The curling gods smiled down on Al Sutherland last weekend.
As Manitoba’s Jeff Stoughton was performing his patented spinarama deliveries on his last stones — down 9-4 and virtually conceding the Brier title to Northern Ontario’s Brad Jacobs — Sutherland was checking off the list of his participants for his upcoming Victoria Curling Classic.
Jacobs was not slated to attend Sutherlland’s World Curling Tour stop, but Stoughton, Glenn Howard and Brad Gushue — the remaining Brier playoff teams — were.
That means Sutherland’s event remains intact, barring any late unforeseen changes.
“It turned out well for us,” said Sutherland, who annually organizes the Classic. “I was pulling for [Jacobs], that’s for sure. It’s nice to have a full field here and not have to worry about getting last-minute replacement teams.
“It’s a solid field, plus all the top-10 Canadian teams are here [outside of Jacobs],” added Sutherland, who is busy this week taking out the ice at Victoria Curling Centre and putting in the ice at Archie Browning Sports Centre for the Classic, which begins Wednesday. The VCC is being used as party central for the upcoming Ford World Men’s Championship at Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre.
The eighth-annual Classic is a star-studded event, featuring eight teams that will also be competing at those Worlds from March 30-April 7.
Eight of the top 10 WCT money leaders will also be at the Classic in Kevin Koe, Stoughton, Mike McEwen, Kevin Martin, Howard, B.C.’s Jim Cotter, John Epping and Gushue.
Rob Fowler, Steve Laycock, Joel Jordison, Rick McKague, Steve Petryk and local Neil Dangerfield round out the Canadians in the field.
Internationally, Scotland’s Tom Brewster, Norway’s Thomas Ulsrud, Sweden’s Niklas Edin, Japan’s Yusuke Morozumi, Finland’s Aku Kauste, Brady Clark of the U.S., Sven Michel of Switzerland and Russia’s Alexey Tselousov will all have their World teams here for the Classic in preparation for worlds.
At the Classic, Japan will also be represented by Naoki Iwagana and Oscar Eriksson ices a second Swedish team.
The opening draw features McEwen against Dangerfield, Fowler versus Eriksson of Sweden, Morozumi against Edin and Laycock versus Michel at 7:30 p.m. The event is strictly a men’s tournament this season.
Thursday games go at 9:30 a.m., 1 p.m., 4:30 p.m. and 8 p.m., and Sunday features semifinals at 10 a.m. and the championship game at 2 p.m.
A total of $76,000 in prize money is up for grabs, with $25,000 going to the winner (Martin is the defending champ). There are all-important Canadian Team Ranking System points involved as well, which calculates rankings toward Olympic trials.
“They love to come here,” said Sutherland. “The weather, the volunteers and fans play a big part.”
Tickets for the Classic are on sale at the Victoria Curling Centre. The event is competing against the Worlds, which has sold $600,000 worth of tickets for the month-end event.
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