1-7 record. Tanner and his brother Jacob will make their Brier debuts this year while Darren Moulding and Colin Hodgson are veterans at the event.
The Sudbury rink has had its share of ups-and-downs this year, but they have the talent to fight for a playoff spot at the Brier if they can find their Tankard form.
Nova Scotia (Team Matthew Manuel)
Club: Halifax Curling Club
Skip: Matthew Manuel
Third: Luke Saunders
Second: Jeffrey Meagher
Lead: Nick Zachernuk
Alternate: Ryan Abraham
Coach: Kevin Patterson
Brier Seed: 12
World Rank: 64
Events Won: Nova Scotia Tankard
Halifax’s Team Matthew Manuel stole a single in an extra end to defeat Team Owen Purcell in the Nova Scotia Tankard final to earn their first trip to the Brier.
In Brad Gushue-like fashion, Team Manuel played with just three people in the final after Jeff Meagher was sidelined with a sickness prior to the game.
Team Manuel have qualified in four of six events this season, making the final of the New Scotland Brewing Men’s Cashspiel in October.
Luke Saunders is the son of six-time Canadian and two-time world champion Colleen Jones.
Manuel’s rink will be in tough to make the playoffs at the Brier.
Newfoundland and Labrador (Team Nathan Young)
Club: RE/MAX Centre and St. John’s Curling Club
Skip: Nathan Young
Third: Sam Follett
Second: Nathan Locke
Lead: Ben Stringer
Alternate: Jeff Thomas
Brier Seed: 13
World Rank: 63
Events Won: Rick Rowsell Classic, Newfoundland and Labrador Tankard
Nathan Young defeated provincial rival Greg Smith in the Newfoundland and Labrador Tankard for the second consecutive year and will represent The Rock at the Brier.
Young, 20, is bringing back the same crew that went 1-7 in Lethbridge, but don’t be surprised to see that number increase by a few with another year of pro seasoning under their belts.
Team Young have made two bonspiel finals on Tour this season, including a win at the Rick Rowsell Classic in St. John’s.
The competition will be much tougher in London, so we’ll see how Young’s crew will perform under the bright lights.
Northwest Territories (Team Jamie Koe)
Club: Yellowknife Curling Club
Skip: Jamie Koe
Third: Glen Kennedy
Second: Cole Parsons
Lead: Shadrach McLeod
Alternate: Stephen Robertson
Brier Seed: 16
World Rank: 228
Events Won: Northwest Territories Men’s Championship
It will be Brier No. 16 for Jamie Koe in London.
After a perfect run at playdowns, the 45-year-old comptroller general will once again represent the North at the Canadian men’s curling championship.
Koe is bringing back a near identical squad to the group that went 1-7 in Lethbridge last year.
Koe’s best Brier finish came in 2012 in Saskatoon where he led his side to the playoffs with a 7-4 record, eventually falling to Manitoba’s Team Rob Fowler in the bronze-medal game.
Nunavut (Team Jake Higgs)
Club: Iqaluit Curling Club
Skip: Jake Higgs
Third: Sheldon Wettig
Second: Brady St. Louis
Lead: Christian Smitheram
Alternate: Terry Lichty
Coach: Blair Evans
Brier Seed: 17
World Rank: N/A
Events Won: Nunavut Tankard
Jake Higgs of Strathroy, Ont., led his squad out of the Iqaluit Curling Club to a close 8-7 victory over Team Peter Mackey in December’s Nunavut Tankard final to punch a second career ticket to the Tim Hortons Brier.
Playing with an entirely different lineup at the Kingston Brier in 2020, Higgs didn’t pick up a win in seven tries.
Will this new lineup give Nunavut their first Brier win in history?
Wild Card 1 (Team Brendan Bottcher)
Team Canada Brier
Club: The Glencoe Club
Skip: Brendan Bottcher
Third: Marc Kennedy
Second: Brett Gallant
Lead: Ben Hebert
Alternate: Paul Webster
Brier Seed: 2
World Rank: 3
Events Won: ATB Okotoks Classic, Canadian Open (Grand Slam)
Brendan Bottcher and his rink of curling superstars won’t be wearing the colour of jersey they want to, but they’ll be just as much of a threat at the London Brier.
Team Bottcher, who were arguably the most notable new formation in men’s curling this past off-season, dropped the Alberta final to provincial rival Team Kevin Koe at a time when they were red-hot.
In January, Team Bottcher won the Canadian Open with a 6-0 record, capped with a win over Sweden’s Team Niklas Edin in the final. They followed that by winning their first four games at Alberta provincials before falling to Team Koe in the final.
