Provincial berth may be lost

JIM BENDER -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 9:15 AM ET

Bob Picken is concerned. The Manitoba Curling Tour events co-ordinator will be asking teams to confirm that they will be competing in the MCT Championships in Dauphin, Feb. 6-8. But he does not know if the men's winner will still be offered the berth into the 2005 Safeway Select, the big carrot when the current MCT season first started.

The Safeway Select review committee will meet in late January to determine whether exemptions to the Select will be offered to the top point-getting teams on the Canadian Curling Association's Canadian Team Ranking System. If the committee recommends exemptions to the Manitoba Curling Association's board of directors, the MCT men could lose that Select perk as soon as this February.

Incentive

"If they had come out at the beginning of the year and told us that, it would have been different," Picken said. "But there was nothing to indicate that they would take it away from the MCT Championship at that point.

"What are we supposed to tell our people when we are asking them if they are going to Dauphin now? From the MCT's point of view, if it's taken away, it could take away teams' incentive for going to the championship."

At least, both the men's and women's MCT champs will get berths into the new Canada Cup West Bonspiel (but will not get CTRS points as reported here previously). The Cup spiel winner will get an Olympic trials berth while the top four finishers will qualify for the 2005 Canada Cup.

"But we are willing to listen to what they (review committee) have to say," Picken said.

That committee will take a long look at whether to continue awarding provincial berths to both the MCT and Select champs and whether to keep the southern berth bonspiel and/or the MCA bonspiel's minor berth playoff. That would make room to allow the MCA to award exemptions.

First step

The committee, which includes MCT president Andy Stewart, will meet in late January. The MCA board will vote on its recommendations on Feb. 7.

"I hope people understand that this is just the first step in the process," said MCA executive director Ian Staniloff. "Really, nothing is a done deal."

But even the fact that the MCA is considering exemptions flies in the face of its own survey where an overwhelming majority of Manitoba curlers were completely against it.

"But that survey was based on the top teams getting exemptions based on World Curling Tour points," Staniloff said. "Everybody said that wasn't the direction we wanted to go.

"But then, the CTRS came into place and I'm not so sure. The question is different now."


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