MCA hopes changes bring numbers up

KIRK PENTON -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 11:14 AM ET

The MCA might add yet another wrinkle to its new-look men's bonspiel.

Manitoba's governing curling body is thinking about kicking off the world's largest bonspiel on Friday night instead of the traditional Thursday night start.

Combined with a proposed six-game guarantee instead of the usual eight, more than half the field would be eliminated from the event by Sunday night.

The bonspiel would end on Monday with a Thursday start, while a Friday opening would push the conclusion to Tuesday.

The MCA figures turning the bonspiel into a weekend of action for most teams -- instead of the usual four-day grind -- will boost the numbers, which have sagged considerably the last few years.

This year's field of 400 teams is the smallest of the modern era, and the number of rural Manitoba squads -- excluding those from places just outside the perimeter like Selkirk, Springfield and La Salle -- is down to 59.

"If the country teams come in and they don't make it past the initial six games, they're only in here for two nights," drawmaster Mel Marsh said.

Bonspiel chairman Rod MacKay pointed out that a Friday start would benefit the city teams as well.

"The guys that have to take off Monday and Tuesday (with a Friday start) wouldn't be as many as have to take off Friday and Monday (with a Thursday start)," MacKay said. "I like the idea of starting on a Friday."

The MCA has all but rubber-stamped the format change for next year's bonspiel, but it will remain a double-knockout event for teams vying for provincial berths.

There will be one "main" event, and each team's first loss will drop them into only one of two "major" events.

The teams that meet in the main event final will both earn Safeway Championship berths, while the winners of the two major events will also punch their tickets to the provincial championship.

Then only one playoff game would have to be held, pitting the losers of the two major event finals against one another, to determine the fifth and final berth.

The new format would also reduce the number of byes, which are prevalent in the current system, and the MCA is thinking about dropping Saturday's 9 p.m. draw and hosting a social instead.

"I brought it up to lots of the teams that I've talked to," MacKay said of the Saturday night bash, "and they think it's a great idea."


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