Why seniors rock!

TERRY JONES, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:39 AM ET

Al Hackner, you've heard of. Everybody else, not so much.

It's the World Senior Curling Championships, which opens in Edmonton today, at the same time Pat Ryan and Rick Folk are battling it out in Trois-Rivieres, Que., to see who gets to represent Canada at the same event next year, completely taking away the ability of Hackner to defend his title should he win it.

International curling can be confusing.

"The Canadian Curling Association is involved with every world championship except the seniors," said Hackner, who arrived early yesterday for the event which has the first draw in the 11-team women's event this afternoon and opening ceremonies tonight prior to the beginning of play in the 14-nation men's event tomorrow.

"The CCA sets the date for the Canadian senior without knowing the world senior date. The obvious solution would be to get involved with the senior worlds but ..."

Actually, there's a lot of things with the seniors which are struggling to become a significant event on their own and are using the Ford World Curling Championships here as a tie-in to gain some profile.

Next year, in Finland, they'll have a new event - mixed doubles - as a tie-in to their event. Or will it work the other way?

Either way, Hackner isn't sure about the combination.

"A lot of the countries at the world seniors are not funded. They pay their own way. This leads to teams with curlers who may not be the best from their country, but can afford to pay their own way. Now if you add another event - mixed doubles - and it is unfunded, then it becomes a rich man's fun spiel. Who is going to respect that?"

Rich man's fun spiel or legitimate world championship, Hackner is here to experience it and go with the flow.

"I didn't play my first year of senior eligibility. Rick Lang said I wasn't mature enough," he said of his long time Northern Ontario third with whom he won two Briers and the world curling championships with back in 1982 and 1985.

"Playing seniors last year was a great experience from the first level to the national. All the teams were so much more friendly, and I was pleasantly surprised how good the curling was.

"Winning the seniors was still a thrill, but there wasn't much media coverage. The whole senior playdowns has been played to small crowds. Outside of golf, senior sport has not drawn much interest."

While they've already sold 162,852 tickets for the Ford Worlds which begin next Saturday, your average draw will likely be witnessed by a few hundred at the Thistle.

Having a name like Hackner may add something to it, however. And with guys like Ryan, Folk, Hackner and soon enough perhaps Russ Howard and maybe even Randy Ferbey in 2011, seniors curling in Canada is going to have a lot more name-recognition value than in the past.

Whatever, it's built in reunion stuff, even with your own rink. Getting the old team together for another run, can be a lot of fun.

"Lang and I are still such a good fit. He makes us all better curlers," said Hackner of his third.

"Our lead Brian Adams and I have 33 years in with CN," he said. "I know of the curlers from Sweden, USA and Switzerland but not much more."

It's also a reunion for Hackner being in Edmonton and hanging around guys like Terry Morris and Randy Ferbey.

"I played with Terry Morris when I was in Edmonton in 1976 and 1977," he said of the man who chaired the previous two Briers committees. Back then we used corn brooms.

"Randy Ferbey was my teammate in about a dozen spiels in the 1990, when no one else wanted to curl with him," he laughed about the skip who has won a record six Briers and four world men's curling titles.

So Ferbey will be there. Morris makes two. Next thing you know he may have a crowd.


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