Sister Slam close to becoming a reality

JIM BENDER -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 11:48 AM ET

A sister Slam championship is getting closer to becoming a reality. World Curling Players' Association president Paul Boutilier has met with women's tour director Cheryl Bernard in Calgary several times about the possibility of establishing a women's players' championship that would be held alongside the Grand Slam's Players' Championship.

"Whatever makes common sense, we'll do," Boutilier, who is in town this week for the Slam's Canadian Open, said yesterday. "It would be nice to see tours join and work towards a Players' Championship for all genders to end the season."

Bernard is currently polling tour competitors for their reaction.

The development comes in the face of speculation that the Slam could be on its last legs because it may lose its title sponsor and suggestions that IMG, which bankrolls the events, may be having second thoughts after four years of investing $450,000 per annum.

"The Grand Slam, as it is, will not go away," Boutilier assured. "It's been too successful and growing. From the (TV) ratings, the corporate interest and what we're doing with the properties, it's a valuable property. IMG is a full player, I haven't heard anything else. They've been in it from Day 1."

And if the Slam is about to lose its title sponsor, Boutilier appeared unperturbed.

"It's similar to what the (Canadian Curling Association) was going through last year (when it lost the Brier's title sponsor) but they seem to be moving right along, and curling is moving right along," he said. "There's great value for sponsorship around the sport.

"We're only halfway through our fourth season right now. Everyone's evaluating all the time, as they should. But the interest, the (TV) ratings and the people that are getting used to watching great curling with the best teams in the world is really exploding, and you're seeing that this week."

CROWD COUNT: Last night's draw drew 6,102 to the MTS Centre, an all-time Slam record. And the crowd counts have been re-adjusted to include some overlooked packages. By draw, the previous attendances were: 3,987, 4,032, 4,247, 4,532 and 4,529.

FAULTY FORMAT: Alberta's Randy Ferbey was just one of many who voiced a distaste for the format here.

"The round robin's not conducive to having a real good draw," he said. "The triple-knockout's the way to go, bottom line.


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