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Frozen curlers opt for long johns

Hans Wuthrich

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Hans Wuthrich (CP)

NEEPAWA -- Curling is meant to be played on ice, of course. But it's not actually supposed to be freezing inside the arena.

And yet that's the predicament curlers find themselves in this week at the Manitoba men's curling championship at the aging Yellowhead Centre.

Because of an antiquated heating system that head icemaker Hans Wuthrich says is not conducive to hosting a curling event, temperatures inside the arena on opening day were either cold or colder depending on where you were sitting in the bleachers.

But worst of all were conditions at ice level, where Jeff Stoughton said he was "freezing my buns off" during his afternoon game with Manitou's Rene Kolly.

And that's despite Stoughton wearing long johns while playing, which he said Tuesday is the first time he can recall having to do that at a provincial championship.

Although the same arena has played host in the past to both provincial men's and women's events, no one can recall the cold being a particular problem in the past.

But Wuthrich said the problem is the only heat in the low-slung arena comes from electric heaters immediately above the bleachers.

Wuthrich said when he turned on all the heaters while he was painting the ice last weekend, the ice on the two side sheets actually began to melt.

Wuthrich said he turned the heaters back off and finished making the ice while shivering in a snowsuit.

A handful of the heaters were turned on during play on Wednesday, but skip Rob Fowler said it was still very cold on the ice.

"It's a little colder out there than maybe we'd like, but I guess we'll just have to deal with it," said Fowler. "It's not a big deal for the sweepers, but for me maybe an extra layer of clothing might be in order."

Ditto for skip Mike McEwen, who like Stoughton, also said Tuesday he'd likely wear thermal underwear on the ice this week for the first time in a long time.

-- -- --

Fowler got a bit of a scare last week when his wife, Ericka, suddenly doubled over with abdominal pain.

Ericka Fowler is 14 weeks pregnant and Fowler said the couple was immediately concerned about their unborn baby.

But when they rushed to the hospital in Brandon, they learned the problem was with her appendix and after a quick surgery to remove it, Fowler reported wife and baby were fine.

-- -- --

Fowler, second-seeded McEwen and top-seeded Stoughton were all convincing winners on opening day.

Fowler defeated Thompson's Grant Brown 8-2; McEwen beat Gladstone's Geoff Trimble 8-3; and Stoughton won 9-2 over Manitou's Rene Kolly.

The three pre-event favourites all play their second games of the event today: Fowler takes on Neepawa's Jerry Chudley; McEwen plays Stonewall's Jared Kolomaya; and Stoughton plays West Kildonan's Trevor Loreth.

The winners advance to A-side qualifying games on Friday.

The first four teams were eliminated late Wednesday night -- Gladstone's Geoff Trimble, Carberry's Rob Van Kommer, Deloraine's Blair Goethals and Thompson's Grant Brown.

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