Turning kids on to curling

JIM BENDER -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:56 AM ET

The most important aspect of hosting such a major event as the Brier is its effect on the grassroots of the sport.

The Brier committee initiated a "Learn to Curl" program that has been so successful that Sport Minister Eric Robinson proclaimed February as Learn to Curl Month at the Granite Curling Club yesterday.

More than 7,000 students and educators across the province are learning about the sport and most of them are expected to attend the Brier at the MTS Centre, March 8-16. About 2,400 students will participate in free clinics this month while Manitoba Hydro has paid for instruction manuals that have been distributed to 200 schools across the province, as well as the Brier tickets for the kids involved.

"Students from across the province are being offered the opportunity to learn the curling basics, watch some world-class curling and become involved at a young age with this wonderful lifetime sport," Robinson said.

"We're hosting the most successful schools program ever," declared program director Sue Clayton.

The Grades 4 and 5 students involved will get a ticket to watch one draw at the Brier and participate in an 'Adopt a Province' poster campaign for a competing team of their choice. The Grade 6 students will participate in a clinic and play a game, as well as getting a ticket to one draw. The Grades 7 to 12 students will also get a ticket and be invited to participate in a contest to create a DVD of an ad for the Brier using its Legends of Rock theme, with the winners to be shown during the Brier.

SLOW SALES: With the Brier just over a month away, ticket sales seem to have stagnated. To date, 105,000 ticket packages have been sold for the event and committee president Barry Greenberg is starting to get antsy.

"We'd like them to be stronger," he readily admitted. "We keep on referring back to the previous Brier and (2003) Worlds and apparently, we're ahead so, it's not out of the norm. But it would be better if the numbers were higher."

Trouble is, the attendance at both the 1998 Brier and 2003 world championships were disappointments.

"We're hoping for a serious surge in the next 30 days as we get closer to the event and a Manitoba champion's declared," Greenberg said. "I expect that people will be talking about it more as we get it closer.

"We're cautiously optimistic but, from a practical point of view, it would be better to have more seats sold at this point than we have."

Single tickets go on sale Feb. 15 (Ticketmaster).

"The Winnipeg community, we know it's a walkup crowd and we know they're going to be there," said Brier co-chair Lorne Hamblin, who plans to sell tickets at an arena Brier booth between his Safeway Championship games in Brandon next week.

LAWES ON TOP: Manitoba's Kaitlyn Lawes improved to 7-1 and is alone in first place after a 6-4 win over B.C. in the late draw last night at the M&M Junior Championships in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.Lawes defeated Newfoundland's Julie Devereaux 11-3. earlier in the day.

Manitoba's Kyle Peters bounced back with a 9-4 victory over B.C. last night. He sits at 4-4 in the middle of the pack. Peters dropped an 8-5 decision to Newfoundland earlier in the day.

Both teams will face Yukon and NWT today.


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