CONCEPTION BAY SOUTH, N.L. — A small piece of curling history was made Sunday at the Grand Slam of Curling event in Newfoundland and Labrador.
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For the first time ever at a Grand Slam, the men's final was played between two Scottish teams.
Bruce Mouat and Ross Paterson took to the ice in Conception Bay South Arena Sunday afternoon looking to claim the top curling prize and a cheque for $ 30,000, but the team everyone in the arena and across the province wanted on the ice wasn't playing.
The tournament didn't end the way the locals wanted it to but they still showed up at the rink for the men's championship. All week long they packed the arena, cheering wildly every time Team Gushue hit the ice.
The event sold out shortly after tickets went on sale one year ago. But hometown curling heroes Brad Gushue, Mark Nichols, Brett Gallant and Geoff Walker were bounced from the bonspiel in the quarter-finals, opening up the opportunity for the two Scottish teams to take the spotlight.
Back-and-forth they went the entire game, trading single points throughout. It was cautious curling from both sides, perhaps the case because of nerves.
Mouat forced an extra-end after scoring one in the eighth, giving Paterson last rock in the extra.
The Scottish skip made a tricky hit-and-stick to capture his first-ever Grand Slam win, defeating Mouat 4-3. After the game Ross Paterson was overrun with emotion.
"It hasn't quite sunk in yet," Paterson said with tears in his eyes. "I'm a bit emotional thinking about it. I think some people were skeptical about us at the start and maybe didn't give us too much of a chance but we believe in ourselves."
Watch highlights from Paterson's 4-3 win:
For Paterson, the win was even sweeter doing it in front of a lively crowd where curling means a lot.
"It's incredible. You curl for events like this. This is what you dream of growing up and it's a shame our friends and family don't get to experience this with us."
Homan relishes 'fun vibe'
While the men's final was an all-international affair, the women's final was an all-Canadian matchup.
Two of the country's powerhouse teams took to the ice Sunday night in Conception Bay South. Rachel Homan and her rink out of Ottawa was facing Kerri Einarson and the all-skip team from Gimli, Man.
The game was a story of missed opportunities, especially for Einarson who on a number of occasions failed to capitalize on chances throughout the game.
Homan took a 3-0 lead midway through the game after back-to-back stolen single points and never looked back.
She would cruise to her ninth Grand Slam title, defeating Einarson 4-1.
"It wasn't my best game here but this is a great place to win. It was a fun vibe all week and everyone was so friendly. Newfoundland loves curling and I'm sure we'll be back a lot," Homan said.
Watch highlights from Homan's 4-1 win:
The win is also marks back-to-back Grand Slam wins for Homan's team who seem to have found their stride in the first half the season after last year's Olympic disappointment.
"We took the break from last season and are finding that fire again to want to push our game and ourselves. We want to keep getting better more than ever."
Making a return to Newfoundland and Labrador?
There's a case to be made that more national and international events should be hosted in Newfoundland and Labrador.
Yes, it's a fair bit of distance away from most of Canada, which makes travelling and organizing difficult, but the way the fans rally around events makes it worth considering.
There have been less than a handful of such events over the year but they always sell-out in a hurry, creating an incredible atmosphere that the players rant and rave about.
Throughout the week in Conception Bay South, volunteers were buzzing around with smiles on their faces, ready to help at a second's notice. The fans not only cheered and applauded every Gushue shot, they were appreciative of the other teams as well.
There’s a big lineup of fans wanting selfies and signatures from Homan — she’s spending time with every one of them. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/cbccurl?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#cbccurl</a> <a href="https://t.co/Xa6Mv8P1Eu">pic.twitter.com/Xa6Mv8P1Eu</a>
Rumours have swirled the entire week about the same Grand Slam event returning to Newfoundland and Labrador one year from now. From an organizer's perspective, it would seem to make sense to return as it's a guaranteed sold-out event.
When Newfoundland and Labrador gets a chance to host events like this, the people of the province use it to showcase their world-class hospitality — it's something they take tremendous pride in.
Now it appears the curling world is finally taking notice and bringing the roaring game to the Rock with more regularity.