LAS VEGAS — To get to the Orleans Arena where the men's world curling championship is taking place, players, coaches and fans have to pass by a pool party.
Drinks are being downed by curling enthusiasts, the sun is beating down and the music is blaring; this is not your ordinary bonspiel. Not at all.
Only in Vegas would the Patch, known as the party place at curling bonspiels, be located outdoors beside the pool. The fans, many of them from Canada, are soaking it up.
But members of Team Gushue aren't exactly basking in it all.
"This whole Vegas thing, I don't want to say is a distraction but it's hard to get into a routine," skip Brad Gushue said.
"I'm not sure what we can do. It's something we're going to discuss this evening. I'm certainly going to bring it up amongst the team and see if there's something we can do to get more in our bubble."
Gushue and the team from Newfoundland and Labrador just haven't looked comfortable in their first four games of the championship. They have a 3-1 record but could easily be 2-2 after escaping the jaws of defeat Monday afternoon against Italy.
With the score tied 7-7 in the final end, Italian skip Amos Mosaner just missed a double takeout on the last rock of the game which would have handed Canada its second loss.
"We were pretty lucky there for him to miss," Gushue said. "I'm not quite feeling as comfortable as I'd like out there."
This same Gushue team went undefeated one year ago at the world championship in Edmonton. They cruised through the round-robin and beat Sweden in the gold-medal game. They've won the past two Briers as well.
Gushue says a lot of their success has come from being able to stay focused on and off the ice.
When Gushue and company were trying to win their first Brier title two years ago at home they made a point of shutting out the external distractions and just focused on curling.
It worked. They got into a bubble, avoided fans and made sure they weren't just showing up to a party and also curling.
They're now going to try and apply that same sort of mentality to this world championship in Vegas.
"It doesn't feel normal for our team right now," Gushue said. "The guys might have a different perspective, but it's not the same as the past two Briers when we go going really well."
Team lead Geoff Walker agrees with the skip. He says the party is great but can sometimes get in the way.
"It's crazy. We're laying by the pool for our pregame. Usually Brad and I will sit in hot tub before games at other events but here we're sitting in the pool and sun," Walker said.
"It's completely different. And then you have the casino. Eating in the buffet with the fans. You can't escape it."
Canada is sitting in a tie for third place with Scotland, Korea and China. Sweden and Norway are atop the standings in first place.
Team Gushue now gets set to play Korea Tuesday morning and then Japan in the afternoon.
"I still feel at this point if we can win out we can do our job," Gushue said. "We're not paying much attention to the other draws. We're not worried about the other teams."
Ice, ice, baby
The ice crew in Vegas is battling desert heat outside as temperatures soar to 30 degree Celsius. It's been a struggle at times and Gushue says the conditions have been changing from game to game.
"The biggest thing right now is I have to get more comfortable with the ice," he said. "I'm always second-guessing if the broom is in the right spot right now. There a lot of second-guessing."
Mark Nichols, team third, says they're getting valuable information with every shot.
"We're still learning the ice. I liked the ice today it was just different from the first two days," he said.
Learning the ice, staying away from the party. That's the focus now for Team Gushue in Vegas.
"I certainly think playing two games a day will help, but even outside of that we have to find a better strategy to get away from the event and curling," Gushue said.
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