Oly berth Stoughton's main goal

JIM BENDER -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 7:30 AM ET

It is not a threat, boycott or a reaction made in anger.

But there is a chance that Jeff Stoughton will not enter any provincial qualifiers this season now that the Manitoba Curling Association has decided to award its new exemption into the Safeway Select to Manitoba's top Canadian Team Ranking System points-getter based on this season (to Dec. 31) rather than revert to last year's (Stoughton) -- as The Sun reported last week.

Although the Charleswood foursome made sure that the MCA knew it would commit to the Select in Selkirk if its board of directors gave Stoughton that exemption, the board decided to start fresh. Stoughton had said previously that the awarding of the exemption was a positive step for the future of the game but if his team did not get it, the two-time Brier champion had no problem with that. But because its schedule is geared towards preparing for the 2005 Olympic trials, the foursome may not be able to afford to take any extra time off to enter the city zone playdowns.

'Not a backlash'

"We'll take a look at where we're at in December and if we qualify for the Canada Cup, we may pass on the (provincial qualifiers)," Jon Mead, Stoughton's third, said yesterday. "If we don't make the Canada Cup, it will be a much easier decision to make."

As one of five teams that have qualified for the trials, the four must already take a week off to compete there, take more time to go to the Canada Cup West Bonspiel in December and would need another week off to curl at the Canada Cup. Failing to qualify for the Cup would free up a week for the zones.

"It's not like this is a backlash (to the MCA decision) or anything like that," Mead said. "It's what we need to do to prepare for the Olympic trials. Our whole year is geared towards the Olympic trials and it would be tough to fit everything into our schedule without taking more time off work."

But if they do enter the zones, Stoughton may have to use a fifth man for either lead Steve Gould, who works in Brandon, or second Garry Van Den Berghe, who would be coming in from B.C.

Although Stoughton can still become Manitoba's top CTRS point-getter this shortened season, the team has cut back its schedule.

"It would be very unlikely for us to do that unless we win everything we're going into," Mead said.

MCA executive director Ian Staniloff, who has discussed the situation with all four, said he understands.

"We'd love to have them (at the Select) but if they choose not to (enter the zones), that's their choice," he said. "I know they have other issues."

Apparently, the MCA board ignored the fact that it could have had the added attraction of one of Canada's top teams at this year's Select, which was one of the reasons the exemption was adopted in the first place.


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