Team Nunavut's excitement at the 2018 Tim Hortons Brier was clear, with one phrase repeated multiple times among them: "We are going to the show."
The 2018 Canadian men's curling championship will represent a monumental step forward for Nunavut curling on the national stage. This year will be first time the territory will participate in the main Brier draw and make it a true national event, with all provinces and territories represented in the round-robin pool stage.
Nunavut first participated in the Brier in 2016 when Wade Kingdon was skip and his Iqaluit Curling Club squad played in a pre-event qualification round to enter the main draw. They didn't win a game but secured a foothold on the Brier's future.
"The important thing is we are here", said Kingdon from Ottawa in a 2016 interview with Nunavut News. "People are happy we are here, we are happy to be here, it's a great thing … it's the Brier."
The new format means that all four players will officially be recorded as Brier competitors in the record books, rather than going unmentioned or on a second sheet under "pre-qualifying event."
Nunavut's skip, David St. Louis, put it all in perspective.
"We are going to be playing against the best in Canada and those are some of the best in the world," he said.
St. Louis will skip an Iqaluit trio of Kingdon, Peter Mackey and Jeff Nadeau and they will have to be in best form in Regina as their pool of eight includes Canadian, world and Olympic champions.
"It's very exciting." said Mackey, "We look forward to being here (as) this is a real opportunity for us to play in this forum (and) it will help us get better."
St. Louis is credited with being one of the founders of curling in Nunavut and the Iqaluit Curling Club. He also sees this as a step forward for Curling in Canada's youngest territory.
"I was part of starting curling in the North (referring to Nunavut) 12 years ago and now we are at the Brier. It's amazing," he said.
Nunavut has not yet won a game at the Brier but has progressed over the last three years through closer games in the pre-qualification event. Increased inclusion and participation has Mackey expecting that improvement to continue.
"Every game we get at this level helps us as curlers and we can then pass that knowledge on to others," he said. "We don't play a lot outside of the club (due to the logistics and expense) so these games make us stronger on the national stage."
When asked about their aim going into the event, both St. Louis and Mackey agreed their goals need to be set at the personal level rather than win/loss records.
"I want to take it all in and enjoy the moment and play my best," said St. Louis.
"I want to see us be there for all 10 ends in every game and play well. I think that's reasonable," Mackey added. "We want to be there until the end in every draw."