Nunavut Brier curlers rock their Ontario ties

Territory’s team out for fun at Canada’s top tournament, skip Jake Higgs says

Nunavut’s team at the Brier curling tournament, getting underway Saturday in London, Ont., is made of players with strong ties to both the territory they represent and Ontario. Team members include from left, coach Blair Evans, skip Jake Higgs, Sheldon Wettig, Brady St. Louis, Christian Smitheram, and alternate Terry Lichty. (Photo by Ed Klajman, special to Nunatsiaq News)

By Ed Klajman, special to Nunatsiaq News

LONDON, Ont. – Brady St. Louis is a 25-year-old crane apprentice living in Ontario, but he was born and raised in Iqaluit and still dreams of precious childhood memories of snowmobile rides.

Terry Lichty, 46, was born and raised in Ontario, but has lived in Iqaluit for the past 18 months. As store manager of Northmart Iqaluit, he has quickly developed an intense love for the city and its people.

And then there’s Christian Smitheram. The 30-year-old Canadian North pilot — and another Ontario native who moved to Iqaluit — is realizing the dream of a lifetime as he flies into what he describes as “virtually every Nunavut community, on a regular basis.”

All three are also exceptional curlers. And for the next week, they’ll be joining forces with designated Ontario import Jake Higgs, as well as Manitoban Sheldon Wettig — who was born in Iqaluit before his father was transferred to Yellowknife — to represent Nunavut at Canada’s premier curling bonspiel, the Brier.

On Friday afternoon, the team — representing the Iqaluit Curling Club, and also including London sports psychologist Blair Evans as coach — arrived wide-eyed at London’s Budweiser Gardens, the expansive hockey arena that seats more than the population of Iqaluit.

The team of six immediately slipped into the dressing room to put on their Nunavut uniforms.

Before heading to the ice for the one and only hour of practice each team is allowed before the competition begins, the players took a moment to reflect on what it means to have Nunavut prominently displayed on the back of their jackets.

Each made it abundantly clear they are bursting with pride to be representing the territory.

“It’s the long-forgotten North, the remoteness, that I wear on my back,” said Smitheram, the team’s lead, who throws stones to start each end and handles key sweeping duties.

“It’s so unique to be able to represent such a small population … to be able to come down and represent all the communities of Nunavut that I visit — to know that there is someone sitting in Gjoa Haven or Resolute Bay or Arctic Bay, or any of those communities, and they are there flicking through the TV and they can say, ‘hey, there’s Nunavut.’ That’s so special.”

Lichty, the team’s alternate, or backup player, added, “Anything we can do while we are here to expand the sport of curling in Nunavut, all the better.

“Hopefully, there will be some little kids following along this week that take some interest in the sport and come out and try it at the Iqaluit Curling Club.”

Team Nunavut comes into the event as an underdog. Since 2016 when Nunavut first was given an automatic entry into the Brier, the team has never won a game, so they are taking a 44-game losing streak into this year.

In fact, the team has never even come close to winning a game, often losing by margins such as 16-1 or 15-1 when facing the superstars of the sport, like Olympians Brad Gushue from Newfoundland and Labrador and Alberta’s Kevin Koe.

It means expectations are extremely modest, said Higgs, Nunavut’s skip — the player who calls all the shots and has to throw the decisive last two rocks of each end.

“We just want to be as competitive as we can be,” he said, as the other team members nodded in agreement.

“We realize that against some teams, the odds are stacked heavily against us. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t be successful. So that’s our main goal — to go out and have lots of fun and play the best that we can.”

The first of the team’s eight games is Saturday at 2 p.m., against Newfoundland and Labrador. That’s followed by two games on Sunday, before another two on Monday, one on Tuesday, and two on Wednesday to conclude their schedule.



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(3) Comments:

  1. Posted by Lisa on

    Way to go team. Great win today.

  2. Posted by Lisa on

    Congratulations on your win today.

  3. Posted by Robert Inman on

    It was so special to see Mr. Higg’s have so many of his students in the room cheering him on as he made his shots and finally won the game.

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