Winnipeg safe choice for Olympic trials

TERRY JONES, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 4:36 PM ET

If the Phoenix Coyotes end up moving to Winnipeg, they won't be playing in the MTS Centre Dec. 1-8, 2013.

"Good luck to Winnipeg returning to the NHL and if it happens, we hope the team has a good road trip," said Canadian Curling Association CEO Greg Stremlaw after announcing Winnipeg had defeated Ottawa in the final bidding to play host to the 2013 Tim Hortons Roar of the Rings Olympic curling trials.

Winnipeg was no surprise, just as Edmonton will be no surprise when a

follow announcement is made in the weeks ahead that the Alberta capital will play host to the 2013 Brier.

The two cities are considered the top two world capitals of the sport and the year leading into the 2014 Sochi Olympics is big if the CCA hopes to take advantage of the Vancouver Olympics effect.

The Winnipeg announcement was made at ice level prior to the afternoon draw of the Brier Wednesday.

"It's great," said Jeff Stoughton, the 47-year-old, two-time champion

playing in his ninth Brier.

"I can't wait to get my tickets," he added prior to taking the ice to play Saskatchewan.

But will the veteran, who lost the Trials final to Brad Gushue in 2005,

make one last try to get to the Olympics now that it's being held in his home town?

"I haven't made up my mind," he said.

Winnipeg was considered a slam dunk for 2013 when the 2009 trials ended in Edmonton but a new process was put into place, where a guaranteed bid fee was involved and bids encouraged. But the CCA decided to invite bids and six Canadian cities from coast to coastwere involved, said Stremlaw

after making Winnipeg the second Manitoba city to play host to the event.

The first, Brandon, produced Nagano 1998 Olympic gold medal winner

Sandra Schmirler. It drew 109,855. Regina in 2001 drew 143,187, Halifax in 2005 hit 159,235 and Edmonton, despite crippling weather conditions, set the record at 175,852 in 2009 with fewer draws under a new format.

Dollars were a factor in deciding where the game would roar next.

Winnipeg guaranteed $1 million. Ottawa guaranteed $750,000.

But that wasn't the real decider. It was location, location, location. And in more ways than one.

It was West versus East. Guarantees are West. Gambles are East.

"Ottawa has a venue which is state-of-the-art," said Stremlaw of Scotia

Bank Place, suppling the positive.

But the flip side of the coin is that the building is 26 kilometres from

downtown Ottawa and there are three draws a day, alternating from men's to women's.

There's no pubic transportation. And Ontario hasn't had a good track record with recent hostings until this one, and it's been only moderately

successful.

"Winnipeg has a great proven track record," said the CEO of the city,

although director of event operations Warren Hansen points out Winnipeg's reputation isn't what it used to be.

"Since 1998 they haven't had overwhelming successes. They've all been OK.

But there's a challenge there," he said.

Downtown Winnipeg has enclosed pedways from hotels to the arena and

transportation isn't a factor.

As for the Edmonton 2013 Brier, the Oilers can expect to be on the road in early March.

With the ballistic hostings which produced record attendances of 281,985

for the 2005 Brier, 184,973 for the 2007 Ford Worlds and the 175,852 for the Trials, Edmonton needed a bit of a break from hosting major curling events.

Organizers made it clear they wanted to go back to the event which brings

the most fans to town and offers the most fun, the celebration of Canadiana that is the Brier.

The 2013 Brier will be exceptionally meaningful in terms of determining

teams qualifying for the Olympic Trials.

It will also be the last opportunity to celebrate the career of Kevin

Martin, who announced this week that he will not continue past the 2014 Sochi Olympic year.

Randy Ferbey won the 2005 Brier in Edmonton.

The Old Bear deserves a chance to have the same experience.

Follow me on Twitter.com/sunterryjones

terry.jones@sunmedia.ca


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