The Grand Slam's Canadian Open could soon become an annual Manitoba curling tradition.
Buoyed by the relative success of the second straight Slam to be hosted at Winnipeg's MTS Centre, the World Curling Tour wants to keep coming back. Again and again.
At the very least, the WCT hopes to pick up the option to return here next January.
"We'd like to keep the Canadian Open here every year," WCT president Paul Boutilier said yesterday. "And for sure for next year. After all, tradition is what the sport's built on. We're already talking (to MTS Centre organizers)."
Kevin Donnelly, the Centre's boss, likes the idea of making it an annual affair but will likely just stick to the original three-year commitment for now. That way, should Winnipeg be awarded the 2008 Brier, as expected, the Slam would back off for a year.
"The spirit of the original deal was to look at it as a three-year commitment, and we're still game for it," Donnelly said.
This week's Slam drew a total attendance of 43,523, a few thousand down from last year's 47,000, then a Slam record when both the event and the new arena were a novelty.
WHEW! The most relieved man in the arena yesterday afternoon was John Morris. He finally beat fellow Albertan Randy Ferbey 7-5 in the semifinal before 4,785 witnesses.
"Yeah, that's a bit of a demon, or monkey off your back," said Morris, who is now 2-13 in his last 15 games versus the reigning world champ. "But that's why you play on tour. If you play Ferbey enough, you're going to beat him, and I'm really proud of those guys. It's just a relief."
Ferbey settled for the $12,000 semifinal cash.
"They played really well," credited Winnipeg native Dave Nedohin, who throws last rock for Ferbey. "He made some really big shots, and you're not going to keep beating those teams all the time, so we'll let him win one out of every so many, I guess. Not let. We actually played pretty good, too. It was a good game."
MARTIN BOUNCED: Manitoba's Jeff Stoughton needed an extra end to bounce Edmonton's Kevin Martin, the defending champ, 6-5 in the other semifinal.
"Jeff's team played well, especially at the start," Martin said. "But we were brutal, especially the first six ends."
Martin also got $12,000.
"We tried our best," he said. "I love these events. The problem is everybody's so good, you're just not going to win every time."
OLYMPIC HOPES: Martin, by the way, believes that both Canada's Brad Gushue and Shannon Kleibrink are good enough to medal, if not get gold at the Olympics.
"(Gushue) just has to keep his focus for the whole event, because it's such a different event," said Martin, who won Olympic silver in 2001. "Curling's a part of it, but it's so much bigger. But as long as they can keep their focus on the game, they'll do fine. Obviously, they are brilliant shooters, so the curling part's not going to get in the way of them winning. I like their chances, for sure. I like Kleibrink's chances, too. She's a good shooter.
"From a curling point of view, we really want them both to medal. Get in there and medal. Grab gold if you can but get in there and medal. ... It's important for funding, it's important for sport, for everything, you've got to get in there and medal. Then, for yourself, get gold."