Brad Gushue — the curler who might not have been

LAS VEGAS — Brad Gushue the curler — it’s hard to imagine the Newfoundland and Labrador skip doing anything else but throwing granite down a sheet of pebbled ice, making shot after shot. That’s how fans of the sport around the world have come to know him.

But there was a time when Gushue’s curling dream might have never transpired.

Ray Gushue, Brad’s dad, didn’t want his son curling. He knew nothing about the sport. It was all hockey, all the time. Besides, what Canadian kid grew up with dreams of being an elite curler, Ray thought.  

“I never wanted him to curl in the first place. I wanted him to play hockey. It’s what I wanted but not what he wanted,” he said sitting in his seat at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas. 

Brad had grown up in St. John’s playing hockey and another season was about to get underway when everything changed. 

Mother Maureen said she’ll never forget the day they broke the news to her husband that son Brad was hanging up his skates for the curling broom. 

“It was in September, just before the hockey season,” she recalled. “Ray said he needed new skates and equipment and I said we shouldn’t waste money on it. I had known Brad wasn’t interested.”

Ray didn’t listen. He went out and spent upwards of $ 1,000 on new equipment for his son. He was going to make sure his son played hockey. 

“I think he might have went to one or two practices. And then Brad had a practice on a Saturday morning and Ray came home to take him,” Maureen said. 

Brad, 13 at the time, and his mom were waiting to tell his father he wasn’t going to practice that morning and wouldn’t be attending another one. He was quitting hockey. Sparks flew.

“I still remember him firing the hockey equipment down the stairs and cursing and swearing and walking off,” Brad said with a smile. “Mom had to go cool him down.”

Ray Gushue, left, and wife Maureen have been on quite the ride watching their son compete through the years. (Devin Heroux/CBC Sports)

Best decision ever

All these years later Ray calls it the best decision ever.

“His mom won as usual. Best move both of them ever made. I would have never seen as much as the world as I have if it wasn’t for this,” he said. 

Brad admits it took his dad a little while to warm up to the sport but is happy to see he’s come around — winning has helped.

“I still tease him about it. At that moment he wasn’t very happy and I was going into a sport he knew nothing about. Curling isn’t part of our family. My sister and I are first generation curlers.”

It’s approaching 25 years since Brad started getting serious about curling. His parents have been there alongside through it all.

Proud Parents

Today, Ray’s claim to fame is being known as “Brad’s dad”. He even has a shirt he wears with that on it. 

There have been great moments, bad moments and everything along the way. 

“I sit here watching sometimes and think, is it really my son?” Maureen said. 

She points the win at the 2017 Brier in St. John’s as being her proudest moment, right up there with his Olympic gold medal win in 2006.

“Last year topped it all. Winning at home,” she said.

For Ray, seeing his son win the trials in Halifax to represent Canada at the Olympics is his proudest moment, especially considering everything that was going on with the family at that time. His wife had been diagnosed with cancer just a couple of months before the trials.

“There was a lot of stress with Maureen battling cancer and knowing what she was going through. Brad was able to handle it all and from then on he just keeps handling himself so well.”

Making memories with family

There was a time when Brad didn’t have the perspective of what it meant to be on this curling journey with his mom, dad, wife and daughters. He was so hyper-focused on winning that everything outside of the game was secondary. 

Winning the 2017 Brier at home in front of the St. John’s fans was something the Gushue family will forever cherish.(Devin Heroux/CBC Sports)

That’s all changed. Sure, winning his first-ever Brier and then another one this past March has helped ease some of the pressure. But Brad said he’s matured in the sport and life, and can appreciate it all in a different way now.

“Sometimes it’s not about winning but what happened with your team and family during the week of competition,” he said.

“When we look back on this in 20 years we might not remember a certain loss or win, it’ll be hanging out by the pool having a laugh.”

Now he will look to win a second consecutive world curling championship this week in Las Vegas. 

His mom, who helped pave the way for all of this since day one, has a good feeling about how it’ll finish. 

“He’s still got the fire in him. He still wants to win and really doesn’t like losing,” she said.

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