The Manitoba curling scene was much more palatable this season than the previous one when we told you that looking back was like trying to get the taste of a skunky beer out of your mouth.
This season, the curlers' champagne flowed, just not often enough. So, here are the highlights and lowlights of the 2004-05 campaign.
HIGHLIGHTS: Jennifer Jones, of course, not only winning the national Scott Tournament of Hearts but by doing it with the shot-heard-around-the-country. A truly exhilarating moment ... Randy Dutiaume's victory at the Safeway Select and his ensuing celebration. There was just something so purifying about a scene not marred by politics or ill feelings. Then, of course, he won over the hearts of curling fans across the country with his quotes and anecdotes as his team surprised such so-called experts as yours truly by finishing third at the Brier ... Doug Armour's masters foursome finally winning a national championship after 14 national appearances combined ... Sure he is curling out of Alberta now but kudos to Winnipeg's David Nedohin for leading his foursome to a record-tying fourth Brier title and third world crown.
MOST TOUCHING MOMENTS: The reaction of the entire Jones foursome when she made that amazing in-off for the winning four in the Scott final ... Dutiaume pumping the Select trophy over his head in elation ... Cathy Gauthier's response when the Manitoba lead was greeted at the train station on the trip home from St. John's, Nfld., because a busted ear drum would not allow her to fly home ... Doug Harrison's emotional reaction when he won the Manitoba senior title ... Tears of joy when Calleen Neufeld won the junior women's crown.
BEST STORIES: Dutiaume winning the Select after forming a new foursome for the MCA bonspiel ... Daley Peters playing third for his dad, Vic, at the local Grand Slam, then beating Alberta's Randy Ferbey there ... Adam Norget's amazing run through the MCA bonspiel as a junior, following it up by winning the University of Manitoba championship ... The local Slam drawing a record attendance (since broken) at the MTS Centre ... Harrison taking over three young pups just before the city zones, then beating Kerry Burtnyk in the final to earn a trip to the Select.
LOWLIGHTS: Jones missing the medals at the women's worlds. Despite deplorable conditions, Jones simply failed to adjust ... The MCA first rejected, then accepted the idea of awarding a Select exemption to Manitoba's top Canadian Team Ranking System squad. Then, for some strange reason, it decided to award it to the top foursome halfway through the season, then a full season for the 2006 Select. Meant that Jeff Stoughton got both ... The MCA refuses to allow former Manitoba junior men's champion Reed Carruthers a zone entry because he missed the deadline but then extends the MCA bonspiel deadline to the last possible moment in a desperate attempt to get more teams ... The MCA bonspiel suffering its fewest entries since 1966 ... The bitter split between Renaud Gagne and his three teammates, who defected to Mark Lukowich after winning the MCT championship and the perks that were supposed to go with it. Because of CCA rules, Gagne has likely lost his Canada Cup West Bonspiel berth and his new team will have to play his old one to get a berth into the playoff for a 2006 Select spot. Yikes!
DISAPPOINTMENTS: Because he left the door open to returning, Burtnyk did not get his due for such a brilliant curling career, ending it in the heartbreak of failing to qualify for the 2005 Olympic trials ... The downfall of Daley Peters after such a great start at the national juniors ... Doug Harrison's collapse after a great start at the national seniors.
FRUSTRATIONS: Of course, the CCA's new deal with the CBC had just about everyone up in arms, including at times, the CCA and CBC. Gee, how did that work out for ya? Time to either change channels or cancel this show.