Curiouser and curiouser.
It is rather interesting that a curler from Edmonton is complaining about a competitor from Alberta playing for Manitoba in the Brier when there were just a few eyebrows raised about it here in the Keystone Province.
If you missed it, multiple-Brier champion Randy Ferbey voiced his displeasure over the fact that Edmonton's Kevin Park will play third for Manitoba's Jeff Stoughton at the Brier in Calgary next month.
"I think it's wrong," Ferbey told Sun Media's Terry Jones. "Everybody in the sport knows what a curling traditionalist I am. The Brier is about province versus province."
Now, I have always respected Ferbey's opinions but his timing here is rather suspect.
We never heard this complaint when Park first joined Stoughton last spring. Nor were there rumblings when Stoughton confirmed that the Albertan had met the MCA's residency requirements that would allow him to compete in the Manitoba men's championship.
But maybe it's because Ferbey can now feel Stoughton breathing down his neck in that all-important Canadian Team Ranking System points race. Before last week started, Stoughton was about 66 points behind Ferbey in the three-year CTRS total. Passing him could give Stoughton one of the two remaining direct paths into the 2009 Canadian Curling Trials.
Stoughton earned at least seven points for winning Manitoba on Sunday and there is another 40 up for grabs for the Brier winner. There is also 30 for the runner-up, 25 for third and 20 for fourth. There is another 40-30-25-20 available for the Brier winner who competes at the world championship.
Ferbey did not win Alberta and will not be at the Brier. Although he sits in fourth spot in the CTRS three-year points standings behind Alberta's Kevin Koe (third), Ontario's Glenn Howard and Alberta's Kevin Martin, he cannot improve his points total significantly. (Martin and Howard have already earned direct paths to the trials).
Ferbey does bring up an interesting point about pitting province against province at the Brier. But that has become a rather quaint notion now that the Canadian Curling Trials have so drastically overshadowed the Brier event. However, if the CCA wants to maintain that true provincial rivalry and insist that competitors must prove that they live where they curl, then it needs to stop awarding CTRS points at the Brier and keep it a completely separate entity. And yes, it can stand on its own.
Both Burtnyk and Stoughton have said that this is just a temporary arrangement anyway as both of these Albertans were available and, as former Brier champs, give them the best chance to not only get to the Olympic trials but win them.
After watching New Brunswick's Russ Howard guide Newfoundand's Brad Gushue to Olympic gold, we see little wrong with that. And if Gushue wants to recruit Howard to play for him at the Brier, that's OK, too.
Ferbey also said something about pretending to move to the Territories so he could get to the Brier every year. Well, at least the northeners would have a rep with a legitimate chance of winning the Canadian championship for the first time and that would do wonders for the game in the Great White North.
Meanwhile, it still won't be easy for Stoughton to win this year's Brier, with five other former champs competing.
"Every field's pretty darn good and it's going to be tough, but we'll look forward to it," said Stoughton, the last Manitoban to win the Brier back in 1999.