Clearly, the idea of recapturing that Brier magic is starting to die a slow death for one of Manitoba's most popular rock tossers.
Thistle's Randy Dutiaume has been trying to get back to the Brier ever since he made the playoffs there in 2005. After the men's provincials ended in frustration the past two seasons, Dutiaume's desire to return was rekindled when he served as fifth man for Charleswood's Jeff Stoughton at last year's Brier.
But Dutiaume is having a tough time just trying to get back to the men's provincials this year. After failing to win his city zone, his team will have one last chance at one of the five berths available at the MCA's 120th Annual Bonspiel that starts tomorrow.
"There's certainly frustration when you know how good you can play and how consistent you can play," Dutiaume admitted after being eliminated from the zones on the weekend. "And this year -- it's happened the whole year -- we've totally dominated a game and won handily. Then, we'll come out and play an equal team, or one even worse, and we'll stumble and bumble along.
"For myself, I've had a very up and down year. The skip, for the most part, always gets all the glory but he also gets all the heat, too and I just haven't been able to get out of this funk we're in. I don't know what to say. I'll keep trying a little harder and a little harder. I'll keep throwing rocks and try to stay in the best shape I can and see what happens in the MCA. That's all we've got to look forward to."
There are even whispers now that the team of third Dave Elias, second Shane Kilgallen and Chris Suchy could part ways if they fail to earn a trip to the Safeway Championship in Brandon through what is still the world's biggest bonspiel. Dutiaume, you may recall, won the 2005 Manitoba title after winning the grand aggregate at the MCA spiel.
"We've played well at the MCA before but any competitive team knows it's a crapshoot," said Dutiaume, 45. "You could play on a rink like the Wildewood on the fifth draw of the day. If they scrape first thing in the morning, it's going to be a crapshoot. In those games, you just never know who's going to win.
"We've got to start picking it up. We've got to do something to get out of this funk we're in ... It just seems the way this year has been going, we'd be knocking on the door and nobody lets us in."
Others still seeking provincial berths through the spiel include Victoria's reigning grand aggregate champion Brad Haight, West St. Paul's Dave Boehmer and Assiniboine Memorial's David Bohn.
The MCA has actually lured an even 400 teams to the bonspiel, still far short of the desired 448. Those sparse numbers could make it easier for Dutiaume et al to qualify. And if those numbers should continue to decline, the MCA should whittle the provincials down from 32 teams.
If pressed, the MCA would likely still take entries but only in blocks of four teams at a time. All games will be eight ends this year.
ANNIVERSARY: When Doug Harrison arrives in Brandon for next month's men's championship, he will be celebrating an anniversary of sorts. It was exactly 30 years ago that he won his only men's title -- in the Wheat City.
Harrison, 59, will also be competing in the senior men's provincial playdowns at third for Granite's Vic Peters next month.
"I'm pretty happy with the way the year has gone," said Harrison, who plays third for Granite's Scott Madams in men's.
BITER: Although there has been talk about the MCA going after the 2009 Olympic trials qualifying tournament, the MCA has not even submitted a bid to the CCA -- yet. Nor is it ready to offer the type of guarantee that Prince George, B.C., ($300,000) did to host the event.
"We're still talking to see if we can do it," said MCA executive director Ian Staniloff.