Biggest spiel has smallest field in decades

TED WYMAN -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 7:23 AM ET

A scaled down version of the venerable MCA Bonspiel slides out of the hacks tonight at curling clubs across the city.

Still believed to be the largest and longest running bonspiel in the world, the 118th annual event will have the smallest field in decades with just 441 teams.

After failing to meet the long-standing limit of 512 teams last year, organizers reduced the size of the field to 448 this year and came up seven teams short. The field could have been filled, but for the first time, the MCA did not accept any late entries.

"We got half our entries last year at or after the deadline and from a management position that just didn't work," said MCA event co-ordinator Resby Coutts. "We had to set a firm deadline this year."

BANQUET SCRAPPED

Because of the reduction in size, the bonspiel will be played almost entirely within the city limits for the first time in many years. Games in the past were played in places like Stonewall, Springfield and La Salle, but this year the only clubs being used outside the perimeter are in East and West St. Paul.

The MCA has also scrapped its annual all-day banquet on Saturday and has instead given each curler $12 worth of coupons to use at any curling club.

"We're doing it to bring business to the clubs," Coutts said.

The draw has also been simplified this year, with teams playing every second draw.

"You now know exactly when you play," Coutts said.

What the MCA lacks in size, it makes up in quality, with the likes of former world champion Jeff Stoughton, Brier champ Vic Peters, defending grand aggregate and Manitoba champion Randy Dutiaume, American Olympian Pete Fenson and New Zealand Olympian Sean Becker in the field.

The opening ceremonies are slated for 5 p.m., today at Elmwood Curling Club.

PEBBLES: Two-time provincial champion Janet Harvey of Fort Rouge is the top seed for the Manitoba Scott Tournament of Hearts Jan. 25-29 in Thompson. Barb Spencer of Fort Rouge, the 2003 champion, is the second seed, while 2002 champ Karen Porritt of St. Vital is third. Last year's provincial runner-up Kristy Jenion of St. Vital is fourth, followed by four-time champion Lois Fowler of Brandon, Shauna Streich of Fort Rouge, Kristen Williamson of Roseland and Darcy Robertson of Fort Rouge.


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