Halifax is about to get its fill of top-notch curling — and a rockin’ good time.

The best men’s curlers in Canada will compete for national supremacy when the Tim Hortons Brier opens Saturday at the Metro Centre, and along with the 81st annual event comes the legendary Brier Patch, where more than a few libations are passed around.

“It’s a festival — a party — and there’s a whole lot more going on than just the curling,” said Newfoundland and Labrador skip Brad Gushue, who gained fame when he won gold at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Italy.

“The Brier Patch might be more legendary than the Brier and the curling. It’s a real good time and the city really comes alive around an event like this.”

The curling doesn’t get much better, and Halifax — which last welcomed the event in 2003 and is now a six-time Brier host — knows from experience. Word among the curlers is Haligonians throw one of the best Briers around.

“To be honest, the 2003 is probably my favourite Brier,” said Gushue, who has yet to win a national title. “We think it’s going to be a pretty good show.”

“It’s a fun-loving crowd,” added 2007 Brier-winning skip Glenn Howard of Ontario. “It’s typical of the Eastern mentality — fun-loving and love life — and you can just sense it when you’re in amongst the crowd.”

Although two-time defending champion Kevin Martin won’t be competing after winning gold at the Vancouver Games, there are some marquee names in the field.

Gushue and former world champions Howard and Jeff Stoughton of Manitoba are among the best on the planet, while others, such as Nova Scotia’s Ian Fitzner-LeBlanc, are looking to make their own names.

“You never know who’s going to come up and grab it,” Howard said. “It really comes down to who’s hottest over the week ... It’s a really strong field and I think it’s going to be a great Brier.”

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