Curling for Kyle

JIM BENDER -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 7:24 AM ET

It should have been a happier time spent with friends and family while looking forward to some exciting curling.

Instead, Tyler Croy and his teammates spent the Christmas holiday mourning the loss of one of their best friends and the skip they hoped would take them to the national junior men's championship, Kyle Flett. They also had to decide whether to carry on without Kyle, who died as the result of a snowmobile accident just before Christmas. But not only will they soldier on, they will do it under Kyle's name for the rest of the season.

"We figured this would have been his last year of juniors so, we wanted to go and represent him the best we can," Croy, 19, said yesterday.

Flett led the team to last year's junior men's provincial final, bowing to West Kildonan's Travis Bale.

Patrick Waterman, 19, who was the team's fifth man, will play lead with the rest moving up one spot. They will play their first game without Kyle when they face Charleswood's Evan Cunningham in the Junior Christmas Bonspiel at the Charleswood Curling Club at 9 o'clock this morning.

"It's definitely going to be tough," said Croy, who moves up to third. "I've never curled competitively without (Flett). We've curled together for the last six years, so it's going to be weird throwing for someone else."

Jason Bedard, 18 will skip the Petersfield foursome with Justin Janisch, also 18, at second.

The team had already qualified for the 2007 Target Junior Men's Provincial Championship, to be played in Rivers, Jan. 4-8 so the Christmas spiel will give them a chance to tune up in their new positions.

Kyle's funeral, Croy added "was sad but there were lots of people there."

And the whole ordeal has been even tougher on Kyle's younger sister, Kerri, who is also a competitive curler.

"It's been hard on her but it has really lit a fire under her for curling," Croy said. "She really wants to win (the Manitoba title) for him."

Kerri Flett, 19, who has also qualified for the junior women's provincial playdowns, to be played in Virden, Jan. 4-8, faces Assiniboine Memorial's Michelle Montford in the Junior Christmas Bonspiel at the Rossmere Curling Club today at 12:30 p.m.

NUMBERS UP: The Christmas spiel has bucked an unwanted trend of late. A total of 102 teams have entered, up six from last year, with the most significant increase in the youth division.

PROVINCIAL BERTHS

"At least we're going the right way now," bonspiel chairman Russ Hinds said recently.

A number of high-profile junior men's squads are still seeking one of the two provincial berths being offered, including West Kildonan's defending champion Travis Bale.

NUMBERS DOWN: The Manitoba Curling Tour was forced to cancel three events due to lack of entries and could lose another one if the date of its championship does not revert to January. The Labatt Fort Rouge Christmas Spiel may drop out of the MCT because, instead of being the last stop on the tour, it is now the first one on next year's MCT. The spiel drew only 26 teams, down from 32 last year, and has often had as many as 40 teams entered.

"We will discuss it later this year," said club manager Jeff Hodge. "We would rather wait until we get feedback from the other spiels. We want to stay on, we just want our thoughts heard.

"It would be a shame to drop out because we are an original member of the MCT."

If it did drop out, the club could cut its current $400 entry fee in half and keep 10% for ice rental that the clubs don't get on the MCT.

TEAM OF THE WEEK: His new foursome had only been together for a month after a parting of ways with previous teammates.

Yet, Winnipeg's Brian Thomson whipped through the Canada Games Trials by winning six straight games and will represent Manitoba at the 2007 Canada Winter Games in Whitehorse, Yukon, Feb. 24-March 10.

"That felt really, really good," said Thomson, who defeated Central's Alex Forrest 8-6 in the final at the Granite Curling Club two weekends ago. "Because we were only together for a month, I didn't think we'd have much of a chance. But this was a dream come true."

Because of that success, Thomson's new foursome is the Sun's Team of the Week.

Supported by third Michael Johnson, second Kent Moffitt and John Grogan, the Grade 12 student will make his first trip up north.

"I'm hoping we can be at least a medallist, possibly even a winner," said Thomson, 17. "But just being there and wearing Manitoba colours will be an experience."

But first, Thomson will attempt to qualify for next month's junior men's provincial playdowns through the Junior Christmas Bonspiel which starts today.

COMING UP: Aside from the MCA's Junior Christmas Bonspiel, the Manitoba Curling Tour's Labatt Fort Rouge Christmas Spiel, which is now the first stop on next season, is going at the Fort Rouge Curling Club this week.

The Safeway Select city zone playdowns start Jan. 4 and our guess as to the top seven seeds are: Kerry Burtnyk, Jeff Stoughton, Vic Peters, Randy Dutiaume and James Kirkness, Pete Nicholls and Dave Smith, in that order.

HOUSE CLEANING: Baldur's Rob Ramage beat Manitou/Clearwater's Eric Atkins 8-3 to claim the last rural senior men's provincial berth left ... No word on when the last three senior women's rural zones will be played off.

BITERS: Manitoba's Jennifer Jones leads the women's CTRS point standings, which is another route to get to the Olympic trials pre-tournament qualifier ... Saskatchewan now has six exemptions into its 16-team provincial championship -- three on the Saskatchewan tour and another three from the World Curling Tour -- but no bye for its defending champ ... Reminder: tickets are on sale for the Grand Slam's Canadian Open, to be played at the MTS Centre in late January through Ticketmaster.


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