They are the kind of numbers that make the good folks at Curl Manitoba feel warm and fuzzy and chilled all at the same time.
The total entries in the annual Tim Hortons Christmas Youth Bonspiel are down from 80 to 68 this year -- that in itself is hardly a new development in curling -- but it's from where a good chunk of those numbers come that has the sport's heavyweights both intrigued and concerned.
Consider this: of those 68 teams across three events, junior men's, women's and youth -- 30, or almost half -- hail from the Pembina (19) and St. Vital (11) Curling Clubs.
"I was startled by that," said Curl Manitoba president Resby Coutts. "The positive, obviously, is there has to be a model from those two programs that we as a sport and association should be learning from. Kudos to the organizers and volunteers and organizers in those two clubs who are clearly doing something really right in terms of teaching them the sport and mentoring them in the next step.
"The flip side of that is, what are we not doing right in other places? I know there are other good programs, but when you look at the list and the very small number of teams coming to the Christmas bonspiel from outside of Winnipeg, there are darn few kids coming from more than a half hour outside the Perimeter Highway.
"It's economics, it's time, it's different priorities from earlier generations... all kinds of factors. The question is, what can we do to help those clubs?"
Now, if the Pembina Curling Club was to ever piece together a recruitment poster for their junior program, the accompanying photo might have been taken at the 4 p.m. junior men's draw at the Charleswood Curling Club where four of the five sheets -- and half of the teams -- featured rinks from the Pembina.
"The program has been around for awhile and it just seems that more people are hearing about it every year," said Aaron Anderson, who skipped his Pembina rink to a win over Carter Wilson, also of the Pembina for his second victory on opening day. "More and more young people are joining. Word gets around and it builds."
But no program builds without a solid foundation and, truth be known, what they are doing at clubs like St. Vital and Pembina isn't all that complicated.
"We have a large program from our Little Rockers all the way up to our juniors," explained Sid Greenstone, Pembina's junior co-ordinator. "We have 42 teams and 196 junior curlers. It's quite a successful program and it's been like that for a fair number of years. We're just continuing what is already in place.
"It's really gratifying, because the more youth you have involved the more you have the next generation of adult curlers."
Action continues in the event Friday at the Assiniboine Memorial, Deer Lodge and Charleswood Curling Clubs with the finals going Saturday at 4 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. at Assiniboine Memorial.
And as an added incentive, two berths in the Junior Men's and one berth from the Junior Women's events will be awarded to the 2013 Canola Junior Provincial Championships, January 3-7 at the Brandon Curling Club, from the Christmas Youth Bonspiel.
ACT NOW: Curl Manitoba is urging prospective teams to get their entries for the 125th annual MCA Men's Bonspiel in ASAP. As of noon on Thursday, the event had 323 entries -- still far short of their target of 512.
The deadline for entering is Jan. 2, 2013, but in order to ensure that every team gets a guaranteed six games, there may be a cut off to allow for perfect draw numbers and to prevent byes and artificial defaults. For more info and to enter, visit curlmanitoba.org.
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The Tim Hortons Christmas Youth Bonspiel