'Makes good press'

JIM BENDER -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 7:34 AM ET

Funny, back when he first started winning championships, there were those of us who had a tough time urging a rather shy young curler to speak up.

Now, people just want Jeff Stoughton to shut up.

Stoughton, who just happens to be one of the best curlers Manitoba ever produced, keeps getting vilified for offering his opinion -- possibly because his words often get twisted. Of course, the "no chance" debate over Newfoundland's Brad Gushue at the Canadian Curling Trials was just the latest in a string that has many calling him "a jerk."

Not that we are making any apologies for Stoughton, who has said some regrettable things over the years, but the two-time Brier champ recently admitted that he can be misunderstood.

"That is often the case," he said before the Olympic trials started. "Like that (World Curling Tour) thing in Brandon. I said only the top five seeds would win (the 2000 Safeway Select) and it turned out that the top five seeds were from the city and the sixth seed was the first rural team."

So, his comment got twisted into saying that no rural team had a chance to win.

"It's just the way I felt at the time because all five of those teams had played on the Tour and it was just taken differently," he explained. "I was just saying that those were the best teams because they had put the time and effort in to play on the Tour to get better. And no team that had not played on the Tour had won (Manitoba) since 1990.

"But I was proven wrong last year when (Valour Road's Randy) Dutiaume got into a zone and won it."

While Stoughton has also admitted he was wrong about Gushue, he has never apologized for his opinions.

"I never think anything I say is arrogant or cocky," he said. "But if they (fans) don't like it, that's fine."

He even takes a perverse pleasure in some reactions.

"Once you say something and reporters get on it, it's kind of funny," Stoughton said. "There's lots of things that have been said that I may not actually have said. But I never worry about it. It makes good press."

WHAT IF? Russ Howard is being hailed as a hero after the last-minute replacement skipped Gushue into the Olympics. But what, we wonder, would the reaction have been if Wayne Middaugh had stepped in to skip Ontario's Glenn Howard to victory? Or B.C.'s Jay Peachey?

BITERS: Dutiaume is expected to be one of the 15 teams named to Winnipeg's Grand Slam today ... The numbers for the annual Junior Christmas Bonspiel are up about 10% this year, said MCA executive director Ian Staniloff ... The MCA will be checking out Dauphin, where a clinic is being held today, as a future site to host either a men's or women's provincial championship.


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