For the record

CON GRIWKOWSKY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 11:48 AM ET

There's a certain mystique surrounding the number eight.

In the Chinese culture, it's considered lucky.

In Alberta men's curling, it's become somewhat unlucky, a bit of an insurmountable level.

Ever since Cliff Manahan skipped his Edmonton team to eight Alberta titles between 1933-'50, three other curlers have come up just short of breaking the record.

First up was Randy Ferbey, who hit his eighth Brier appearance with his fifth straight Alberta title as skip in 2005.

Hasn't been back to the final since.

Next up was Don Walchuk, who racked up his eighth Alberta title as Kevin Martin's third in 2006. After skipping his own team in 2007, Walchuk took this year off.

Then there's Martin, whose back-to-back titles the past two seasons put him in some pretty select company.

When the Boston Pizza Cup slides into action at the Grant Fuhr Arena tonight, Martin and Ferbey once again sit on the threshold of history as the winningest curlers in Alberta's curling history.

Although the chase for the milestone adds some cachet to the event, it's not something Martin has his sights set on.

"It doesn't really matter to me, actually," said Martin. "All I'm worried about is being consistent on a weekly basis.

"This week is no different than any other to me. That's outside the way I look at things."

Martin has been a money player this year, winning $101,000 on the World Curling Tour and another $61,000 when he won the resurrected TSN Skins Game.

"I like to compete hard every week," said Martin. "I win my fair share. Win this week or not, that doesn't matter much. Next week, I'd better darn well produce."

In Martin's long-articulated position, playdowns rank No. 3 on his priority list, behind the Olympics and the Grand Slam Events he had a direct hand in creating. His Grand Slam winning streak was snapped at five titles last month in Saskatoon, when he lost the quarterfinal to eventual champ Glenn Howard.

"This is not any more important, in my mind, than any other major event we play in," said Martin. "We're training hard and hopefully ready to go when we step on the ice."

Alberta definitely has taken over as the toughest province in the land.

According to the Order of Merit system, the two-year gauge of WCT team performances, this event has three of the top four teams in the world.

Martin ranks No. 1 ahead of Howard. At No. 3 is Kevin Koe and Ferbey sits at No. 4.

Even though Martin has placed no pressure at all on himself to win this shooting match, he knows it won't be easy to win his third straight title.

"Alberta right now is tough, no question, when you have three of the top four teams in the world," said Martin.

"That's how it is in the world of curling. That's a pretty strong group."

And, that strength of field goes deeper than the top three.

"Never count out Kevin Park," said Martin, about his former teammate, who's tossing last rock for Calgary's Steve Petryk. "He's one of the best curlers ever. And of course (Kurt) Balderston. He's just good. He's been good for years. I wouldn't even call his a dark horse. He'll be somewhere in the mix."

Martin's team has played in just one event since winning the Slam event just before Christmas. Martin has his theories on how WCT teams can stay busy, but that would involve adopting a 16-team format similar to what Saskatchewan runs.

Bottom line, when the teams start throwing rocks in anger today, anything can happen.

And, if neither Ferbey or Martin win, Cliff Manahan's record will be safe for another year.

IS EIGHT ENOUGH?

EIGHT-TIME ALBERTA CHAMPIONS

Cliff Manahan: (all as skip) - 1933 (Brier champion), 1937 (Brier champion), 1938, 1940, 1943, 1944, 1945, 1950.

Don Walchuk: (with skip Pat Ryan) - 1985 (lead), 1987 (second), 1988 (second, Brier champion), 1989 (second, Brier and world champion); (as third for skip Kevin Martin) - 1996, 1997 (Brier champion), 2000, 2006

Randy Ferbey: (as third for skip Pat Ryan) - 1987, 1988 (Brier champion), 1989 (Brier and world champion); (as skip) - 2001 (Brier champion), 2002 (Brier and world champion), 2003 (Brier and world champion), 2004, 2005 (Brier and world champion)

Kevin Martin: (all as skip) - 1991 (Brier champion), 1992, 1995, 1996, 1997 (Brier champion), 2000, 2006, 2007

CONMAN'S FEARLESS ODDS

Kevin Martin, 2-1: goin' for the record

Kevin Koe, 5-2: one of these years

Randy Ferbey, 3-1: in tough company

Steve Petryk, 5-1: dark horse

Kurt Balderston, 5-1 playoff potential

Terry Meek, 7-1: won A in south

James Pahl, 7-1: a surprise

Darren Moulding, 8-1: dedicated

Shane Park, 10-1: rookie jitters

Dave Stewart, 25-1: overmatched

Jeff Ginter, 50-1: tough sledding

Ron Chrenek, 50-1: a different league


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