Sports Curling

Province’s top curlers coming to Barrie next week vying for shot at national crown 0

By Stephen Sweet, Special to QMI Agency

Ontario skip Glenn Howard curls against Manitoba during the final game at the 2011 Brier curling championships in London. The Midland native and his rink — Wayne Middaugh, Brent Laing and Craig Savill — are considered the favourites heading into the 2013 Dominion Tankard, but event chairman Ken Leach says the team will face some stiff competition. MARK BLINCH REUTERS

Ontario skip Glenn Howard curls against Manitoba during the final game at the 2011 Brier curling championships in London. The Midland native and his rink — Wayne Middaugh, Brent Laing and Craig Savill — are considered the favourites heading into the 2013 Dominion Tankard, but event chairman Ken Leach says the team will face some stiff competition. MARK BLINCH REUTERS

The road to the Brier goes through Barrie.

For the first time ever, the Dominion Tankard men’s provincial curling championship will be held in Barrie, where 11 rinks will vie for the opportunity to represent Ontario in the national tournament.

Ken Leach, chairman of the Dominion Tankard’s host committee, feels that they’re just about ready to go.

“(Being) less than a week away, the preparations have gone exceedingly well. We’re happy with where we are, and we have all of the pieces covered off that we can think of.”

The ice-makers were set to converge on the Barrie Molson Centre by Thursday morning, and they’ll have a few days to make sure everything is perfect before the provincial championship begins Monday afternoon.

“It’s going to be a great time,” Leach said. “We’ve got probably one of the best fields that we’ve had in a long time.”

The favourite is Midland’s Glenn Howard, who comes in as the defending provincial, national and world champion, not to mention the fact that his rink has won seven consecutive Ontario titles.

But he won’t be the only local talent on display.

“It’s Team Howard country here, that’s for sure,” Leach said. “But there’s also Glenn’s son, Scott Howard (who is the second for Team Epping), and he’ll be bringing his friends down.”

Joe Frans has taken over the Bradford Curling Club’s entry this season, skipping in place of the retired Dale Matchett, and that rink is likely to draw some attention, too.

“They’re not too far away either, so we’ll have people coming from the north and the south,” Leach said.

Although most of the spectators are expected to be walk-up customers, there has already been a number of ticket packages purchased.

“Ticket sales have been extremely good,” said Leach, noting that Wednesday night’s Epping-versus-Howard draw and the weekend matches are close to being sold out.

“We’ve sold about 2,500 tickets, and we’re looking at between 10-15,000 people (for the week) and possibly even more," he added.

The Barrie Molson Centre will be the largest venue to host the Dominion Tankard in at least half a decade, and Leach expects that it will create a fun environment.

“It’s not very often that curling teams get to play in front of thousands of screaming fans,” Leach said. “So it’ll be exciting for the fans, but it’ll be exciting for the players as well.”

There will be more than just the draws to entice the fans, as live music and other events will take place at the Barrie Molson Centre next week.

“We’ll be having some junior curling on Saturday morning, featuring teams from Stroud, Elmvale, Bradford and Barrie, as well as the Special Olympics championship later that day,” Leach said.

“As well, the Horsepower Bar & Grill has magically transformed into the Spirit Catcher Lounge for the week, and we have entertainment there every night," he said.

Leach says that the help they’ve received from Barrie to put on this event has made a big difference.

“They’ve been very good, and everyone from the city has been extraordinarily helpful,” Leach said. “We’ve asked for support and it’s been ready and willing.

Barrie Molson Centre manager Robin Groves "has done a terrific job with us and been willing to help bring this great event to the city," he added.

And with the final being televised nationally on Rogers Sportsnet, it will be an opportunity to put their hard work on display.

“We’re hoping that we can make Barrie shine and show not only Ontario, but the rest of Canada, how great it is to be part of the city of Barrie,” Leach said.

Ticket packages are already on sale at the Barrie Molson Centre box office, by phoning TicketPro at 1-888-655-9090 or by e-mail at barrietankardtickets2013@gmail.com. Individual tickets will go on sale Saturday.

For more information, visit www.thedominiontankard2013.ca.

barrie.sports@sunmedia.ca

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