Stability comes to series

CON GRIWKOWSKY -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 11:43 AM ET

After a season without visible means of support, curling's Grand Slam series has officially received a much-needed injection of stability.

Deals with the CBC and Toronto-based marketing group Insight Sports running through 2014 at least give the impression the Slam is here to stay.

The showcase four-event series, part of the more established World Curling Tour, kicks off in Kitchener-Waterloo Nov. 29 and winds up with the Players' Championship in April 2007 at Calgary. The first three events have $100,000 up for grabs, the Players Championship $150,000.

"This demonstrates we have growth potential,'' said Kevin Martin from Gander, NL, where his team is curling in its second-straight WCT event this weekend. "What this does is big for our sport in the future.''

MURKY DETAILS BUT MONEY REMAINS

Although financial, TV schedule and ownership structure details remain somewhat murky, total Grand Slam prize money of $450,000 stays level to last season. Another $100,000 is available for the gals in Calgary.

Dave Nedohin and his teammates on the Randy Ferbey rink have always been great supporters of the World Curling Tour. Both players were regulars on the WCT before their most recent run of Brier and world championships. Ferbey was actually a regular on the cashspiel circuit before it was repackaged as the WCT in the early '90s.

"I've got to give a lot of credit to the people who got the Grand Slam started,'' said Nedohin. "Certainly, the Grand Slams are the biggest part of our schedule. No other (WCT) event gives us that much exposure.''

CBC had been shut out of the curling loop when the Canadian Curling Association struck a six-year deal for exclusive championship event coverage with TSN earlier this year. That takes effect when the current four-year deal with CBC expires in July 2008.

GRAND SLAM IS THAT IMPORTANT

"I think it's important for a name national network to have curling in its programming,'' said Nedohin. "For the Grand Slam to be recognized at that level ... this is a great way to show off the best players in the world.''

Meanwhile, back on the ice at Gander, Nedohin and crew battled Martin in their first meeting since Martin won the Alberta title in the spring.

After Ferbey's five-year Brier streak ended, last night's matchup certainly was a good measuring stick against a squad establishing themselves as this season's team to beat. Ferbey lost 8-4 as Martin's extended his season-opening win streak to 12 games.

"I certainly think they have among the most talented players in the world on that team,'' said Nedohin before the game. "It'll take a great game for us to beat them."


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