Icemen set to kick off new season

KIRK PENTON -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 7:01 AM ET

They're going back on the ice! No, not those guys. We're talking about the curlers.

The Wheat City Classic, co-sanctioned by the World and Manitoba Curling Tours, is one of two events that will kick off the 2004-05 campaign this afternoon.

Twenty-eight rinks will battle over the next five days for the $12,000 first prize at Brandon's Wheat City Curling Club. The other WCT event on this weekend's slate is the Shorty Jenkins Classic in Brockville, Ont.

The Wheat City Classic was hoping to attract 32 squads, but chairman Gary Poole, who's also competing this weekend on the Al Lyburn rink, believes there are several factors that led to the smaller field. One is Shorty's event and another is a renegade cashspiel in Edmonton that apparently never got off the ground.

"That took all our teams from out there, because (Randy) Ferbey was supposed to come and (John) Morris was supposed to come, and (Jamie) King and (Jamie) Koe, too."

A late harvest didn't help either, Poole said.

Ferbey called Classic organizers last week to see if his rink could enter the event, but the 28-team field had already been set.

Even without Ferbey, the field is still an impressive one.

Last year's WCT money winner, Winnipeg's Jeff Stoughton, is back to defend the win he wasn't even part of last year. Stoughton missed the event due to the birth of his third child, but Glenn Howard guided his rink to victory over Winnipeg's Kerry Burtnyk, who's also back.

"We've got pretty much everyone from Manitoba and Saskatchewan, and most of those guys can still play," Poole said.

The past two U.S. champs -- Pete Fenson and Jason Larway -- are also in the field.

Every 6 p.m. draw, plus Monday's final, will be broadcast live on the Westman and Shaw cable channels.


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