Cemetery of dreams

TERRY JONES, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:38 AM ET

It's where Olympic dreams come to die.

On this weekend, one year from now, Canada's men's curling team for the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games will emerge from the Roar of the Rings Olympic Trials at Rexall Place.

But this weekend, starting today at the Saville Centre, is where many an Olympic dream is going to end.

"The Olympic dream is still alive for all 45 teams who compete here this weekend," said Randy Ferbey.

"But this is the last chance for them. If they make it to the semifinal, they qualify for one of the eight spots at the Canada Cup.

"If they win that, they are still alive to next November. But for a lot of guys, after this weekend, they'll be out of it."

Old Hurry Hard, Russ Howard, is going to be here.

Four years ago, Howard was picked up by Brad Gushue and won an Olympic gold medal.

"Russ has no points, but if he gets to the semifinals here, he'll qualify for the Canada Cup, and if he won that he'd still be alive to get back to the Olympics.," said Ferbey.

It's worth the shot.

FAMILIAR FACES

It's the final Canada Cup qualifier of the Olympic countdown and it's big, too, for all the familiar faces who have been going hard for three years to secure their spots for the event which has already sold 3,554 all event passes (63,972 tickets for the 18 draw event) in only 10 days of being on sale.

Other than Russ Howard's brother, who won the world championship two years ago, all the big names are here.

Glenn Howard (and Edmonton's Kevin Martin) already qualified for two of the eight spots for the Roar of the Rings.

The entire qualifying process is just stupidly complicated.

"It took me a month of Sundays to figure it out," said Ferbey. "It's just ridiculous for your average curling fan to completely comprehend. But now that we're this far along using it, the curlers like it because it seems to be fair."

Martin and Howard qualified by each winning three championships in the four main events -- the Brier, World Championship, Canada Cup and Player's Championship -- over the last three years.

Two other rinks will get directly through to the Edmonton 2009 event. At the moment the two bestpositioned to do so are the Edmonton rinks of Ferbey and Kevin Koe.

Both have won a Canada Cup and could get in by winning the Brier and Worlds this season or another Canada Cup and the Players Championship.

Regardless, they are also ranked third and fourth in the three-year point standings -- behind Howard and Martin,

Ferbey, with 434 points (and change), Koe with 413 and Winnipeg's Jeff Stoughton, at 332.

"Stoughton is pretty close to being out of it," explained Ferbey, the six-time Brier winner and four-time world champ who hasn't won much lately but has been collecting qualifying points like crazy.

MOST POINTS

If neither wins two of the biggies this year and nobody else wins three of the four, the fourth and final direct-through-to-Edmonton spot will go to the team that has collected the most points over just the last two seasons.

Koe (298), Ferbey (287), Wayne Middaugh (255), Kerry Burtnyk (254) and Stoughton (223) are the remaining teams with a mathematical chance.

If you're not one of the four rinks to get to the Olympic Trials via the direct route, a dozen other rinks will proceed to Prince George, B.C. for a pre-trials tournament next November to determine the other four teams to play in Edmonton from Dec. 6-13.

Stoughton, Pat Simmons, Middaugh and Burtnyk have already qualified for Prince George, and 2006 Olympic gold medal winner Gushue could effectively punch his ticket here this weekend.

"What the rest of those teams have to do to qualify is complicated as hell. Can't help you there," said Ferbey.

You get the idea. As complicated as it may be, it's also compelling.

Here this week really is where Olympic dreams come to die. But wait 'til this week next year, when Olympic dreams come to fly.


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