Will this be the year?

TED WYMAN -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 7:30 AM ET

SELKIRK -- They are the Boston Red Sox of the provincial curling scene.

At least, they'd like to be.

They are the snake-bitten skips, the guys who always appear at the Safeway Select but have nothing to show for it.

They are the curlers who go into this thing every time hoping this will be their year, only to go home early with nothing but a hangover.

But there's hope for those types these days. After all, the Red Sox went 86 years with out a championship before winning the World Series in 2004. Perennial golf bridesmaid Phil Mickelson won the Masters after being labelled as someone who can't win the big one.

Maybe, just maybe, this is the year for guys like Don Spriggs, Peter Prokopowich and Kelly Robertson.

"One of the fellas from my club back home said if Boston can beat the Yankees, you can win this thing," said Dauphin's Prokopowich, who is competing in his 15th provincial championship.

"He says it also took them 86 years, so I don't know if I've got enough time left."

It's been an even longer drought for Spriggs.

"I guess this is 18 times for me," he said yesterday at the Selkirk Recreational Complex. "It's lots of times without winning, let's put it that way."

Robertson, of Neepawa, is curling in his 13th provincial championship and -- unlike Spriggs, who made the final in 2000 -- has never been particularly close to a title.

"Lucky 13, you never know," Robertson said yesterday. "Hopefully, this is our weekend."

Asked if he believes he can still win this thing, Robertson expressed little doubt.

"Everybody here has that in the back of their mind when they come," he said. "If you don't have that on your mind, you are not going to win much. What we are looking for this time is too qualify and then take it to the next step."

As for Spriggs, a Portage restaurateur, there is never any sense of resignation when his team arrives at the Select.

"We look forward to this every year ... this is what we curl for," he said. "We feel pretty good every time we leave here, no matter what happens. Guys play their hearts and if you let it get to you, we would all have quit by now."

SKIP OUT: The Virden foursome at this year's championship has a different look, but not by choice.

Scott Ramsay is skipping the squad because regular broom-holder Graham Freeman is out with a knee injury.

Freeman had knee surgery just before Christmas after tearing cartilage at bonspiel in Dauphin.

"It was a totally harmless accident," Ramsay said. "He just stepped off the curb the wrong way. It wasn't booze-induced or anything else. We were just waiting for a cab."


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