On button in Arctic

JIM BENDER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:55 AM ET

Sean Grassie has embarked on a curling adventure of a lifetime.

Make that a rather cold adventure, even for curling.

This morning, the Grassie rink will hop a flight out of Ottawa to Iqaluit, Nunavut, where his Deer Lodge squad will represent Manitoba at the Canadian Mixed championship, to be played Nov. 8-15.

"This will be unique," Grassie said.

In fact, this is the first time in history that a national sports championship will be held in Iqaluit, the capital of Nunavut which boasts a population of 7,000.

Grassie's foursome purchased specially-made parkas to keep them warm in the true Great White North next week. While their hotel is covered, meals are apparently another story in an area where whale blubber has been a staple of locals.

"We're real excited to go to Nunavut," said Grassie, who will be supported by third Allison Nimik, second Ross Derksen and Kendra Green. "It's a once-in-a-lifetime chance.

"However, the competition will be first and foremost."

Both Grassie and Nimik are former provincial junior winners so they have been to nationals before. Both Derksen and Green played for David Hamblin when he lost the 2006 national Mixed final. Nimik, however, has since moved to Calgary and will be joining Grassie et all in Iqaluit.

"We practised when she was here for the sendoff at the Deer Lodge and I'm playing men's with Ross so that will help," said Grassie, 30. "It's also our third year of playing Mixed together."

Grassie is well aware that Manitoba has not won the national Mixed title since some guy named Jeff Stoughton turned the trick back in 1991.

"Hopefully, we can change that this year," he said.

If they do win, Grassie will have the thankless task of picking two team members to represent Canada at the 2009 World Mixed Doubles Championship in Italy as the Canadian Curling Association has decided to pick that rep from this winner once again.

"I know they're trying to make this an Olympic sport but I would prefer to have a regular Mixed competition with four players," Grassie said. "If you win, you will have the dilemma of trying to pick which two players should go. But then, I wouldn't mind a free trip to Europe."

The major downside to competing in Nunavut is that it is cost-prohibitive for any fans or family who might want to go. In fact, Grassie's grandparents have decided to pass on paying the $1,300 flight (per person) and hotel at $140 a night. Without a special rate, it would $230 a night, and never mind the high cost of meals.

"If this was being held anywhere else, we would have one of the best supported teams there," said the Red River College student. "That's the biggest drawback."

Grassie opens the competition at the Arniatok Arena against Ontario's Wayne Tuck and Nova Scotia's former Brier/Mixed champion Mark Dacey.

"It will be real important to get off to a good start," Grassie said. "If we can win those, we'll be off to the races."

Just say mush.


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