Great gobs of gratitude

CON GRIWKOWSKY -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 7:15 AM ET

At first, Warren Hansen was somewhat reluctant to accept the honour.

Over the past 30 years, Hansen has shepherded the Brier into one of the mainstream events on Canada's sports calendar and raised curling's profile through its reinstatement as an Olympic sport.

In 1997, Hansen had the vision to gamble on taking the Brier to an NHL-sized arena. Calgary's event helped launch the Brier into the major-league status curling enjoys today.

Hansen's vision is one of the reasons Edmonton 2005 remains confident it can attract 300,000 paid customers to its event in March.

So, the local Brier committee pitched the idea of making the Edmonton-raised Hansen its event's honourary chairman.

Terry Morris, president of the local committee, wanted a chance to thank Hansen for all he's done to improve the positive profile of the game.

"Warren was a coup," said Morris. "He's done so much for the game and he's from here. He's never been recognized and we wanted to do something for him before he retires."

The pitch put Hansen, the Canadian Curling Association's director of competitions, in somewhat of an awkward position.

"That's what I sort of suggested as well," said Hansen, who played front end for the world championship team skipped by Hec Gervais in 1974.

"It was a little close, from my point of view."

But, after getting the blessing from the CCA's board of directors, Hansen accepted.

Gervais was honorary chairman for Edmonton in 1987 and Matt Baldwin held the honours in 1999.

When Hansen was last in town announcing the Tim Hortons title sponsorship, he said he had the sense it would be the last sponsorship negotiation he would be involved with.

"I'm not retiring," said Hansen with a laugh, putting an end to that speculation.

"Not yet. Not that I'm aware of anyway. Wait until that event in Vancouver (Olympics) is finished in 2010."

Hansen, who's based out of Vancouver, would like to see the big-arena concept expand from its solid Prairie base to Vancouver and/or Toronto before he finally calls it a day.

Mini-pack tickets for Edmonton 2005 go on sale Saturday at all Ticketmaster locations.

So far, total attendance is guaranteed to be 172,788, or roughly enough to fill the lower bowl for all draws. That's up 12% over the comparable lead-up time in the 1999 Brier.

"We're way ahead," said Morris.


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