Grand Slam trying 50-rock

Brandon's Rob Fowler is one of three Manitoba teams competing in Kingston this weekend. (Marcel...

Brandon's Rob Fowler is one of three Manitoba teams competing in Kingston this weekend. (Marcel Cretain/QMI Agency/File)

JIM BENDER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:52 AM ET

WINNIPEG - The pilot for curling’s own 50-Rock Show will air this weekend.

That is, the top teams in Canada will experiment with a five-rock free guard zone rule at the Grand Slam that starts Wednesday in Kingston, Ont.

“That’s sure going to be interesting,” said Brandon’s Rob Fowler, one of three Manitoba teams that will be competing there. “We’ve been practising it with a number of different scenarios because we need to be prepared to play it.”

Despite the experiment, teams can still earn valuable CTRS points and big money, so it won’t be just a friendly exhibition.

“Teams are just so good at playing defence now that this is going to promote offence, which I think is a good thing,” Fowler said. “But it could also lead to more lopsided scores, which would not be good for the game.

“But, until we try it, I’ll need some time to think about it.”

Both reigning world champion Jeff Stoughton and World Curling Tour money leader Mike McEwen will also be in Kingston.

For the record, I was one of the first to support the free guard zone before it came in, but I am completely against the idea of a five-rock — or 50-rock — rule.

You can judge for yourself when CBC televises the playoff games on Saturday and Sunday. Let me know what you think.

Fowler likes four berths

Fowler, who just won the Manitoba Curling Tour Championship on Sunday, endorsed the idea of CurlManitoba awarding four men’s provincial berths to the Tour (the championship, the two highest points-getters and one to a designated spiel).

“They (CurlManitoba) could add another team from the CTRS points standings as well,” he suggested.

Earned enough points

Deer Lodge’s Sean Grassie knows he backed into the provincials after getting awarded a provincial spot despite failing to even qualify at the MCT Championship in Morris, and was feeling a little sheepish about it.

“It is strange after going 0-3 on the weekend and it was nerve-wracking watching the scores knowing a whole bunch of things had to happen for us to get in, and they did,” he said.

“We weren’t overly sharp on the weekend but we did lost to three teams that made it to the semifinals. On the whole, we had a pretty good year on the Tour.”

Grassie made it because his team had earned enough points in the standings heading into last weekend.

Grassie can now concentrate on his next venture, which is starting a new MCT spiel at the Deer Lodge, Jan. 12-15. The entry fee to the triple-knockout spiel will be $300 and will include a special Jets social event on the Saturday afternoon. No games will be scheduled at 2 p.m., so the curlers can watch the Winnipeg Jets play on TV in the lounge.

Teams will earn MCT points for next season.

“This will give teams another chance to play before the provincials,” Grassie said.

Of course, that could cut into the entries for the MCA Bonspiel, or the bonspiel could affect the new spiel’s entries.

For more info, call Grassie at 250-3873.

Busiest weekend of year

It is going to be the busiest weekend of the year for local curlers. Aside from the Slam, the men’s provincial qualifiers will be held, with the city regionals to be played at the Wildewood and Victoria Curling Clubs … The women’s provincial qualifiers will go at the same time, with the city regionals to be played at the Victoria … And the Masters men’s regionals have already started.

Great delivery

Congrats to Jill Officer, who gave birth to a baby girl named Camryn on Monday. She is apparently hoping to be back playing second for Jennifer Jones in January.


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