Talk of merger met with cautious optimism

KIRK PENTON -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 7:15 AM ET

SOURIS -- Recent rumblings that the World Curling Players Association wants the women to join its group have Jan Sandison both excited and cautious.

Sandison, who is the third for Springfield's Karen Young at this week's Scott Tournament of Hearts, is also the chairwoman of the $50,000 Casinos of Winnipeg Women's Classic. It's one of Canada's premier women's events and would be affected if such a merger takes place.

"There's a number of bonspiels across the country that are at the same level as the Casinos of Winnipeg," Sandison said. "To bring them all together can only make it better for all of us."

The WCPA found a way several years ago to make some money through its Grand Slam, and the Women's Players Council would certainly love to have a piece of the juicy pie.

"At least we're talking about it," Sandison said. "If we just agreed to the status quo, we'd never get there. It's easy to just do it the same way all the time, right?

"Sometimes you gotta take that step."

If a merger does take place, where one group would co-ordinate both men's and women's big-money events, Sandison would hope that the women's voices are still heard.

"They have to remember that some of the national events -- at our level it's the Casinos of Winnipeg -- have been in existence a long time," Sandison said. "They're successful and you don't want to screw with them.

"But it's a good move (to merge with the WCPA). If we can ever get to the point where the guys are, with the Slam events and stuff, it's only going to make the sport better.

"You get TV, you get all those national sponsor deals, and it's great for the curlers."

An example of Sandison's concern is sponsorship. Labatt is a national curling sponsor, but the Casinos of Winnipeg spiel gets financial support from Molson, which employs Sandison.

"They have to make sure that they don't overtake these events that already exist," she said.

If the WCPA and women do decide to merge and then come to an agreement about the serious matters, it would provide female curlers, including those in Manitoba, a more sound structure in which to compete and, more importantly, improve.

"These up-and-coming teams need to go to those events and play," said Cathy Overton-Clapham, the third for Jennifer Jones.

One up-and-comer is Brandon's Kristen Williamson squad. Tasha Hunter, who is Williamson's third, said bigger purses and increased exposure certainly would be enticing.

"The people who, say, just do the Manitoba Curling Tour might be persuaded, or it might be an initiative, to curl on the Canadian level, as opposed to just on the provincial level," she said. "Definitely with young teams coming up, they're looking for experience against the big names and for good competition."


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