BEAUSEJOUR -- What's in a number? Not much when it comes to curling.
Rob Fowler (29) picked his birth date for his curling jersey while Fowler lead Derek Samagalski wears his birth year (84).
Or at least Samagalski usually wears his birth year -- a misprint has him wearing 89 here this week. "You can write that's my birth year," he laughed.
The use of numbers on curling shirts was first pioneered by Arnold Asham and then later picked up by Randy Ferbey. More recently, Glenn Howard began using them. This year they came into widespread use when Capital One, the title sponsor of the Grand Slam of Curling, ordered that all Slam teams use numbers on their jerseys.
While the numbers signify nothing in curling, the thinking is that they might make the players more identifiable to kids and might also some day open up some merchandising opportunities.
All of which led to numbers making their debut at the Manitoba provincials here Wednesday.
Fowler second Richard Daneault chose number 9, but not because of Hull or Howe or Richard. "No story, really," said Daneault, "I just always wore number 9 in baseball."
Fowler third Allan Lyburn wears number 10 in tribute to a soccer player -- but not one you'd expect from the Scottish-born curler.
"I'm a Celtic supporter but the number 10 is for Diego Maradona," said Lyburn. "He was the best soccer player to ever play. Some people say Pele, but I never saw him play. So Maradona is my guy."
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They've yet to play here this week but the score is already Jeff Stoughton 1, Mike McEwen 0.
McEwen made the egregious mistake of leaving his Blackberry unattended on a table during the opening banquet here Tuesday night and Stoughton second Reid Carruthers took full advantage of the oversight.
Carruthers grabbed McEwen's phone and then posted an unprintable "status update" under McEwen's name on his Blackberry message board, which was promptly broadcast to all of McEwen's friends.
McEwen laughed it off. "They're pretty fun guys. I don't take any offense," McEwen said, adding he was the author of his own misfortune by leaving his phone unattended.
"That's a rookie move," McEwen laughed. "Gave them an opening."
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Jeff Stoughton holds most of the major records at this event, most notably his eight provincial championships.
But there's one record that has him still looking up at Kerry Burtnyk.
Burtnyk's 117 wins at the Manitoba men's championship is still tops, with Stoughton in second place with 112 victories. It would take an appearance in the final here this weekend for Stoughton to pass Burtnyk. Six victories are required to get to the final in the Safeway format, which would put Stoughton one up on Burtnyk.
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The crowds here at Beausejour's Sun Gro Centre were exceptional for an opening day here Wednesday.
With extra seating brought in for this event, the Sun Gro is holding about 1,500 for curling and something like 80 per cent were full for the first three draws of the day.
Organizers reported the crowd for the 8:30 a.m. draw was among the largest ever observed for an opening draw at a Safeway Championship.