Home-ice advantage

CON GRIWKOWSKY -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:42 AM ET

When the World Curling Players Association is looking for a marketing slogan to supplement its Order of Merit, here's a clue: Edmonton Teams Kick Ass.

So, instead of a questionable scheme to keep the same old faces on TV, how about some WCPA genius figure out how to get as many Edmonton teams as possible into the Grand Slams.

When the dust settled and the final playoff lineup was determined, six of the 13 playoff teams at the Canada Cup qualifier were Edmonton-based. If Don Walchuk hadn't blown an early lead yesterday, there could have been seven.

You could theorize this was because of home-ice advantage.

But, hold on a second ... a couple of weeks back, at the season's first Grand Slam event in Kitchener, four out of the eight playoff teams were Edmonton-based.

Does this constitute at trend?

"That doesn't surprise me at all,'' said Randy Ferbey. "I think Edmonton curlers have definitely proven we're the best curling community in the country. Going into this weekend, four of the best eight teams in the world are from here."

It could get better.

Kerry Burtnyk, the No. 2 team on the World Curling Tour earnings list, got the heave-ho yesterday morning from No. 61-ranked Edmonton's Wade White.

That was after Burtnyk lost a B-qualifier to city cop Mark Johnson. Olympic gold medallist Brad Gushue could not survive this field.

Based on what's happened on the Tour this month, Ferbey said it would not surprise him if a team skipped by somebody other than himself or Kevin Martin won the 2007 Alberta title in Drayton Valley. That's because the gap between the top two teams and the half-dozen chasers has closed rapidly.

"This is the best curling province by far and it would be fair to say there are seven teams here who would make the Brier playoffs ," said Ferbey. "And Kurt Balderston didn't even show up. Thank God, I'm getting old. I couldn't do this for another 10 years."

Johnson got into the playoff round by beating three teams ranked higher than him, doing it where it counts ... on the ice.

"You bet it motivated us," said Johnson's third Rob Bucholz. "Although we're disadvantaged in the ranking system, if we're going to compete in the Slams, we knew we had to do it here.

"Credit to teams like Ferbey and Martin. They've made us better.

"I'm practising harder now than I was 10-15 years ago - when I was physically more able to do it."

Johnson at least deserves consideration for the Canadian Open in Winnipeg next month once the smoke clears this weekend.

At least the WCPA have come to their senses for the Players Championship in Calgary. That field will be invited strictly on earnings this season.

EYES ON THE PRIZE: The winners of today's 9 a.m. quarterfinal games will gain entry into the Canada Cup in Kamloops, which will determine the first team into the 2009 Olympic trials pool.

Pat Simmons playsJeff Stoughton; Wayne Middaugh plays John Base; Kevin Martin is matched up against Reid Carruthers and the winner of the Randy Ferbey plays Kevin Koe.


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