LONDON, ONT. – Jim Cotter and his B.C. rink may have been eliminated at the Tim Hortons Brier, but there’s still plenty for Vernon curling fans to cheer for during championship weekend.
Jamie Danbrook, the 22-year-old who grew up in Vernon and represented British Columbia at the Canadian Juniors in 2005 and 2008, is the lead on Brad Gushue’s Newfoundland and Labrador squad that finished in first place in the round-robin.
In the one-versus-two page playoff Friday night, Danbrook and his rink mates lost 7-6 in 11 ends to Jeff Stoughton of Manitoba. The win moved the Winnipeg foursome into Sunday’s final, while Danbrook’s team must play a semifinal against either Kevin Martin of Alberta or the Glenn Howard rink representing Ontario. Danbrook will then play again on Sunday – either for bronze in the afternoon, or for gold at night.
“It’s been so exciting,” said Danbrook, who now lives in St. John’s and works as a sales representative for Bell Mobility. “It’s been a great atmosphere. I’ve got a chance to meet lots of people. It’s probably one of the first times where I walk around and someone recognizes me so that’s kind of a cool feeling.”
Danbrook moved to Prince Edward Island three years ago to play for Brett Gallant’s team. They went on to win a Canadian junior title in 2009 and a silver medal at the worlds that year. Then he moved to St. John’s to curl with the Matt Blandford rink for a season. That led to a tryout this fall with the high-profile Gushue squad and the next thing he knew he was curling in major events and on his way not only to his first Brier, but playing on a contending team.
“The mind set when I joined the P.E.I. rink was ‘let’s win worlds,'” explained Danbrook. “That transition from that junior experience definitely has helped with this because now being in the playoffs is not as much of a shock. And these guys are amazing throwers so I just have to put mine (shots) in the best spots possible and they’ll make the rest.”
He added: “I moved a long way to get where I am today, and to play well out here just means that much more. I’ve worked my whole life to get to this point and I really want to prove myself as someone freshly out of juniors that I can actually play at this level.”
He said it has been a thrill to have his parents in London to watch him in his first Brier, to get “20 to 30 e-mails a day” from friends back in Vernon, and also to connect with the Jim Cotter team. He said he was rooting for them in all their games except the one against his own team, which B.C. won early in the week, handing Newfoundland and Labrador one of only two losses the team had in the round-robin.
“Of course I cheer for them, it’s my home province. And my hometown is represented,” said Danbrook. “And they’re great guys too. Jim, Kevin (Folk), all of them – they’re really good guys and they’ve been supporting me. I grew up idolizing Kevin because he won the juniors back in 2000 and it’s really cool to see them at the Brier.”
As for Cotter, his squad – which also includes third Ken Maskiewich, Folk at second and lead Rick Sawatsky – finished the week with a disappointing 4-7 record.
“We’re over it now for sure,” said Cotter, a 36-year-old computer programmer. “We’re all pretty competitive so of course we’re disappointed but at the same time we’re at the Brier and people play their entire lives to try and get here so it feels good.”