THE BRIER IN BRIEF: A Brief History of the Brier
 - from the Edmonton Journal -
The Brier has a colourful and dramatic history that can be compared to the Stanley Cup or the Grey Cup. The first Brier was held in 1927 at Toronto's Granite Club. There were eight rinks including foursomes from Toronto, Montreal, and Saskatchewan, the only Western Canadian representative. In 1928, three rinks from Western Canada competed, although one of them, Joe Heartwell's rink from the Rosetown Curling Club in Saskatchewan, actually represented Alberta. His team lost the Saskatchewan playoffs, but entered the Alberta playdowns and won.
The Brier's home was Toronto for the first 13 years. During that time Manitoba set a record by winning five Briers in a row from 1928-32. Winnipeg's Gordon Hudson became the first two-time and consecutive Brier winner with victories in 1928 and 1929. He was also the first of 12 Brier-winning skips to go undefeated, posting a 9-0 mark in 1929.
Prince Edward Island and British Columbia joined the Brier field in 1936.
The Brier went "national" in 1940 when it moved from Toronto to Winnipeg. It has since been contested in 28 different cities, from Victoria to St. John's.
The late 1940's saw the first of a then-record ten Brier appearances by Garnet Campbell, from the Avonlea Curling Club in Saskatchewan. Campbell made his debut as a 16-year-old at the 1947 Brier in Saint John, New Brunswick. British Columbia's Bernie Sparkes eclipsed that record in 1984 in Victoria, when he made his 11th Brier appearance. He competed again in 1987 to finish with 12 Brier appearances.
At the 1949 Brier in Hamilton, Manitoba skip Ken Watson went undefeated at 9-0 to become the first triple Brier winner. Watson had earlier captured the 1936 and 1942 Briers.
In 1951, Newfoundland joined the Brier, and although there were some lean years ahead for the province, it astounded curling fans with a memorable 1976 Brier win in Regina, under skip Jack MacDuff.
Alberta started making a name for itself at the Brier in the fifties. Matt Baldwin, from the Edmonton Granite Curling Club, skipped his rink to three triumphs in 1954, 1957 and 1958.
Ron Northcott from the Calgary Curling Club kept things going in the sixties. He took his rink to three Brier triumphs in 1966, 1968 and 1969.
Nothcott's Alberta adversary during that time was Hec Gervais, "The Friendly Giant" from Edmonton. He skipped teams to Brier victories in 1961 and 1974.
The Yukon/Territories (NWT) joined the Brier field in 1975 but have yet to crown a champion. Quebec got its only win in 1977. Jim Ursel's St. Laurent rink sent the hometown fans home happy at the Brier in Montreal.
At the 1980 Brier in Calgary the current trophy, the Labatt Tankard was awarded for the first time. It went to Rick Folk's Nutana Curling Club rink from Saskatoon.
The 1981 Labatt Brier in Halifax was a real nail biter. There were two tie-breakers one of which went into an extra end. A semi-final that went to an extra end and a dramatic last shot, come from behind win for Manitoba's Kerry Burtnyk. He scored three in the final end to edge out Northern Ontario and give Manitoba its 21st Brier victory. The 22-year-old Burtnyk became the Brier's youngest winning skip, and his team of Mark Olson, 23, Jim Spencer, 22 and Ron Kammerlock, 21 became the youngest to capture a Brier with an average age of 22.
The drama coninued in 1985. The Brier in Moncton went to an extra end to determine the champion. It was only the second time that a final went to extra ends, and ironically the other time was also in Moncton, in 1956, when Billy Walsh of Manitoba edged Alf Phillips Sr. of Ontario, 8-7. This time Northern Ontario got the best of Alberta. Alberta's Pat Ryan was leading the final 5-3 after nine ends. But in the tenth, Northern Ontario's Al Hackner made a dramatic double takeout to score two and send the game into an extra end. Ryan let victory slip through his fingers when he failed to make a draw to the four-foot giving Northern Ontario a steal of one and the title.
