Cause for concern

JIM BENDER -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 7:25 AM ET

It has proven to be the most fertile training ice for those who cannot afford the time or money to tour beyond the Manitoba borders.

But not only has the Manitoba Curling Tour been forced to cancel three events this season but entries have been down in too many others.

"There is cause for concern," MCT event co-ordinator Bob Picken confirmed yesterday.

Events in The Pas, Thunder Bay and Grand Marais were lost due to a severe lack of interest.

You can chalk up lower entries into Gimli and Virden last weekend due to a conflict with Winnipeg's Grey Cup but many others have been scrambling to fill up. Both the Asham/8-Ender Open and the East St. Paul Cash Spiel failed to fill their men's sides. And Stonewall had to push to get a full load on its men's side for this weekend's spiel.

That may shave some cash off the total prize purse for the MCT's championship next month, Picken said.

"Maybe we have to take a look at the way we're doing things," he suggested. "The guys promoting these events need to get more money from more sponsorships or fall by the wayside. Maybe we have to demand a minimum.

"The good ones will still get their entries because they offer more money."

The women's spiels have not really been a problem.

The MCT board of directors plans to discuss the issue at the MCT championship in Portage la Prairie.

CUP BACK: The Continental Cup will return after a one-year absence due to the Canadian Curling Trials and starts in Chilliwack, B.C., tomorrow.

However, the purse has been reduced to $75,000 (from $137,500) to the winners and $45,000 (from $62,500) for the losers because CBC has replaced TSN as the broadcaster.

"In 2004, TSN owned the rights and they paid the money," CCA manager of event operations Warren Hansen said from B.C. "So, the WCF and the CCA are paying the money because (organizers) have no title sponsor."

The format will once again feature a singles format and Hansen expects a decision on whether a mixed singles competition will be added this January to the 2010 Winter Olympics.

"They're (IOC) going to add four new disciplines and that could be one of them," Hansen said. "I would think they would look favourably on it because of the TV aspect of it. It's much more suited to TV than the new variances on skiing and skating that are being proposed."

Canadian Olympic gold medallist Brad Gushue will lead Team North America into battle against Team Europe, which features Sweden's Olympic gold medallist Anette Norberg. Team North America leads the series 2-1.

Organizers are expecting at least 3,000 fans per draw at their 4,000-seat arena as 2,000 weekly passes have already been sold.

SCALPEL CAN WAIT: Although former Manitoba champion Barb Spencer has been told she needs arthroscopic surgery, she plans to put it off until the current curling campaign is over.

"The doctor told me the (knee) cartilage was torn and 'frayed like a crab,' and that's what's been causing all the pain," Spencer said. "I'm taking anti-inflammatories, which help but are kind of hard on the stomach.

"It's going to be kind of a rough year and I'll have to be careful when I'm in the hack."

BITERS: A wheelchair team is expected to compete in this year's MCA Bonspiel. The MCA is currently checking on wheelchair accessibility at the different clubs ... The West Kildonan Curling Club has been awarded the 2008 national wheelchair curling championship ... The Manitoba Wheelchair Curling Association is expected to join the MCA, which will help it host the event.

TEAM OF THE WEEK: He hadn't skipped a squad since he was 13. But in his first year as the house boss since then, Fort Garry's Andrew Irving led his new team to victory at the Target Junior Men's Berth Bonspiel in Manitou on the weekend.

"That's my biggest win so far as a skip," said Irving, who clipped Corey Chambers of Deer Lodge 5-4 in the final.

So, his foursome that includes third B.J. Neufeld, second Travis Taylor and Marc Lacroix have earned the nod as the Sun's Team of the Week.

"And it will be my first time skipping in the provincials so that will be fun," said Irving, 20.

Irving, who played third for Adam Norget the past five seasons, will skip the squad in the provincials to be held in Rivers, Jan. 4-8, 2007.

"I think we really opened some eyes on the weekend, although people must have thought we had a good team because Marc and B.J. have already won two provincials (with Daley Peters)," he said.

Since Taylor hails from Brandon, the team plays in a Portage la Prairie league every Monday night.

Doug Hamblin, who also won a provincial title with Peters, subs for Taylor in their city club league. Surprisingly, Hamblin is without a team this season.

COMING UP: The MCA's Safeway Select Northern Berth Bonspiel goes this weekend in The Pas ... Chicken Chef Masters men's and women's berth bonspiels started Monday and finish Friday ... Manitoba's Jeff Stoughton will compete at a WCT event in Yorkton, Sask., while fellow Manitoban Kerry Burtnyk will compete at the WCT/MCT's Interlake Pharmacy Classic in Stonewall ... And Teulon will host the Jonathan Watson Memorial Junior/Youth Bonspiel.

HOUSE CLEANING: Valour Road's Kristy Jenion went undefeated at the MCA's Scotties Tournament of Hearts Berth Bonspiel in Neepawa. Supported by third Lisa Roy, second Leslie Wilson and Raunora Scott, Jenion beat Brandon's Liza Park 8-7 in the final to earn the first trip to the provincials to be held in Morris, Jan. 24-28 ... Both Jennifer Jones and Janet Harvey passed on the berth spiel to compete in a women's Grand Slam in Abbotsford, B.C. Jones earned $4,000 but Harvey, the defending champ, failed to qualify ... Pembina's Kaitlyn Lawes edged Wildewood's Heather Pierson 8-7 in the final of the Target Junior Women's Berth Bonspiel in Altona. Supported by third Jenna Loder, second Theresa Cannon and Sarah Wazney, Lawes earned a trip to the provincials, to be held in Virden, Jan. 4-8 ... Manitoba's Terry McNamee lost the Mixed semifinal to New Brunswick's eventual winner Terry Odishaw 8-7 in Kitchener-Waterloo, Ont.

On the cashspiel trail, West Kildonan's Pete Nicholls nipped Fort Garry's Vic Peters 8-7 in Monday's final of the MCT's Pharmasave Gimli Classic to earn $4,000. Peters got $2,100 ... Deloraine's Murray Warren won $2,700 when he defeated Portage la Prairie's Don Spriggs 6-4 in the final of the MCT's Agricore United Oiltown Classic in Virden. Spriggs got $1,400 ... Manitoba's Arnold Asham helped Alberta's Randy Ferbey win the top prize of $6,000 at Whitehorse's inaugural WCT event.


Photos