Mud-slinging days are over

TED WYMAN -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 9:28 AM ET

ST. JOHN'S -- The war of words played out in the media and it rarely reflected favourably on the Grand Slam of curling. Over the last few years, members and executives with the World Curling Tour have had to put out plenty of fires, some set by their own people, others coming from the Canadian Curling Association's flame-thrower and many more fuelled by a seemingly endless supply of bad press.

HURT THEMSELVES

Some so-called Grand Slammers, like Winnipeg's Jon Mead, have admitted the curlers hurt themselves by taking pot-shots at players who didn't support their cause and perhaps not recognizing the reputation it gave them with the average fan.

"Possibly some things could have been done differently," WCT executive director Chad McMullan said yesterday during the opening draw of the $150,000 Players Championship. "There was a huge war in the press with comments here and comments there. But it wasn't a matter of these guys saying that they are better than everyone else. That's not what it's about but that's what it became to a lot of the fans."

McMullan hopes the bad press is in the past, now that the mud-slinging with the CCA has subsided.

"I sort of believe that any press is good press but eventually there comes at time when it just hurts you. It got ugly, but now I think we're back where we want to be and the fan is the winner."

STOUGHTON SMOKIN': Winnipeg's Jeff Stoughton, who can secure a berth in the 2005 Olympic trials with a fourth-place or higher finish here, jumped out to a 2-0 start in round-robin play yesterday.

Stoughton opened with a 6-4 win over last year's Swiss champion Ralph Stockli and followed that up with a 9-4 drubbing of hometown favourite Brad Gushue.

"It's great to be 2-0," Stoughton said. "I wouldn't have been happy with 1-1. It makes you feel like you have to win the last three. We want to go 5-0 but we feel pretty comfortable that if we win two out of our next three we should win our pool."

Winnipeg's Kerry Burtnyk also opened with a win, 10-7 over American Craig Brown, but later lost 8-5 to Brad Heidt of Kerrobert, Sask., and Dave Boehmer of Petersfield also went 2-0, blasting one-time Brier runner-up John Morris of Calgary 8-4 and Edmonton's Jamie King 10-4.

But it's Stoughton who has the most on the line because only he or Wayne Middaugh of Toronto can earn enough Canadian Team Ranking System points to get into the Olympic Trials this week.

"It would be very disappointing if we don't get a trials berth this year," Stoughton said.


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