Edmonton may see the biggest crowds in curling history

TERRY JONES

, Last Updated: 8:28 AM ET

Canada's 2009 'Roar Of The Rings' Olympic curling trials has been awarded to Edmonton.

Subject to approval by the Edmonton Oilers, that is.

The event, which will send Canada's men and women's teams to the Vancouver

2010 Olympic Winter Games, requires final negotiations with the Oilers organization in the areas of sponsor rights (beer), suite holder tickets, etc. before it's a done deal.

INSPIRE

But considering the hockey team is attempting to inspire the building of a new arena here and would face a massive public relations disaster by being anything but accommodating, get ready to witness the greatest curling hosting in history.

"I'm of the opinion it will be the biggest event we'll have ever seen - the biggest we may well ever see," said Warren Hansen of the Canadian Curling Association.

In town to get the t's crossed and the i's dotted on a deal, Hansen is reluctant to call it a done deal until he has all the autographs from Northlands and the Oilers.

But Terry Morris, the event chairman for the ballistic 2005 Brier which drew the all-time curling record of 280,985 here says Edmonton has been awarded the event.

"The trials will be in Edmonton," said Morris. "Three cities were involved bidding for it and one of them, Kamloops, guaranteed a million. But we've produced a guarantee of two million. The trials will be held here."

Morris said Edmonton used legacy funds from the 1999 and 2005 Briers and the recently concluded 2007 Worlds - which combined drew 708,842 fans to the curling capital of the planet - to guarantee the CCA a record hosting fee minimum to win the event. Thus the sighting of Hansen in town to work out the final details.

"Nobody has said no yet," he said.

Hansen said while the trials have been reduced from 10 to eight teams in both men's and women's events to leave only 18 draws instead of 21 at the Brier or Worlds, he still thinks it'll put up a number which will likely last a long time in the sport.

He can picture near-sellouts in the 16,839-seat NHL building almost every draw.

"With the trials in December, only weeks before the Olympics in Vancouver, the fever will be running high," said Hansen.

"Curling is the only sport which has a competition like this to produce the Canadian team to go to the Olympics.

"A lot more people are going to be able to get tickets to watch this than will be able to get tickets to go to the Olympics," he added of the 6,000-7,000 seat temporary facility being used for the sport in Vancouver, with likely fewer than 4,000 of those seats available to Canadian curling fans.

Hansen said no decision has been made yet on whether to make the trials a seven-day event with morning draws or a 10-day event like the Brier and Worlds, but with no morning draws.

ONLY THREE

Unlike the Brier, Worlds and even the Olympics, only three teams make it to the playoffs in both men's and women's, with the second and third-place teams playing semifinals and the winners advancing against the first-place teams from the seven-game round robins in the finals.

The new format features 16 teams qualifying for two stages of Olympic trials.

The top four teams will advance directly to Edmonton, with the other 12 proceeding to a pre-qualifying event.

In men's, world champion Glenn Howard (Brier and Worlds), Randy Ferbey (Canada Cup) and Kevin Martin (Players Championship) have qualifying credits.

Howard needs one more qualifier to get through to the final four with the two Edmonton rinks still requiring two.

A highly complicated points system will fill the fields.

Other Edmonton rinks, particularly in men's, are well positioned with qualifying points after the first year.

Hansen said the pre-trials qualifying event would be held in the first week of November somewhere in Western Canada and almost certainly will also be televised on TSN.

He said they are looking at bringing in the four pre-qualified qualified trials teams in both men's and women's for an eight-team elimination whistle-wetter special pre-trials with the just-qualified teams at the end of the week for major prize money.

Vancouver 2010 didn't see fit to give curling a proper venue but the sport is guaranteed to rub their face in it during the buildup to the Olympic hosting.


Videos

Photos