Scales now a heavyweight

TED WYMAN -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 7:29 AM ET

SELKIRK -- There are billboards on every highway leading into Swan River trumpeting the success of defending Manitoba men's curling champion Brent Scales and his teammates.

Scales wants to keep them there.

"At least one more year," he laughed yesterday after practice for the Safeway Select provincial men's curling championship, which starts today at the Selkirk Recreational Complex.

That will be no easy task for the Scales foursome, which has been riding high ever since playing giant killer in last year's Select final against Jeff Stoughton in Brandon.

The foursome of Scales, Gord Hardy, Grant Spicer and Todd Trevellyan enter this year's championship as underdogs once again, seeded fourth behind Stoughton, Kerry Burtnyk and Dave Boehmer, all of Winnipeg.

But after last year's stunning win, nobody is counting them out.

It was a victory for all rural Manitoba, and one of those unforgettable moments for all the curlers outside Winnipeg who waited more than a decade for their moment in the sun.

"To our community it was huge," said Scales, who was the first rural skip to win the provincial title since Duane Edwards of Deloraine in 1991.

"It's all anybody talked about in the Swan River Valley for months. Whether that means putting Swan River on the map or not, who knows? But it definitely provided a boost to the people of Swan River."

As defending champion, Scales is attracting a lot more attention than he usually gets, despite being a fixture at the Select. But he doesn't plan to change his game plan in any way.

"Obviously you don't want to let it go to your head and think that you've got something that you are not going to have to fight for," Scales said.

"We feel good. Seeding-wise we never really have been a favourite, so nothing is different this year."

The victory in Brandon last year was tempered somewhat by the Scales team's performance at the Brier in Saskatoon, where it went 3-8. The skip would like nothing more than to take another shot at the national championship.

"Leading up to last year I always said I just wanted to get to the Brier once," he said. "Now I want to get back more than ever. Part of the reason is the record. I don't feel that was really us. I feel we got lost in the whole Brier experience, the same way I felt back in 1994, the first time I played in this."

Despite the poor performance on the national stage, Scales believes the experience was valuable.

"Each time that you play in a situation like that you build as a team," he said. "I remember the first time I played on TV, I was a wreck. You get better and it gets easier. We are growing as a team."

Scales opens the tournament today with a game against Troy Hamilton of the Granite at 12:15 p.m.

Meanwhile, Stoughton has been suffering from the flu for a few days and missed practice yesterday. He's expected to be able to play today when his team starts out against Brad Wainikka of Morden at 4 p.m., Burtnyk faces Gerry Janz of Baldur at 8:30 a.m. and Boehmer takes on Dean Steski of the Grain Exchange at 12:15 p.m.


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