Rocky road to Regina

ANGELA MACISAAC -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 7:03 AM ET

No one said getting out of Alberta would be easy.

The long road to the Tim Hortons Brier in Regina next month starts tomorrow for 12 teams, including Calgary's John Morris, Steve Petryk and Dean Ross.

The obvious favourite is Randy Ferbey, who has won the last five provincial titles.

But no one is ready to count out fellow Edmontonian Kevin Martin, who successfully defended his Canada Cup title Sunday, and Morris, winner of the 2004 WCT Players Championship and two-time world junior champ.

Matter of fact, the field at the Saville Centre for the Kia Cup playdowns in Edmonton is a who's who of teams on the WCT money list -- 10 of them are in the top 100 of earners on the world cashspiel circuit.

"My guys were a little shocked we were ranked 11th," Ross said yesterday, a rare day off in preparation for the provincials.

"I'm not, really. Not with the strength of the field."

Ross sits at a modest 71st on the WCT list, earning $4,500.

"There are some of us who only play five or six spiels a year," he said. "Some of those other guys, like Martin and Morris, are playing every weekend."

Ross is the old-hat on his team. He's been to men's provincials once and mixed provincials the last two years.

Third Greg Northcott has been to provincials once, second Aaron Westgard is a rookie for the event and lead Joel Matthews is a junior provincial champ.

Thus, Ross has been getting them ready for the arena experience at Saville Centre.

"There will be times when we're playing a team like Martin or Morris and the crowd will cheer for a shot they make," said Ross.

"But if we make a good shot, there might be nothing but silence. That can get unnerving."

But gearing up to be at provincials, a feat accomplished with the B berth out of Southerns last month at North Hill club, meant hitting some major spiels on the cash circuit last fall.

And that meant coming up against some of the bigger names, such as Ferbey.

Or Mark Johnson, who finished ninth on the WCT money list with $29,000.

"We've played Johnson twice," said Ross. "He won one and we won one. And we went to a last rock with Ferbey but we lost. I feel confident about beating some of those teams."

He won't label his team as contender or underdog.

"It's all about taking advantage of the breaks you're given," he said.

ON THE ROCKS: The World Curling Tour is holding a news conference today at the Palliser to announce the men's and women's teams invited to compete at the Players Championship, the season finale of the Grand Slam circuit. The event is set for April 12-16 at the Corral ... No one in Kamloops can figure out why the Strauss Canada Cup won't sell out -- not even for a men's final between Kevin Martin and Glenn Howard or a women's final between Cathy King and Jennifer Jones, who will be battling for the Scott Tournament of Hearts title later this month. In its fourth year of existence, attendance in the city, which dubs itself the Tournament Capital of Canada, was down almost 15%. "It's really perplexing that we can't get more fans out," Len Bosch, organizing committee president, told the Kamloops Daily News. "We've tried to examine all the reasons why. We just don't know." ... The Canadian Curling Association is expected to announce today Chilliwack, B.C., will host the 2006 Continental Cup, a Ryder Cup-style event pitting teams from North America against teams from Europe.


Videos

Photos