Heavyweights on board

JIM BENDER -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:46 AM ET

Christmas is coming faster than peel weight.

"And have we got a great deal for you," Lorne Hamblin said yesterday.

Anxious to boost Brier ticket sales as the yuletide approaches, the vice-president of business for the 2008 Brier committee, unveiled the latest package. The committee also introduced former Brier champions Jeff Stoughton and Kerry Burtnyk as promoters for the Canadian men's curling championship, which will be played at the MTS Centre, March 8-16.

The deal is a "Rocks in Your Socks" package that offers two tickets to cover all three draws in one day for just $49 but are limited to any of March 9-12. They go on sale today at Ticketmaster or order online at www.seasonofchampions.ca.

"It's a great gift idea for the curling fan on your list," Hamblin said.

About 76,400 ticket packages have been sold to date., which is ahead of schedule of both the 1998 Brier and 2003 world championships, which were both held at Winnipeg Arena. The '98 Brier finished with a disappointing turnout of about 147,000, although it did turn a modest profit.

Stoughton figures that drawing more than 200,000 would be considered a success, even if that would fall far short of Edmonton's record of almost 282,000.

"That (200,000) would beat the '98 Brier," he said. "The size of the venue plays a little bit into it but there's no reason why Winnipeggers, Manitobans, Saskatchewanians and Ontario people can't come here and fill this place. There's nothing worse than playing in front of empty seats. So, for evening draws, we expect this place to be packed and for all the playoffs and the weekend, we would expect this roof to be blown off, especially if a Manitoba team is there."

With a capacity of about 12,000 per draw, the most Winnipeg can hope to draw without tiebreakers is about 252,000 and that's with selling out every single draw. To challenge Edmonton's record will be nearly impossible, so it claims to be the new 'centre of the curling universe.'

"Certainly, right now, they've (Alberta men's teams) been dominant on the curling side and on the venue side, you can't argue with the success they've had with Briers and world championships," Stoughton said. "But this one would put Winnipeg right back on the map to say we are the 'curling capital of the country.' That's the goal and all Winnipeggers should try to live up to that."

Certainly, the MTS Centre has proven to be an ideal curling venue after hosting three Grand Slam spiels.

"A lot of the guys that are capable of being in this event have played here in the Grand Slam events the last couple of years and they just absolutely loved the facility, they've loved the crowds that came out for that, which were the biggest of any of the Grand Slams," Burtnyk said. "So, that's a great setup for now for the Brier because, if we can get the biggest crowds for that, why not get the biggest crowds for the Brier?

"Now, with a few months to go here, momentum's going to start to pick up, hopefully and we'll have a whole arena just jam-packed because it's going to be a wonderful event."

HALL OF FAME GAME: Fort Rouge's Barb Spencer beat Brandon's Liza Park 5-1 in the Scotties Tournament of Hearts Berth Bonspiel final in Brandon on Monday.

"This weekend was tough on me because my dad (Jim Kirkness) was getting into the (Manitoba) Hall of Fame for football and I had to miss because I was here," Spencer said from Brandon shortly after the victory. "So, I told myself, if I have to miss it to be here, then I've got to win this thing."

Kirkness was inducted as a running back of the St. Vital Bulldogs team that won the Canadian championship in 1968 and '69.

Supported by new third, Kristen Williamson, new second Brette Richards and Barb Enright, Spencer is the first to earn a trip to the women's provincials, to be held in Gimli, Jan. 23-27.


Videos

Photos