Cash and controversy

JIM BENDER -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 7:30 AM ET

The 16th campaign of the Manitoba Curling Tour will kick off this month with more cash and more controversy.

Despite two events being shaved from the schedule, the overall purse has increased by $30,000 and is now just $16,000 shy of a half-million dollars.

But, as the Sun first disclosed, the MCT Championship has been moved to mid-December to avoid conflicting with MCA events but has resulted in conflicting with the two Canada Cup qualifying bonspiels.

'BIGGER REWARDS'

"That's the first I've heard of it but obviously, we would probably go to the Canada Cup qualifier because there are bigger rewards at the end of that," 2006 provincial champion Jeff Stoughton said yesterday. "If you can get to the final four, then you get into the Canada Cup. The winner of the Canada Cup gets a preliminary (Olympic) trials spot. So, that's the ultimate goal. The quicker you get it, the more chances you have. So, as long as we get in, we'll go to the Canada Cup."

Stoughton lost his eligibility for the qualifying spiel after earning his way in because he has changed half his foursome. However, reigning MCT champions Graham Freeman and Lois Fowler and reigning Manitoba champion Janet Harvey are among those who have been invited. Jennifer Jones has already earned a Canada Cup berth.

The MCT Championship will be held in Portage la Prairie, Dec. 15-17.

"I'm a little bit concerned," admitted MCT president Andy Stewart. "I voted against it (moving the date) just for that reason, because the higher-profile teams will go to the Canada Cup (qualifying spiels) ... We may have to adjust the date again. If we're missing a lot of teams, we'll have to re-visit it."

The Fort Rouge Christmas spiel now becomes the first MCT event of 2007.

This year's MCT winners will likely get berths in future Cup qualifying spiels while the men's champ will get a spot in the 2007 Safeway Select.

The well-respected MCT overcame a controversy over who would get the 2006 Select spot last year.

The MCT lost three events -- two in Brandon due to the uncertain future of the Wheat City Curling Club -- and one in Kenora due to a conflict with a Minnesota cashspiel.

But The Pas has returned and a women's spiel has been added. The Thistle Integrity Stakes has also moved to Asham Arena because the Thistle Curling Club burned down.

The MCT has also introduced a new website, www.manitobacurlingtour.com, which will be connected to www.curlingzone.com, where live results will be posted.

The MCT season opens with the Steeltown Classic, Sept. 29-Oct. 2.


Videos

Photos