Only five spots are available and with 406 teams fighting it out at 18 Winnipeg curling clubs, veterans such as Vic Peters of Fort Garry will tell you that anything, and everything, can happen along the way.
Heading into the 122nd MCA Bonspiel Thursday, Peters' team was considered by many to be one of, if not the best, teams which had not as yet won a berth.
Peters won his opening-round game Thursday, but a spot in Steinbach was not in the cards.
In Friday's 9 a.m., draw he lost 7-4 to Brad Haight's West Kildonan club, which includes third Trevor Loreth, second Ryan Loden and lead Bret Cawson.
The final nail came in the noon draw when he dropped a 5-4 loss to Mitchell Tarapasky and his Victoria team of third Kevin Shoemaker, second Les Sutherland and lead Clay Kitching.
Meanwhile, Haight's berth hopes got a whole lot better. In the noon draw, Haight beat Scott Barth of Assiniboine Memorial 5-4 and going into the 9 p.m., draw he is undefeated at 3-0.
"We weren't looking forward to playing Vic so early into the bonspiel," said Haight. "This game could have gone either way."
Peters exited the berth race amid fine company. Also playing without a berth, and touted as one of the best, Peter Nicholls of Deer Lodge found himself out of the hunt after losing a pair of games Friday. Mike Hebert of St. Vital beat him 6-2 in the morning draw, and then in the 3 p.m. draw he suffered a serious case of heartburn when he had to forfeit to a rink registered under the name Pepeto Bismoli, of West St. Paul. Nicholls' second, James Kirkness, left at noon on vacation and another teammate injured a leg in the morning draw.
Nicholls had defeated David McLean of Assiniboine 6-3.
Peters, who won the provincials in 1992, '93 and '97, the Brier in '92, and lost to Scotland in the semifinal at the worlds in '92, had no illusions about this bonspiel. "You go for the throat early against everybody. You live by the sword; you die by the sword. I mean four knee sliders can, on a give day, make enough shots to beat a pretty competitive team.
"I think it was just a matter of who was going to miss the worst at the wrong time," Haight said, "but we ended up coming out on top."
Peters said that all the stress of trying for a berth through the back door could have been avoided had it not been for Andrew Wickman of West Kildonan. "We came awfully close in the zone playoffs. We won the A final, and then lost to Wickman twice. We only had to beat him once, but he beat us twice, so we didn't curl that well on that day."
The seasoned skip throws third stones this year, while his son Daley delivers the final two rocks on each end. "Daley was a very good skip as a junior, winning the province a couple of times, and he's wanted to make the transition into men's for a long time."
Regardless of their disappointment, Peters says they plan to enjoy the rest of the bonspiel. "For sure. Win or lose, you have a few beers. That's what curling is all about."
Vic Peters may be out of the hunt for a Safeway Provincials berth, but he's got the world by the tail just the same.
Thursday around midnight, Peters' daughter Kasandra gave birth to a seven pound, 12 oz., baby boy who they named Jacob William, making Peters a grandfather for the first time.
"It was awesome," said Peters, adding that fortunately his grandson looks more like his mom and dad (Joel Leafloor) than him. "Both the baby and his parents are doing well."
Birth is even better
than berth, Vic says
It doesn't appear that drawing a bye in Thursday's first round did anything to help West Kildonan's Randy Dutiame.
With a Safeway berth tucked neatly in his back pocket, Dutiame didn't have a whole lot of pressure on him, but lost just the same Friday, 5-4 to Tony Silvari (unaffiliated) in the 9 a.m. draw. He managed to squeak past Darren Perche of Charleswood 8-7 in the Free Press event's 3 p.m. draw. Dutiame was playing Argyle's Bryan Novak in Friday's 9 o'clock draw.
There were a few raised eyebrows early Friday at these results:
Fernando Requiema of West St. Paul upset William Lyburn of Brandon 8-2.
Andrew Swan, the NDP MLA from Thistle beat Connor Njegovan of Deer Lodge 12-1.
St. Vital's Mike Hebert got the best of Peter Nicholls of Deer Lodge 6-1.
Joachim Suther and his Norway team were toppled by Greg McDonald of Fort Rouge 8-5.
Petersfield's Dave Boehmer suffered a 7-1 drubbing from Daniel Birchard of Pembina.