Drayton Valley's 2007 men's provincial curling final is just over two months away, but the field is already building up an intimidating aura.
The last two bye spots were officially claimed over the weekend by a new Edmonton rink skipped by Kevin Koe and Calgary's Adrian Bakker.
Those rinks join Mark Johnson, who claimed the defending champ spot when Kevin Martin shook up his team, and CTRS points leader Randy Ferbey.
That means three of the top eight teams on the World Curling Tour, all Edmonton-based, are already in the gate. Ferbey moved up to No. 4 after winning Yorkton this weekend, Koe sits at No. 6 and Johnson at No. 8.
Scary part is that Martin, who currently holds down the No. 2 spot on the WCT money list, has to grind it out the old-fashioned way ... along the brutal playdowns trail.
Koe and No. 17 Bakker earned their spots through the Alberta Tour.
Now in its third year, Alberta Curling Federation executive director Jim Pringle is satisfied with how the Tour has developed.
"It certainly is accomplishing what we wanted to do," said Pringle, who engineered the current 12-team format. "It's given teams in Alberta a different way to qualify for the championship."
Not only has the Tour generated interest among the curlers, it's helped the ACF's member clubs bolster interest in their speils.
"I think it's turned out to be a win-win for all sides," said Pringle. "We were trying to do something positive for all the stakeholders. The numbers went up significantly in most of the centres that hosted our events."
It has certainly been a plus for a club like Wainwright, which is hosting the first arena women's provincial in 2008, followed by the men's provincial in 2009.
Pringle likes the fact that so many top-notch teams are already in place for the provincial. The quality of the teams already in place makes marketing the event a bit easier.
"It's a good thing for Drayton Valley, since they have four really good teams in the event already," said Pringle. "They can sell it now."
WHO ARE THESE GUYS? There's one delicious irony about Koe's provincial berth. Koe, who moved from Calgary to Grande Prairie this off-season, spent the past couple of years playing with John Morris, who joined forces with Martin this year.
Koe has Blake MacDonald throwing last rock. In the same role with Jamie King, MacDonald lost two provincial finals to Ferbey.
The fun part is that second Carter Rycroft is back in the provincial. Rycroft was a shocking cut when Martin mixed up his lineup.
COULDA, SHOULDA, WOULDA: Kurt Balderston of Sexsmith could have grabbed a spot if he'd won the last-rock measure against Glenn Howard in the semi of the Wayside Inn Classic at Lloydminster. He lost the measure by an eighth of an inch.
Martin could have grabbed an Alberta Tour spot had he got into the final at Lloydminster.