Lack of entries sign of times?

JIM BENDER -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 7:02 AM ET

The latest number is 418.

That was the total number of entries into its annual men's bonspiel that the Manitoba Curling Association received by the end of business yesterday, said executive director Ian Staniloff.

"And we know more are coming in," he added.

With eight days left to add more, the MCA is still hoping to draw up a schedule with 512 teams tonight and hope the blanks get filled by the time the spiel starts on Jan. 20, Staniloff said.

But Staniloff is still scratching his head over why the entries are taking so long to arrive. Last year, the MCA was two teams short of the perfect draw (512) and would have filled it with another day's grace, Staniloff said. But on Friday, the MCA was more than 150 entries shy.

"Last year, we broke that mythical barrier when the bonspiel didn't fill," Staniloff said. "Maybe the 512-team bonspiel is not where the curling population is going. Maybe it's a sign of the times where curlers are not committed to seven days and have a hard time getting off work. The hard part is you don't know why. It's perplexing."

The MCA conducted a survey of bonspiel participants last year and none of the responses indicated that there would be such a significant shortfall, at least at this point. The most pertinent response is that it costs rural curlers too much money to stay here over the course of the spiel.

"Really, the bonspiel is a unique experience but maybe it's yesterday's experience and not as relevant today," Staniloff suggested. "But I don't know what other bonspiel out there attracts 400-plus teams. In terms of an overall event, it's still one of the biggest, if not the biggest."

The subject was to be discussed at last night's management council meeting.

Although Staniloff has referred to the world-renowned bonspiel as a benchmark to the game here, he does not believe that the shortage of entries means the game is dying here.

"I'm not sure it directly relates to what curling is in this province," he said. "Our junior numbers are up all over the place yet, our numbers in the Junior Christmas bonspiel are down."

SLAM SPOT? Manitoba Curling Tour president Andy Stewart has suggested that the MCT champion could be awarded a berth into a Slam event whenever it is held in Manitoba. And the Saskatchewan tour winner should get in whenever a Slam goes to Saskatchewan and so on.

"The WCT needs tours like ours," Stewart said on the weekend. "That's where they get their teams from."

At least, Swan River's defending provincial champion Brent Scales was invited as an exemption into this year's Open.

KID ROCK: Entries into the Festival of Rock curling clinic, being held as part of the Grand Slam's Canadian Open, have filled up fast. That means Grand Slam curlers will conduct a clinic for 80 curlers aged 13-17 at the MTS Centre on Jan. 28.

More than 2,000 weekly packages have been sold with tickets for individual draws going on sale (Ticketmaster) this Saturday. Ducats will be sold for $6, $8, $10 or $12 for the Open, to be played at the MTS Centre, Jan. 27-30.

COMING UP

The Safeway Select city zone playdowns started at four clubs on Monday and curlers are already grumbling about some deplorable ice conditions, as well as the fact that the MCA only seeded 14 teams this year (as opposed to the usual 28) ... Five Select rural zone playdowns will also go this weekend ... And the MCA's annual women's bonspiel starts at the Heather and Victoria Curling Clubs on Friday.


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