Calgary skip has new rink in tow

TODD SAELHOF, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:37 PM ET

CALGARY - Dean Ross would love to be more than just in the mix again.

The Calgary skip wants to return to the top of the heap -- just like he was three years ago as the Canadian mixed curling champion.

But these days he's hoping to do so as a force among the men of the sport.

With a new rink in tow, consisting of third Don DeLair, second Chris Blackwell and lead Sean Morris, the 47-year-old veteran believes he may well have found the right chemistry to ice such a title.

"I don't know that anybody fears us out there," said Ross, who knows what it's like to be a favourite on the national and international stages after earning the right to represent Alberta and Canada as a mixed champ three years ago. "But on (the World Curling Tour), everybody knows us, and I don't think they see us as being under the radar.

"All the teams we play against, they all know who we are. I don't think anybody feels they're just going to come out and walk on us or anything."

Who they are so far are World Financial Group Classic kings after an early-season victory. Ross' first WCT win came after an 8-6 extra-end, final-game effort over decorated veteran Don Walchuk at Calgary's Garrison Curling Club in September.

Who they are next week -- or so they hope -- are Cactus Pheasant Classic champions. Ross and his revamped rink -- with new additions DeLair, a former skip, and Morris -- boast a bevy of confidence heading into the $70,000 high-profile WCT event, beginning Thursday in Brooks.

"It's a tough field, so winning it would be phenomenal," said Ross of a 24-team event that features Glenn Howard, defending Brier champ Kevin Koe and Olympic king Kevin Martin. "It would be great to win not only for the money but also because there's a berth in the Canada Cup on the line.

"But the biggest thing for us is to play more," Ross continued. "Deep down, you know you're not going to qualify for playoffs in every spiel you play in, but we want to qualify for playoffs in more events. And later in the year, we're gunning for playdowns in the province."

Oh ... to be on top again.

"When you win a Canadian championship, people obviously get to know who you are," added Ross, who was crowned national mixed champion in 2007 with fellow Albertans Susan O'Connor, Tim Krassman and Susan Wright. "On the (World Curling Tour), it's hard for a team like us to get a lot of press or news without winning a lot or qualifying for the playoffs at events. The more you qualify, the more you have a chance of winning and getting recognized."

Extra ends

Other Calgary teams competing in the Cactus Pheasant Classic are Brent Bawel, Terry Meek, Steve Petryk and Brock Virtue. The Brooks event, which features a live internet feed of draws available at pheasantclassic.com, is slated to begin Thursday at 8:30 a.m. and wrap up with Sunday's 2 p.m. final. The WCT stop boasts the Cactus Patch -- just like the infamous Brier Patch -- where Canadian musical guests Beverley Mahood and Streetheart will entertain curling fans ... Two Calgary rinks came up short of playoff berths over the weekend at the $60,000 Manitoba Lotteries Women's Curling Classic in Winnipeg. Cheryl Bernard finished 4-3, while Lisa Eyamie went 3-3. Both were bounced from the event by Cathy Overton-Clapham in the 'C' event. Winnipeg's Cathy Overton-Clapham faced Chelsea Carey of Morden, Man., in Monday night's final of the WCT event ... The 2011 Women of Curling Calendar went on sale last week, with Bernard and Winnipeg's Jennifer Jones among the 13 female athlete models. The all-Canadian calendar, with risque-ish photos of known national curlers, costs $29.95 and is available at womenofcurlingcalendar.com. Proceeds of The Curling News-produced calendar go to Shoot For A Cure spinal cure research. "They had asked me for quite a few years to pose, and I had always said, 'No,' as you didn't get to choose what you wore, etc., and it was a little too risque for me," Bernard said. "So when they told me this year that I could pose in whatever -- just as long as it meant something to me -- I said, 'Yes!' I wanted to portray fitness and strength at any age. I ran the photo by my common-in-law, Terry, as it was important he was good with it. It was a lot of fun to do, and I hope they raise some great money for charity." ... This just in: youtube.com/watch?v=-m4PF9yVOtQ. It's a video tribute to the Olympic silver-medal winning season of Calgary's Team Bernard.

Last rock

The WCT's $35,000 Colonial Square Ladies Classic runs Friday through Sunday in Saskatoon.

todd.saelhof@sunmedia.ca


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