Hurry to hogline hangout

Wayne Middaugh brought his team close to qualifying for the provincial Tankard, but was eliminated...

Wayne Middaugh brought his team close to qualifying for the provincial Tankard, but was eliminated Monday with a loss to Ottawa's Howard Rajala at the East Challenge Round. (Steve Lobel photo)

GEORGE KARRYS, Special to QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:29 PM ET

OSHAWA -- A grand curling experiment is underway east of Toronto this week, as the BDO Canadian Open, the third 2011 Capital One Grand Slam of Curling event, hits the ice Wednesday night (7:30 p.m. ET) through Sunday at the General Motors Centre.

The on-ice agenda is somewhat familiar. 18 teams curling their brains out for big bucks and bragging rights? Check. Top dawgs Martin, Howard and Ferbey? Check. CBC for weekend television coverage? Check.

A beer garden? Check--but here lies the difference. For the first time in recent memory, a curling game ticket will not be required to gain access to the party palace.

The Silver Bullet Bar opens at noon on Friday, Saturday and even Sunday and a separate entrance offers non-curling-savvy Oshawa residents a chance to rub shoulders with the local curling community, event volunteers and the visiting competitors.

And, it is hoped, to eventually wander next door to the main arena to check out the best in live men's curling competition.

"We're pretty excited," said Jason Enge, Food and Beverage Manager at the General Motors Centre. "The curling folks told us it was just fine to experiment with a separate entrance, so we decided to go for it.

"The Silver Bullet Bar will be the place to be this weekend in Oshawa, Whitby, Ajax and more."

The usual routine sees curling fans use their tickets or passes to the famed "Keith's Patch", which is open between and after games for fun and frolic. Enge says there is lots of fun on tap at the makeshift watering hole.

"We've got two great live bands Friday and Saturday, The Dirt Squirrel All-Stars and 3HT, which stands for Three Hour Tour," said Enge. "The Squirrels play covers and country, which will be great for the Alberta curling teams, while 3HT plays classic rock.

"We've also brought in some arcade games, like foosball, table hockey, pinball and Golden Tee golf."

The Silver Bullet Bar will also offer food and drink, including a "Caesar Sunday" featuring 10 different garnishes for the iconic Canadian beverage. With every Daily Lunch Special purchased, the customer will receive a draw entry for Toronto Maple Leafs tickets.

"We'll have Wii Curling in there, too," said Enge. "The top Wii player will win four Best Seats for an Oshawa Generals hockey game, with a $100 food voucher."

For event info, including live athlete video chats, check out: grandslamofcurling.comand click on the "Canadian Open" tab.

Another hot GTA curling ticket is the Ontario Scotties women's provincial championship, on now at Thornhill Golf and Country Club. Ottawa's Rachel Homan and defending champ Krista McCarville of Thunder Bay are the prohibitive favourites, but stranger things have happened. The Sunday semi and final will be aired live on Rogers TV -- visit thornhillgcc.com/club/Scotties.php for details.

BROOM BITS

Wayne Middaugh made it all the way to the East Challenge Round playoff finals before falling to Ottawa's Howard Rajala. As such, Rajala -- and Harriston's Jake Higgs -- are the final two teams for February's The Dominion Ontario Tankard in Grimsby.

The two-time world champ lost a tight first playoff match, and would have also needed to beat Rajala a second time to advance to Grimsby anyway.

Middaugh drives right back to Oshawa for Thursday morning's second draw of the BDO Canadian Open, for a match against Higgs. Ontario rival Glenn Howard starts play Wednesday night against Sarnia's Mark Bice, as does Edmonton's Kevin Martin, who challenges Toronto's John Epping.

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George Karrys is: curlinguru.com


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