The Brier brings together an incredible product on the ice and lots of fun and excitement off it. In Part Two of a Two-Part series, today we look at the fan experience at Canada’s premier curling tournament being held right here in Lethbridge March 4 to 13 at the Enmax Centre.
Nolan Thiessen is the Executive Director of Marketing and Fan Experience at Curling Canada. He says fans will be coming from all over the country to lend cheer on their champions. “This is always our biggest event. It has so much tradition and history and is a brand that is known across the country and the world. Its very local team driven, and we get lots of fans that will travel from other provinces to support their teams.” When asked if he expects sellout crowds, Thiessen says it really depends on who’s there come playoff time. “Sellouts normally come when the best teams do well. If Kevin Koe out of Alberta or Team Canada’s Brendan Bottcher, who is from Albert does well, that will definitely help.”
When it comes to the off-ice festivities, the place to be during the event is the ‘Brier Patch’ sponsored by Original 16. “We have had it for over 40 years now and it is our entertainment and party place. During the day fans go over and get a bite to eat and a drink between draws. At night we bring in live bands and have a great time. It’s always been the place where curling fans can be around each other and celebrate a little piece of Canadiana that is the Brier.”
Thiessen doesn’t want to give fans the impression that coming to the tournament isn’t family friendly. “We are always trying to improve. We have a game day manager who tries to entertain the fans along with mascots. We try to sell more than just the curling. It’s a nine-day event with 24 curling draws. A lot of times during the week we will bring in classrooms of kids and watch curling as a field trip. We have offerings for adults and families of all ages.”
Thiessen says the curling itself is the main reason people flock to the host city every year. He says the best of the best are here in Lethbridge. “We have the best teams in Canada here. The top nine teams in the Canadian ranking system are competing and they are all in the world top 20. They will be here all under one roof battling to represent Canada.”
Working for Curling Canada isn’t just a job for Thiessen. The sport to him is his passion. “For me, growing up in the sport, I always wanted to play in a Brier and always looked at it with such interest. There is so much emotion on the faces of the players when they are on the ice playing. Its so cool to see all the provincial flags, the bluenose hats, and people with their face painted. It’s a great atmosphere and a piece of Canada and everyone has been missing that for a couple of years so hopefully everyone comes out and shares in that.”