Thanks to their high ranking on the CTRS, Team Bottcher will be the Wild Card 1 entry at the Brier.
The foursome – which features a combined 12 Brier Tankards, five world championships and three Olympic medals – won their first bonspiel of the campaign back in September, but had a tough time finding their top form for most of the fall.
However, with the calendar flipped to 2023, it appears Team Bottcher have found something that has ignited them with the Canada championship set to begin.
Bottcher’s crew might be the very early favourite to represent Canada at the 2026 Winter Olympic in Italy.
The London Brier could cement that thought a little more.
Canada (Team Brad Gushue)
Geoff Walker, EJ Harnden and Brad Gushue
Club: St. John’s Curling Club
Skip: Brad Gushue
Third: Mark Nichols
Second: E.J. Harnden
Lead: Geoff Walker
Coach: Caleb Flaxey
Brier Seed: 3
World Rank: 5
Events Won: Pan Continental Championship, National (Grand Slam)
At his 20th career Brier, Brad Gushue will be searching for a fifth Tankard.
A win would give the St. John's, N.L., native the most Brier titles as a skip in history, passing Ernie Richardson, Kevin Martin, Randy Ferbey and Kevin Koe, who all have four.
The 42-year-old Gushue already holds the record for most games played at the Brier with 235 and is two wins away from tying Glenn Howard for the most wins with 164.
We all know the memorable fashion Gushue and company won last year in Lethbridge. The foursome became a threesome after Mark Nichols had to pull out of the tournament following the preliminary round due to a positive COVID-19 result. Playing a man down while being both mentally and physically drained from their bronze-medal performance at the 2022 Winter Olympics, Gushue, Brett Gallant and Geoff Walker managed to sneak by Colton Flasch, Brendan Bottcher and finally Kevin Koe in the championship game to claim the unlikely victory.
The Lethbridge Brier is going to be tough to top, but Team Gushue will try in London.
E.J. Harnden has since joined the rink after Gallant’s departure to Alberta.
Team Gushue should be refreshed and focused after playing a light schedule during the cashspiel portion of the season.
Canada is the team to beat.
Wild Card 3 (Team Karsten Sturmay)
Club: St. Albert Curling Club
Skip: Karsten Sturmay
Third: J. D. Lind
Second: Kyle Doering
Lead: Glenn Venance
Alternate: Kurtis Goller
Brier Seed: 6
World Rank: 17
Events Won: PointsBet Capital Winter Club Repechage, McKee Homes Fall Curling Classic, Ed Werenich Golden Wrench Classic
The third and final wild-card rink will be skipped by a 26-year-old Brier rookie.
Karsten Sturmay fell to Aaron Sluchinski in the Alberta 3 vs. 4 game, but his win over Sluchinski in the final of the Ed Werenich Golden Wrench Classic a month prior proved to be the difference in nabbing a wild-card spot.
Team Sturmay is ranked sixth on the CTRS with 145.750 points while Team Sluchinski is just a few points behind with 139.375.
That win in Tempe, Ariz., will give Sturmay, who has started to make noise on Tour over the last couple years, a chance to show what he has under the bright lights of the Brier.
Sturmay’s crew have played more than 80 games this season, picking up three Tour wins along the way.
If they can avoid a slow start in their first Brier, Team Sturmay might be able to contend for a playoff spot in London.
Ontario (Team Mike McEwen)
Club: Royal Canadian Curling Club
Skip: Mike McEwen
Third: Ryan Fry
Second: Brent Laing
Lead: Joey Hart
Coach: Richard Hart
Brier Seed: 8
World Rank: 25
Events Won: Ontario Tankard
A lineup change has proven to be a game changer for Team Mike McEwen.
McEwen, who is skipping in Ontario this season after a long career in Manitoba, and his rink were mediocre at best through the first four months of the season, posting a 17-19 record before the new year.
Ahead of provincial playdowns, Team McEwen made the difficult decision to part ways with lead Jonathan Beuk, later replacing him with Joey Hart, son of Brier and world champion Richard Hart.
The mid-season lineup shuffle sparked something in the Toronto rink as they looked like a different team in Port Elgin for the Ontario Tankard. Team McEwen went 8-1 over the week-long event, including wins over Team John Epping in the semis and Team Glenn Howard in the final to qualify for the Canadian championship.
McEwen, Ryan Fry and Brent Laing are loaded with Brier experience with a combined 34 appearances among them while Hart will be making his first appearance as a regular in the lineup.
The Winnipegger’s best showing at the Brier was a third-place finish in 2017.
Will Team McEwen keep rolling as the home province rink when rocks fly in London?
