The Brier is one of the most prestigious trophies in Canadian curling. A Dominion championship competition for men's curling was inaugurated in 1927, sponsored by the W.D. Macdonald Company for a trophy known as the Macdonald Brier Tankard. This annual event gave curling a significant impetus. It includes one representative rink from each province, plus an extra one from Northern Ontario. In 1975, a rink was entered from the Northwest Territories-Yukon as well, making a total of 12 teams.
Each province (or territory) holds provincial and district playoffs to determine the provincial winner.The winner of the Brier represents Canada in the World Curling Championship (Scotch Cup, from 1959 to 1968, then the Silver Broom). In 1949, Ken Watson (Manitoba) became the first curler to win the Brier 3 times. Matt Baldwin (Alberta) also won 3 times in 1954, 1957 and 1958, before Ernie Richardson (Saskatchewan) won 4 Briers in 5 years between 1959 and 1963. Ron Northcott (Alberta) was another 3-time winner in 1966, 1968 and 1969. Western provinces have dominated the Brier, winning all but 17 of the first 76 championships.
In 1994 the Free Guard Zone, or "three rock rule," was first implemented in an attempt to open up scoring. The 1995 Brier adopted a new playoff format - the Page Playoff system wherein, after round robin play, the 1st and 2nd place teams meet in one game, the 3rd and 4th in another. The winner of 1 vs 2 advances directly to the final. The semi-final is played between the loser of 1 vs 2, and the winner of 3 vs 4. Over 17 000 attended the final day of the 1997 Brier in Calgary, setting a world record.
In recent years, Randy Ferbey's team from Alberta has dominated Brier competition, winning the title for Alberta from 2001 to 2005. However, Alberta lost the title in 2006, with Québec triumphing over Ontario in the final match. Ontario took the title in 2007, but the rink led by Kevin Martin helped Alberta win back-to-back competitions again in 2008 and 2009.
The Brier has changed title sponsorship several times in its over 75-year history: the MacDonald tobacco company held title sponsorship for over 50 years from 1927 to 1980; Labatt brewery assumed the role from 1980 to 2000; Nokia Canada was the sponsor from 2001 to 2004; and Tim Hortons became the current sponsor in 2004.