We’re on location this week at the Tim Horton’s Brier in St. John’s, Newfoundland & Labrador. Here are some #sportsbiz sights and sounds from the event so far.
- The last time the Brier was hosted in St. John’s back in 1972, Macdonald Tobacco was the title sponsor of the event. The company sponsored the event from 1927-1979 and “Brier” originally referred to a brand of tobacco they sold. Tim Horton’s has been the title sponsor since 2005. In between it was Labatt (1980-2000) and Nokia (2001-2004).
Venue & Attendance
- This year’s Brier is being held at Mile One Centre in downtown St. John’s. The stadium’s capacity is 6,247 for hockey, making it one of the smallest venues to host the Brier in the last two decades.
- The largest crowds so far (and cheers) have been reserved for the hometown Newfoundland & Labrador team of Brad Gushue, Mark Nichols, Brett Gallant, and Geoff Walker. While there’s been noticeably more empty seats for non-Gushue games, the announced (paid) attendance has been at near sellout levels.
- The attendance through eight draws has been 50,029, representing 86% capacity. The Brier attendance record is 281,985, set at Rexall Place in Edmonton in 2005.
- Brier merchandise and souvenirs are for sale on the concourse in what’s usually IceCaps Alley, the AHL St. John’s IceCaps official apparel store.
The Brier Patch
- The Brier Patch is happening at the newly renovated St. John’s Convention Centre, which is attached by pedway to Mile One Centre. Capacity is 2,200, which has presented some challenges. For example, on Saturday night, people were reportedly being turned away due to capacity being reached. Although, we managed to get in with no problems towards the end of draw 2.
- There’s plenty to keep fans occupied at the Brier Patch, from live bands and table curling, to lots of food and drink. Bands playing during the week include local favourites Shanneyganock and The Punters.
- All beer products being sold at the Brier Patch (and Mile One) are Molson. Molson is a silver sponsor for this year’s event and have exclusivity at Mile One as a major sponsor of the AHL’s St. John’s IceCaps. One of the liquor options available at the bar is Forty Creek Whisky, who are an official partner of the Brier. Beer and drink tokens are being sold for $7.
- There are a number of food stations setup at the Brier Patch, all with different themes. Our favourite was The Newfoundland Kitchen which included Newfoundland culinary staples such as fries, dressing, and gravy, fish and chips, and blueberry figgy duff. Prices range from $4.75 for soup to $15 for a buffet that includes mac and cheese and salad.
- Ford, a Season of Champions sponsor, has an activation setup at the Brier Patch called “Escape the Escape” where fans can win prizes if they are able to escape the vehicle (by answering questions…think escape room) within an allotted period of time. Ford is also the backdrop for the autograph sessions happening daily at the Brier Patch.
- Title sponsor Tim Horton’s has a large brand presence inside Mile One, including prominent placement on the ice, center ice videoboard, end zone scoreboards, and rink digital displays. Fans cannot buy Tim Horton’s inside the building but they do have a truck parked outside Gate 4.
- Season of Champions sponsors such as Home Hardware, Ford, and Kruger Products (Scotties, Kashmere, etc.) have a presence on the ice, end zone scoreboards, and rotating impressions on rink digital displays. Others like New Holland have a booth on the main concourse.
- Local silver and bronze sponsors including RMS, Quikprint, and Country Ribbon have rotating impressions on the center ice videoboard.
- There’s no traditional media bench in St. John’s. The organizers have saved those seats for fans. As a result, media (and a makeshift TSN booth) is setup at the top of sections 114-116 at the east side of the building. The area is normally party box space at St. John’s IceCaps games.
- TSN is broadcasting the event nationally with Vic Rauter delivering the call from Mile One alongside analysts Russ Howard and Cheryl Bernard. Bryan Mudryk is handling the morning draws with Gauthier providing analysis. TSN’s exclusive live coverage is available on TSN and on-demand to TSN subscribers via TSN.ca/Live and the TSN GO app. French-language coverage is available on RDS.
- There are a number of local media partners who are covering this year’s event including The Telegram, Steele Communications (K-Rock, HITS FM, VOCM), NTV/OZFM, and Coast 101.1. The Telegram has news stands located the concourse with copies of the Tankard Times, the official daily paper of the Brier (Tankard Times is also available in digital format).
- The economic impact for the city of St. John’s has been clear as people have travelled from across the country to take in this year’s Brier. Unlike other events that are one day or a weekend, the Brier is a 10-day event that happens outside the peak summer tourism months. The result is a big boost to local hotels, restaurants, and shops during otherwise slow weekends in March. At the Brier Patch, we were approached by a representative who was capturing data on behalf of the City of St. John’s and STEP St. John’s. Questions included where we were from and how much we spent on flights.
- Local businesses have embraced the Brier with open arms as many stores in the downtown area are displaying signs of support in their windows and promoting Brier specials on their menu. For example, the YellowBelly, a micro-brewery restaurant on the corner of Water Street and George Street, has a new beer on their called the Shot Rock. Up on Duckworth Street, the Newfoundland Chocolate Company was one of three #BrierWelcome window winners with their elaborate (and yummy) window display. Kudos to the organizers for engaging not only local businesses, but also schools and community groups leading up to this year’s Brier. It feels like the entire community is behind the event.
Stay tuned for more coverage from this year’s Brier including a conversation this weekend with event organizer Eugene Trickett.