Quebec (Team Félix Asselin)
Club: Glenmore Curling Club
Skip: Félix Asselin
Third: Martin Crête
Second: Émile Asselin
Lead: Jean-François Trépanier
Alternate: Pierre Charrette
Brier Seed: 10
World Rank: 29
Events Won: Invitation Valleyfield, Quebec Tankard
It seems like the only time Team Felix Asselin has lost this season are in finals and semifinals.
The Quebec foursome sport a sparkling 31-6 record in 2022-23 and have made the final in four of seven events, winning a Valleyfield bonspiel in early October and the provincial Tankard.
The .837 save percentage should give this group, who already has experience on the national stage, plenty of confidence going into the Brier.
Asselin, 28, has been to three Briers, including the last two as a member of Mike Fournier’s team. London will be his first with full skip duties. Third Martin Crete has played in 10 nationals.
Despite the impressive results, Team Asselin haven’t played many top contenders this season, dropping contests to notable names such as Korey Dropkin, Glenn Howard and John Epping.
Still, you’d have to expect Quebec to be competitive for a playoff spot after missing out last year with a 4-4 record.
British Columbia (Team Jacques Gauthier)
Team Jacques Gauthier
Club: Victoria Curling Club
Skip: Jacques Gauthier
Third: Sterling Middleton
Second: Jason Ginter
Lead: Alex Horvath
Alternate: Rick Sawatsky
Coach: Bryan Miki
Brier Seed: 11
World Rank: 32
Events Won: BC Tankard
Winnipeg’s Jacques Gauthier took over the B.C. rink previously skipped by his cousin Tyler Tardi this season and the change has proven to be successful.
The 24-year-old import won the provincial playdowns in January all while playing with a stomach bug that actually put him in the hospital briefly on the eve of the final. The gutty win earned Gauthier and his team from Victoria a spot in their first Brier.
Gauthier, a Canadian and world junior champion in 2020, will skip one of the youngest teams in London and may be in tough to make the playoffs.
They do have plenty of reps under their belts this season, playing in 50 games and qualifying in five of 10 events, including four of their last five.
Count Team Gauthier as a dark horse if they can keep rookie excitement under control.
New Brunswick (Team Scott Jones)
Club: Curl Moncton
Fourth: Jeremy Mallais
Skip: Scott Jones
Second: Brian King
Lead: Jared Bezanson
Alternate: Chris Jeffrey
Coach: Mark Ward
Brier Seed: 14
World Rank: 112
Events Won: New Brunswick Tankard
Scott Jones is returning to his first Brier since 2017, this time as a skip.
The 51-year-old has played other positions at the national championship in the past, but this is the first time he’ll be calling the game.
Jones throw third rocks with Jeremy Mallais, who has one Brier appearance under his belt, serving as the fourth.
Team Jones defeated three-time defending New Brunswick champ Team James Grattan twice in the province’s playdowns, including a 7-6 win in the semi-final. They took out Team Jason Roach in the final.
Jones and New Brunswick will likely be in tough to contend for a playoff spot at the Brier.
Prince Edward Island (Team Tyler Smith)
Club: Crapaud Community Curling Club
Skip: Tyler Smith
Third: Adam Cocks
Second: Alex MacFadyen
Lead: Edward White
Coach: Sean Ledgerwood
Brier Seed: 15
World Rank: 125
Events Won: Superstore Monctonian Challenge, PEI Tankard
Tyler Smith will represent the Islanders at the Tim Hortons Brier for a second straight year after going 7-1 at the PEI Tankard.
Smith was awarded the spot to the Lethbridge Brier in 2022 after playdowns got the axe because of COVID-19.
Aside from the provincial Tankard, Team Smith have played just one bonspiel this season, winning the Superstore Monctonian Challenge in December.
Despite picking up a lone win in seven tries at last year’s Canadian championship, Smith did make some noise on Twitter after executing this beauty of a pistol.
Yukon (Team Thomas Scoffin)
Thomas Scoffin Yukon
Club: Whitehorse Curling Club
Skip: Thomas Scoffin
Third: Trygg Jensen
Second: Joe Wallingham
Lead: Evan Latos
Coach: Wade Scoffin
Brier Seed: 18
World Rank: N/A
Events Won: N/A
Thomas Scoffin, 28, is bringing back the same squad that went 1-7 at the 2022 Brier in Lethbridge after beating Team Andrew Komlodi in the Yukon Tankard final.
This will be Scoffin’s fourth appearance at the Canadian men’s curling championship and he sports a total record of 3-20.
Scoffin won gold at the Arctic Winter Games in 2008 and bronze at the 2012 Winter Youth Olympics.