The future of the game can be found in the youth of today.
And for the first time in years, the MCA's annual Junior Christmas Bonspiel has enjoyed a modest increase in entries. The junior men's portion has jumped from 35 to 46 teams while the junior women's side bumped to 28 from 27.
"That's 12 more teams and that's fabulous," MCA executive director Ian Staniloff said yesterday. "The idea that we're up in double digits has got to be a good news story and I hope the trend continues to grow upwards.
NUMBERS ARE UP
"Just why those numbers are up, we're not sure. But we are creating programs for the junior co-ordinators at different curling clubs. And every time curling's on TV is good for us."
The MCA is also working with the host committee for the Grand Slam's $100,000 BDO Classic Canadian Open at the MTS Centre, Jan. 5-8, 2006 to promote incentives for young curlers, he added.
The Junior Christmas Bonspiel, which runs Jan. 27-30, offers the last two provincial berths for both the junior men and women. Bonspiel HQ is the Fort Garry Curling Club.
WHO'S AT SECOND? They are gearing up to play in both the Winnipeg Slam and the Safeway Select. Trouble is, Charleswood's Jeff Stoughton still does not know if he will have Garry Van Den Berghe at second. Van Den Berghe talked about retiring immediately after losing the Canadian Curling Trials final to Newfoundland's Brad Gushue earlier this month.
"I fully expect Garry to play," third Jon Mead said. "A lot was said in the moment and he's going to take Christmas to think it over. There is a chance that he will call in the New Year and say, 'I just don't have it in me.' But I'd be very surprised if he didn't play."
But Stoughton has declined his invitation to play in the Canada Cup towards the end of January.
"We want to take a good run at the provincials and to do the Cup and the provincials back-to-back is not a good way to prepare for the provincials," Mead said. "Plus, work-wise, it's tough to commit."
That means Stoughton may enter the MCA's 118th Annual Bonspiel "just to throw some rocks," Mead said.
The hard deadline for entry into the MCA spiel is Jan. 5, 2006, with the total being capped at 448 teams. About 170 have entered thus far, including New Zealand's Olympic-bound Sean Becker (who has Manitoba's Lorne DePape at lead).
BITERS: Team Canada's Jennifer Jones declined to play Alberta's Olympic-bound Shannon Kleibrink during the Slam because her Manitoba squad is leaving for Berne, Switzerland, said second Jill Officer. Jones, who suffered from kidney stones during the trials, is apparently good to go to the cashspiel ... David Nedohin's curlTV has signed an agreement with the CCA to webcast Season of Champions games. It will also start doubling its broadcasts at the Winnipeg Slam ... Deadline for entering either the Select zone playdowns or MCA Women's Bonspiel is tomorrow at 4:30 p.m.
SO LONG: On a sad note, one of curling's best friends, TSN executive producer of events Paul McLean, lost his battle to cancer last Wednesday. McLean, who was only 39, had a passion for both curling and the Canadian Football League. He will be sorely missed.
Brandon's four-time provincial champion Lois Fowler qualified for this year's Manitoba Scott Tournament of Hearts late Sunday. So did Terry Ursel of Plumas ... In senior men's zones, Argyle's David Green and Neepawa's John Csversko also earned trips to the provincials.
The Manitoba Curling Tour's Labatt Fort Rouge Christmas Bonspiel, starts Boxing Day .... And have a Merry Curling Christmas!