Executive director Shane Ray is optimistic that the MCA Bonspiel is on the rebound, and members of a team from rural Manitoba back him up in his belief.
Deloraine's Blair Goethals returned to the 121st annual MCA Bonspiel this year after a 14- or 15-year absence. His second, Don Williams, who played the same position for provincial champ Duane Edwards in 1990, is back after seven or eight years away.
Both say more teams from outside the Perimeter are contemplating coming back to the world's largest bonspiel, and it's all because the province's governing curling body shortened the event from seven to five days.
"I've talked to a lot of rural rinks that are thinking of coming back again just because of that," Williams said.
Many teams will actually be done by tomorrow night, which means they don't have to extend their hotel stay and they'll be able to report to work on Monday. Money is the biggest factor keeping rural teams away, according to Williams.
"We used to come every year, when the old International (hotel) was $45," he said. "So for $20 bucks a night you were OK, but now it's $100-plus."
The grind of playing 14 or 15 games over the course of seven days didn't help, either.
"It got to be a long time off work and everything if you did make it into the next week, Wednesday to Wednesday or whatever," Williams said. "Once you get into that next week, it's kind of tough."
There are 412 teams in this year's bonspiel -- up from 401 last year -- and 63 come from outside the Perimeter.
Goethals hasn't had to worry about entering the MCA Bonspiel for the past two years because he had a Safeway Championship berth through the zone playdowns.
This year he's looking for a provincial spot, but admitted he might have returned anyway because of the adjustments that were made.
"It's kind of nice to come back," Goethals said. "I don't think there is a lot of rural rinks here by the looks of it compared to the amount of entries.
"But hopefully, maybe, this format might change that. It looks like a lot more workable format to me."
HOT STARTS: Some of the squads that were still perfect in the premier event after three games yesterday were Rorketon's Murray Woodward, Hamiota's Brent Strachan, West Kildonan's Doug Riach and Brad Haight, Pembina's Travis Bale and St. Vital's Dave Smith.