What’s On TSN
Mar 6, 2022
It’s been a while, but the Tim Hortons Brier that curling fans know and love returned to its truest form Saturday night.
After playing without fans at last year’s Canadian men’s and women’s curling championships inside the Calgary bubble, the energy inside a packed ENMAX Centre in Lethbridge, Alta., was electric for one of the most anticipated Brier round robin games in some time.
When the final rocks settled, it was the defending champs led by Brendan Bottcher defeating New Brunswick’s James Grattan, featuring former teammate Darren Moulding at third, by a score of 6-4.
From the onset, it was apparent this was not just another game. Of course, this was the game hyped up as the grudge match between former allies who were playing each other for the first time following a very messy and public breakup in December.
The rowdy crowd of 3,390 was in Moulding’s corner throughout the night. There was multiple “Let’s go Moulding!” chants with the 39-year-old ice technician regularly stopping to smile and to pump up the crowd even louder.
Moulding makes the draw and the crowd responds #Brier2022 pic.twitter.com/SI2DDCuUuR
“Never in my wildest dreams, did I ever think I’d have a chant and be cheered like that,” Moulding told the media after the game. “So, it was all worth it. I was actually surprised with how good I felt. I didn’t play amazing. I didn’t play great. We battled hard and made a close game out of it and it felt pretty comfortable and I’m glad to get it out of the way.”
Bottcher and company were the “road team” on this night as the crowd cheered for misses and even tossed in a few heckles here and there, a rarity for the game played on the pebbled ice. Bottcher had no problems with it and enjoyed the atmosphere.
“I thought it was a curling knowledgeable crowd and ultimately it was always going to be a battle,” said Bottcher, who is now 2-0 in Lethbridge. “So, I guess I came into this game expecting it and I was actually glad it lived up to that hype. It was a good venue here tonight.”
You could tell this game meant a lot to Moulding as he needed a moment before speaking to the media after the loss.
“It really hurt, what happened. It really hurt.” an emotional Moulding said of the breakup after the game. “I’m sure we’ll play each other a lot again. I’d like to wear the Canada jersey again. I’m really happy that James and the guys took me on and I’m proud to representing New Brunswick.”
Bottcher, Moulding, second Bradley Thiessen and lead Karrick Martin were one of the best teams this past quadrennial, making four straight Brier finals, winning their first inside the Calgary bubble last year with a win over Kevin Koe in the championship game.
The team struggled at the World Men’s Curling Championship, however, as they finished off the podium. The struggles continued into this season, highlighted by posting a disappointing 3-5 record at November’s Tim Hortons Curling Trials. Less than a week later, the Edmonton rink surprised curling fans everywhere when they announced Moulding was leaving the team due to “personal reasons.”
Moulding quickly took issue with the statement, saying that he did not leave the team on his own accord, but was cut just a few months before he was expecting to represent Canada at the Brier in his hometown of Lethbridge.
Moulding says he’s happy the clash against his former team is over and hopes one day he can look back at the good times they had together.
“I spent five years curling with those guys and I’m really grateful for all the really great experience we had together, and I’ll never forget that,” he said. “So even though it kind of ended badly, I do have a lot of good memories. Hopefully in time that kind of stuff will be more of the memory rather then how it ended.”
Even though Moulding or the crowd didn’t get the result they wanted in Saturday night’s main event, having an atmosphere like we saw in Lethbridge was a long time coming for the sport of curling.