Ottawa — Geoff Walker, the lead on Brad Gushue’s reigning Tim Hortons Brier and world championship curling team, wasn’t always about rocks and rings.
Unlike Gushue, Mark Nichols and Brett Gallant, all of whom never really took to hockey, Walker played the other game on ice, and was a decent player coming up through the minor ranks, playing some all-star.
After bantam, having turned 15, he focused primarily on curling.
But Walker has a hockey background, and he’s a fan of the game. So naturally, he gets a kick out of playing in NHL arenas, like Ottawa’s Canadian Tire Centre, home to the NHL’s Senators.
The building is staging the Canadian Olympic Curling Trials – the Roar of the Rings – this week.
Granted, Ottawa never won a Stanley Cup here, or anywhere else in the modern era, but Wayne Gretzky did play his last game in Canada in this rink.
And speaking of Gretzky, Gallant curled with Team Gushue in the former home of The Great One and the Edmonton Oilers, the old Northlands Coliseum.
Team Gushue curled in the 2013 Brier at Northlands, and won the world championship there last spring.
“Definitely, definitely,” he said when asked if he gets a kick out of curling in NHL rinks. “Growing up in northern Alberta (Beaverlodge), I’m obviously an Oilers fan, so to play in a place where Wayne Gretzky played all those years, where all those Cups were won, yeah, that’s special.”
Last season, Team Gushue used the Western Hockey League’s Edmonton Oil Kings’ room as their change room. The old Oilers locker room was used as meeting room.
Ottawa and Edmonton aren’t the only NHL rinks in which Walker has curled. He played in the 2015 Brier at Calgary’s Scotiabank Saddledome, home to the NHL’s Flames, and a World Curling Tour event at Mattamy Athletic Centre.
The latter name might not ring a bell, but it’s housed in the old Maple Leafs Gardens, above a supermarket, but under the famous ceiling in the Toronto Maple Leafs’ former home.
He’s also curled in a number of junior hockey rinks, in Kamloops and Kelowna, B.C., Saskatoon’s SaskTel centre, where John Slaney scored the big goal for Canada in the 1991 world juniors, Moose Jaw, Sask., Brandon, Man., Kitchener, Ont., and later this season Regina’s Brandt Centre, which is home to the WHL’s Regina Pats and the 2018 Brier.