Jones hit highlight of season

JIM BENDER -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 7:30 AM ET

It was the highlight of the 2004-05 season and it may go down in history as the greatest hit ever recorded in the game.

Manitoba's Jennifer Jones made the most dramatic shot to ever win a curling championship when she executed an in-off takeout to crack the winning four at the national Scott Tournament of Hearts. That "shot-heard-around-the-curling-world" also earned Jones a trip to the Canadian Curling Trials and with it, funding as carded athletes and a spot in the Canada Cup.

That shot also killed the notion that Manitoba women's curling had plunged into a deep, dark abyss.

After failing miserably at the world championship on questionable ice in Scotland, Jones went on to play Alberta legend Randy Ferbey in a Battle of the Sexes Skins Game in Brandon, then made more coin on the cashspiel circuit than any other women's team. But her run came to an abrupt end at the trials in Halifax when she was felled, not by an opponent, but by kidney stones. And her squad failed to qualify for the playoffs.

FORCED TO MAKE CHANCE

Jones had been forced to make a change to her lineup when lead Cathy Gauthier decided she could not commit the time away from her children to prepare for the Olympic trials. B.C.'s Georgina Wheatcroft, who had won Olympic bronze with Kelley Law, then replaced Gauthier. Wheatcroft, who had to establish Manitoba residency to be eligible, will remain at lead when Jones competes at the next Scott as Team Canada.

Jones had defeated St. Vital clubmate Kristy Jenion in the Manitoba final. During the summer, Jenion's third, Lisa Roy, suffered a significant injury to her eye when an unidentified idiot tossed a soft drink bottle through her windshield on the highway. But she has returned to the ice and has qualified for this year's provincials in Thompson.

DANDY RANDY

On the men's side, Valour Road's (Dandy) Randy Dutiaume shocked the masses when he won the Safeway Select with a team thrown together just before the MCA's annual bonspiel. He hooked up with former Manitoba champions Dave Elias and Shane Kilgallen to form a squad that dominated the bonspiel, then took the Manitoba title. The ever-colourful Dutiaume then became the most popular curler at the Brier. Dutiaume, who was also the first Manitoban since 2001 to make the playoffs, fell just one game short of earning a trip to the Olympic trials.

Meanwhile, Charleswood's Jeff Stoughton made it to the trials final, then dropped a close game to Newfoundland's Brad Gushue, the guy he had suggested had "no chance" to win after parachuting veteran Russ Howard in to call the shots and throw second stones.

But before last season had ended, Assiniboine Memorial's legendary Kerry Burtnyk called it quits, leaving a void that has yet to be filled. Daley Peters won his second straight junior provincial title, then joined his old man, Vic, in time to put on a show at the first Grand Slam ever held in Winnipeg. That Slam was a resounding success both on and off the ice when an attendance record was set (since broken).

In other events of note, Doug Armour of Souris won the Western Canada Masters title and Granite's Doug Harrison won his first senior crown. David Hamblin of Morris won the Manitoba Mixed, then lost the national final.

OFF-ICE WOES

The Manitoba Curling Association braved a number of problems. First, it denied former junior provincial champion Reid Carruthers a zone spot because his entry apparently got lost in the mail. Then it turned around and begged for entries into its annual bonspiel well after the deadline date as it suffered its lowest number of entries since 1966. And the Manitoba Curling Tour had problems of its own when three players defected from MCT champion Renaud Gagne to join Mark Lukowich. That forced the MCT to call for a playoff (won by Gagne) to see which team would be eligible for a Select spot playoff with this year's winner.

TUBE WARS

Nationally, the CCA has yet to explain why it ever signed the TV agreement that cut TSN out of all curling telecasts and limited the number of Season of Champions games to be seen on CBC's prime time. Then it asked fans to pay for a digital cable hookup for something they had been getting for free. The CCA suffered a huge outcry throughout the season. Then it compounded its own problems by attempting to get out of the CBC contract, which resulted in a threatened lawsuit. With the CBC's help, TSN was finally brought back on board and fans have been celebrating ever since. So has the board. Giddy with the new arrangement, which is the same as the old arrangement, it awarded CCA CEO Dave Parkes with a raise and a bonus.

Meanwhile, Edmonton set a Brier attendance record as Ferbey won his record sixth Canadian crown in his hometown, then went on to win the worlds in Victoria.

Splitting the world championships also proved to be a failure for the women as their games were played on poor ice before a trickle of fans in Scotland. Former Canadian champion Colleen Jones had suggested that the women would have to curl naked to draw fans at the worlds. The next thing you know, someone came up with a calendar celebrating naked female curlers. Thanks, Colleen.


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