Qualifying hurdles an issue for Martin

CON GRIWKOWSKY -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 7:34 AM ET

It all seems so easy. So why does it have to sound so complicated?

Defending Alberta champ Kevin Martin looks like he's been banging the easy button every time he takes to the ice.

His new-look team is 29-2, has appeared in the final of all four World Curling Tour events they've entered and won three of them.

Last weekend, Martin rattled off six straight wins and a $15,000 payday in Bonnyville. Martin has earned $50,500 this season, No. 2 on the WCT money list behind Kerry Burtnyk's $50,924.

The win earned 20 Alberta Tour points for Martin. While the rest of his younger supporting cast (John Morris, Marc Kennedy and Ben Hebert) heads off to Portage la Prairie this weekend, Martin's going to take a well-deserved rest.

BYE IS IN SIGHT

He's off on his annual trek to the WCT event in Lloydminster over the Remembrance Day weekend. A win at Lloyd, with more Alberta Tour points at stake, would virtually lock up a bye for Martin into next spring's provincial.

So, what's got Martin's dander up? Well, there is the fact he had to forfeit the defending provincial champion's bye to runner-up Mark Johnson as the price to be paid for shaking up his rink. But it also doesn't seem right to the seven-time provincial champ that the Alberta Tour includes WCT events.

"The regional tours have all been well-received since the first one started up five years ago in Ontario," said Martin. "It gives the opportunity for a lot of good teams to play against each other.

"I'm not sure, though, if it's the best venue for teams like (Randy) Ferbey, (Jeff) Stoughton and myself."

INCUBATORS FOR ELITE TEAMS

In Martin's view, regional tours like the Alberta Tour are good incubators for teams vying to play in elite events such as the Grand Slam.

"If the top teams are playing in a regional event, is it growing the sport?" Martin wondered. "The bigger question is how do we grow the roots of our sport?" Still, Martin knows it's going to take a bit of work to get his team back into the Alberta final.

"My issue is that we have to make sure that the top two teams in the world have a way to go straight to the provincials," he said. "The only top teams that did not change their lineup this year were Ferbey and Glenn Howard."

Even if Martin cannot get enough points out of Lloydminster, he does not plan on entering any other Alberta Tour qualifying events.

"If I have to go through the playdowns, so be it," said Martin. "That means I'll be cheering for Mark (Johnson) on the Alberta Tour. Go, Mark, go." In the past two seasons, Johnson went to the provincials as the top Alberta Tour points producer.


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