By Allison Bamford
Jonathan Brazeau’s passion for sports journalism began at an early age, when he always would reach for the sports section of the morning newspaper—dreaming one day he’d write about basketball or hockey. After graduating from the University of Toronto with a journalism degree and taking a sports journalism program at Centennial College, the Toronto-based journalist landed a full-time gig at Sportsnet in 2014.
However, he began working in a sport that was unfamiliar to him—curling. Today Brazeau is the digital content producer for the Grand Slam of Curling website. He writes features on elite teams, including 2017 World Champions Team Gushue and Team Homan, while recapping games and photographing curling events.
Brazeau has covered several Grand Slam events, but this year was his first time covering the Scotties Tournament of Hearts in St. Catharines, Ont. He spoke with J-Source about finding a passion for a sport he knew nothing about. This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
J-Source: What drew you into curling?
Jonathan Brazeau: At first, I wanted to show that I was willing to do whatever for Sportsnet because that was around the time when I was freelancing. So I was just trying to work as much as I could. When Sportsnet bought the Grand Slam of Curling and they were growing, no one had taken control in terms of writing for curling. I saw it as a great opportunity to build my own profile with Sportsnet and to develop my own following. I definitely didn’t think that I would get into curling because I didn’t curl growing up. I'm more of a basketball and hockey kind of guy, but once I started covering it, interviewing the players and getting to know the strategy of it, I fell in love with the sport.
J-Source: You recently covered the Scotties Tournament of Hearts. What preparation goes into covering an event like that?
JB: I didn't really do much in terms of sitting down and writing notes because I find it almost second nature now that I know who the players are. I can recite their recent stats, so there wasn't much background information I had to dig up, but in terms of what I did there, it was mostly blogging and writing features. That part took some research because then I would try and find players who I maybe hadn't covered elsewhere and focus on new stories.
J-Source: What were your expectations going into it?
JB: I just wanted to have fun and not push myself too hard compared to covering the Grand Slam events. Since Grand Slams are our own event you feel more pressure to cover as much as you can. When I went to the Scotties my expectations were low. I just tried to aim for one feature or one blog a day. And from there, as soon as I started seeing people tweeting and retweeting my stories it just kind of grew and it made me want to do more and more.
J-Source: The Scotties is a weeklong event. What was a typical workday like for you?
JB: I wouldn’t go to the morning draw. That’s usually when the day's just starting and most teams end up playing two games a day so for me there wasn’t a point in going to the morning draw. I would roll in an hour before the second draw, which would have been around one o’clock. I would catch up on the day's news, figure out who won the early games in case anything interesting happened, and then watch the next draw, take notes, get the interviews for that draw and start building my blog. Then the evening draw rolls around and that's usually what I would lead my stories with going forward and if I had grabbed someone for a separate feature that's when I would try to get that done as well. After the final draw, I get my final interviews and try to wrap up the blog as soon as I can. By then it was usually around well after midnight and then try to get some rest after that.
J-Source: What's the key to making curling stories more than just a report on the scores?
JB: The thing is to bring out as much personality of the curlers that you can. For me, writing for a site like Sportsnet, there's a chance that people reading it aren't necessarily curling fans. My stories will go on the homepage of Sportsnet.ca and it will be next to a story on Jose Bautista or it will be next to a story on Connor McDavid. So you try to make your stories not have too much curling lingo or curling jargon.
J-Source: Your next assignment is the Elite 10 for the Grand Slam of Curling. What is your typical day at a Grand Slam event like?
JB: Hectic. I'm usually at the arena for 15 hours a day. I try and be there for every single draw because you just never know what will happen, but also because I'm the only person who is running the website and managing the social media. If I don’t do it, it's not going out and if it's not going out then the fans don’t know what's going on. I feel obligated to make sure I'm there every single minute of every single game, trying to cover as much as I can.
J-Source: What work do you do in the curling off-season?
JB: Usually I take a rest, take a break and try to refocus things. That's when I would try to do other things at Sportsnet such as cover auto racing or plan out the season ahead. There’s a lot of back end stuff I have to do with the website, like getting it ready for the season ahead, fixing the schedule, fixing any rule changes or updating any team profiles. There's definitely a lot of work that goes into the off-season. Nowadays the off-season only goes from May 1 to mid-August. By the time early August rolls around, I start ramping things up because our first event next season is the first week of September.
J-Source: Why do you like covering curling?
JB: It is definitely the thrill of covering live sports. When I do get to go out to the Grand Slam events I love knowing that you’re the source of information when things get out. It is cool that you get to go to places in Canada that you wouldn’t necessarily go to for a vacation. Especially in the past couple years; I’ve literally been coast to coast around Canada.
Allison Bamford recently completed her undergraduate degree at the University of Regina School of Journalism. In 2016, she interned at CTV Saskatoon.