Alberta was able to get back on the winning track the next year in Kitchener. Ed Lukowich from Calgary beat Ontario 4-3 by counting one in the last end.
In 1987 the Brier came to Edmonton and was a sell out at the Northlands AgriCom. Alberta was represented again by Pat Ryan. But there was no stopping Russ Howard of Ontario. He captured the title in dramatic fashion by scoring five with his last rock in the tenth to erase a 7-6 deficit and won 11-7.
The 1988 Brier in the twin cities of Chicoutimi-Jonquiere, Quebec gave Alberta's Pat Ryan a chance for redemption. He had lost the final in a heart breaker three years before and was a disappointment at the `87 Brier in his hometown of Edmonton. This time, Ryan, like in 1985, led his team to an unbeaten record of 11-0 in round robin play. Ryan had to stay unbeaten to finally take home the Tankard. And he did it, but not without a heart stopping finish. Ryan trailed 7-5 going into the final end, but was counting three when Saskatchewan Skip Eugene Hritzuk threw his last rock. It didn't even make it accross the hog line and Ryan had his first Brier win. It was also the 15th title for Albertra.
Pat Ryan made it back the 1989 Labatt Brier in Saskatoon. He beat Rick Folk of British Columbia 3-2 in the lowest scoring Brier final. The win gave Ryan back to back championships. It was the first time a skip won consecutive titles since Manitoba's Don Duguid did it in 1970 and `71.
In 1991 Edmonton's Kevin Martin won in Hamilton, capturing the first of his two Briers. In the final, Martin trailed Saskatchewan's Randy Woytowich 3-2 after five ends. But Martin scored four in the sixth end to move ahead for good.
The 1994 Brier saw the first use of the Free Guard Zone or Three rock rule. The rule change was implemented in the hope of opening up the game, creating more shot-making opportunities and leading to more scoring. The crowds in Red Deer saw Pat Ryan win again. But this time he was playing third for Rick Folk of British Columbia. BC easily beat Ontario in the final.
In 1996 Edmonton's Kevin Martin was back in the final at the Brier held in Kamloops, British Columbia. But Martin couldn't solve Manitoba's Jeff Stoughton. The final game was the third meeting of the two teams in Kamloops. Stoughton had taken the first two and he made three with a steal of one in an extra end to win the Brier. The win gave Manitoba it's 25th championship.
The 1997 Labatt Brier in Calgary set the mark for attendence. The crowds totalling 223,322 smashed the previous attendence record of 151,538, set in Saskatoon in 1989. Kevin Martin was back and this time he wouldn't be denied. In a real barn burner Martin came from behind to beat Vic peters of Mantitoba 10-8 for his second Brier win.
 From the CCA's Official website:
The 1998 Labatt Brier was staged at the Winnipeg Arena, returning to the city which had hosted the Canadian Men's Curling Championship on three previous occasions (with Manitoba winning each time), but not since 1970.
The Brier was won that year by Winnipeg's Don Duguid. Ironically, Don's son Dale had earned the right to represent Manitoba at the 1998 renewal. Joining Duguid was favoured Wayne Middaugh of Ontario, who had captured the 1993 Brier and Worlds as second for Russ Howard. The field also featured two veteran skips, Alberta's Tom Reed and Newfoundland's Toby McDonald, who last appeared in the 1977 and 1981 Briers, respectively. McDonald was also a member of his province's 1976 miracle Brier-winning team under skip Jack MacDuff.
At the conclusion of the round robin, Middaugh finished first, as expected, with a 10-1 record, but in a big surprise, Quebec's Guy Hemmings earned second place, at 8-3, followed by Manitoba, Saskatchewan (Rod Montgomery) and British Columbia (Greg McAulay), each at 7-4. In a tie-breaker to determine fourth place, Saskatchewan edged B.C. 3-2. Then, in Page Playoff pairings, Manitoba eliminated Saskatchewan 6-3, while Ontario walloped Quebec 10-4.
