It's time, bring on the WHA

TED WYMAN

, Last Updated: 1:32 PM ET

ST. JOHN'S, Nfld. -- For the next couple of weeks, the Hit Parade comes to you from The Rock, home of seal flippers (they actually eat them), Jiggs dinner (not sure what it is, but we're afraid), a beverage called Screech that could start a Chevy and an equal number of bars and citizens. The NHL season is mercifully toast, so we can all finally stop blathering on about it. Bring on the WHA.

And despite the news that the Stanley Cup will not be hoisted this season, it's an exciting time of year.

Baseball's spring training is underway, injecting life (and other things) into the sports world. And here in Canada, it's championship curling season.

It may not be as exciting as hockey, but at least the only lockout in this sport comes when the curlers can't get into their rooms at 3 a.m.

So here we are in St. John's, where even funerals are an excuse to party, watching Canada's best women curlers pound the pebble.

That brings us to some thoughts about the Roaring Game:

* Manitoba may not win the Brier again this year, but it will almost certainly send the most colourful and interesting team to Edmonton.

Randy Dutiaume's rags-to-riches story is incredible and the skip is entertaining both on and off the ice.

Dutiaume's body English on the ice is comical and his zest for the game refreshing. Nobody wanted the Safeway Select trophy more than him and his desire was key to his success.

He was dubbed "Lunch Box" for his blue-collar work ethic, and that workmanlike effort was far more effective than Jeff Stoughton's high-brow modus operandi.

Dutiaume walks and talks like someone who lives to curl, not necessarily for money, but because he truly loves the game. He is the antithesis of an NHL player and just the kind of sportsman we need to see right now.

* Cathy Gauthier is a fine curler, as evidenced by her presence at the Scott this week, but she's also a superb curling commentator, one of the best in the business and one who deserves more work in that field.

* One person particularly happy about the increased curling coverage on CBC this year is play-by-play man Don Wittman. The Winnipegger normally has plenty of work during the winter as a voice of NHL hockey on the network but has had his workload drastically cut during the lockout. "Thank God for curling," Wittman said this week. The CBC took over broadcast rights for Canadian curling from TSN this year, meaning Wittman will be calling draws from St. John's all week.

SHOW SOME RESPECT: If I was a Second World War veteran, I would certainly take offence to the TSN talking heads referring to the date of the NHL lockout deadline as D-Day ... Best sign I've seen so far in St. John's is outside the er, "gentleman's club" across the street from Mile One Stadium (remember, I said OUTSIDE). It reads: "Scott participants welcome." ... If Jeff Garcia isn't good enough for the Cleveland Browns, there can't be many options left. If he doesn't turn up in the CFL, he might have to settle for starting QB in next year's Lingerie Bowl ... Jason Giambi may be a cheat, and he may have ruined his career by taking steroids and then going into the tank after dropping them, but he's two things most baseball players are not: Remorseful and semi-honest ... Can't help thinking the deal that the NHL offered the players the other day was a potential agreement neither side could be happy with. And it definitely wouldn't have been good enough to get a team in Winnipeg. The players must realize a $50-million salary cap would be about as useful as a two-bit burger joint on a $21 million bridge.


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