All in the family

JIM BENDER -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 1:34 PM ET

It is going to be yet another crazy curling weekend for the Spencer family.

Barb Spencer will watch her two daughters play their first game at the Target Junior Women's Berth Bonspiel in Souris, then rush into Brandon to play her first match of the Scotties Tournament of Hearts Berth Bonspiel. And, if possible, her daughters, Katie, 16, who skips, and Holly, 14, her third, will be behind the glass when Mom plays.

Then, Mom will hightail it out to Souris to watch her daughters. And Jim Spencer, the husband and father, will not know whether he is coming or going.

"We'll be travelling back and forth so it's going to be a very busy weekend," Barb Spencer said. "But we're used to busy."

Katie, by the way, skips the only girls team in A group of a junior super league and also curls in two other leagues.

CONSISTENT SQUAD

Spencer, who just pocketed $1,000 at the MCT's East St. Paul Cash Spiel, has been the most consistent squad on the local cashspiel circuit and currently sits in second among Manitobans behind St. Vital's Jennifer Jones (who has only played one MCT event to date) with $7,525.

"So far, it's not too bad," said the Fort Rouge skip. "We lost one final, won one, didn't do well in Beausejour, lost a semifinal a East St. Paul and didn't qualify at the Casinos (of Winnipeg Classic) after winning three straight games. And I have a new second (Brett Richard) and third (Kristen Williamson)."

KNEE SURGERY

Last year, The Sun revealed that Spencer was soldiering on despite needing knee surgery. Although the knee was scoped last May, it is still bothering her.

"They removed some cartilage last May and it was good all summer but now, when the knee is in the sliding position, it still gets swollen and I have to take anti-inflammatories," said the two-time Manitoba women's champion. "The knee just got weaker because I pampered it so much last year and I just have to build the muscle back up. But last year, it was a different pain. Now it's more of a stiffness."

Meanwhile, Spencer will be one of the heavier favourites this weekend as Jones, the reigning provincial champ, Darcy Robertson (Barb's sister), Janet Harvey and Karen Porritt will be competing at a women's Grand Slam in Abbotsford, B.C. this weekend.

"Unfortunately, there's no guarantee," Spencer said. "We'll still have to play well."

MANITOBA BEHIND: Interesting that even the Alberta women's provincials are proving to be more progressive than Manitoba now. Not only has Alberta awarded a bye to its defending champion (Cheryl Bernard) but has given an exemption to its top CTRS point-getter as of Dec. 4, 2007.

Although there was a push to at least award a bye to the defending Manitoba champ last year, that fell by the wayside in a boardroom somewhere.

Opponents to awarding exemptions say you have to remove a zone spot or two but some zones have trouble attracting more than two teams the past few years.

In fact, before the MCA finally adopted a new rule recently, some teams got into the provincials uncontested. By the way, Alberta has increased the number of its teams in its provincial playdowns to 12. Manitoba has 16.

Time to re-think that approach, especially when the Manitoba men have two byes into their provincials now.

ADDED INCENTIVE: Word about the WCT's plan to host a lucrative pre-Olympic tourney in Toronto came out some time ago. That tournament, to be played in the Air Canada Centre, Oct. 19-25, 2009, is expected to feature nine Olympic-bound teams and, since Canada's will not be determined yet, four Canuck squads heading to the Canadian Curling Trials. These will be the first four to qualify, (since the last four will not be determined), which will be an added incentive for teams to become one of those 'Ferbey First Four.' ... Nova Scotia legend Colleen Jones was on hand to autograph her new book, Curling Secrets, at Grant Park's McNally Robinson Books yesterday.


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