In the semi-final, Hemmings took out Duguid 7-5 to set up a rematch with Middaugh. But the Ontario skip proved too strong, winning 7-4 to claim the Labatt Brier Tankard. It was the eighth Brier win for Ontario. The final attendance of 147,017 was the third highest in Brier history, behind only Calgary (223,322 in 1997) and Saskatoon (151,538 in 1989).
Middaugh then went on to Kamloops, B.C., to represent Canada at the Ford World Curling Championships. His team of Graeme McCarrel, Ian Tetley and Scott Bailey continued its championship form by finishing first with an 8-1 record at the conclusion of the round robin. Then, they whacked Finland 9-2 in a semi-final, before edging Sweden, skipped by defending world champion Peter Lindholm, 7-4 in the final, giving Canada its 25th men's world crown since 1959.
The 1998 Labatt Brier also marked the first time that the Canadian Curling Association provided real time scoring at the event, following a successful test run at the 1997 Olympic Curling Trials. Webmaster Mike Potter provided the audience with up-to-the-second scoring, which would eventually become commonplace at all major championships.
In 1999 the Brier was held in Edmonton. Quebec's Guy Hemmings returned to the Final again, only to be defeated 9-5 by Manitoba's Jeff Stoughton. It was Manitoba's 26th Brier title. The old attendance record set in Calgary was smashed, with 242,887 fans attending this year's Brier.
 From the CCA's Official website:
The 1999 Labatt Brier, held at the Skyreach Centre (formerly Northlands Coliseum), March 6-14 in Edmonton, held great promise, both on and off the ice. There was optimism that an attendance record would be established in the 15,500 seat venue, eclipsing the mark set by the city's friendly southern rival, Calgary, in 1997.
On the ice, 1996 Labatt Brier and world champion Jeff Stoughton would face, amongst others, two-time world champ Russ Howard, who was representing a new province, New Brunswick, after eight previous appearances as an Ontario skip. Howard had moved to the Maritimes as a golf pro.
Also back was Quebec's Guy Hemmings, who became so popular to fans during his attempt to win the 1998 Labatt Brier in Winnipeg, falling to Ontario's Wayne Middaugh in the final. So too was B.C. skip Bert Gretzinger, who played second for Rick Folk when they won the 1994 Brier and Worlds.
At the conclusion of the round robin, Stoughton and Hemmings tied for first with 8-3 marks, but the Manitoban was awarded first for his round robin win. Saskatchewan's Gerald Shymko, Nova Scotia's Paul Flemming and New Brunswick's Russ Howard tied for third with 7-4 marks, but Shymko earned third from round robin wins over both.
In a tie-breaker, Howard eliminated Flemming, 5-4, but then lost to Shymko, 6-4 in the 3 vs 4 Page Playoff game. Stoughton defeated Hemmings 6-4 in the Page Playoff 1 vs 2 game to advance to the final. Hemmings came back to edge Shymko 6-5 in an extra end semi-final to earn a rematch with Stoughton in the final. But Stoughton and his Winnipeg Charleswood Curling Club team proved too strong, winning 9-5.
It was Stoughton's second Brier win. His team would then represent Canada at the Ford Worlds in Saint John, New Brunswick. After finishing the round robin in first place, he lost an extra end final to Scotland's Hammy McMillan, 6-5.
The 'black hat' hospitality of the City of Champions proved enticing enough to establish a Brier attendance mark of an incredible 242,887, eclipsing the 223,322 set in Calgary in 1997.
In 2000 the Brier was held in Saskatoon. One of the highlights of this year's Brier was Prince Edward Island's 7-ender; the first 7-ender in fifty years, and the only STEAL of seven! Another was the attendance record set last year in Edmonton was surpassed yet again this year, with 248,973 fans making their way through the turnstiles. That makes three out of the past four years that record-setting crowds witnessed the best curling in the world. Yet another highlight was the stellar performance by the Greg McAulay rink from British Columbia. After finishing the round robin at 9-2, they went on to defeat Russ Howard's New Brunswick rink 5-3 in the Page Playoff game, and again 9-5 in the Final.